- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

Tony Wilson insists the new movie about his life "24 Hour Party People" is full of lies, half-truths and things that just didn't happen. He also happens to think it's a wonderful film.
"It's awful, but I knew that from the very beginning," Mr. Wilson says over the phone from a hotel room in New York. "I think it makes me out to be stupider than I am, but it also makes me out to be more noble, too."
The movie tells the story of the Manchester, England, music scene from early punk in 1976, to early rave culture in 1992, focusing on Joy Division (which became New Order) and the Happy Mondays.
Mr. Wilson (played by British comic Steve Coogan) acts as the film's center, frequently breaking from character and speaking directly to the audience about his role in founding Factory Records, starting the above named bands and starting the famed Hacienda nightclub.
Rather than demolish myth and legends, the movie knowingly plays these aspects up, creating a final product that is as chaotic as the music it chronicles.
Over the phone it's apparent that Mr. Coogan has captured at least one part of Mr. Wilson's personality: his witty, self-deprecating nature. It took him some time to warm to the idea of the movie, though.
"I spent half an hour saying [no]," Mr. Wilson says, about first being approached with the idea. "I wanted to do something about what was going on now."
He was impressed by director Michael Winterbottom's intent to cover 1976 to 1992, years that Mr. Wilson says were pivotal to the Manchester music scene.
"They weren't just filmmakers who knew [nothing] about music, which is why music films are usually so terrible," he says.
The movie starts off in mid-'70s Manchester, when one of the few places to catch such bands as the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Blondie and other punk and new wave groups was on Mr. Wilson's late-night program, "So It Goes." He balances a career as a television broadcaster (something he still does today), with his growing interest in promoting music, which grows from hosting a club night once a week to creating a record label and several different clubs.
The film spends an equal amount of time between the Happy Mondays and Joy Division, the post-punk group that became the more successful band New Order after the suicide death of its lead singer.
"Joy Division is one of the great bands, one of the 50 best bands of all time," Mr. Wilson says. "The Mondays should be, but aren't."
The reason for this seems apparent in the movie, as the Mondays come across as drug-addled freaks, an image Mr. Wilson says the band didn't try too hard to combat. The band is often overlooked, however, for its role in bringing dance music into the mainstream, especially through performances at the Hacienda nightclub.
That club was the epicenter of the "Madchester" music scene, which sprang up in the late 1980s.
"We partially created the rise of the DJ," he says. "In the late '80s, we would be in the DJ box, and I suddenly realized what a wonderful democracy this art form was. It wasn't just four [musicians] onstage with guitars in the spotlight."
Two notable omissions from the film are Manchester bands the Stone Roses and the Smiths, neither of which was signed to Factory. Mr. Wilson's failure to sign the Smiths, who would go on to become worldwide superstars, has also become a thing of legend.
"I have my version of what happened. [Smiths lead singer/songwriter] Morrissey has his own version," Mr. Wilson says. "Factory by that point had become a dinosaur I did not bid because I thought I wasn't up to that."
He would also like to clear up a few other misconceptions, including a tale that he wrote contracts with musicians in blood.
"I never wrote a contract out in blood," he says, sounding amused. "It was signed in blood, but not written in blood."
He also denies being shot by producer Martin Hannett and getting involved with local prostitutes. He says he never tolerated the presence of neo-Nazis at Joy Division shows.
"It still manages to tell the overall truth," he says of the movie. "I'm rather fond of saying that my public image is none of my business."

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