TORONTO — Former INXS lead singer J.D. Fortune had his glorious highs and crushing lows as the frontman for the Aussie rockers.
But the Canadian musician’s lower lows are the subject of Andrew Nisker’s rock doc Chasing Fortune, set for its world premiere in Toronto on Nov. 11, with Fortune in attendance. You’ll recall Fortune beat out 14 other contestants to win reality TV guru’s Mark Burnett’s Rock Star: INXS for CBS in 2005.
“I knew he’d won the show,” Nisker said of Fortune’s instant rock stardom as the replacement frontman for Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide in 1997.
“My partner was watching the show, and I got sucked in,” he added.
So what happened next?
Nisker’s riches-to-rags film finds the former rock star hitting rock bottom after a headlong plunge into bankruptcy and homelessness. Fortune left INXS twice before his turbulent global touring with the legendary Aussie rock band ended in 2011.
“The film isn’t about why he (Fortune) blew his opportunity. It’s about how he could come back,” Nisker told The Hollywood Reporter.
That return from unfathomable ruin starts with Fortune joining members of the Canadian indie band Crush Luther to front his own band, Fortune.
“It’s the win-or-lose: Either he’d be up or down. He was nowhere when we started the film,” Nisker recalled of the reality TV star’s bid to get back on rock’s radar screen.
Besides a tour of rehearsal halls and recording studios, we see Fortune opening up about his past while on the road in Toronto, Salt Springs, Nova Scotia, where he grew up, Fort Myers, Fla., Las Vegas and Los Angeles over a 12-month period.
He talks about being raised by a single mother and a grandfather he idolized after his estranged father said he was just stepping out for five minutes before never returning. Fortune also reveals enduring sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a “touchy-feely babysitter.”
But there’s no headlining arenas and festivals as Fortune looks to step back on a red carpet that was rolled up behind him when he left INXS for good in 2011.
There’s a debut performance for Fortune at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., followed by an ill-fated trip to Florida for a performance at a zombie walk festival that had to be abandoned after the sound engineer never showed up.
But Fortune’s comeback bid starts to unravel when he fails to retrieve a guitar in Los Angeles that he insists he lent to a friend, and which he needed to pawn to pay for rehearsal space. As he reaches an emotional low point, Fortune finally opens up about his INXS days.
“The rumors that I was kicked out of INXS because I had a drug problem are so far from true,” Fortune tells the camera at one point, insisting he’s never been in rehab.
And he laments never becoming part of INXS and leading the legendary band as its frontman.
“Really what that band needed was a leader, but I was too new. The more I tried to lead that band, the more they thought I was a prick. So I couldn’t win,” he recalled.
The rest of Chasing Fortune shows a repeat cycle of failure for the down-on-his-luck rock musician.
Fortune breathed privileged air when he boarded INXS. But that band was a 30-year business built around a family act, the Farriss Brothers, who had their own way to operate. And Fortune bristled at just being the hair and teeth, the lead singer frozen out creatively.
Chasing Fortune reveals the Canadian musician enduring the same fate with his comeback band. The former Crush Luther members — Luther Mallory, PJ Herrick and Matt Leitch — are revealed as highly skilled unit in which Fortune never fit in, creatively or personality-wise.
“It came down to the same dynamic: He (Fortune) chose to front a band that was tight. So history repeats itself, on a smaller scale,” Nisker observed.
Chasing Fortune is produced by Karen Bliss and Nisker’s Take Action Films.
The film will debut Tuesday night on Superchannel, the Canadian pay TV service.
Nisker is at work on his next documentary, The King of Candy, about the second most common form of litter, chewing gum.