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.
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.
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
[ ] 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.