John Lydon is a man who has consistently refused to conform. Whether that be within the band where he made his first mark on popular culture, the iconic British punks, Sex Pistols, his follow-up outfit, Public Image Ltd or as the face of Country Life butter, Lydon is a true iconoclast. He is a man who has made it very clear over his life that he refuses to be tied down.
He’s given us many great moments over the years, including the revelation that he called out Jimmy Saville on a BBC radio interview back in the 1970s and of course, all of the brilliantly witty lyrics that he has penned. On the other hand, he’s also given us some highly controversial moments over the past, such as him ascribing Nigel Farage the label of “fantastic” and his highly divisive comments on gay marriage.
In addition to being an iconoclast, then, he is also somewhat of a walking contradiction. Punk but so not punk, a humanist but also someone whose thinking contains within it flecks of oppressive doctrines. What is clear though, is that Lydon belongs to a different generation and one that has very differing views to that of our own.
Whether it be musical, political or otherwise, his tastes differ from the one’s that are currently the norm. This can even be regarded in the way that he has recently lost a protracted court battle with ex-Sex Pistols bandmates Steve Jones and Paul Cook, owing to Lydon not wanting the band’s songs to be used in the upcoming Danny Boyle biopic, Pistol.
To put this into context, the band signed an agreement in the ’90s after they reformed, which stated that any use of their music in the media moving forward had to be agreed by a majority verdict in the band. Putting this majority verdict in full view, ex-member Glen Matlock sided with Jones and Cook, as did the estate of late bassist, Sid Vicious.
It seems as if Lydon’s contrary opinions have caused him as much pain as they have success over the years. However, back in 2011, he gave us another opinion that was off the beaten track, but also a brilliant and individual take. This was when he revealed to the NME, what his favourite film of all time was.
Given the nature of Lydon, this could genuinely have been anything. After all, he once said that God is probably Barry Manilow. The film Lydon picked is an absolute classic, but one that gets often overlooked. Featuring a brilliant script and cast, it shows Lydon’s highly perceptive and unique outlook on the world.
He chose the 1968 historical drama, The Lion in Winter. Set around the Christmas of 1183, the narrative details the political and personal turmoil of the royal circle of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their family.
Directed by celebrated auteur Anthony Harvey, the film starred Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn and a young Anthony Hopkins. Furthermore, it saw Timothy Dalton make his film debut. The intensity of the plot is expertly carried off by the all-star cast.
Of the film, Lydon said: “I think Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole are amazing at that. They’re so swiney! And that corruption of it all!” It doesn’t matter whether it’s 1183 or 2021, it seems that to Lydon, the ruling classes are always ‘swiney’. It makes us wonder what other films the ex-Sex Pistols man has in his DVD collection. One would wager that Oliver Stone’s 1991 outing, JFK, and Alan J. Pakula’s 1974 classic, The Parallax View, both make an appearance.
Listen to John Lydon discuss Sid Vicious below.