Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon — better known by his stage name of Johnny Rotten — has revealed he turned down an opportunity to be depicted in “The Crown” after objecting to the show’s “distortion” of history.
The dispute with “The Crown,” which Lydon described as “an infuriating issue,” emerged during a court case he is currently embroiled in regarding another on-screen depiction of the Sex Pistols for FX.
In a witness statement submitted to the court, and seen by Variety, Lydon said the Netflix show’s producers contacted him about a season 3 episode portraying the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 (the celebration of the 25th anniversary of her ascension to the throne.)
But in addition to licensing Sex Pistols anthem “God Save the Queen,” Lydon said the producers also planned to depict the band on-screen disrupting the monarch’s celebratory boat ride down the River Thames.
“[T]he producers of ‘The Crown’ wanted to distort the history of the day and depict me as a political protester and to show scenes of protest in front of the Queen in the middle of her jubilee celebrations,” he claimed in his statement. “Events that simply did not happen.”
In reality, the Sex Pistols chartered their own boat a full two days before the Queen’s scheduled celebratory procession down the Thames in 1977.
“The producers agreed to use film footage of the boat trip instead,” he continued. “But, the story that they presented with the Queen in despair in her carriage, and all those ugly scenes on the streets of crowds fighting and chucking bottles, whilst others were celebrating the Queen. Nobody was rioting and here is my real serious problem with it. This never happened. This is a lie to history, it’s a lie about history, of the Sex Pistols’ history.”
After scrapping the Sex Pistols storyline, “The Crown’s” season 3 finale ended with Queen Elizabeth II (played by Olivia Colman) stepping into a royal carriage to begin the jubilee procession from Buckingham Palace while crowds cheer outside.
Lydon also claims another scene proposed by the producers showed him voting in an election. “The plots of the show, ‘The Crown,’ with this particular issue was changing the history of the time. Absolutely re-writing it,” he said. “They wanted some voting scene, something related to me talking about everybody should vote and then tried to turn that into an issue in this drama program where I would be lining up to vote and that’s not relevant to it at all.”
“The Crown” has come under fire for its portrayal of historical events, including a scene in which Colman has a chat with an intruder who climbs into her Buckingham Palace bedroom, resulting in the U.K.’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, telling the Mail on Sunday newspaper he thought the Netflix show should explicitly state at the start of each episode that it is a work of fiction.
Representatives for Netflix and producer Left Bank did not respond to Variety’s requests for comment by publication time.
Lydon, meanwhile, is currently fighting a lawsuit brought by his former Sex Pistols band-members — drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones — regarding the group’s portrayal in an upcoming FX series directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) based on Jones’ memoir, “Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.”
Lydon, who appeared in court on Wednesday to give evidence, objects to the show and has vetoed use of the band’s music in the series. Cook, Jones and their manager Anita Camarata, who is also an executive producer on the show, say that due to a 1998 agreement no one member can veto a licensing opportunity. Lydon disputes this, citing “The Crown” as an example.
The case is ongoing.