Deadline is exclusively reporting that The Greatest Showman director, Michael Gracey, is set to direct Better Man, a biographical, fantastical, coming-of-age story about the unlikely rise of Robbie Williams.
The film tells the story of Williams’ ascent, exploring the experiences that made him who he is, and the demons he battled both on and off the stage as he became a huge solo star after leaving Take That.
Deadline spoke with Gracey about the project, who told them that the film came about after he had multiple, hours long conversations with Williams, a process that started a couple of years ago after The Greatest Showman, and when asked about how Williams will be represented onscreen, Gracey said:
As for how we represent Robbie in the film, that bit is top secret. I want to do this in a really original way. I remember going to the cinema as a kid and there were films that blew me away and made me say as I sat there in the cinema, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’ I just want the audience to have that feeling. It’s so important when they watch this story, and look at the screen, that they literally think, I’ve never seen this before. All I can say is the approach is top secret, but the goal is to generate that feeling I just described. It’s this fantastical story, and I want to represent it in its harsh reality all the way to these moments of pure fantasy.
Michael Gracey also talked about how the film will be different from recent musical biopics such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, saying:
Unlike some people who were born prodigies or musical geniuses and you follow the narrative of the world catching up to their brilliance, this isn’t that story. Robbie is that Everyman, who just dreamed big and followed those dreams and they took him to an incredible place. Because of that, his is an incredibly relatable story. He’s not the best singer, or dancer, and yet, he managed to sell 80 million records worldwide. You can relate to the guy who doesn’t see himself as having any extraordinary talent, even though of course, he does. What he did have is the will, vision and confidence to say, I’m going to pursue my dream. For us as an audience, it’s a window into the world, of what if we just went for it and chased that impossible dream that so many of us put to one side.
Gracey also told Deadline that the film will also focus on low-points of Williams’ career, saying:
At moments when he was having that success, no one is more critical of him than he is. There’s a bit of that in all of us who when they get acknowledgement, feel like a fraud. It’s psychological and internal, but everyone looks in the mirror and finds fault with themselves, no matter who you think you are, and especially in your teenage years. Robbie had incredible fame at age 16, and they often say and I do believe it is true, you stop your emotional and mental maturity at whatever age you become famous. You look at people who get fame at a young age, and all the challenges that make you grow, all the things that you should have to deal with on an emotional level, they get taken care of or pushed to one side. You have a mechanism around you that allows you to stay immature, that allows you to get what you want, have a tantrum. That doesn’t happen for the rest of us. It is interesting to watch someone who has all this at 16, and kind of stays 16 his whole life. This whole script was born of hours of Robbie and myself getting together at this recording studio he has at his house. We would just leave the mic on record and chat for hours. Some sessions weren’t great and in the last five minutes he would say something that was so honest and truthful, it blew my mind. I would think, if I was writing a script, I could never come up with a line as brilliant as that. When I was talking to him, the details of what was going on inside him when something completely different might have been taking place around him, not only is it unique, it’s an interesting way to come at a musical biopic. It’s because he has such a unique way of talking about his life, and he was so open about it. If we can present it in an original way it would reflect how original this is, but also, how relatable it is. It’s not often you can tell extraordinary fantastical stories that everyone can relate to. There is a bit of that in the superhero narrative, like I’m an every person and I discover something and get this incredible superpower. That is a fantasy we all subscribe to. It is interesting when you can access that when it comes to a rock star.
Gracey is certainly building up the anticipation for the project, which will be brought to the upcoming virtual EFM, with CAA Media Finance and Elevate Production Finance arranging financing for the project as well as representing domestic distribution rights, with Rocket Science handling international sales. The script for the biopic is written by Gracey, Oliver Cole and Simon Gleeson. Jules Daly of Big Red Films and Craig McMahon of McMahon International will serve as producers alongside Gracey. Production on Better Man is scheduled to begin this summer.