Pistol: Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols Series, Starring Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious

How Actor Louis Partridge Became Sid Vicious in Danny Boyle’s ‘Pistol’

Prepping for the role as the punk musician included two-month band camp and meeting surviving band members Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook.

 

“I was worried about getting typecast as this young prince with floppy hair,” says Louis Partridge, who earned his first breakout playing a British nobleman in 2020’s Enola Holmes.
But with a starring turn as late rocker Sid Vicious in FX’s Sex Pistols series Pistol, he says, “I don’t think that’s so much a worry anymore.”

To land the role in Danny Boyle’s show, the London native, 18, put himself on tape as the punk rock icon, with his mother playing Vicious’ famed girlfriend, Nancy Spungen (whom Vicious was accused of killing) in videos he jokes “will never see the light of day again.”

Two meetings and one call later with Boyle (who also is executive producing), and Partridge was on his way to two-month band camp where he and his co-stars would learn to embody the Sex Pistols. There, he learned to play bass, mastered Vicious’ cockney accent and adjusted to wearing fake teeth, all while channeling the chaos the band was known for.

“I wasn’t afraid of breaking props or anything because I know that Sid wouldn’t have been,” Partridge says, noting there was plenty of backup equipment on set.

“To just kind of have that freedom is pretty rare.” And as for that accent, as a posh Brit who had “only ever had to be more posh,” he worked with a vocal coach to completely change his way of speaking and us “as a way of getting into the actual character, which I’ve never really had to do before.”

The cast received a firsthand education from meetings with bandmembers Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, which the actor said provided valuable tangible details in all of the mythology that surrounds the Sex Pistols.

“Everyone’s got a story about them or everyone’s heard something, so there’s so much rumor,” Partridge says. “To just hear it from the people that were there, it was a bit of a blessing because you get real, unfiltered insight. They really knew Sid — as opposed to [him] being this punk icon, he was their mate.”

Though not all of the musicians have been so warm: Frontman Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) has called the show “the most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure” and has threatened to sue producers.

“You want to have everyone’s full support on it in an ideal world, but it doesn’t look like it’s worked out that way. I just hope he sees the effort and genuine care that’s been put into it,” Partridge says of seeing Lydon’s reaction, “I just honestly want to do them justice.”

It is not the first time the band has been portrayed in TV and film. Gary Oldman played Sid Vicious in 1986’s movie, Sid and Nancy.

“I don’t want to be comparing myself to Gary Oldman; I’m never gonna win that battle,” Partridge says.  Pistol took a different approach, telling the story from the band’s perspective and meeting Vicious before he’s even a member of the band. “He’s not this nihilistic figure; he is a little bit violent, but he’s not this star. You watch the making of Sid over the episodes.”

After knowing very little about the Sex Pistols and the ‘70s era of music and British culture in which they came up — “I realized there was so much more to it than clashing guitars and loud music and violence. There was a real feeling, and there was a movement behind it”–Partridge says he’s become protective of the band and of the rocker he plays, exploring the “innocence and childlike naivete” of a man famous for his violence, drug use and mysterious death at age 21.

Disclaimer

With previous roles in Paddington 2 and Netflix series Medici, Partridge was recently cast in Apple psychological thriller series Disclaimer, alongside Cate Blanchett and Kevin Kline.

He admits, “If I could do jobs like Pistol my whole life, I think I would.”

But some aspects of his performance have been hard to shake: “My mum keeps saying that I’ll be speaking and I will suddenly go into Sid’s accent, which she’s a bit worried about.”

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“I just want to do them justice,” says Louis Partridge of starring in the upcoming FX series about the rise of the Sex Pistols. COURTESY OF MIYA MIZUNO/FX