30 years ago, 'Sid and Nancy' gave us Romeo and Juliet ... with heroin
Long before Gary Oldman was “Commissioner Gordon” or “Sirius Black.” Before he was “Zorg” or that evil Russian trying to take down Air Force One. Even before he was Beethoven or Lee Harvey Oswald, Oldman was Sid Vicious. So convincing was the British actor in 1986’s Sid and Nancy that when ‘80s fans think of Sid today, the image that comes to mind is that of Gary Oldman.
Released 30 years ago today, Sid and Nancy tells the tale of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (played by Chloe Webb) and their tragic end. Like so many movies centered around punk rock, the movie was a box office disappointment but proved to be a cult classic when later released on VHS.
Critics nearly unanimously praised the film - it maintains an 88 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes - even if the people who actually knew Sid and Nancy best didn’t.
“To me this movie is the lowest form of life,” John Lydon (Rotten) wrote in his autobiography. “I honestly believe that it celebrates heroin addiction. … All of the scenes in London with the Pistols were nonsense. None bore any sense of reality. The chap who played Sid, Gary Oldman, I thought was quite good. But even he only played the stage persona as opposed to the real person. I don’t consider that Gary Oldman's fault because he’s a bloody good actor. If only he had the opportunity to speak to someone who knew the man.”
It’s hard to celebrate a film that admittedly aimed to document what the Washington Post called a “meaningless decline.” But 30 years later, we still have a soft place in our heart for our own modern day Romeo and Juliet.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Sid and Nancy on its 30th anniversary.
1. Oldman wore Sid's real chain necklace during the film’s production. It was given to him by Sid’s mother, Anne Beverly. Beverly initially tried to stop the movie from being made but changed her mind after meeting with director Alex Cox.
2. Nancy's parents reportedly wanted nothing to do with the production.
3. To achieve the look of a heroin addict, Oldman ate only steamed fish and melon. He ended up being hospitalized for malnourishment.
4. The official soundtrack for Sid and Nancy contains no songs by The Sex Pistols or Sid Vicious. Much of the soundtrack was composed by Joe Strummer.
5. Spoiler alert: The stabbing scene at the end was fictionalized, though Nancy Spungen was found dead with a stab wound to her abdomen that was caused by a knife Vicious owned. Sid gave conflicting statements to the police and was subsequently charged with her murder. According to an interview that director Alex Cox gave, the stabbing scene was based only on conjecture: “We wanted to make the film not just about Sid Vicious and punk rock, but as an anti-drugs statement, to show the degradation caused to various people is not at all glamorous."
Listen to the Sid and Nancy podcast by Stuck in the '80s from 2007: