It was long. Arduous. Complicated. The actors have changed. The money ran out. Producers have multiplied. But there. After a hassle of at least 10 years, the film Spinning Gold finally hits screens this Friday.
Above all, do not confuse it with Solid Gold, a strip club in northern Montreal. It is indeed Spinning Gold, a musical biographical film dedicated to Neil Bogart, founder of Casablanca records, an essential label of the disco years.
His name may not mean anything to you, but the artists he had in his stable are well known. Between 1974 and 1980, it was he who revealed Village People and Funkadelic, but also Donna Summer and the group Kiss.
The film, directed by his own son, Timothy Scott Bogart, tells how Casablanca went into debt by $7 million ($37 million, in 2023 money) before it started turning a profit by riding the disco wave.
The house would probably have gone out of business, had it not been for the unwavering optimism of its president, his artistic flair and his ability to convince backers… including the underworld.
The soap opera surrounding the filming of Spinning Gold is like the main character: vagueness and financial setbacks.
Initially, Spike Lee is to direct the film, while the lead role is reserved for Justin Timberlake. The cast would also include Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, but the rumors remain unanswered. We are in 2013.
The project resumes in 2019. We learn that filming will take place in Montreal, under the direction of Timothy Scott Bogart, who co-produces and signs the screenplay. This time, a Broadway actor (Jeremy Jordan) will play Neil Bogart.
The story is reported in the media. Filming is abruptly halted.
“I’ve been in the industry for 37 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” says a Montrealer who was working on the set at the time.
According to an article in the Métro newspaper published at the time, the production then owed $600,000 to the technical team.
This will finally be compensated by a certain Alex Habrich. This Quebec businessman has nothing to do with cinema. But he rented his big house in Baie-D’Urfé for the filming. When he learns that Timothy Scott Bogart is looking for funding to complete the shoot, he embarks on the adventure. He quickly realizes that the boat is taking on water, not without having swallowed up $2.5 million in the project, which looks like a white elephant.
“I should never have gotten into this,” he told La Presse today. I was innocent. But I learned a lot. »
We recognize, among other things, the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton and a few businesses on Sherbrooke Street (Encore Books and Records, Atelier Matthieu Cheminée), supposed to represent Brooklyn in the 1960s.
The financial disaster has turned into a legal battle, with Alex Habrich and Timothy Scott Bogart currently in Los Angeles courts to settle their differences. We’ll spare you the details.
With all that, we almost forgot to comment on the film. Which is neither good nor bad, just an average biographical film, with all the clichés related to the genre. There are wigs, fake mustaches, phrases like, “To believe it, man, you have to have balls,” and the period re-enactment is borderline cartoonish. Clone of Justin Timberlake, Jeremy Jordan pulls it off fine in the lead role, the rest of the cast is up to snuff.
There remains the music (excellent) and a fascinating character, as is no longer the case. The 1970s were the era of all the excesses. Record deals were signed between two lines of coke. Bright dance floors turned into baisodromes. Neil Bogart was at the center of this whirlwind. To the point of wearing out prematurely: he died of cancer at the age of 39, in 1982. But he made his time vibrate. For better and for worse.