Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’ Movie: One Year Later
In March of 2019, Motley Crue unveiled their long-awaited biopic The Dirt; a project which revitalized their career and brought an unexpected end to their retirement.
Four years earlier, the band appeared done. Their 2015 farewell tour had been exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Even on a trek that celebrated the band’s longevity, friction within the group was palpable. “I think I was just detached in a lot of ways,” bassist Nikki Sixx confessed to Billboard. “I wasn’t detached onstage, but it just didn’t feel like a camaraderie backstage. We would do our meet-and-greets and we all would be cordial, but it just didn’t feel the same.”
On Dec. 31, 2015 the band would play what was then billed as their final show. Performing in front of a packed house at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Crue closed with their 1985 classic, “Home Sweet Home.”
After the final bow, the band quietly went their separate ways without so much as a handshake. "We never even said goodbye,” Tommy Lee admitted to Rolling Stone. “Fucking strange as hell, dude. I mean, what the fuck?" According to the drummer, the awkwardness didn’t stop there. "I think fucking Nikki unfollowed me on fucking Twitter, like, the next day," Lee added. "I mean, if you're getting divorced, you still give your ex a hug or flip her off or something. You either get a kiss or a slap or ... something."
Each band member turned his respective attention to new projects, seemingly leaving the Crue in the past. However, there was one endeavor that still required all four musician’s involvement: a film adaptation of their autobiography The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band.
Paramount Pictures and MTV Films had originally bought the rights to book back in 2006, however it languished in pre-production purgatory for several years. When Netflix acquired the rights in 2017, the process to bring the film to reality amped up.
Actors Douglas Booth, Iwan Rheon, Machine Gun Kelly and Daniel Webber were brought on to play members of the band. Meanwhile, Jeff Tremaine of Jackass fame agreed to direct.
In early 2018, principal photography took place in New Orleans. The real life Motley Crue regularly visited the set, often interacting and advising the men who would portray them on screen. After several years apart, the project seemed to reignite a fire within the group. Motley Crue hit the studio and recorded four new songs for the official soundtrack. More importantly, the bandmates were once again getting along.
Despite the positive vibes, expectations were tempered around the film. Netflix launched a marketing campaign in February 2019, building towards the movie’s spring release.
On March 18, 2019 The Dirt premiered in Hollywood. Four days later, it became available for streaming. The results were astounding.
The film far exceeded even the most bullish predictions, garnering massive viewership. Though critics questioned the accuracy of events and scrutinized the film’s overall quality, their remarks were overwhelmed by the glee of fans. The Dirt spurred increased consumption of the band’s catalog, with streaming increasing by 669 percent and the band’s record sales increasing by a staggering 2,000 percent. Statistics showed that this massive growth was triggered by people 18-44, proving that the film ignited a new generation of Crue fans.
"We knew the Mötley Crüe fans, who had made The Dirt book a New York Times Bestseller, would be keen to see the movie after hearing it was coming for the past 15 years,” Lee surmised. “But we weren't expecting the new younger audience reaction to the movie and the music."
Working on the film also helped mend relationships within the band. "Since the movie, it has felt like it used to in the old days,” Sixx admitted, adding that “it’s the best feeling to at least know that we’re brothers and friends through all this. Rock ’n’ roll tears your fucking heart out sometimes. It’s hard.”
Invigorated by The Dirt’s success, and emboldened by a new generation of fans discovering their work, Motley Crue blew up their cessation of touring agreement in November of 2019. Weeks later, they announced a massive tour alongside Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett. Though those dates remain in limbo under the shroud of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that the Crue has not yet said their final goodbye.