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Wanted: a truly Rotten actor

Special to The Times

Who would you want to see in the role of Johnny Rotten in a movie about his life?

Justin Timberlake?

That’s the suggestion of Mr. Rotten himself.

He’s joking, of course. But John Lydon, who has been unsatisfied with portrayals of him in such films as “Sid and Nancy,” is giving the matter serious thought these days.

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He has teamed with Penelope Spheeris, director of the “Decline of Western Civilization” punk and metal documentaries as well as “Wayne’s World” and other features, to develop a movie based on the Sex Pistols singer’s 1994 memoir, “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.”

“Penelope Spheeris is someone I love and adore, and I think we’re going to make a wonderful film,” Lydon says, noting that a few other people had attempted to write scripts for the film but had not met his exacting standards.

“Writers tend to misunderstand or over-elaborate or exaggerate,” he says. “It’s my life. Just tell it as it is.”

The focus of the book is on his lower-class London roots and the dismal situations that forged the no-compromise stance he’s taken throughout his career.

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“People don’t understand that it means you have no hope, no future -- you’re told that from the day you’re born,”

he says. “It’s still there, that repressive idiocy. People like me come from that. We don’t back down.

“I don’t want to make a VH1 rockumentary-type film where you can generically drop in Billy Idol or the Partridge Family and it comes out the same way,” he says. “It will be considered an unusual film by many, I suppose. But ... conventional doesn’t work for me.”

Lydon does not think finding a worthy actor will be hard.

“I’ve got to say there’s a lot of young people out there that have the right attitude,” he says. “They don’t have to be bloody well-known actors.”

The teaming with Spheeris comes at a busy time for Lydon. He’s about to take the Sex Pistols on the road for their first tour since the 1996 “Filthy Lucre” reunion trek, starting in Boston on Aug. 20, with dates scheduled for Sept. 6 at L.A.'s Greek Theatre and Sept. 7 at San Diego’s Street Scene festival.

For this tour, the band is stripping it down to the basics: no backdrop, no big lighting rig, just “hard and simple,” he says. He’s particularly excited that in isolated shows such as their appearance last September at the Inland Invasion show in Glen Helen, the crowds have been diverse.

“The variety makes it worthwhile,” he says. “Nothing more awful than seeing one huge army of mohawks -- such a disgusting cliche and so against anything I’ve stood up for. If you want a uniform, there are real armies out there you can join.”

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He’s also working on material for a solo album, his second since breaking up Public Image Ltd. in the mid-'90s. Among the tracks are recent collaborations with Australian producer Nick Launay, who worked on PiL’s 1981 album “The Flowers of Romance.” He’s got eight songs done, although he has not approached labels about releasing it yet.

“It’s serious hard dance,” he says. “I use the word ‘dance’ very flippantly. It’s just solid. Not rock.”

Tour helps out kids in crisis

The third annual Take Action Tour has been booked to start Sept. 11 in Minneapolis, with the bands Poison the Well, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Further Seems Forever and Shadows Fall confirmed and several others to be added. Two Los Angeles-area dates are being set for early October.

Also due in September is a related two-CD collection of songs contributed by the Ataris, Thursday, Thrice and nearly 30 more bands to be sold for $5.99.

The tour and album, which help fund the National Hopeline Network suicide prevention hotline and crisis centers and the Plea for Peace Foundation, are also getting a boost from the Warped Tour, where representatives of various organizations will be on site to encourage activism and awareness.

“It’s been growing each year,” says Take Action founder Louis Posen, president of the L.A. punk label Hopeless Records and its sister Sub City Records. “And we’ve had a lot of success at Warped already, kids signing petitions and taking literature.

“We’ve raised more than $300,000, but the value of the awareness that’s been stimulated is not measurable. Nothing compares to a kid who writes a letter saying he was depressed, contemplating suicide, and has now gotten help and feels like he’s a new person. That’s why we’re doing this.”

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Small faces

* Uncle Sam wants Blink-182. The group has signed up to perform two concerts and do a handshake tour for troops in the Persian Gulf in late August. It’s a more natural fit than it may sound at first, given that Navy-heavy San Diego is the trio’s home base and guitarist Tom DeLonge’s half-brother saw gulf duty in the Navy during the Iraq conflict. The band is at work on its next album, due in November.

* Songs from the catalog of the Louvin Brothers will be honored with a series of duets for a tribute album to be released by Universal South Records on Sept. 30. Overseen by musician-producer Carl Jackson, the still-untitled album includes James Taylor paired with Alison Krauss on “How’s the World Treating You,” Emmylou Harris reuniting with her former band member Rodney Crowell on “My Baby’s Gone,” Jackson joined by Merle Haggard on “Must You Throw Dirt in My Face,” and performances by Vince Gill and Terri Clark, Johnny Cash and Pam Tillis, Dolly Parton and Sonya Isaacs, Jackson with Linda Ronstadt, and Kathy Louvin (Ira Louvin’s daughter) singing with Pamela Brown Hayes. Others on the album include Glen Campbell, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury and Patty Loveless.

* David Byrne, who was born in Scotland, assembled musicians from Glasgow -- including members of Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, the Reindeer Section and Future Pilot AKA -- to record his score for the upcoming film “Young Adam,” an adaptation of a novel by Scottish beat writer Alexander Trocchi that’s directed by David Mackenzie and starring Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton. An album drawn from the score and titled “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” will be released in the fall by Thrill Jockey Records. Byrne won an Academy Award as co-composer of the score for the 1987 movie “The Last Emperor.”


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