Billy Joel biopic is 'completely unauthorized,' says singer's rep
An independent studio's planned movie biography of Billy Joel is unauthorized and will be unable to use any of Joel's songs, says the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer's representative.
"It is completely unauthorized," Claire Mercuri told Newsday. "Billy Joel is not involved with this film project. No rights in music, name/likeness or life story will be granted."
Actor-producer Michael Jai White's Connecticut-based Jaigantic Studios announced in Variety Wednesday it was developing the biopic "Piano Man," with Adam Ripp (the 2017 VOD horror film "Devil's Whisper") as writer-director. Ripp's father, Artie, had produced Joel's first solo album, 1971's "Cold Spring Harbor." That album was marred by uncorrected technical problems in the studio and fared poorly commercially, prompting Joel to say later, "I had to get out of these contracts" with Ripp's Family Productions label and distributor Paramount Records.
The film would be based on the life rights of Irwin Mazur, generally described, including in Fred Schruers' 2014 biography "Billy Joel," as Joel's manager. While Variety says Mazur managed Joel from the mid-1960s to 1972, the year before Joel's breakthrough album "Piano Man," Mercuri says Mazur "didn't 'manage' " Joel but instead "used to book The Hassles and Attila," two of Joel's early bands, and "functioned as Billy's music biz rep for two years, 1970-1972."
In a statement to Newsday, Jaigantic Studio rep Jackie Buster said Mazur "has spoken with Billy’s reps over the last several months while Irwin’s attorney, Larry Katz, has had conversations with Billy’s lawyer ... about the project. Irwin intends on meeting with Billy in person to discuss the project further. Several years ago Billy asked Irwin to take part in his biography written by Fred Schruers and Irwin happily obliged. We are hoping that Billy will return the favor."
"The biopic is an authentic account of Joel’s early music career up to the release of his first solo recording deal," added Adam Ripp. "The idea that anyone would want to scrub their participation from Billy's musical career is unfathomable."
One of the biggest-selling musicians of all time, and a multiple Grammy Award winner who has received lifetime-achievement honors from multiple organizations, Joel was raised in Hicksville and has homes in Sag Harbor and Centre Island. His next Madison Square Garden residency concert on March 24 is sold out, as are his monthly shows through June and in August, according to Joel's website, though tickets remain available for July.