Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese Revive the 1970s New York Music Biz in HBO’s ‘Vinyl’

Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde, Mick Jagger
Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

At last night’s New York premiere for “Vinyl” — HBO’s upcoming series about the 1970s New York music industry — P.J. Byrne, who plays the wildly-groomed music lawyer Scott Leavitt, told Variety that he has very strict requirements for the roles he accepts.

“I like to work with a minimum of two icons before I show up on set,” he said with a smile, referring to the show’s executive producers. “To have the great Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, and Terence Winter — who, if he’s not an icon now, will be one shortly — those guys were a wealth of knowledge.

“Growing up in the ’70s in New Jersey, New York was this scary place of dreams,” he added. “And now to be a part of this world and tell that story is exciting. And also to have mutton chops.”

Scorsese directed the two-hour premiere that screened with his signature full-throttle flourish, and he, Winter and Jagger certainly don’t skimp on the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll or violence. “Vinyl” has been in production for close to a decade, and at the premiere, which was held at the Ziegfeld Theatre, showrunner Winter told Variety that there was “an overlap” between the start of this series and the end of his previous show, “Boardwalk Empire.”

“I got involved in 2007. I got a call from Martin Scorsese, who said, ‘I’m working on this music project with Mick Jagger. Do you want to be involved with it?’ And I said, ‘uh, yeah, I do.'”

According to Winter, “Vinyl” started life as “a sweeping epic that spanned over 40 years, and it was a three-hour epic period piece, and timing wasn’t right. We had our project up and running around 2008, and suddenly the economy collapsed, and the appetite to do a massive period piece set in the music business sort of waned,” Winter explained. “And we thought, ‘well, we already have ‘Boardwalk Empire’ going, why don’t we try reinventing it as a series?,’ and that worked so much better. It gave us much more real estate to work with.”

“Vinyl” stars Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde, Juno Temple and Ray Romano, and revolves around the world of American Century, a record label that’s on the verge of collapsing due to Cannavale’s character’s drug problems. Viewers get an inside look at how to cheat artists out of their royalties, cook the books and other classic music industry malfeasance. And as with Winter’s previous work — he was a head writer on “The Sopranos” and wrote the script for “The Wolf Of Wall Street” — the often toxic masculinity is neither explicitly celebrated nor condemned.

“I’m just honest in the storytelling. I’m not trying to make it seem one way or another or clean anything up,” Winter said. “I’ve had the same policy in everything I do; I present the facts and let audiences decide what they think is good or bad. I don’t take a position on any kind of behavior. This is the actual reality of how it was, and you make of it what you will.”

Getting into character was not an arduous task for Temple, who plays Jamie Vine, an assistant at American Century’s A&R Department who is hungry to find a career-making star. “I listened to great music, tried on some great wardrobes, read some great books, like (Legs McNeil’s) ‘Please Kill Me.’ I did all the things I’d want to do in my real life. This didn’t feel like research. This felt like the most enjoyable experience ever.”

Though books about the ’70s scene, like Stephen Davis’ Led Zeppelin tell-all “Hammer of the Gods,” often depict the era’s women as groupies and prizes to be won, Temple says “Vinyl” has a more equitable and progressive take.

“To me, I feel like the female characters on the show are unbelievably strong, and that’s another reason why I signed on to it. In the pilot, she felt really fearless and brave,” she said. “She felt like she was going to make a difference. I think Terry is going to be really wonderful about that, and the arc with all of the female characters throughout the show, is just as important as the male characters. I think it’s an even balance.”

After the premiere, the cast and celebrity guests including Danny McBride, Steve Buscemi and Peter Dinklage attended the afterparty at Cipriani’s, where they were served beverages and small hot dogs and other finger foods by a waitstaff attired in Aerosmith, the Doors, the Ramones and other classic rock T-shirts, while a DJ played era-appropriate hits with a heavy emphasis on the late David Bowie.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 2

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. loco73 says:

    After his amazing performance in the third season of “Boardwalk Empire” Bobbi Cannavale needed to shine even more. He is a great actor with I feel yet untapped potential. I always remember how good he was in “Third Watch”. The fact that he is good friends with Peter Dinklage, and they both starred in “The Station Agent”, a little gem of a movie, directed by Tom McCarthy (“The Wire”, “The Visitor”, “Spotlight”) who in turn was a pretty big reason of why “Game Of Thrones” ended up being made by HBO, and also directed the first version of the pilot for the show (which was later re-shot by Tim Van Patten), shows you how small the world really can be.

    Cannavale deserves to work with talent of the caliber of Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter. “Boardwalk Empire” is probably one of the best gangster epics ever, definitely up there with the classics, and Cannavale was a big reason of why the show became as good as it did! Olivia Wilde and Ray Romano are quite interesting casting choices and will definitely have to watch how they do on the show. June Temple is no surprise, because she is another one of those actresses to watch out for!

  2. Eddie Pein says:


More Scene News from Variety