Johnny Ramone Estate Files Lawsuit Over Pete Davidson’s Netflix Ramones Movie – Details
Per Billboard, Linda Ramone, Johnny's widow, has claimed that Joey Ramone's brother Mickey Leigh “covertly developed an unapproved and unauthorized Ramones-based biopic” based on his own “one-sided recitation of the history of the Ramones.” The lawsuit was filed last Saturday (Jan. 21) in a Manhattan court.
Leigh's memoir, "I Slept With Joey Ramone," is the source material for the proposed Ramones centric film. While the lawsuit doesn't specifically name the film, back in 2021 it was announced that Pete Davidson was attached to start in a Netflix film based on Leigh's memoir with the approval of the estate of Joey Ramone.
As most of the members of the Ramones have passed, the band's living relatives now handle most of the band's operations, with Linda Ramone and Mickey Leigh splitting ownership of the intellectual property for the group as part of Ramones Productions, Inc.. Given Linda's stake in the decision making, she claims that a movie can not move forward without her approval.
“Ms. Ramone objects to defendants’ attempt to create a Ramones film without her involvement — not to be obstinate, but rather based on defendants’ disregard for [Ramones] assets and their conduct and treatment of Ms. Ramone and her late husband,” Linda’s attorneys write as part of the lawsuit. “To permit defendants alone to tell the authoritative story of the Ramones would be an injustice to the band and its legacy.”
As it turns out, the film is just one of the qualms that Ramone has with Leigh. The suit also includes other allegations against Leigh and David Frey, who is the Ramones' company director, including that they have withheld payments from her, "effectively shut down the entire company" and thrown the company's operations into a state of chaos.
“It is apparent from defendants’ continuing course of conduct that their main objective is to torment Ms. Ramone until she agrees to sell her interests,” Linda’s lawyers write. “Regrettably, Defendants appear willing to allow the band’s legacy to decay, in order to benefit their own self-interest.”
Joey Ramone died of cancer on April 15, 2001. Johnny Ramone also died of cancer on September 15, 2004. Though they shared the same last name, adopted as a stage name for the Ramones band, they were not related through blood.
Linda Ramone + Mickey Leigh's Previous Conflicts
This would not be the first time that Linda Ramone and Mickey Leigh have clashed over the band's business dealings. In 2018, Leigh took legal action against Ramone through private arbitration, with Billboard reporting that Leigh alleged Ramone was using the band's intellectual property and unfairly associating herself with the “Ramones” name with projects. One of those projects was a proposed "Ramones Ranch" in Los Angeles.
At the time, the arbitrator ruled partially in favor of Leigh, restricting how she could use the Ramones name moving forward. As the arbitrator gave their ruling, they criticized both Ramone and Leigh for their ongoing feuding and allowing their egos to "interfere with their joint obligations by failing to communicate, obfuscating information and unreasonably withholding their approvals." Interestingly enough, the arbitrator suggested that one key area where growth of the company could be achieved was through a Ramones movie, citing the success of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
“In my estimation, Ramones fans want a Ramones movie,” the arbitrator wrote at the time. “To make that happen, each side will need to put on hold their individual desires to make a Mickey movie or a Linda movie and join together to authorize a great biopic to be made about this historically important band.”
Per Billboard, they also butted heads in 2023, with Linda Ramone attempting to remove someone from the board of directors, while Leigh filed a court case to halt the arbitration due to "improper use of the process."
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What Is the Proposed Ramones Film?
Back in 2021, it was first reported that former Saturday Night Live actor-comedian Pete Davidson was attached to star in the Netflix adaptation of Leigh's memoir. In addition, it was revealed that Davidson would also work on the film's treatment with director Jason Orley and had signed on as one of the project's executive producers.
Though Davidson was primarily known for his Saturday Night Live breakout, recent years have seen him branching out more into TV and film. The King of Staten Island was based around his own life, while he also had roles in such films as The Suicide Squad, Bodies Bodies Bodies and Good Mourning. He's also starred in the TV series Bupkis of late, while having a recurring guest role on the TV series The Rookie.
At the time of the initial announcement, Adam Fogelson of STXfilms who was developing the movie with Netflix, stated, “When you share a bed with someone – and not just a bed, but a childhood, a family, and a lifetime – you know that person better than anybody else. Mickey Leigh not only collaborated with his big brother’s band – he has irreplaceable memories of and insights into Joey Ramone, having supported him when no one else would and witnessed him overcome adversity in the most dramatic way."
"I Slept with Joey Ramone is a great rock anthem that will make an equally great rock biopic, set apart by a universal story of family. Pete is perfect for this role and we’re excited he and Jason will be bringing this icon of rock to life and thrilled to be collaborating once again with our friends at Netflix.”
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Gallery Credit: Joe DiVita