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Sid and Nancy (also known as Sid and Nancy: Love Kills) is a 1986 film directed by Alex Cox. The film materialized during a time of renewed interest in the period of punk rock, heroin addiction and specifically the life of Sid Vicious. It stars Gary Oldman as Vicious and Chloe Webb as his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.


The movie is largely based on the mutually destructive, drug-and-sex filled relationship between Vicious and Spungen. Vicious's mother, Anne Beverley, initially tried to prevent the movie from being made. After meeting with Cox, however, she decided to help the production. Some of the supporting characters are composites, invented to streamline the plot.

Oldman lost weight to play the emaciated Vicious by eating nothing but "steamed fish and lots of melon," but was briefly hospitalized when he lost too much weight. Vicious's mother also gave Oldman Vicious' own trademark heavy metal chain and padlock to wear in the film.

Courtney Love recorded an infamous video audition in which she exclaimed "I am Nancy Spungen." Cox was impressed by Love's audition, but has said the film's investors insisted on an experienced actress for the co-leading role. Cox would later cast Love as one of the leads in his movie Straight to Hell. Instead Love was cast in the relatively minor role of Gretchen (a part that Cox wrote specifically for her benefit), one of Sid and Nancy's New York junkie friends. Somewhat ironically, Love would be compared to Spungen later in life on account of her marriage to Kurt Cobain.

In his 2007 autobiography, Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash revealed that the casting director hired all five members of Guns & Roses as extras for a club scene, having coincidentally scouted them in different locations without their knowledge. He said "all of us showed up to the first day of casting, like 'Hey...what are you doing here?'" However, Slash was the only one in the group to stay the entire shoot.

Webb and Oldman improvised the dialogue heard in the scene leading up to Spungen's death, but based it on interviews and other materials available to them. The stabbing scene is fictionalized and based only on conjecture. Cox told the New Musical Express: "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."

The original music is by Pray for Rain, Joe Strummer and The Pogues. The film was rated R in the USA for drug use, language, violence, sexuality and nudity. Prominent musicians made appearances in the film, including: Iggy Pop, The Circle Jerks, and Edward Tudor-Pole, of Tenpole Tudor, and briefly the lead singer of the Sex Pistols. The film was originally titled Love Kills.



The film received generally positive reviews from critics. From the reviews collected from notable publications by popular review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an overall approval rating of 90%. Roger Ebert gave Sid and Nancy four-out-of-four in his review for The Chicago Sun-Times, writing that Cox and his crew "pull off the neat trick of creating a movie full of noise and fury, and telling a meticulous story right in the middle of it. In a subsequent article on Gary Oldman, Ebert referred to the movie's titular couple as "Punk Rock's Romeo and Juliet."

Leslie Halliwell, on the other hand, had little praise for the movie: "Some have said stimulating, most have preferred revolting. Consensus, an example of the dregs to which cinema has been reduced." He also cited a line from a review that appeared in Sight & Sound: "Relentlessly whingeing performances and a lengthy slide into drugs, degradation and death make this a solemnly off-putting moral tract."

In his book Sid Vicious: Rock N' Roll Star, Malcolm Butt describes Webb's performance as Spungen as "intense, powerful, and most important of all, believable." Issue #117 of Uncut Magazine (February 2007) ranked Gary Oldman as #8 in its "10 Best actors in rockin' roles" list, describing Oldman's Sid Vicious as a "hugely sympathetic reading of the punk figurehead as a lost and bewildered manchild." Conversely, Andrew Schofield was ranked #1 in the "10 Worst actors in rockin' roles" describing his performance as Johnny Rotten as a "short-arse Scouse Bleasdale regular never once looking like he means it, maaan." Commentary on the Criterion DVD dismisses the film's portrayal of John Lydon as wholly inaccurate. Paul Simonon of The Clash also criticised the movie for its portrayal of Lydon:

John Lydon's reaction

John Lydon, better known as Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten, commented on the movie in his 1994 autobiography, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs:

"I cannot understand why anyone would want to put out a movie like Sid and Nancy and not bother to speak to me; Alex Cox, the director, didn’t. He used as his point of reference - of all the people on this earth - Joe Strummer! That guttural singer from The Clash? What the fuck did he know about Sid and Nancy? That’s probably all he could find, which was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. The only time Alex Cox made any approach toward me was when he sent the chap who was playing me over to New York where I was. This actor told me he wanted to talk about the script. During the two days he was there, he told me that the film had already been completed. The whole thing was a sham. It was a ploy to get my name used in connection with the film, in order to support it."

"To me this movie is the lowest form of life. I honestly believe that it celebrates heroin addiction. It definitely glorifies it at the end when that stupid taxi drives off into the sky. That's such nonsense. The squalid New York hotel scenes were fine, except they needed to be even more squalid. 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. I don’t think they ever had the intent to research properly in order to make a seriously accurate movie. It was all just for money, wasn't it? To humiliate somebody’s life like that - and very successfully - was very annoying to me. The final irony is that I still get asked questions about it. I have to explain thatit's all wrong. It was all someone else’s fucking fantasy, some Oxford graduate who missed the punk rock era. The bastard."

"When I got back to London, they invited me to a screening. So I went to see it and was utterly appalled. I told Alex Cox, which was the first time I met him, that he should be shot, and he was quite lucky I didn't shoot him. I still hold him in the lowest light. Will the real Sid please stand up?"

"As for how I was portrayed, well, there's no offense in that. It was so off and ridiculous. It was absurd. Champagne and baked beans for breakfast? Sorry. I don't drink champagne. He didn't even speak like me. He had a Scouse accent. Worse, there's a slur implied in the movie that I was jealous of Nancy, which I find particularly loathsome. There is that implication that I feel was definitely put there. I guess that’s Alex Cox showing his middle class twittery. It’s all too glib, it’s all too easy."

Strummer claims to have met with Alex Cox for the first time after the completion of the film, at a wrap party, but this is not entirely accurate. The wrap party was actually the conclusion of the London phase of the filming, which was followed by filming in Los Angeles and New York City, performed by a largely different crew. The pair's meeting involved discussion over soundtrack work for the film, not the film's script.

In a later interview, Lydon was asked the question, "Did the movie get anything right?" to which he replied: "Maybe the name Sid." Cox's attitude toward his subjects was indeed unapologetically negative, writing that "Sid had sold out, contributed nothing of value, died an idiot." In fact, he said one of the reasons he was attracted to the project was that he was afraid that if someone else made it, it would portray its subjects as "exemplars of Punk, rather than sold-out traitors to it." He acknowledged that Lydon's hatred of the movie was "understandable, given that it was based on incidents from his life and centered around one of his friends." The other remaining Pistols have been far less outspoken about the movie than Lydon, although Lydon claimed that Paul Cook was more upset over the movie than he was.

Both Alex Cox and Andrew Schofield (who played Lydon in the film) did, in fact, meet with Lydon before the filming of the movie. According to Cox, Lydon noticed that Schofield was, like Cox, a Liverpudlianmarker, rather than a Londoner like Lydon, and encouraged him to play the part as a Scouser rather than a Londoner. Cox took this as a sign that both of them agreed that it would be better to portray a more fictionalized version of the characters rather than a cold re-telling of facts. Cox noted that Lydon drank large quantities at these meetings, which may explain why Lydon did not recall them. Contrary to Lydon's claims, his meeting with Schofield was not after the film's completion, but rather before Andrew had even been given the part. He was offered the part the next day.


The official soundtrack contains no songs sung by either the Sex Pistols or Sid Vicious.
Song Artist
"Love Kills" (Title Track) Joe Strummer
"Haunted" The Pogues
"Pleasure and Pain" Steve Jones
"Chinese Choppers" Pray for Rain
"Love Kills" Circle Jerks
"Off the Boat" Pray for Rain
"Dum Dum Club" Joe Strummer
"Burning Room" Pray for Rain
"She Never Took No for an Answer" John Cale
"Junk" The Pogues
"I Wanna Be Your Dog" Gary Oldman
"My Way" Gary Oldman
"Taxi to Heaven" Pray for Rain

Much of the actual film's soundtrack (as opposed to soundtrack album) was composed by Joe Strummer. Strummer was contractually limited to contribute only two songs, and was paid for only two songs, but continued to contribute more work after this, because of his interest in the project and composing for film in general. This additional material was credited to fictitious bands in the credits, so as to keep Strummer's label, Epic, from knowing what they had done. Another large portion of the music was composed by The Pogues.



  3. Sid & Nancy Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
  4. Sid & Nancy
  5. Roger Ebert's Four Star Movie Guide by Roger Ebert. (1988, Andrews & McMeel) p.280.
  6. Roger Ebert's Four Star Movie Guide by Roger Ebert. (1988, Andrews & McMeel) p.383.
  7. Halliwell's Film Guide: 11th Edition by Leslie Halliwell, edited by John Walker. (1995, HarperCollins) p.1033.
  8. Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon, with Keith and Kent Zimmerman. (1994, Hodder & Staughton Ltd) pp.150-151.
  9. DEATH OF A PUNK - JOE STRUMMER (1952-2002) Clash co-founder dies of heart attack. ::
  10. Rotten to the Core: An Interview With John Lydon
  11. Alex Cox - SID & NANCY
  12. Fodderstompf | Press Archives | Cut Magazine, November 1987

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