How Motley Crue Kept ‘The Dirt’ Book Real
The project involved leaving original interviews as author Neil Strauss wrote them, indemnifying the publishers against potential lawsuits and leaving copies in other bands’ tour buses. The result was an acclaimed book that, after a series of setbacks, became a biopic that was released last month.
“The concept of the book was to find a book company that would let us tell a lot of story,” Kovac told Virgin Radio. They met with a “controversial” publisher who asked for more details. “I said, 'Have you ever had an artist sign that, once they gave the interview, they couldn’t change anything?’ And she said, ‘No.’” He then suggested that Strauss “take everyone's version and then we leave it as is, and see what a rock 'n' roll band really is, which is a train wreck.”
Kovac said the publisher “loved” the idea, but her bosses at HarperCollins were “very concerned about lawsuits” so, in response, the band “indemnified the book company against any lawsuits.”
You can watch the full interview below.
The next issue was publicity in the pre-social media era. “You wanna get out there, and you don't have to do it conventionally,” he argued.
“We were sitting around and coming up with ideas, and I threw out, ‘What if we sent books to every rock festival and asked the promoters to put the book in all the stars’ buses?’ With artists having to drive all the time, they get bored. So they all read the book. Social media back then was the tribal experience of an arena or a club or a theater, and they would tell the fans, ‘You’ve gotta get this book. I’ve never read a book that actually put this stuff in it.’ And all of a sudden, the book became a bestseller, and it just kept selling and selling until it became the biggest rock book, or music book, ever sold.”
The idea of turning The Dirt into a movie was first pursued just a few years after the book’s publication, but Kovac recalled how “problems started” almost as soon as MTV, a part of Paramount, bought the rights.
“You go to a corporation, they wanna make a different movie than the book,” he said. "And after about seven years and six different heads of production, we agreed to disagree and we moved to Focus Films. And then Focus Films gave us another five years of, ‘Yes, yes, yes. We’ll do it. Oh, we’re not sure.’ And then finally, we settled on Netflix, and they’ve been great.”
Echoing Crue bassist Nikki Sixx’s previous description of the movie as a “cautionary tale,” Kovac said, “Everybody is excessive, and all of a sudden, these guys, who always wanted to differentiate themselves, decide, ‘We’re gonna be crazier than everyone else.’ The movie deglamorizes it. And I think it's the first movie where rock stars are talking about the downside, the very dark downside. … Artists today have a responsibility to know the damage that they can do to themselves but also to their audience. … I think that's where this film is really important for music and pop culture.”