Woolley, Stephen: Stoned

Brian Jones was more than just a Rolling Stone. He was their founding member in 1962. Jones (played by Leo Gregory) was their leader, their visionary, their most gifted musician His blond, ambiguous glamour and obvious talent inspired enormous curiosity.

Brian was the face of the Sixties revolution, resplendent in the sumptuous fabrics and furs, scarves, hats and jewellery with which he fearlessly blurred the distinction between male and female acceptability. A true pied piper of fashion, he daringly led and legions followed. Just a few years later, at the age of 27, Jones was dead in the deep end of his own swimming pool. Officially, he drowned by misadventure under the influence of drink and drugs.

Director and Producer Stephen Woolley has spent the last 10 years researching the events surrounding Brians ill-fated dip on the night of Wednesday July 2, 1969. In Stoned, Woolley charts the rise of the intelligent Cheltenham teenager who excels in music and girls as wholeheartedly as he resists the disciplines of his grammar school.

Moving to London at 19, Jones finds fame and fulfilment as he steers The Rolling Stones to their first great musical successes, but its a short-lived happiness. Re-creating the nightmare as it plummets out of control, with the fragile but tempestuous and increasingly unpredictable Jones hounded by the authorities, busted for drugs, embroiled in controversies and indiscriminate sexual encounters, passionately, bizarrely and sometimes violently besotted with his great love Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur), who abandons him for Keith (Ben Whishaw), and finally fired by the band he had formed and obsessively nurtured to their coming of age.

His final days are played out at Cotchford Farm, Jones East Sussex country retreat and the former home of Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne, who Brian Jones revered. He shared his idyll with latest flame, Anna Wohlin (Tuva Novotny). Still closely monitored by the Stones organisation, who regarded him as a loose cannon, Brian decides to make some home improvements and on the advice of his road manager Tom Keylock (David Morrissey), he hires Frank Thorogood (Paddy Considine), to carry out the work.

Woolley views the story of Brian Jones as a parable for the times. Woolley grew up in north London. Growing up in the Sixties, he was an avid fan of both Tottenham Hotspur FC and The Rolling Stones as opposed to Arsenal and The Beatles, the tribal nature of the times, which could get you into trouble in the playground. In 1976, fired up by the Sex Pistols and punk rock, he saw the Stones play live and found them entertaining but hardly challenging: I wondered, What was it about The Rolling Stones that I thought was so rebellious The answer was Brian Jones.

He explains: Its Brians hedonistic world that leads him to this awful, dreadful ending. The Sixties were about naivety, optimism and youth thats slowly ground down by the establishment and finally becomes self-destructive. Scriptwriters and co-producers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis agree that Brians passing – weeks before the gruesome Manson murders and five months before the horror of Altamont – is symbolic of the death of the hippie dream, the loss of its innocence and idealism, while sounding a terrible warning about the dangers of self-indulgence. For them, this is the real end of the Sixties.

Frank Thorogood, a Londoner, a war veteran and the head of a small building team employed to work at Cotchford Farm. Thorogood (who died in 1993) is also best friends with Tom Keylock, the Stones road manager and general Mr Fixit. The builder, Frank Thorogood, represents middle England – grey, conformist society, says Robert Wade. And Brian is this rebel, and hes paying the price at the end of it for his rebellion and all the fun hes had.

You can say that the film is about the Sixties and Brian is the most extraordinary man of the Sixties while Frank is the normal guy. Thats sort of what its about. Its literally a clash between two archetypes. Also in British society, most people were very envious of rock stars then, adds Woolley.. After the Second World War, rationing was around for ages. The black market was booming. People looked at American films and American television and saw this wealthier, successful society, while we had sacrificed everything for the war. In a way, these young longhaired celebrities psychologically echoed that more opulent society.

The story begins with Jones in his mid-teens played by Leo Gregory, a young south Londoner who featured in Out Of Control and the upcoming Hooligans says Were meeting a guy at 16 who has a very healthy love of the blues and is very much intrigued and excited by this world of music, and a guy who obviously hasnt developed a lot of the problems that come in later life.

The dysfunctional family life of Brian Jones underlies Brians rebellious behaviour throughout his glory days with the Stones and beyond, his natural charm and generosity undermined by a vicious temper, a mocking, sometimes scathing humour and an inability to maintain a stable relationship with any of his lovers. With women, Brian can be irresistibly tender and affectionate but is just as often abusive, jealous, domineering, unfaithful and prone to physical violence.

Gregory ascribes this to Brians largely loveless childhood: In a world where you have everything but you dont have love, either giving or receiving, where you dont know how to love and you dont know how to be (italics) loved, you dont have a lot. Yes, he certainly did lash out at Anita at times and at the other band members. I think they were quite wary of Brian. He could just snap. I feel that he had a short temper and in a rocknroll world on the road with no real rock next to you or something to ground you – without excusing him – it can happen.

Scenes from Jones life flash back and forth in time, kaleidoscopically, to encompass his prominence in The Rolling Stones, his high life as a dazzling prince of Sixties London with his pick of beautiful women, his isolation enables Jagger and Richards to take control of the band. His destructive passion for Anita, eventually seals his fate with the Stones.

Woolley, Wade and Purvis are careful to show that Brian is human and that despite his narcissistic and temperamental excesses, and even during periods of extreme psychological turmoil, he has certain strengths and qualities that enable him to rise above his troubles.

A naturally skilled musician with the ability to master any instrument of his choosing and the ambition to expand his horizons, he composes the score for A Degree of Murder, a 1967 film starring Pallenberg, and records the music of Moroccan villagers for an album titled The Pipes Of Pan At Jajouka. When he moves to the countryside, Jones keeps in touch with such loyal friends as Jimi Hendrix and Alexis Korner, makes plans for a musical project of his own and takes pleasure in his house, his gardens, his dogs and, particularly, his outdoor pool.

People that know of the story generally say, Oh, yeah, hes the guy who got high on drugs and drowned in his swimming pool, remarks Gregory. If above anything else we could shed a new light on the situation, that would be great. For some time, tension has been rising between Brian and Frank Thorogood. Jones is unhappy with the progress and workmanship of the builders, with whom he has struck up a personal relationship based on wind-ups, mind games and sometimes humiliation. Simultaneously, Jones is intimidated by the muscle bound machismo of his workforce. Increasingly resentful that they have become, in his opinion, shameless freeloaders, Brian instructs the Stones office to freeze any further payments to a furious Thorogood and personally tells him he is sacked with a casual shrug: Shit happens at Pooh Corner.

The scene is set for a final confrontation on the night that Jones attempts to make peace with the departing Frank over drinks and a splash in the pool. They are accompanied by an unconfirmed number of people known to include Brians newly installed girlfriend Anna Wohlin (Tuva Novotny) and a state-registered nurse called Janet (Amelia Warner), who has come to stay for a few days to spend time with Tom Keylock. In his absence, she instead endures a traumatic evening with his friend Thorogood. But for Janet – indeed for everyone else in the party and especially for Brian Jones – things get unimaginably worse. While his guests are for various reasons away from the poolside, the founder member of The Rolling Stones sinks slowly and lifelessly to the bottom of the pool.

You wouldnt do it if you knew that it was going to take 10 years, reasons Robert Wade. We completed it only by being tenacious. e murder theory is not a new one. Its been advanced, with varying degrees of poetic licence and self-interested embroidery, by a succession of authors and friends of Brian. Woolley is certain that through his extensive investigations and interviews with many of the key characters, he has been able to cut through to the most likely scenario.

Relatively few people other than committed fans of the Stones and Jones are aware of the suspicious circumstances in which he departed this life. d always thought he died of an asthma attack, confesses Purvis. And some people think that he drove his Rolls Royce into the swimming pool and drowned, adds Wade.

Wade remarks: When Stephen first asked us, Are you interested in The Rolling Stones we said, Yes, but were not interested in rock biopics. How could we try to educate people about someone theyre not interested in the first place Its very important that personality is the thing that comes through more than the fact that Brian was in a band called The Rolling Stones.

Yet by the force of that personality and by dramatising a story which also mirrors the rise and fall of the culture in which it happened, Woolleys movie is ideally placed to spark a new wave of interest in Brian Jones, his considerable achievements, and a death which was too hastily signed off as an accident.