Welcome to the script that makes “The Wolf of Wall Street” look like “We Bought A Zoo.”

Genre: True Story
Premise: A look at one of the craziest rock bands ever to grace the stage – Motley Crue.
About: The adaptation of the Motley Crue biography, “The Dirt,” is a project that people have been trying to push through development for years. In fact, Rich Wilke’s script was on the inaugural Black List! It’s since seen many starts and stops. However, the bottomless money pit known as Netflix finally grabbed the rights and plans to convince Chris Hemsworth to play the lead. The debaucherous world of band pics hasn’t been tested in the current Hollywood climate, so if the movie hits, expect the floodgates to open for Van Halen, Guns and Roses, Def Leppard, and my personal favorite, Poison. Interesting tidbit here. “The Dirt” was written by geek-to-player legend and writer of “The Game,” Neil Strauss.
Writer: Rich Wilkes (based on the book by Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, and Neil STrauss)
Details: 123 pages

I’m just going to tell you right now. If you’re even the least bit prudish, don’t read this review. There is no way to summarize what happens in this story without getting XXX rated. If you’re okay with that, read on. If not, prepare for a script so scary, no one has the balls to make it.

There’s no easy way to summarize “The Dirt.” Its narrative – if you can all it that – consists of jumping back and forth between each member of the 1980s hair band, Motley Crue, before they were famous, after they were famous, and during their fame, in no particular order, as we watch them go through the highest of “highs,” and eventually the lowest of lows.

First there’s lead singer, Vince Neil. Vince was the ultimate ladies’ man. He was paying child support before he even got out of high school. Vince quickly figured out that the best way to get even more girls was to be in a band.

Next came Nikki Sixx, who played bass. Nikki was a troubled kid from the hood who routinely got beaten by his mother’s many boyfriends and husbands. He finally escaped that life to join Motley Crue, where he quickly became a hardcore heroin addict.

Next was Tommy Lee, the member of the band the average person is most likely familiar with. Tommy grew up a suburban kid and therefore wasn’t as susceptible to debauchery as the other members at the time. Well, unless you count his addiction to having sex with Hollywood celebrities.

Finally there was the most mysterious member of the group, guitarist Mick Mars. Mars was the old man of the group, having attempted to become rock-star famous for a decade before joining Motley Crue. A noted recluse, Mars would later find out he had a rare debilitating bone disorder that would slowly turn his entire skeleton into the equivalent of concrete.

I would tell you who’s who here but I can’t tell them apart.

The Dirt opens up on a Motley Crue party where Tommy Lee is performing oral sex on a girl in the middle of the room, which results in her squirting as she orgasms, where Nikki Sixx is waiting to catch the erupting fluid in his mouth. Hey, I told you to turn away from this review, didn’t I?

Oh, don’t worry. It gets worse. There’s a scene where the Crue runs into Ozzy Osbourne at a pool party, who’s desperately looking for a bump of cocaine. The band proclaims they’re out, which isn’t good enough for Ozzy, who grabs a straw, gets down on his knees where a line of ants are walking, and snorts up the line of ants instead.

The most difficult-to-read sections of the script are Vince Neil’s. Neil would go on to kill his best friend during a drunken beer run, while also causing permanent brain damage to the two teens he ran into. Vince somehow gets off with only 30 days in jail, and we later show him at an after-party, having sex with five different girls, lined up one next to the other, while cutting back to a hospital where one of the girls he gave brain damage to is learning how to walk again in physical therapy.

What’s amazing about this script/story is that it covers all the angles in excruciating detail. You get the good, the bad, the weird, and everything in between. There’s a midpoint multi-monologue from all the band members about what it’s really like being a rock star that has to be the most insightful dive into the lives of this profession I’ve ever read. I found it particularly interesting how quickly they got sick of it. That despite all of the perks – and the perks were great – that it was still a job that required you to be “on” every night to a new audience who had just paid a ton of money to see you and who had been looking forward to this all year. And you’re sick, and you’re tired, and you just sang these stupid songs the last 20 nights in a row, and your hearts racing out of your chest to the point where you think you’re going to die because you’ve done SO. MANY. DRUGS. and you still got to be on. You still have to give them the show of their life.

Tommy Lee

I also loved the visuals that the writers included. One of the main themes of the movie is the “machine,” which is a “rock star machine” that every band must sacrifice themselves to. But instead of only referring to the machine, we see it. It’s big and monstrous with hundreds of different levers and walkways, like a satanic version of something you’d see in a Dr. Seuss film. And we see how, each time a band makes it past a level, they’re placed on a higher, faster, more dangerous level. And the entire machine is dedicated to chewing you up and turning you into meat. It’s a tremendous image and a powerful metaphor.

I don’t know what else to say. This script is fearless. I mean where else are you going to read this line: “We ROCKET IN on Vince’s furiously pumping ass and suddenly… WE’RE INSIDE VINCE NEIL’S TESTICLES.”

I suppose if there’s something to learn from this script it’s: This is how you avoid writing characters who have the potential to be cliche. You write them by subverting the cliche and by adding detail that nobody else in the world would’ve thought of. The newbie writing four rock stars is going to give them very few flaws, if any. They’re going to focus on all the good stuff – the fame, the girls, the drugs. They’re not going to torture their characters like Strauss and Wilkes do. Seeing Vince try to retain his rock star edge after killing his best friend and ruining the lives of two innocent people is both disgusting and heartbreaking. Seeing someone learn they have one of the worst diseases in the world is a detail no newbie is going to think of.

And even the “cliche” stuff, like Nikki Sixx being a heroin-addict, is saved by the level of detail given to the addiction. Sixx goes on drug trips that rival, and in some cases even surpass, those we saw in Trainspotting. DETAIL and SPECIFICITY is the way to make a reader forget all about cliche.

Rarely do I read an adaptation of a book and want to go back and read the book. What’s the point? I just read the streamlined version. But “The Dirt” is one of the few times where I have to now read the source material. You can tell they had to leave a ton out. And I can only imagine what else I’m going to find inside the Motley Crue time capsule. Hell, maybe I’ll even go listen to a few of their songs.

Okay, maybe I won’t go that far.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: This might be the first script I’ve ever read where there’s no narrative – almost the entire script is told in vignettes – and yet I never lost interest. Why? Because these characters were so damn fascinating. This goes to show the power of character creation and how you should always prioritize compelling characters FIRST and plot SECOND.

  • Scott Crawford


    • carsonreeves1

      It’s the age old debate – What’s more important? Plot or Character!?

      The answer, of course, is that they’re both important. I’ve just found that movies with weak plots can survive if they have good characters. But rarely the other way around. Swingers comes to mind. One of the worst plotted movies ever. But man, those characters.

    • brenkilco

      The Terminal Man bombed both critically and commercially. It does create a mood. It’s a very cold, odd film. Hodges somehow turned his technical limitations as a director into a style. And it’s tough to tell whether the off center, clumsiness of his mise en scene is a deliberate effort to go for something different. Get Carter has something of the same effect.

      But you describe the story accurately. Violent guy has operation goes crazy, kills, gets pursued, gets shot. The End. And the final effect for me, and I think most other viewers, was Is that it? As a thriller it just fails. There’s not much there there. It needed a better plot.

      That said, Segal does give a rather haunting performance. And for some weird reason I’ve always remembered the line where he’s asked about the strange smell he experiences as he’s going into a blackout. “Pig shit in turpentine.”

      • Scott Crawford

        See, I felt the same the first time I saw it. Is that it? But then it stayed with me, I watched it again, and I thought, does there really need to be more? It’s made it’s point, it ends. That’s what I mean by simple. Some films – like Last Jedi – over complicate things, adding stuff that’s just there so the film isn’t too short.

        Every so often, I like a short, simple movie.

  • jaehkim

    I like Neil Strauss’ writing a lot. He’s driven by his own insecurities and fears and he’s not afraid to let it take him to places.

    • carsonreeves1

      GREAT point. He’s a very vulnerable writer. It’s a great lesson for writers everywhere. It makes his stuff very accessible.

  • Scott Crawford

    Speaking of Netflix, they’re now showing a trailer for Bright says “Love it, hate it, everyone’s talking about it.” followed by lots of quotes from critics, some of whom may not have even liked it (it’s not clear). But, you know, cool! Netflix does it different again, EMBRACING the controversy. And they’re right, in a way.

    • brenkilco

      Am almost through with bright. I don’t seem able to watch it in more than fifteen or twenty minute increments. Get bored and switch it off. There’s my review, I guess.

  • Stephjones

    New title suggestion: The Dirty Dicks

    I’m no prude but….Eeuuuw.

  • Lucid Walk

    Something I’ll confess (and you’ll probably laugh at).

    Every time I listen to “Kickstart My Heart,” I daydream I’m in an action movie. Most times, I’m Colin Firth tearing up the evil church in Kingsman.

  • brenkilco

    Debaucherous, preversionary and sybaritical.

    Ideally a story has great characters and a fascinating plot that seems to arise organically from the characters. But a script is lucky to even have one or the other. Here’s the thing. I don’t think great characters are any easier to create than a great plot. But I think it’s easier to know when you have a good plot. If you give your characters a few quirks and involve them in a lot of crazy incidents it’s easy to paper over the fact that at bottom they’re no more than stock characters. Am wondering how well this script differentiates these guys. And I’m also wondering if there’s much of a point. Just giving us a dose of the life? I don’t need to spend two hours learning that a hedonistic lifestyle is unhealthy and gets old fast.

  • Nick Morris

    I’m pretty excited for this one. I’ve read all the great 80’s hard rock/heavy metal biographies: Ozzy, Gene Simmons, Slash (and those of every other member of GN’R except Axl), Dave Mustaine, Metallica, etc. The Crue story is without question the most depraved. :)

    But I LOVE reading about the glory days of rock stars that achieved God-like status and their myriad horror stories from the road. You just don’t see that anymore, They are relics of a bygone era. No single entity, be it musical or otherwise, can capture the attention of the entire world in this day and age.

    And rock n’ roll truly died with Lemmy.


  • Avatar

    Does anyone know what Seth Meyers was referring to when he made the James Franco “shady” joke. James try to thinly smile, but I wasn’t quite sure what the joke was since it was so vague.