Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese gives itself away in the title -- not that people watching idly on Netflix this week might notice. This ostensible documentary about Bob Dylan's ramshackle road show, the 1975-76 Rolling Thunder Revue, is actually a "story" more than a straightforward factual representation of events. "Life isn't about finding yourself," Dylan says in the early portion of the film. "Life is about creating yourself." And Scorsese and Dylan do just that, building a version of "Bob Dylan" for the film by mixing archival footage from the tour with present-day interviews that include more than a few embellishments and fabrications. (In the credits, longtime Martin Scorsese collaborator Jay Cocks and Ocean's Eleven writer Ted Griffin are listed as "humble scribes.") Ahead, a breakdown what the Netflix movie just plain made up.
She did not, despite the fact the movie goes to great lengths to suggest something may have happened between Sharon Stone and Dylan during the tour. The actress, who was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Scorsese's Casino, appears in Rolling Thunder Revue to relay a pair of anecdotes about going to see Dylan perform live when Stone was 19 years old. (In actuality, Stone would have been 17 years old during the events depicted in the film, as she was born in 1958.) The actress heavily suggests her shirt, emblazoned with the KISS logo, gave Dylan the idea to perform in kabuki makeup during the concerts (while he did wear white face paint, it doesn't seem likely KISS was the inspiration); Stone also claims Dylan picked her up before one of his shows and later performed "Just Like a Woman" for her backstage, whereupon she broke down in tears at the lyrics, "She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does. And she aches just like a woman. But she breaks just like a little girl." (In a funny bit, Stone says Dylan told her the song was new and he wrote it for the teenager; T Bone Burnett later told Stone the track was a decade old.) Stone's so good in her brief interview that it's easy to believe both outlandish stories. No knock or faint praise: It's her best performance in years and makes you wish Scorsese would cast her in another one of his narrative movies.
He is not. Part of the conceit of Rolling Thunder Revue is that van Dorp (whom Dylan hilariously misnames as "van Dorf" at one point) chronicled the Rolling Thunder Revue but never did anything with his footage -- likely because of squabbles with Dylan himself. (The narrative surrounding the film suggests Scorsese picked up the footage decades later and pieced the project together.) Van Dorp appears throughout Rolling Thunder Revue as a talking head, at times just trashing Dylan and his entourage. In real life, van Dorp is played by Martin von Haselberg, Bette Midler's husband. (Midler, it should be noted, appears as herself in the archival footage.) Von Haselberg is credited as "The Filmmaker" in the closing credits, and it's a bit that Scorsese and Netflix extended to the film's world premiere in New York this week, where von Haselberg appeared as von Dorp, said some unkind things about not necessarily wanting to give up his footage, and stormed off the stage when Scorsese appeared. Jokes!
The Paramount Pictures CEO appears in Rolling Thunder Revue as the tour's promoter, a role he did not have in 1975-76. Gianopulos lends the movie a bit of theatrics, claiming he used to walk through the parking lot carrying bags full of money while looking over both shoulders. The anecdote, again fiction, recalls the scene from Goodfellas when the owner of the Bamboo Lounge expresses concern about how Tommy (Joe Pesci) is treating him: "When I leave my house in the morning, before I get to the car, I'm looking over both shoulders." Paramount, of course, released Scorsese's last two features: The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence.
Nope. Back in 1988, Garry Trudeau and Robert Altman created Tanner '88, an ahead-of-its-time mockumentary about the fictional Jack Tanner, a Democratic congressman making a presidential run. Michael Murphy starred as Tanner in the miniseries and later reprised his role in 2004 for Tanner on Tanner, which featured Martin Scorsese as himself. Scorsese returns the favor here, featuring Murphy as Tanner. In Rolling Thunder Revue, the fictional representative connects Dylan to President Jimmy Carter, an avowed fan of the musician. For viewers who recognize Murphy, a character actor who has appeared in dozens of films and television shows, it's the first outward sign that Rolling Thunder Revue isn't totally on the level.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese is now streaming on Netflix.