[UPDATE 8/24/21]: John Lydon has lost his court case against his former Sex Pistols bandmates to keep the group’s music out of Pistol, an upcoming biopic miniseries on FX. A British high court ruled against Lydon—formerly known as Johnny Rotten—and sided with Steve Jones and Paul Cook, citing a “majority rules” clause in the Sex Pistols’ band member agreement (BMA).
Announced back in April, Pistol profiles the rise of the British punk forefathers using Jones’ memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol as source material. Following the initial announcement from FX, Lydon slammed the series—headed by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle—calling it “the most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure” and vowed to fight the production in court.
Jones and Cook issued a statement following High Court judge Sir Anthony Mann‘s ruling, saying,
“It brings clarity to our decision-making and upholds the band members’ agreement on collective decision-making. It has not been a pleasant experience, but we believe it was necessary to allow us to move forward and hopefully work together in the future with better relations.”
Lydon issued his own reaction to the ruling, stating that he was never made aware of the details of the BMA and has a “deep-felt and passionate aversion to becoming a ‘prisoner’ of a hostile majority,” stating in court that the agreement “smacks of some kind of slave labor.” Jones and Cook, their lawyers, and the judge all agreed that there was no possible way Lydon could not have been made aware of the majority rules clause.
“Mr. Lydon must have been fully advised about the BMA and its consequences,” Mann said in his ruling. “On his side he had an English lawyer, a US attorney and his manager … it is impossible to believe that he did not know what its effect was and I reject the suggestion made by him that he did not really know or appreciate its effect.”
In the end, Mann used Lydon’s own supposed reverence for the protection of the Sex Pistols legacy against him, observing that if he were so committed to preserving the sanctity of the band he surely would have paid diligent attention to the BMA.
“It is highly likely that, even if he did not read it himself, it will have been explained to him and he will have understood its effects,” Mann’s ruling continued. “The inherent likelihood of that is reinforced by his own evidence about his concerns to protect the Sex Pistols’ legacy…A man with those concerns, which I accept he had, would expect to be made to understand important documents that he was signing. He would not have been cavalier about that.”
Pistol is due out on FX next year.
[4/26/21]: Though the punk rock revolution is long behind him, John Lydon is still mad as hell. The 65-year-old English singer—formerly known as Johnny Rotten during his days with the Sex Pistols—is taking aim at the upcoming Pistol miniseries, which profiles the early days of the British punk lightning rods.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, Lydon went so far as to call his portrayal in the miniseries, “the most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure. I mean, they went to the point to hire an actor to play me but what’s the actor working on? Certainly not my character. It can’t go anywhere else [but court].”
The program—currently in development for FX by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle—is based on Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones‘ 2016 memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol. The six-part series is set to star Toby Wallace (The Society, Babyteeth) as Jones, with Anson Boon (1917) as Johnny Rotten, Louis Partridge (Enola Homes, Paddington 2) as Sid Vicious, Jacob Slater as Paul Cook, and Fabien Frankel as Glen Matlock. It reportedly began filming last month with no premiere date listed.
In his interview, Lydon pointed out that he and Boyle aren’t complete strangers. The two previously worked together on the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.
“Sorry, you think you can do this, like walk all over me – it isn’t going to happen. Not without a huge, enormous fucking fight,” Lydon said. “I’m Johnny, you know, and when you interfere with my business you’re going to get the bitter end of my business as a result. It’s a disgrace.”
A spokesperson for Pistol told The Sunday Times that Boyle contacted Lydon’s management company about the series but “ultimately direct contact was declined.”
Production photos from location shoots in London for Pistols recently appeared in The Daily Mail.