Director Penelope Spheeris sees something in Pink that makes her the perfect star for “The Gospel According to Janis.” She sees Janis Joplin.
“She’s got Janis’ spirit, and sometimes I even think about reincarnation, I swear, because it’s so close to home,” Spheeris said. “I know that sounds weird, but I think about that when I look at the work that [Pink] can do.”
Some 15 years after she first began developing a Joplin biopic, Spheeris crossed a major bridge last week when Pink signed on for the role (see “Pink To Play Janis Joplin In Movie About Her Life” ).
The director, whose résumé includes “Wayne’s World” and the Ozzfest documentary “We Sold Our Souls for Rock ’n’ Roll,” had auditioned Brittany Murphy and was once considering Scarlett Johansson for the role, until her 12-year-old daughter suggested she give Pink a shot.
At the time, neither mother nor daughter knew Pink worshipped Joplin and covered her songs in concert.
“I was writing the script, and three days after my daughter said it to me I was at Juliette Lewis’ birthday party and Pink was there and I’m looking at her and I’m thinking, ’That could work,’ ” Spheeris recalled.
Pink, who had just yelled at her manager for not getting her an audition for a different Joplin movie Paramount Pictures is developing, showed up at the audition determined to land the part. Spheeris, however, went in worried about whether Pink, who has only had a cameo in “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” could act, but she was blown away by what she saw.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Spheeris said of Pink’s screen test. “Inevitably the people that look at it say, ’Oh my God, I just got chills.’ ”
Along with reading a couple of scenes, Pink sang two Joplin tunes. “The kids’ music that she does, it doesn’t show her real voice,” the director said. “Pink’s got the most awesome voice I’ve heard outside of Janis Joplin.”
Spheeris has yet to cast other roles because she wants Pink to read with potential co-stars first. She plans to spend the summer putting together the rest of the cast so shooting can begin in September.
The director’s script begins with a lengthy montage of Joplin’s childhood but primarily focuses on the time from when Joplin was a 19-year-old student at the University of Texas at Austin to her death at age 27.
“The reason I think the script is successful is it’s not a big downer,” Spheeris said. “It’s not about a destructive dope addict. It’s about a person who is incredibly intelligent, incredibly well-read, incredibly ambitious and incredibly gifted, and we focused on the positive things instead of the negative things that happened to her. I think people are gonna walk out of the theater and feel really uplifted as opposed to really bummed out, whereas all the other scripts [about Joplin] I’ve ever read have been real downers.”
Speaking of other Joplin scripts, Spheeris said she freaked out when she heard Paramount was making another movie, titled “Piece of My Heart” and with Renée Zellweger in the lead, but eventually she came to terms with it.
“You know what, Janis Joplin was so cool that she deserves to have two movies,” Spheeris said. “I just think ours might be a little more appealing to the younger audience because of [Pink]. And also Renée’s [almost] 35 years old now, so I don’t know how they’re gonna start with her. If they make that work, I want that makeup woman every morning!”