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Gabriel Range — Writer / Director

I set out to make a film about what makes someone become an artist; what ​actually​ drivesthem to make their art. That someone is David Bowie, a man we’re used to thinking about asthe star he became, or as one of his alter egos: Ziggy Stardust; Aladdin Zane; The Thin WhiteDuke. Someone I only ever saw at a great distance, behind a mask; a godlike, alien presence.Even in his perfectly choreographed death, he didn’t seem like a regular human being.Rather than make a biopic, or a spin through his greatest hits, the idea was to make a filmabout what we’ve not seen: the interior journey David Bowie might have taken to become thatartist.I’ve been fascinated by Bowie ever since I was a kid. I bought every record, read everyinterview, every biography. What surprised me in thinking about this project was how littlemost people seemed to know about his family background, about his life before that first realflush of fame.The David Bowie who arrived in America for the first time in January 1971 was not a star. Hewas an ambitious but insecure young man, with just one hit under his belt that most of themusic business had dismissed as a novelty record. And he also had a deep fear that he wouldsoon suffer the same fate as the man who practically raised him; his half-brother, Terry Burns.Born ten years before David, Terry gave his younger brother a musical education, took him tohis first ever gig, bought him his first record. David’s maternal aunts and grandmother had allsuffered bouts of mental illness and in 1967, when David was just 20, Terry had a completemental breakdown and was sent to an asylum.2
David’s fear that he too could be struck down by schizophrenia is very present on ​The ManWho Sold the World​. Singing about his fractured inner life probably helped him to stay in onepiece. But it didn’t bring him the fame and recognition he craved.Very little has been written about that first trip he made to America. In some respects, it was adisaster - without a visa or musician’s union paperwork, he couldn’t even perform the songs hewas there to promote. But instead he found some of the ideas and influences that he wouldmeld together to create his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.I could say that Ziggy was the culmination of David’s struggle to experience madness in a safeway. It was a means to develop multiple personalities without becoming a case of multiplepersonality disorder. It converted the potential delusion that he was to be a world famous rockstar into a reality. But above all, it was born out of his family dynamic.The film is very much grounded in fact - but it’s also a work of speculative fiction. We tooklicense with some of the relationships and the film has a slightly heightened, playful tone. But Ihope it is true to the spirit of where David was at around that point in his life.Finding a musician who could connect with that experience of an artist starting out, figuring outhis identity as a performer, was far more important to me than physical resemblance. I lovedJohnny’s work as both an actor and a musician, and so when we met and I discovered his ownobsession with Bowie, it felt like the stars had aligned.

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Directed by: 
Gabriel Range
Running Time: 
Johnny Flynn
Screenplay by: 
Gabriel Range

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