Who Should Play Morrissey in the New Biopic?


Since the news broke that the team behind the Ian Curtis/Joy Division film Control may be working on another music biopic of the formidable Steven Patrick Morrissey, our absolute favorite sex idiot of music, the man behind The Smiths and immortal lyricist responsible for sulks like, “I am human and I need to be loved/ Just like anyone else does,” we haven’t been able to stop arguing about which actors out there would be fit to stuff some flowers into their back pocket while dancing.

While the ideal Morrissey biopic would be a sort of Todd Haynes-directed I’m Not There riff featuring so many different Morrisseys of the mind (I can imagine Lyle Lovett surprising everyone as old, pompadoured Morrissey and maybe Gwyneth Paltrow, with her love of the British, could try her hand, too?), this film will focus on his early life, pre-The Smiths and Johnny Marr, with sad young Steven growing up in Manchester.

It will probably be, to quote literary editor Jason Diamond in his review of last year’s Autobiography, a portrait of “a gloomy aesthete, a Romantic in a time not particularly welcoming to people like him. He says the things he says because he is the boy with the thorn in his side.” But we’re just going to let our freak flags fly and imagine a host of youngish (and not) actors who might do justice to Morrissey’s life.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

He’s played a rock star before, the David Bowie-ish glam mystery to Ewan MacGregor’s angry post-junkie Iggy Pop in Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine, and he has the beautiful blankness necessary for any rock star. His physicality is also goofy and gangly like Morrissey’s, if his running in Bend It Like Beckham is any indication.

Alex Turner

Sure, the Arctic Monkeys frontman isn’t an actor per se, but this rockabilly turn he’s taken as of the band’s latest album? Very Morrissey. He’s witty like Morrissey and he’s done a little work in film, writing the soundtrack for Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. Take a chance on this guy!

Nicholas Hoult

The X-Men actor, probably best known for being Jennifer Lawrence’s paramour these days, has given very good performances in work like the UK TV show Skins and Tom Ford’s A Serious Man (where he basically played a sex idiot, now that I think about it). He has the blue eyes and charisma, and maybe he could pull off something surprising.

Joaquin Phoenix

Morrissey would be lucky if the best film actor working today deigned to play him, and considering he can play Johnny Cash or morph into some unholy rebirth of Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in films like Two Lovers or The Master, I have no doubt he could turn skinny, British, and High Romantic at a moment’s notice. Also, if he can do something like that performance art crap I’m Still Here, he can totally understand the big sulk in the heart of Morrissey’s life.

Bruno Mars

He can do the pompadour, and his take on Morrissey’s dance moves would be perfection.

Ben Whishaw

He’s played John Keats, Bob Dylan, and Q. He can pull off a pompadour and he has an uncommon grace in his performances. He’s a marvel of the theatre. He can do anything, and Morrissey’s life would be child’s play in his hands.

Dane DeHaan

Sure, he looks uncannily like a baby Leonardo DiCaprio, and he’s cornered the market on tortured young men (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) and evil baby hipsters (the current Spiderman), but really, that’s a combination that would lend itself quite handily to Morrissey’s life, wouldn’t it?

Michael Shannon

Yes, he’s all wrong age-wise, but he’s got the brows and the killer acting chops, and wouldn’t Morrissey be a chance to chew scenery and also play a beautiful, fragile vulnerability? Michael Shannon needs that Oscar-winning role. Also, Michael Shannon has a band, Corporal (one song is called “Obama,” and they sound like Pavement), so he’s experienced when it comes to musical performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Hey Cumberbitches, I heard your man could do anything. He is British and probably as good at dancing as Morrissey. Or am I getting him confused with Tom Hiddleston? (No, he’s too gingery, I suppose.)

James Franco

The obvious choice. He can mope and preen like Morrissey, they probably share an obsession with American rockabilly in a James Dean fashion, and Franco loves nothing more than making films about sexually ambiguous icons. Wasn’t his reaction to the recent hitting-on-a-teen-girl via Instagram thing basically a performance art recitation of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now,” anyways?