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Thursday 19 September 2019

Boy George biopic may not star LGBTQ actor in lead role, director says

The Culture Club singer is the latest musician to have his life story explored in film.

The director of the upcoming Boy George biopic says he is ‘open to the right person’ for the lead role (Ian West/PA)
The director of the upcoming Boy George biopic says he is ‘open to the right person’ for the lead role (Ian West/PA)

By Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent

The upcoming Boy George biopic may not feature an LGBTQ actor in the lead role, the film’s director has said.

Amid a demand for greater diversity in Hollywood, there has been criticism of straight actors taking the roles of gay characters.

Notable examples include Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and Taron Egerton’s turn as Sir Elton John in Rocketman.

While Boy George is gay and famous for his androgynous appearance, British filmmaker Sacha Gervasi, who is directing a movie based on the Culture Club singer’s life story, said he was “open to everything” in the casting process.

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Boy George rose to fame during the New Romantic era of British pop in the late 1970s and 80s (Ian West/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “I think it has to be someone who is fantastic for the part and as we saw with Taron Egerton in Rocketman and Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, they were able to embrace the essence of that character without necessarily having the same life experience.

“So I think we’re open to everything. We wouldn’t say yes or no, I would say we’re open to the right person for the part without any agenda either way.

“That’s the most important thing, we get an actor who can really play all the complicated notes and tones and emotions of George’s life and I think that could be anyone.”

Gervasi, whose previous projects include films on heavy metal band Anvil and the director Alfred Hitchcock, is also writing the Boy George biopic.

He said that while it was “very, very early days”, “many, many agents” have been in touch offering their clients for the role.

I think it has to be someone who is fantastic for the part and as we saw with Taron Egerton in Rocketman and Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, they were able to embrace the essence of that character without necessarily having the same life experience Sacha Gervasi

Earlier this year, Game Of Thrones star Sophie Turner was linked with the part, after Boy George said she was “one of the most interesting suggestions”.

Turner later said she was “so down” for the role. Gervasi bumped into the 23-year-old in Italy shortly after the link emerged and said they “ended up having a really lovely exchange about it”.

Gervasi added: “It’s just too early days to say anything but I’m excited already to see the amount of energy and excitement there seems to be about the project.”

Boy George, 58, whose real name is George O’Dowd, grew up in south-east London and rose to fame during the New Romantic era of British pop in the late 1970s and 80s.

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Game Of Thrones actress Sophie Turner said she is ‘so down’ to play Boy George in an upcoming biopic (Ian West/PA)

Thanks to hits including Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? and Karma Chameleon, he and Culture Club were regular fixtures in the charts.

Gervasi, whose TV film My Dinner With Herve is nominated for an Emmy Award, said he was “absolutely fascinated” by Boy George.

He said: “As a human being, his story is incredibly colourful and epic and unusual. He’s a total original and so that’s been fascinating, getting a chance to talk about his life and work out how we can turn it into a film.

“And obviously it’s a great time in the world where audiences want to see music films about these iconic artists and he certainly qualifies. He was such a brilliant musical talent as well as the other fashion and image stuff we know so well.

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Rami Malek won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (Alberto Rodriguez/PA)

“And coming from Britain and being brought up at that time, it was an honour to be able to try to pull this film together. I’m working on the script and working with George and its challenging and delightful and I couldn’t be happier.”

The Boy George biopic, which does not yet have a title or release date, comes amid a fervour for musical films in Hollywood.

Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was a huge commercial success, bringing in more than 903 million US dollars (£737 million) at the box office, as well as winning four Academy Awards earlier this year.

Rocketman was also well-received. It grossed more than 192 million US dollars (£157 million) following its release in May this year.

PA Media

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