KISS Were 'Incredibly Supportive, Informative' for 'Spinning Gold' Biopic Director (Exclusive)
Spinning Gold is a new biopic about the rise of Casablanca Records and its founder Neil Bogart that features a number of the label's high-profile artists over the years, including KISS, Casablanca's first signees. While working on the film, writer-director Timothy Scott Bogart — the son of Neil Bogart — was in constant contact with KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who he says were both "incredibly supportive" and informative" of the project. PopCulture.com has a chance to speak with Bogart, exclusively, and he shared how the two rock icons helped him perfectly capture their early years, including their relationship with his late father.
"There were years where Gene was going to produce it with us," Bogart revealed during our conversation. "Early on when we first set it up in 1999, it was the first time I set it up, Gene, would be a producer on the project with us. And then, over the years, he got focused on more music. But when we started doing it, they were consequential." The filmmaker then shared, "I put them on the phone with the production designers, with the makeup artists, with the costume designers. Paul was quick to point out, 'That's not the guitar I would've used, I would've used this one." Bogart added, "It's interesting because I always knew that the choice of doing the origin story of the makeup and the costumes might get people going, 'That's not the makeup.' But it wasn't the makeup in 1974, they didn't figure it out yet, and it was really bad makeup so it would melt down their faces."
Speaking about a "real scene that happened," which takes place "early in the film," Bogart noted an infamous "KISS concert at a Bar mitzvah venue, but the makeup was terrible. So I have it melting down their faces to show that these guys were working so hard on that stage and the costumes weren't figured out yet in '74, we don't really get to that kind of stuff in '78." He continued, "I always say that was going to be a thing, but early on it was the photos that Gene and Paul provided, and not just them, Peter Criss, I've spoken to endlessly about the project. So they were all incredibly supportive and incredibly informative." In Spinning Gold, Stanley and Simmons are played by actors Sam Harris and Casey Likes, respectively, with All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth making his feature film debut as Criss.
Notably, a biopic of Neil Bogart and Casablanca Records has been in the works for decades now, which is almost serendipitous when considering that a significant portion of the story is about Neil's ahead-of-his-time vision for artists such as KISS and Donna Summer, who didn't quite catch on with audiences first but eventually became cultural legends. "The same is true... Gladys Knight still performs, the audiences are still out there," Bogart said. "And yes, KISS just announced the final tour. And yes, we lost Donna obviously, but she was doing Broadway at the end. So singular talents are talents and I think what my father saw were singular talents, people that would be a talent for the ages. And I think history has proven that to be true."
Portrating Neil Bogart in the film is actor/singer Jeremy Jordan, who is well-known for his stage career in shows such as Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies, as well as TV shows like Supergirl and Smash. "The contract with one another was to capture the essence of the guy, not to try to mimic the voice or the gestures, although Jeremy would start to do a little bit of that and then start looking at me and started to mimic me a little bit," Bogart said of working with Jordan on how best to capture his father's true nature on camera. "It was really about capturing the essence of the drive and the dreamer. And I think he did such a beautiful job there. Once Jeremy, who's so talented, had that in his head, I didn't want to put edges around it.
Being candid "about the darker stuff" is his dad's past, Bogart said, "My father had lots of flaws. I think that made him who he was. I think some of his flaws were his superhero powers. He was a gambler. If he didn't gamble, we wouldn't be here. So some of these things going deeper, absolutely. Allowing Jeremy to go as deep as we could, not try to shave off those edges and ultimately find further madness to the method in this guy required some freedom."
He continued, "It was always anchored by the absolute essence of this guy, and Jeremy had a great opportunity to speak to Joyce, my stepmom — who was not just consequential for KISS and Donna Summer, as their manager — but was his true partner in Casablanca. So she also provided incredible insight to him." Spinning Gold is set to open in theaters on Friday, March 31. Click here for showtimes.