It's a John Varvatos store now but 315 Bowery will forever be CBGB, the legendary club that served as the punk movement's base in America.

The heyday of Hilly Kristal's institution, the era where you were more likely to find burning trash cans on the Bowery than high-end designers, is brought to life in "CBGB," a movie opening Friday that depicts the club's illustrious history, starring Alan Rickman as the iconic owner and a host of actors playing everyone from Joey Ramone to David Byrne and Patti Smith.

"It was really important to get the authenticity and it was important to get the feel," says director and co-writer Randall Miller, a process that included interviews, research and acquiring the original bar, phone booth and front doors for the set.

The club on-screen is crowded and sweaty, populated with misfits and druggies, with a raw quality that reflects the tremendous feeling pouring forth from the artists onstage.

To capture the spirit of CBGB, the filmmakers intersperse comic panels that are meant to reflect Punk magazine, which "put a visual component to this anarchy," Miller says.

Rickman is an unlikely candidate to play Kristal, a Jewish New Jersey native who died in 2007.

He's British, for one, and his stately demeanor would seem ill-at-ease with the rough-and-tumble nature of the club. Plus, the actor freely admits to never being much of a punk fan.

So what drew the erstwhile Severus Snape ("Harry Potter") and Hans Gruber ("Die Hard") to play the CBGB owner?

"He's a bit like an iceberg in a room," Rickman says. "There's a lot of hidden weight there and a stillness, I suppose, which was kind of interesting to me given the amount of noise that must have been going on around him at the club."

Fans have mourned CBGB's passing vociferously. The club lives on in ubiquitous retail articles, the annual CBGB Festival (which kicked off Tuesday and runs through Sunday, across Manhattan and Brooklyn, more info at and the hearts and minds of those who frequented it over 33 years.

Rickman is circumspect when asked to consider what the loss of this institution says about the forces of gentrification in New York.

"Things have their moment," he says. "I think it's a shame that people weren't able to fight for it more, I'm sure [Hilly] would say that at the time, or there wasn't the money or market forces came along and said, 'We need this space. We're going to make much more money out of it.'

"But at the same time, you also don't want places that are legendary to become self-referencing and a bit of a joke. So I don't know. Maybe it's time was always going to be over at a certain moment in music history."

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