Hulu aims FX’s ‘Pistol’ toward audiences

Drama series makes music's Sex Pistols the subjects

The limited series “Pistol” begins streaming Tuesday on Hulu.

Simply the name of the rock group The Sex Pistols evokes thoughts of a certain place, time and culture.

That’s certainly how it is for Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” filmmaker Danny Boyle, a major reason he wanted to dramatize the band’s often turbulent history in the limited series “Pistol.” Made by FX but being shown on Hulu, the show begins streaming in its entirety on the service Tuesday, May 31.

With all six episodes directed by Boyle, the saga is based on a memoir by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones (played by Toby Wallace), though the controversial John Lydon aka “Johnny Rotten” (Anson Boon) and Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) may be the members most immediately associated with the group. “Game of Thrones” alums Thomas Brodie-Sangster (as manager Malcolm McLaren) and Maisie Williams also star, with Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde, who had involvement with the Pistols before finding stardom as lead singer of The Pretenders.

The spirited Boyle recalls “how incredibly dull Britain/England was” when the Sex Pistols came to prominence in the mid-1970s. “There’s so much in the world (now), and there was so little then. You felt like you were young and then you were old, and there was nothing in-between. And they did something, the Pistols; they were the fountainhead that changed it for so many other people coming after them. I think what they did was, they gave a sense of timelessness.”

Though Lydon already has been critical of “Pistol” and unsuccessfully sued to try to keep Sex Pistols music (much of which he wrote the lyrics for) from being used in it, Wallace is content to have relied on Jones’ memories for the project.

“It was nice because I had the book, and then I had also the real Steve I got to meet and hang out with quite a bit,” the actor says. “I always got to contact him for any type of thing. At the heart of our story was this traumatic experience that he had gone through that birthed that type of anger that I think he shares with Malcolm, and out of the anger was birthed the Pistols. A lot of people could relate to that, especially from these kind of working-class places and these working-class people.”

For Boyle, the influence of the Sex Pistols is crucial to “Pistol” in every way, even in the way the show is structured … or not structured. “I understood in theory, out of chaos comes creativity,” he notes, “but I didn’t really understand it, about how it created this music. And that’s what I hope we achieve with the show, that we tried to make it in a way that disobeyed the order of things.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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