Danny Boyle reveals he thought Sex Pistols were ‘unapproachable’ for TV series

Danny Boyle has revealed he always wanted to make a project about punk but never thought it would centre around the Sex Pistols as he felt they were “unapproachable”.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker, 65, has directed the highly anticipated six-part series Pistol, which will explore the rise of the punk band and the rock-and-roll revolution in Britain.

The series is based on guitarist Steve Jones’ memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol, which Boyle described as a “Trojan horse” entry point into the band.

Boyle told the PA news agency that he had “always wanted to make a film about punk” as his favourite punk band was The Clash but he could not see a way into the story through them.

He added: “And I never thought I would make a film about the Pistols because as an edifice, they seemed unapproachable.

“They had this huge hostile environment around them, significantly generated by John (Lydon) but also amongst them all.

“They squabble. They’re constantly suing each other. It felt like, you thought: “Woah, stay clear of that!”

The director explained that Jones’ memoir felt like a way into exploring the Sex Pistols as you were already inside the material rather than having to approach the band from the periphery.

He said that using the memoir was a “wonderful place to start” as Jones was the founder of the band.

Boyle said: “It’s a wonderful way to tell a story that is really dominated by music.

“And I hope people enjoy that because it’s made with a love of their music and the role that music played in British life, certainly in my life, but in British society generally. It was a significant shifting point for our lives.”

Premiere of Pistol – London
Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook assisted with the TV series (Ian West/PA)

Boyle revealed that he did not meet Jones in person until recently as the guitarist was based in Los Angeles when the series was created during lockdown, so they had to communicate via Zoom.

Despite the distance, Boyle described him as a “generous founding father” with his experiences and material.

He said: “It’s his group, he formed it, but he isn’t possessive. He’s very generous about letting other talents flower within it so he was terrific.

“And he showed that same aptitude and attitude towards making the series, he gave us the go ahead.”

Last year members of the Sex Pistols were embroiled in a High Court legal battle after Jones and ex-drummer Paul Cook sued the group’s former frontman Johnny Rotten, as Lydon is known, to allow their music to be used in TV drama.

In a ruling, Sir Anthony Mann found the pair were entitled to invoke “majority voting rules” against the ex-singer in relation to the use of Sex Pistols material in the series, under the terms of a band member agreement.

Premiere of Pistol – London
Talulah Riley and Thomas Brodie-Sangster star in the new series about the punk band (Ian West/PA)

Boyle, whose previous films include Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire, also serves as executive producer.

Craig Pearce created the series which he co-wrote alongside Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Sex Pistol guitarist Jones will be portrayed by Toby Wallace and Lydon will be played by Anson Boon.

Christian Lees, who played Jerry Lee Lewis in the Sun Records series, stars as original Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Jacob Slater as Cook and Louis Partridge as bassist Sid Vicious, who replaced Matlock after he quit in 1977.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster will also star as the band’s manager Malcolm McLaren while Game Of Thrones actress Maisie Williams plays punk model Jordan.

Model Iris Law will play Soo Catwoman, an influential figure in the London punk scene, while Talulah Riley, best known for roles in St Trinian’s and Westworld, will portray punk fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.

Pistol will premier on streaming service Disney+ on May 31.