C’it’s a voice, a feline look, a sensual mouth, a rocker known for his will to live, his suicide attempts, his drug abuse, speed, sex, a life of danger, love, agent, rock’n’roll, in the form of roller coasters and roulette. Directed by Alexandre Danchin and Jonathan Gallaud, the series johnny for johnny tells the story of Johnny Hallyday through interviews, autobiographical songs and unpublished archive images (rehearsals, studio recordings, backstage, the wedding with Adeline, vacations filmed by Johnny)…
Sixty years of career summarized in five episodes, each episode framed in a decade, going through the well-known fractures of the man (the abandonment of the father, loneliness, women, paternity) and those of the singer (the passages into the void, the madness of the staging, the achievement of its mythical status). In a confessional tone, Johnny’s serious words mix with those of biographers, friends and artists to paint an intimate and unpublished portrait of the psychology of France’s biggest rock star, who died in 2015 while the biopic Jalil’s Lespert is still being written. But haven’t we already said everything about the national Elvis? Ultramediatized for all these years, we know all about his demons, his dilemmas, his mistakes. So what is he johnny for johnny really teach us?
Compulsive Liar Johnny
Abandoned as a child by his parents, Jean-Philippe Smet built a new identity for himself after being taken in, at the age of three, by his aunt Hélène Mar, her daughter Desta Mar and her husband, Lee Lemoine Ketcham, a dancer. acrobatic from the depths of Oklahoma. The pair formed a duo called Les Halliday’s at the time. Jean-Philippe Smet accompanies them on the way. He is totally fascinated by this man, his plaid shirts and his pointy boots. Lee is a foster father who nicknames him Johnny and gives him his stage name “Hallyday” (it became “Hallyday” after a typo). He also introduced him to rock, which Johnny immediately fell in love with.
At 14, it was upon discovering at the cinema love you with Elvis who knew he would be a rocker. In his teenage bedroom, he trains himself to mimic his walk, his swaying hips. Like the King, he spreads his legs wide when he sings, an optimal position to raise the air from the belly to the diaphragm. Johnny idealizes America. He speaks a little English and dresses in fashion from across the Atlantic. So he makes it known that he comes from the United States, that he learned to sing in the land of cowboys, on a large farm in Texas, that his father is American and his mother is French… “I’m quite a liar. I can’t help it, that’s what I prefer,” he admits. “If you don’t lie a little bit to confuse people, you can’t do it. He invents encounters with Elvis, black jacket lives, hippie lives… “I need to make myself dream, I need to believe my lies so that people believe what I tell them, so that they dream. »
Aznavour, the spiritual father
When he met him in 1961, Charles Aznavour was not fooled by Johnny’s rantings. If he wants to be a cowboy, he must learn to ride a horse to lend credence to the fables about him, he tells her. Johnny leaves his small studio in Paris to settle at home. He will live there for two years. Aznavour taught him the rules of the trade and composed his first real adult songs, including “Retiens la nuit”. Sitting in the audience at his concerts, Aznavour observes his way of singing, corrects his weaknesses, and in a few months Johnny becomes a star of French song. “Charles Aznavour has always been like my spiritual father,” says Johnny.
How did he get his fans back?
In 1996, Johnny embarked on an extraordinary concert in Las Vegas, at The Aladdin, the living room of his idol Elvis. The production costs are staggering. He leases four Airbuses. In front of the 7,000 French fans who made the trip, Johnny sings 13 new songs created or adapted especially for this concert, with a very minimalist staging. Unfortunately, the rocker has angina, his voice is very weak, his recent lip operation prevents him from articulating, and the audience must remain seated. “Mayonnaise doesn’t drink”, he realizes immediately. But it’s worse than a failed sauce, it’s a total failure, personal and financial. For the first time in his career, Johnny disappointed his audience. Was it a dream too much?
Retired on his yacht with his young wife Laeticia, Johnny tours the Caribbean, death in his soul, cocktail in hand. His producer Jean-Claude Camus then accompanied him to Cuba to offer him an insane bet: perform a concert in front of 50,000 people at the Stade de France. This time he won’t crash. He summons Pascal Obispo to New York. This shapes “Lighting the Fire” with Zazie. In Paris, he repeats like crazy. And, to win back the affection of his fans, he rents the Zenith and invites everyone who has come to Las Vegas to make them attend rehearsals, free of charge. Jokes are exchanged, the past is forgotten. The fans forgive their idol and will be there for his return to the Stade de France, a triumph that Johnny will never really come down from.
johnny for johnny, available from March 29 on Netflix.