Who will play the Kinks? Now that “You Really Got Me,” Julien Temple’s fictional movie about the legendary London band, has been greenlighted, the roles of Ray Davies and his brother Dave are likely to become two of the most coveted roles of the year among young British leading men.
Here’s a suggestion. Given the cold war that existed between Ray (the group’s main singer and songwriter and its rhythm guitarist) and Dave (lead guitarist, vocals), what about Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis, whose partnership has been equally acrimonious?
More realistically, Ben Barnes – who plays Prince Caspian in the “Narnia” movies – is a dead ringer for the young Ray, though whether he has the chutzpah and gravitas to carry off the role of one of Brit rock’s most sophisticated social observers is another matter. Other serious contenders include Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, or Nicholas Hoult as Ray, and Aaron Johnson, Eddie Redmayne, or Henry Cavill as Dave.
Actors, too, will need to be sought for the parts of the Kinks’ original bassist Pete Quaife (who died in 2010) and drummer Mick Avory, as well as occasional keyboardist (and Rolling Stones alum) Nicky Hopkins (died 1994).
The film, originally announced in December 2009, is being produced by Jeremy Thomas, best known for his work with Nicolas Roeg, Bernardo Bertolucci, and David Cronenberg, and the BBC. Thomas, who has acquired the rights to the Davies brothers’ autobiographies, collaborated with Temple on the first of his two documentaries about the Sex Pistols (“The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle,” 1979) and his docs about Britain’s most enduring rock festival (“Glastonbury,” 2006) and the leader of the Clash (“Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten,” 2007).
Temple’s rock-laden filmography also includes the 75-minute BBC documentaries “Ray Davies – Imaginary Man” (2010) and “Dave Davies – Kinkdom Come” (2011), in which the brothers individually participated.
The Kinks biopic is “incredibly exciting, a unique tale, the Cain and Abel of rock,” Thomas told Screen International. He added that the film would span the Davies brothers’ childhood, the Kinks at the height of their stardom, and “after.”
“You Really Got Me” is being written by the veteran team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, whose little-seen comedy-drama “Still Crazy” (1998), about a superannuated band trying to make a comeback, is one of the most insightful and moving British rock films ever made. They have written two other music movies, the Beatles hommage “Across the Universe” (2007) and last year’s “Killing Bono.”
Given that the Pistols, Joy Division, and Happy Mondays have been depicted in fictional films (Joy Division twice), a film about the Kinks, who disbanded after 32 years in 1996, comes a little late in the day. But then only the murky Brian Jones end-of-life drama “Stoned” (2005) has depicted the Rolling Stones while the biopic of the Who’s Keith Moon was abandoned. There have been no recent updates on the Peter Morgan-scripted film about Queen's Freddie Mercury, which will star Sacha Baron Cohen.
Though scarcely short of drama, the histories of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are either too uncontainable for naturalistic representation, or, more likely, permission from the surviving members has been withheld. Who in any case could play Syd Barrett or Robert Plant without paling beside the originals? Not being deities or ethereal types, self-styled "Muswell hillbillies" Ray and Dave Davies are altogether more filmable.