Life after death

What do Biggie Smalls and the Little Sparrow have in common? Upon the release of Notorious, the TONY Film staff discovers that recent biopics about dead musicians, no matter how disparate their sounds, follow almost exactly the same template.

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Ray (2004)


R&B pioneer Ray Charles

HYPNOTIZE: The eureka moment
After an afternoon delight with the future Mrs. Ray Charles, Ray composes a postcoital tune that fuses gospel with the devil’s music: “I Got a Woman.” A sound is born.

MO MONEY, MO PROBLEMS: The downfall
Strung out on heroin and unable to deal with the demanding, drunk Raylette he’s been seeing on the sly, Ray starts veering between egomaniacal outbursts and narcotic-fueled reclusiveness.

ONE MORE CHANCE: The rehabilitation
Charles kicks his habit (hit the road, junk!) and gets his personal life back on track. Intertitles inform us that he never “rode the white horse” again.


Walk the Line (2005)


Country outlaw Johnny Cash

HYPNOTIZE: The eureka moment
Auditioning for an impatient Sam Phillips, our Man in Black falls into a spooky trance, singing about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die. A contract follows.

MO MONEY, MO PROBLEMS: The downfall
Wobbling on a cocktail of pills and lovesickness over June Carter, Johnny forgets his own lyrics, gets arrested in Texas and—the ultimate indignity—moves in with Waylon Jennings.

ONE MORE CHANCE: The rehabilitation
Clean again thanks to the influence of the wholesome Carter family, Cash arrives at a bold idea: a concert for his many fans in Folsom Prison. Madness? Genius.


La Vie en Rose (2007)


Pint-size French icon Edith Piaf

HYPNOTIZE: The eureka moment
While Edith mutely collects money in a town square as her contortionist father performs, Pop insists that she entertain. She obliges, belting out “La Marseillaise.” Deep national pride is stirred.

MO MONEY, MO PROBLEMS: The downfall
After the death of the love of her life, numerous car crashes, and addiction to booze and morphine, Piaf ages 100 years over the course of a half decade.

ONE MORE CHANCE: The rehabilitation
A bitter, dejected Piaf listens to a composer’s new work. “Exactly what I’ve been waiting for! Call the Olympia—it’s back on!” she shouts. The song? “Non, je ne regrette rien.”


Control (2007)


Postpunk sourpuss Ian Curtis

HYPNOTIZE: The eureka moment
The Joy Division frontman pens “She’s Lost Control”after hearing that a fellow epileptic has suffered a serious seizure. It will become one of the Manchester band’s signature songs.

MO MONEY, MO PROBLEMS: The downfall
Overwhelmed with depression after a botched suicide attempt, Curtis finds himself bottoming out during a gig. He’s able to sing four lines before miserably slinking offstage; the crowd riots.

ONE MORE CHANCE: The rehabilitation
Alas, the story ends on a tragic note: On the eve of Joy Division’s first American tour, Curtis hangs himself in his kitchen. He is 23.


Notorious (2009)


Brooklyn rap legend Notorious B.I.G.

HYPNOTIZE: The eureka moment
Chubby schoolkid Christopher Wallace loves Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks.” Cut to a few years later, and the enormous teen is outrhyming all comers on Fulton Street.

MO MONEY, MO PROBLEMS: The downfall
Following Tupac’s accusation that B.I.G. set him up in a robbery, the East Coast–West Coast feud spirals out of control—as does the philandering Big Poppa, who goes into a jealous fury against wife Faith Evans.

ONE MORE CHANCE: The rehabilitation
B.I.G. learns to be both a better father – adcising his toddler firstborn that she should never let any man call her a bitch – and ex-boyfriend, making amends with Lil’Kim.

Notorious opens Fri 16.

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