Rock Star (2001 film)

"Steel Dragon" redirects here. For other uses, see Steel dragon (disambiguation).
Rock Star

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stephen Herek
Produced by George Clooney (executive)
Robert Lawrence
Toby Jaffe
Mike Ockrent (executive)
Steven Reuther (executive)
Written by John Stockwell
Starring Mark Wahlberg
Jennifer Aniston
Dominic West
Timothy Spall
Timothy Olyphant
Music by Trevor Rabin
Cinematography Ueli Steiger
Edited by Trudy Ship
Bel Air Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros. (US)
Studiocanal (International)
Release dates
  • September 7, 2001 (2001-09-07)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $38[1]–57[2] million
Box office $19.3 million

Rock Star is a 2001 American musical comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Herek and starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. It tells the story of Chris "Izzy" Cole, a tribute band singer whose ascendance to the position of lead vocalist of his favorite band was inspired by the real-life story of Tim "Ripper" Owens, singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who was chosen to replace singer Rob Halford when he left the band.


Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is a Pittsburgh fanatical admirer of a 1980s heavy metal band called Steel Dragon. By day, Chris is a photocopier technician and by night, he is the lead singer of a Steel Dragon tribute band called Blood Pollution (the name is taken from a Steel Dragon song).

Internal struggles among the actual Steel Dragon band members culminate with the firing of their lead singer, Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng), and the starting of recruitment sessions to find a new vocalist. Chris experiences his own strife with his Blood Pollution bandmates, particularly guitarist Rob Malcolm (Timothy Olyphant). During a live performance, Rob's playing fails to live up to Chris' over-demanding standards regarding note-for-note accuracy to the original Steel Dragon recordings, and Chris sabotages Rob's amplifier mid-song - a fight breaks out between the two onstage. The next day, Chris arrives at Blood Pollution's rehearsal space (the basement of an X-rated theater) to find that he's been fired and replaced with his arch-rival, the (now former) lead singer of another Steel Dragon tribute band. Rob also cites Chris' inability to create his own musical style, preferring to remain the singer in a tribute band.

One day in 1984, Chris receives an unexpected phone call from Steel Dragon's founder and rhythm guitarist, Kirk Cuddy (Dominic West), and is offered an audition for the band (thanks to two of Blood Pollution's groupies, who showed Kirk a videotape of one of Blood Pollution's concerts). After hanging up on Kirk once, thinking he's being made fun of, Chris ecstatically agrees. At the studio, he meets the band, as well as learning that Bobby Beers was fired because he was a closeted gay, and gives an outstanding performance of "We All Die Young" (a Steel Dragon song in the movie, but it is actually a song by Steelheart, whose lead vocalist Miljenko Matijevic provides Cole's singing voice for the film). Chris joins the band as their new singer, adopting the stage name "Izzy". Following a successful debut concert with Steel Dragon, Izzy must come to grips with the pressures of his new-found fame and success. The band embarks on a lengthy tour and Izzy experiences the excesses of the lifestyle, with the group's manager, Mats (Timothy Spall), serving as a sympathetic mentor to Izzy.

His new lifestyle impacts his life both for better and worse, particularly with his relationship with his supportive girlfriend, Emily Poule (Jennifer Aniston), when she decides not to continue with him throughout the remainder of the tour as a rock star girlfriend, though Emily and Izzy agree to get back together when the tour reaches Seattle. Eventually, Steel Dragon stops in Seattle for a show, and Emily arrives at his hotel room as they had previously arranged, although Izzy had become so inebriated while on tour he forgot about the arrangement and did not even know what city he was in. Although taken aback by all the groupies, Emily still tries to reconnect with him, reminding him of their plans to meet up once he got to Seattle, however he is too intoxicated to really understand what she is saying, eventually suggesting they go to Seattle together. Heartbroken with his inconsiderate behavior, intoxication and the fact that he is sleeping with so many groupies, Emily leaves him.

After the end of the tour, Izzy reports to the next series of Steel Dragon recording sessions with song concepts for the band's next album. The rest of the band rejects Izzy's ideas, with Kirk explaining that the band has to stay true to the "Steel Dragon thing" to fulfill fan expectations. Izzy is angered upon realizing that he was only recruited for his vocal abilities. After a heartfelt conversation with Mats about how he feared he had no control over the direction life has taken him, Izzy begins to reconsider his rock star lifestyle. On the next tour, in a scene directly paralleling one near the beginning of the film with their roles reversed, Izzy hears a fan (Myles Kennedy) singing along with him toward the end of a live concert. Impressed, Izzy pulls the fan, who introduces himself as Thor, onstage and hands him the microphone to finish the concert. Backstage, Izzy realizes that what he wanted for so long was not what he thought, and he says goodbye to Mats, departing from the band while doing so.

Upon ditching his stage name, Izzy, Chris makes his way to Seattle and starts a new band with his old friend and former bandmate Rob. At the same time Steel Dragon, failing to evolve to changing tastes and styles, has its fame fizzle out. Chris finds Emily working in the coffee shop she and her roommate purchased a few years earlier, but is initially too ashamed to speak to her. While walking one evening, Emily sees a flyer for his band posted on the wall and takes it down. In the final scene, Chris is singing with his band in a bar and Emily walks in. Chris leaves the stage and speaks to her. They reconcile, ending the film with a kiss and the final note of Chris' first original song "Colorful" (which is actually a song by The Verve Pipe).


The band members are portrayed by ex-Dokken and current Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson, Black Label Society founder & guitarist Zakk Wylde, actor Dominic West, and ex-Foreigner and ex-Black Country Communion drummer Jason Bonham (the son of the late John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin). Myles Kennedy, who was at the time the lead vocalist of The Mayfield Four and now the frontman of Alter Bridge and Slash's solo project, makes a cameo appearance.

The singing voice for Wahlberg's character was provided by Steelheart frontman Miljenko Matijevic for the Steel Dragon Songs, the final number dubbed by Brian Vander Ark. Jeff Scott Soto (of Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Soul Sirkus, and Journey) provided the voice of the singer Wahlberg's character replaces. Kennedy is the only actor whose actual voice is used.. Ralph Saenz (Steel Panther) also appears briefly, as the singer auditioning ahead of Chris at the studio.

Blood Pollution (Chris Cole's former band and a Steel Dragon tribute band) is also made up of known musical artists, including guitarist Nick Catanese (Black Label Society), drummer Blas Elias (Slaughter), and bassist Brian Vander Ark (The Verve Pipe, who also contributed a song to the film's soundtrack). Actor Timothy Olyphant portrays Blood Pollution's guitarist, Rob Malcolm. Bradley, the singer who replaces Chris in Blood Pollution, is played by Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins.

Blood Pollution


Steel Dragon







After The New York Times ran a story on Tim "Ripper" Owens in 1997, various Hollywood studios ran to option the filming rights. Warner Bros. won the bid, and hired John Stockwell to write the script. Stockwell soon started researching on the heavy metal music and tribute bands scene, and visited Owens' hometown of Akron, Ohio.[3] Afterwards the project, under the working title Metal God, got the involvement of George Clooney's newly founded Maysville Pictures.[4] Brad Pitt signed to star in 1998, but wound up dropping the project following creative differences with the studio.[5] Eventually Mark Wahlberg, a former rapper with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch who co-starred with Clooney in Three Kings, was hired for the main role in May 1999.[6] Stephen Herek signed to direct in October,[7] and the following month Jennifer Aniston became attached for the main female role, while Callie Khouri was hired to revise the script.[8]

Wahlberg spent five months preparing for his role as Chris Cole, working with a vocal coach, growing his hair, attending the metal scene and wandering around Los Angeles in-character.[9] A concert scene was shot at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena before 10,000 Metallica and Megadeth fans.[10] While filming one Steel Dragon performance, the crew pranked Wahlberg by playing Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations" instead of a rock track, and footage of this is featured during the film's end credits.[11] By 2001, Warner renamed the project from Metal God to Rock Star in order to attract a broader rock fandom instead of just metal fans.[12]


The film opened at #4 at the U.S. box office raking in US$6,018,636 in its opening weekend,[13] and grossing a domestic total of $17,008,282 and $2,325,863 internationally for a worldwide gross of $19,334,145; based on a $57 million budget, Rock Star was a box office bomb.[14]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 52% "Rotten" score, with the consensus "Like its title, Rock Star is rather generic, being not so much about the heavy metal scene than about rock cliches and formula".[15] On another aggregator, Metacritic, the film is rated 54 based on 32 reviews.[16]

When Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill was asked about his reaction to Rock Star in an interview in PopMatters magazine Hill responded "Well, it was a true work of fiction, you know? When we heard about the production company were going to make a movie based, as far as we knew, about Ripper joining the band we offered our help. We said 'If there's anything you want to know, talk to us at the time.' And certainly our communication was cut off and that was it and they went off on their own tangent." Hill added "I mean, I quite enjoyed the movie. [laughs] It was entertaining, you know?" Hill was quoted as saying "It had nothing to do with Rob Halford, Ripper Owens and Judas Priest, it's got nothing to do with that, whatsoever. It was fiction. Apart from the fact that 'Local Boy Makes Good'? That was the only true aspect of the movie." Hill was quick to add "I watched it once. I don’t have the urge to watch it again. [laughs]"[17]


Rock Star
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released August 28, 2001
Label Priority
Professional ratings
Review scores

A small number of the songs featured in the film and on the soundtrack were released after the dates given in the film. They are marked with an asterisk.

No. TitleArtist Length
1. "Rock Star" (Art Alexakis)Everclear 3:30
2. "Livin' the Life" (Steve Plunkett, Peter Beckett)Steel Dragon 3:14
3. "Wild Side*" (Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee)Mötley Crüe 4:34
4. "We All Die Young" (Miljenko Matijevic, Kenny Kanowski)Steel Dragon 4:01
5. "Blood Pollution" (Twiggy Ramirez)Steel Dragon 3:59
6. "Livin' on a Prayer*" (Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child)Bon Jovi 4:08
7. "Stand Up" (Sammy Hagar)Steel Dragon 4:18
8. "Stranglehold" (Ted Nugent)Ted Nugent 8:23
9. "Wasted Generation" (Desmond Child, A.Allen (Ajay Popoff), J. Allen (Jeremy Popoff))Steel Dragon 2:54
10. "Lick It Up" (Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent)KISS 3:56
11. "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" (Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore)Steel Dragon 3:27
12. "Devil Inside*" (Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchence)INXS 5:13
13. "Colorful" (Brian Vander Ark)The Verve Pipe 4:25
14. "Gotta Have It" (Trevor Rabin)Trevor Rabin 2:57
Total length:

Partial list of songs that were featured in the movie but did not appear on the soundtrack CD:


External links

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