After 10 interviews for the recent Mötley Crüe and The Dirt cover feature, we were left with many thousands of words of transcription, much of it fantastic. But of course, you can only fit so much into a 2,500-word feature. So allow us to share some of the unused material with you as we approach the film's release. We start with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, and Douglas Booth, the actor who plays him.
L.A. WEEKLY: In a two-hour–(ish) movie, how do you decide what to flesh out and what not to?
NIKKI SIXX: I don’t think we treated anything gingerly. We had to figure out what were the drivers to the story. When we’d shoot a video and go down to the editing bay, we’d count how many times Mick was in it, Tommy, me, Vince. If Mick’s in it eight times less than Vince and they’d be like, "He’s the lead singer," we’d say, "No, we’re a band." So the background is the era, the fabric of the band is the music. And the individual personalities and what each person brought to the table and then what it was, their hardship, and how they overcame it, that was the drivers.
If you get too in the weeds with it, the movie would be too long or it would have to be a miniseries or something. And you lose focus. For example, Doc McGhee, who was our manager, we met him right before Shout at the Devil. And we met Doug Thaler. It’s very hard to tell two managers’ stories. We had a security guard, ex–Hell’s Angel Fred Saunders, and we had another security guard called Double L. We couldn’t tell all their stories, and two managers’ stories, and then we had a road manager called Rich Fischer. Now you’ve got five characters. That means lines for them, character development for them, all the way down to wardrobe and location. We sort of boiled them all down to one person, Doc McGhee. People who know the band said it doesn’t bother them, because it was the idea that it was a main focus who was the manager but we also tortured.
You have a Brit playing you — how good a job did Douglas do?
I couldn’t hear the accent. Could you? I don’t understand that. What was important very early on was we said that names aren’t important to us. The quality of the acting is important to us, and actors who want to throw themselves to the wolves. Douglas said that he wants the role because of the depth of the character throughout time. Many layers and how it evolves. They all did versions of that.
Is it a tough watch, or therapeutic?
It’s been both. Me, Vince and Tommy were talking yesterday and I told Vince how hard it was for me to watch the car accident and him losing his daughter. He said yeah, it brought up a lot of stuff for him to the surface. He said he cried and laughed during the movie. Me and my mother never resolved our differences, and my mom died a few years ago. I guess this is a life lesson.
I’m a very stubborn and determined man, and I like to think that I stick to my guns and keep my word. My mom could never apologize for abandoning me. That’s all I ever wanted, was for her to say, "I was young, I fucked up." Every time I tried to get me and her on the same page, she always played the victim. That always angered me, so every time we hung up the phone, there was no resolve.
The life lesson is, I’m watching my mother in the movie and it looks so much like my mom it’s fucking haunting. Shamefully, I never went to my mother’s bedside when she died. It’s hard for me to watch those scenes in the movie because there’s no way to make up the time. It’s not one of my prouder moments.
We’re a band, and to see what we all went through — some of it we brought on ourselves and some of it was brought to us, but in the end we’re a family. Rock bands are families. That’s what I walked away from the movie with. We came from four different places, unlikely to succeed, at a time when everything was safe and vanilla, we were mimicking, copying and trying to one-up our heroes, and it took off. We didn’t have the tools to be a family — we were four wild human beings. Throughout the movie, we see these moments when we’re a family but didn’t have the best coping skills. In the end, it makes me happy to see us do it together. And we went on to play for another 20 years.
There's a perception that you don’t like each other, but is it fair to say that you're more like a family with its ups and downs?
Family is a very fair analogy.
The soundtrack — who chose which of the old songs to include?
It was collective. We realized that you can’t start the movie with "Kickstart My Heart" because it had not been written. So we started right at the beginning. What I love about the soundtrack, besides the fact that there’s four new songs, which I didn’t think would ever happen, but it’s not a greatest-hits record. It’s a soundtrack to this movie, and I think it’s really cool because of that. Some people ask why all the hits aren’t on it but that wouldn’t necessarily represent the movie.
The Madonna cover ("Like a Virgin") came out of nowhere…
Right? It did come out of nowhere. I’m a big fan of David Lynch. One of the things I’ve mimicked about David, besides my meditation, is I go for a 2- or 3-mile walk. I have two retrievers — it’s so suburban of me, I understand. I empty my head and it’s that time that stuff pops in, just like David taught us with his books and seminars. That song popped in, and I have no fucking idea why. I looked up at the sky, as if to God, and I said "That’s a really bad idea," and I started laughing. I called Bob Rock and told him I had a bad idea, and he said, "Why are you calling me if you have a bad idea?" I said, "If I tell Tommy, Mick or Vince, they’re gonna punch me in the face." I told him what it was and he said maybe. Bob’s really pro trying stuff. I said that I would demo it up. I worked with John 5, who works with Rob Zombie. I told Tommy I was going over and Bob Rock was at his house. I put it on, and he couldn’t figure it out. Then his face lit up and he goes, "This is so punk rock." We got hold of the other guys, and they were like, "I think it’s a good idea." Vince only did one take — left it raw. The top of the song is a nod to Metallica.
Is this the final word on Crüe?
It’s taken a lot to get the movie made and we got the songs done. We’ve got a soundtrack coming. The trailer’s finished, and we’re working on a video for "The Dirt" song. It’ll come out on March 22. We’re into helping our audience migrate to streaming. This whole Netflix as a streaming platform and all our partners are streaming partners. Yes, we have distribution, and we do CDs. We’ve talking about playing, maybe if we were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But I wouldn’t take that bet, buddy. It would be nice for the band but I don’t think any of us feel like that would be the biggest deal in the world. It would be cool. We’re in this cool list of people that never won a Grammy, like Led Zeppelin and the Stones. We’re sort of in this elite group of people that have done very well but not been acknowledged by the Recording Academy and stuff like that. We didn’t play by the rules, and that’s a cool place to be.
How did you come to be considered for the role of Nikki Sixx?
DOUGLAS BOOTH: I remember I was in London, and I got sent it and thought it was a lot of fun, so I got myself on tape. Initially, I got myself on tape for Tommy Lee. He was such a fun character. They asked if I considered myself a Nikki or a Tommy, and I thought instantly off the bat I could do Tommy straight away. Nikki, I was a bit more scared about the idea of playing him. He’s a slightly more complicated character to play. I didn’t quite have the information to get under the skin of who he was, because he had a turbulent past. They asked me to do a take for Nikki, so I did one and they said they’d love me to play Nikki. I’ve never looked back and I’m so glad I did, because it was a great experience.
You previously played Boy George in a BBC biopic, right?
Two very different artists, but both ’80s. I love the ’80s, man. It helped in the sense that I believed I could do it. It’s a little bit intimidating, playing a real person. When I was 17 I was cast as Boy George, and within moments, he had sent me a message saying, "I hear you’re going to be playing me — I can’t say I’m complaining but don’t be camp. I’m not camp." I’d already dealt with playing one icon, so I was glad that I had that under my belt, but this was a completely different experience.
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What did the research entail? Did you meet Sixx?
I went to his house in L.A. and met him. I still had no idea how I was going to play him yet but it was an incredible experience to meet him. I was also very nervous because you read The Dirt and he was a very different person back then than he was now. He was so warm and kind, and inviting to me and supportive. He gave me The Heroin Diaries, and that was a very invaluable source of research for some of the darker moments.
Have you ever been in a band? The live footage is very authentic.
I used to play the trumpet actually, but nothing like guitar. In a movie ages ago I had to play, so a friend taught me how to play. Netflix flew him to London before shooting and we did an intensive course where I blistered all my fingers. We’d do three hours, have a pint in the pub, another three hours, another pint. Eventually, I kinda made a breakthrough. We did a full intense bandcamp in New Orleans. So it was a challenge. There were definitely moments I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get my head around it all. By the end, it worked and it was great. We were playing the songs by the end of the bandcamp.
There's a feeling that the film could have a similar effect to Straight Outta Compton, in that it will appeal to people beyond fans of the band.
Definitely. We released the trailer a couple of weeks ago and already people are discovering it. A woman wrote in GQ that they’re already a new fan of Mötley Crüe. So it’s great to bring some Crüe heads to the table. It’s a really entertaining story, it’s a lot of fun but it also has a lot of heart to it. When my mum saw it for the first time — I showed it to my parents — they were really moved by the story. They didn’t know much about Mötley Crüe, but they were touched by the story. They found the needles pretty hard to deal with.
The Dirt is released on Netflix on Friday, March 22.