The heirs of founding Ramones members Johnny Ramone and Joey Ramone are at loggerheads in court, according to a Jan. 25 report from Billboard. The cause of the trouble: an in-development Netflix movie in which Pete Davidson is slated to play the band's late frontman, Joey.
Linda Ramone, widow of guitarist Johnny, filed the suit in a Manhattan court on Jan. 21, according to Billboard, claiming that Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh “covertly developed an unapproved and unauthorized Ramones biopic.”
Linda Ramone and Leigh jointly share control over the Ramones intellectual property, each owning half of the company Ramones Productions Inc. Johnny (born John Cummings) and Joey (born Jeffrey Hyman) founded the pioneering punk band with Douglas (Dee Dee Ramone) Colvin in 1974. Johnny and Joey were the only two original Ramones left in the band when it disbanded in 1996; Joey died in 2001, while Johnny passed in 2004. (Dee Dee died in 2002, and original drummer Tommy Ramone followed in 2014.)
The Netflix film, which was first announced in 2021, is based on Leigh’s memoir I Slept With Joey Ramone. SNL star Davidson is scheduled to star as Joey, as well as adapting the book with Jason Orley, who is on tap to direct the film.
In Linda Ramone’s filing, as reported by Billboard, her attorneys wrote: “Ms. Ramone objects to defendants’ attempt to create a Ramones film without her involvement — not to be obstinate, but rather based on defendants’ disregard for (Ramones) assets and their conduct and treatment of Ms. Ramone and her late husband. To permit defendants alone to tell the authoritative story of the Ramones would be an injustice to the band and its legacy.”
Johnny and Joey Ramone famously experienced a rift in the middle of the band’s two-decade career, due at least in part to Johnny’s relationship with Linda, who had been in a relationship with Joey previously. Though the two bandmates managed to continue recording and performing for years afterward, that rift has continued posthumously, with Linda Ramone and Leigh having previously clashed in court when Leigh sued Ramone in 2018.
(That earlier case eventually went to arbitration, with the arbitrator urging both parties to resolve their differences and even suggesting they collaborate on a film. “In my estimation, Ramones fans want a Ramones movie,” the arbitrator said. “To make that happen, each side will need to put on hold their individual desires to make a Mickey movie or a Linda movie and join together to authorize a great biopic to be made about this historically important band.”)
The suit does not name Netflix nor production company STXfilms as defendants, per Billboard.
In a press release announcing the film project in 2021, STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson said: “When you share a bed with someone – and not just a bed, but a childhood, a family, and a lifetime – you know that person better than anybody else. Mickey Leigh not only collaborated with his big brother’s band – he has irreplaceable memories of and insights into Joey Ramone, having supported him when no one else would and witnessed him overcome adversity in the most dramatic way. I Slept with Joey Ramone is a great rock anthem that will make an equally great rock biopic, set apart by a universal story of family.”
The notion of a Ramones biopic has been volleyed around for years — it was even a plot point on HBO’s Hollywood satire Entourage — but the closest anyone has yet come was Randall Miller’s critically-savaged CBGB in 2013, which cast Joel David Moore as Joey, and did not feature any of the band’s music on the soundtrack.