Skip to content

CBGB Film Cast Grows as Movie Draws Ire of NYC Club Owner’s Son

Debbie Harry / Photo by Kevin Cummins/Getty, Malin Akerman / Photo by Stefanie Keenan/WireImage

The film documenting the rise of legendary New York City punk mecca CBGB is moving ahead despite the protests of some members of deceased club owner Hilly Kristal’s family. The movie, which will star Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, that is) as Kristal has announced some new additions to its cast. Debbie Harry, the Dead Boys, and (obviously) the Ramones will play a part in the flick, which was announced a year ago. According to Variety (and the Strut), another wizard, Ron Weasley Rupert Grint will play Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys, Malin Akerman (of Watchmen fame) will play Harry, and Joel David Moore and Julian Acosta will play Joey and Johnny Ramone, respectively. On looks alone, they are all excellent fits for their rock counterparts.

Filmmakers have also shared that production will take place mostly in Savannah, Georgia, on a constructed set, but will spend a few days in New York on the Bowery, where the club was replaced by a John Varvatos boutique when it closed in 2006.

On the legal end, however, things are a little more complex. The movie’s screenplay was co-written by husband-wife/producer-director team Jody Savin and Randall Miller with help from Kristal’s daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman. However, Kristal’s son, Dana, who went to live with his mother, Karen, when she split from her husband, tells SPIN that he’s continuing to fight his sister on trademarks concerning the story, which, as the Village Voice has documented fairly well over the years, he’s been doing since Hilly’s death in 2007.

“We wrote this script for the film,” Dana tells SPIN in a telephone call from his 86-year-old mother’s New York home, where he acts as her caretaker. “It was done in my sister’s apartment. My mother’s lawyers [have asked], did my sister see the story? Not only did she see it; it was done on her computer with my mother and me. She also copied the beginning of the story.”

He tells SPIN that the beginning of the Savin-Miller script was taken verbatim from the script Dana and his mother worked on together. Although his sister technically owns the club’s trademarks (including the iconic CBGB logo) — Dana and Karen legally ceded the trademarks in a court settlement back in 2009, which would bar the duo from pursuing another biopic using the logos for at least seven years — Dana insists, “I’m not accepting any money from the settlement. My sister didn’t win.” He also points out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office still lists the Estate of Hillel Kristal as the owner of all CBGB trademarks.

He says he continues to contact the press because his mother will not be included in the film’s plot, due to what he called his sister’s “damage control.” “If you told me I could get $100 million [for my mother’s and my CBGB screenplay] seven years from now, or I could get an agent now and do something so my mother sees it, I definitely would not want the money,” he explained. “I want my mother to see this in her lifetime.”

So far, neither Lisa nor the other members of the team for the in-production movie have commented on the statements Dana has made to numerous outlets.

UPDATE (6/27/12): Kristal has clarified his comments to SPIN that he hasn’t seen the actual Savin-Miller script; he now claims that parts of the script he and his mother worked on were recorded off the soundboard by his sister at a reading given by Patti Smith’s guitarist Lenny Kaye at a Save CBGB benefit show in 2005 and suspects she used the recording for her own screenplay.