Ozzy Osbourne for real
Published 15/09/2011 | 11:02
THE rehabilitation of the former Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne after decades of drink-and-drug-fuelled misadventure is the subject of an affecting new film by his son.
Rock fans the world over could be forgiven for thinking, that they already know all there is to know about Ozzy Osbourne. The sometime Black Sabbath singer’s life has seemingly been public property ever since he opened the doors to his Hollywood home for MTV’s reality television show The Osbournes.
However, a new film entitled God Bless Ozzy Osbourne goes beyond the heavy-metal icon’s familiar public personae — rock superhero, epic drug-taker, expletive-scattering buffoon etc — to paint a highly plausible portrait of a man in constant battle with cripplingly low self-esteem.
The movie was conceived and produced by his son, Jack, the chubby “problem teenager” from The Osbournes who has since made a career for himself as a TV presenter and the star of ITV2’s Adrenaline Junkie.
“People might ask, 'What’s left to say about Ozzy?’?” he says. “Well, that’s exactly the point: nobody’s ever really said anything about John [his father’s real name]. Everything you’ve ever seen about Ozzy has always been based around the Ozzy persona. So the whole point was to cut through the mystique, and show at the core who he is, and what kind of life he’s led. In fact, the original title we had for the film was John.”
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne follows the singer from his working-class roots, when he shared a poky bedroom with his five siblings in a two-up-two-down in Aston. Come his late teens, he got the gig singing for Sabbath simply because, he quips, he owned PA equipment.
Such self-deprecating observations soon add up to more than merely dry Brummie humour. Ozzy humbly notes that Sabbath’s whole shtick, which has been the foundation for 40 years of heavy metal, came from watching horror films at the cinema across the street from the band’s rehearsal room. “We thought, 'Let’s make scary movie music,’?” he says.
When their debut album took off, young Ozzy found himself engulfed by unimaginable luxury, and felt he didn’t deserve it.
“He was very unsure of himself,” says Jack, “but was suddenly thrust into the limelight — an incredibly successful musician who developed a fantastically entertaining way of being self-destructive to mask his insecurity.”
Osbourne Jr, who himself had a brush with rehab aged 18, doesn’t shrink from laying bare any of the grisly facts of Osbourne Sr’s debauchery — how, after descending deeper into cocaine addiction than that of his bandmates, he was thrown out of Sabbath; how the death in a plane crash of whizz-kid new guitarist Randy Rhoads sent him into a terrifying downward spiral; and how his alcoholism reached its darkest phase, incredibly, during the shooting of The Osbournes at his own home.
Ozzy’s steely wife and manager, Sharon, and youngest daughter, Kelly, speak here with unfamiliar sensitivity. Jack also presents testimony from his elder sister, Aimee, who refused to be part of The Osbournes (“It took about a year and half to convince her to do this,” he says), as well as from Ozzy’s two children from his first marriage, Jessica and Louis.
Amid all the famous stories — Ozzy urinating on an Alamo memorial; Ozzy biting the head off a dove etc — perhaps the most shocking revelations are from the five children, who each ruefully admit that Ozzy was not a good father in their younger years, and that their abiding memories were of him hopelessly intoxicated, or, more usually, absent altogether.
God Bless is fabulously redemptive, though, as it draws to a conclusion with Ozzy fully rehabilitated, talking lucidly while at the wheel of a car — an unthinkable combination for the doddery Ozzy of The Osbournes.
“Dad was in a really bad way,” says Jack, “but he’s come so far since then. Just because he wasn’t a good father doesn’t mean he isn’t now a good father. He is. And he regrets that he’s wasted a lot of time in his life, being crazy.
“I really wanted to highlight and celebrate that. I was getting frustrated with people’s perception of him. He has really changed and turned his life around, and pretty much become a different person at the age of 60. Not many people do that.”
Jack admits that there were occasional battles with the two directors he hired, where he found himself torn between being a hard-nosed producer and a caring family member. Yet, in the final outcome, he has succeeded in spinning this rip-roaring rock?’n’? roll yarn with rare sensitivity and candour.
Independent News Service