Near the end of 2012, the latest attempt to make a biopic about Janis Joplin features a young actress and singer named Nina Arianda. While her name is not a household word, she has experience on the musical stage and is said to have a throaty, hoarse vocal quality much like Janis herself. As a movie actress, she has appeared in several films, but she has a large legacy of missteps to overcome to successfully become Joplin onscreen. There have been many stabs at making a film biography about the flamboyant singer over the years since her tragic death at 27 in 1970, but only one has come close to telling her story so far.
In 1979, Bette Midler was an up and coming pop singer with a unique style and a reputation as a dynamic performer, carrying on a long tradition of popular song. She was trying to follow a similar tradition and become an actress, and The Rose was her first major film. It became a huge success for her and launched her career as a movie star in addition to boosting her as a singer. The producers of the film had originally wanted to make a biography of Janis Joplin, and called the project Pearl after Joplin’s nickname. However, the Joplin family decided not to permit the story to go ahead as it stood, and also would not give permission for the name to be used. The script was rewritten but remained loosely based on Joplin’s life, and was renamed The Rose. Part of the promotional campaign for the film was to make sure that everyone knew that its real subject was Joplin and her story, and no doubt the success of the movie was helped by the connection.
Since that time, there have been several tries at making a biographical portrayal of the legendary singer for the big screen, but none have made it to the theaters. Actresses Renee Zellweger and Zooey Deschanel, singers Melissa Ethridge and Pink, among others, have all been publicly named at various times during the last decade as starring in an upcoming film biography, but as of 2012 a movie about her has not yet been made. Ironically, Janis Joplin herself can be seen onscreen in many hours of both performance footage and in more informal settings. She played a prominent part in the Monterrey Pop Festival film, she appeared at Woodstock (although she was unhappy with her performance and decided not to allow it to be included in the first version of the movie), and in several other filmed performances and documentaries. But The Rose is so far the one movie that has told her story, albeit in a roundabout way. Maybe this latest announcement will actually be followed by a real product.
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