A Guide to What’s Fake in ‘Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story’
“If someone’s wearing a mask, he’s gonna tell you the truth,” Bob Dylan says midway through Martin Scorsese’s new Netflix movie Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. “If he’s not wearing a mask, it’s highly unlikely.” As he says these words, Bob Dylan is most definitely not wearing a mask. He’s also in a documentary that occasionally takes wild deviations from the truth by utilizing actors to tell tale tales about the tour. The tactic is sure to confuse a great many people, so here’s a guide to the several fictionalized elements of the movie.
1. A teenage Sharon Stone did not join the Rolling Thunder Revue.
Many rock stars from Bob Dylan’s era did indeed have relationships with teenage fans in the 1970s that have the potential to cause them great harm and embarrassment if the details were to surface today. Dylan, however, is the only one bold enough to go to great lengths to manufacture such a relationship for the sake of art. It comes up about halfway through the film when Sharon Stone (playing herself) talks about a being a 19-year-old student when the Rolling Thunder Revue came to her town and then hitting the road with the tour for a brief time after Dylan took a liking to her. None of this is true and the photos of them together are phony. (She also would have actually been 17 at the time, but the gag is a little less funny if she’s underage.)
2. Dylan didn’t see a Kiss concert in Queens.
In the movie, Dylan says he got the idea to wear white face makeup on the Rolling Thunder Revue after Scarlet Rivera took him to a Kiss concert in Queens. But Kiss haven’t played a show in Queens since February 1973 when they were first starting out and long before Dylan met Rivera. These were tiny club shows by a totally unknown band. No way Dylan was at one of them and he also didn’t get the makeup idea from them. By most accounts, the makeup was inspired by the 1945 French film Children of Paradise.
3. A mysterious man named Stefan van Dorp didn’t direct the original footage.
Throughout the entire 1975 leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue, Dylan was shooting the movie Renaldo and Clara with nearly every member of the performance troupe. The raw footage from the film is the seed of this new documentary, but Scorsese’s film never once mentions Renaldo and Clara. Instead, it has talking-head interviews with a supposed filmmaker from the tour named Stefan van Dorp that shot the entire thing and never got enough credit for his work. Such a person does not exist. It’s actually Martin von Haselberg from 1970s performance art duo the Kipper Kids playing a role. He’s also married to Bette Midler, who can briefly be seen with Dylan at a Greenwich Village club early in the film.
4. There is no congressman Jack Tanner.
Near the end of the movie, a supposed Michigan representative named Jack Tanner talks about using his connection with Jimmy Carter to get into a Rolling Thunder show at Niagara Falls. It’s actually actor Michael Murphy. The name Jack Tanner comes from Robert Altman’s 1988 campaign mockumentary Tanner ’88, which was written by Garry Trudeau.
5. Jim Gianopulos didn’t promote the tour
Jim Gianopulos is a man of many accomplishments. He worked as the co-chair of Fox Filmed Entertainment for 12 years and is now the CEO of Paramount Pictures. But he did not promote the Rolling Thunder Revue. At the time, he was attending law school at Fordham. He is a surprisingly good actor, through.
None of this stuff takes away from the power of the documentary. After all, this is a story that’s been told many times in many mediums. Throwing in a few fictional elements with this incredible, never-before-seen footage just makes the whole thing more fun and interesting. “We hope that people will watch it several times to unlock its various Easter eggs,” a source close to the Dylan Camp told Rolling Stone. “Documentary footage can be used in any way that you want to tell a story and it’s our hope that people will figure out what delights them about this film.”
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