“The Future is Unwritten,” Julien Temple’s new film on the life and career of late Clash frontman Joe Strummer, will have its U.S. premiere in mid-January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Taking its name from one of Strummer’s favorite phrases, the film includes interviews with such Strummer disciples as Bono, actors Johnny Depp and John Cusack, members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Clash, old friends and those who squatted with him in condemned buildings in London before the Clash took off.
Also featured is unseen footage of Strummer’s early life, as well as unearthed clips of the Clash and the Mescaleros, the band he fronted in the years prior to his 2002 death.
Using a combination of old interviews collected from journalists, as well as tapes of Strummer’s BBC radio show, “The Future is Unwritten” finds Strummer “very much narrating and DJing his life story,” says Temple, renown for his Sex Pistols movie “The Filth and the Fury.”
The film is slated to debut in theaters via Sony Pictures in the U.S. by early summer, followed by a DVD and soundtrack release. Temple tells Billboard.com the music in the film spans Strummer’s record collection, and includes techno, Hawaiian and Latin American music, as well as songs by his own bands and tracks from Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, rockabilly hero Eddie Cochran and Jamaica’s Ernest Ranglin.
In a nod to one of Strummer’s favorite late-life pastimes, the movie finds friends and admirers remembering the singer around campfires all over the world. Says Temple, “We had to have a bonfire on Mulholland Drive in L.A., where you can’t put out a cigarette without getting dragged off by the fire brigade, and it didn’t look very good until the fire officer said, ‘What’s the project?’ We said, ‘It’s Joe Strummer,’ and he said, ‘In that case, you can have the license.'”
“And that was the effect all around: We had a runner on the shoot in New York, who got stopped by a cop for not having a safety belt and talking on a mobile phone,” Temple continues. “The cop was just about to give him a ticket, when he saw the production thing on the dashboard, looked at it, and said, ‘No fine. No ticket. This is for Joe.'”
“He had that effect on people,” he says. “They really have a great deal of love and respect for this guy. But this is not a hero-worship film. Hopefully it does show a real human being, because that’s what Joe was, first and foremost. He certainly wasn’t a saint of any kind. Hopefully, the film does give you a rounded portrait of the man and his life.”
“The Future is Unwritten” comes on the heels of a special Clash exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which opened last month, and the Nov. 14 release of “The Singles,” a Legacy box set collecting the band’s 19 U.K. singles.