First look at Johnny Flynn as David Bowie in unauthorised biopic 'Stardust'

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Johnny Flynn in Stardust photo (Paul van Carter)

The first image of Johnny Flynn as David Bowie in the forthcoming feature Stardust has been released.

Beast star Flynn, also a musician, is playing the pop icon - real name David Jones - in the pre-Ziggy Stardust era, before he found global fame.

Rocking long hair and a fedora hat, Flynn’s Bowie looks the part for the film’s 1971 setting, a time when the ‘Rebel Rebel’ singer was searching for his big breakthrough after his first four albums sunk without trace.

Having enjoyed brief success with 1969’s ‘A Space Oddity’, Bowie had been written off by many as a one-hit wonder, and he flirted with a number of different musical styles before birthing the concept of his flame-haired alter-ego Ziggy Stardust within days of completing work on his folksy fourth album Hunky Dory.

Hunger Games star Jena Malone is playing Bowie’s ambitious first wife Angie, while GLOW star Marc Maron will appear as Ron Oberman of Mercury Records, who took Bowie to America for the very first time.

Angie and David Bowie pose with their newborn son Zowie in 1971. (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Emmy award-winning British filmmaker Gabriel Range (I am Slave/Death of a President) directs from a script written by Christopher Bell (Netflix’s The Last Czars).

It’s being billed as an origin story for Ziggy Stardust, rather than a Bohemian Rhapsody-style biopic.

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Here’s the synopsis: Meet David before Bowie. One of the greatest icons in music history; But who was the young man behind the many faces? In 1971, a 24 year old David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) embarks on his first road trip to America with struggling publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), only to be met with a world not yet ready for him.

Johnny Flynn headlines the folk stage at Get Loaded In The Park at Clapham Common on June 12, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Hayley Madden/WireImage)

STARDUST offers a glimpse behind the curtain of the moments that inspired the creation of Bowie's first and most memorable alter ego Ziggy Stardust, capturing the turning point that cemented his career as one of the world's greatest cultural icons.

Announced earlier this year, Stardust has already been a source of controversy. Bowie’s son Duncan Jones (born Zowie Bowie) disowned the film saying it didn’t have the blessing of the rock star’s estate, and it wouldn’t feature any of his father’s original music.

In a statement sent to EW, the producers said, “We would like to clarify that this film is not a biopic, it is a moment in time film at a turning point in David’s life, and is not reliant on Bowie’s music. Our original press release did state this. Much like Nowhere Boy for [John] Lennon, Control for Joy Division, the production uses period music and songs that Bowie covered, but not his original tracks.

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“The film was written as an ‘origins story’ about the beginning of David’s journey as he invented his Ziggy Stardust character, and focuses on the character study of the artist, as opposed to a hits driven ‘music’ biopic.”

Director Duncan Jones and Musician David Bowie attend the premiere of "Moon", 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Van Carter explained the producers “approached representatives of the [Bowie] estate before we started [developing] the idea of this movie.”

“We offered to send the screenplay and make the estate involved in the creative process,” he said, adding, “We were told there wouldn’t be approval from the estate… the estate doesn’t [typically] license Bowie’s music.”

Bowie died on 10 January, 2016 aged 69 following a battle with cancer. An actor as well as a musician, he starred in a number of hit films including The Prestige, Labyrinth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Produced by Paul Van Carter and Nick Taussig of BAFTA-nominated Salon Pictures, Stardust is being sold across the world by Film Constellation. Christopher Figg of Piccadilly Pictures is co-financing.