Documentary reveals Ozzy Osbourne as a complex character.
Jack Osbourne makes a movie about his father
It is a truth bordering on cliché that children of celebrities struggle to escape the long shadow of their parents, often inheriting their self-destructive genes without the saving grace of their talent. For Jack Osbourne, the son of the British rocker and wild man Ozzy, there was the double burden of growing up not just with a famous family, but also as a highly exposed teenage TV star in his own right on the groundbreaking, often jaw-dropping, reality show The Osbournes. This dysfunctional real-life soap opera was extremely amusing at times, but it also had a darker subtext, especially when Jack fell victim to the same addictions that almost killed his notoriously excessive father.
Fortunately, both Jack and Ozzy have now kicked their bad habits. And now the 26-year-old son has turned the camera on his dad by producing a new documentary, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. A love letter with a tough edge, the film feels like both a cautionary tale and a valedictory celebration of the veteran rocker's new healthy lifestyle. Jack says his motivation in making this career-spanning portrait was partly to bring the story up to date, but also to counter his father's cartoon image as a dazed, drooling, heavy-metal clown.
"My dad has changed so much since The Osbournes," Jack insists. "He got sober, he's just completely different. And I hadn't seen anything that really told about what my dad was, or is. They'd only ever focused on his success in music, they never really went into who he was as a person. And my dad is a really interesting, complex, layered individual."
The film also digs deeper into the 62-year-old singer's tough upbringing as a dyslexic petty criminal, highlighting the self-esteem issues that may have fuelled his combustible personality. In between live performances, old and new, there are contributions from famous fans, including Tommy Lee and Paul McCartney. The tone is generally affectionate, although the frank interviews with Ozzy's five children unequivocally expose him as a neglectful, absent father. This, Jack admits, was tough for him to watch.
"We'd all said those things to each other before, among the family," Jack admits. "We might not have said it on camera before. I don't think my dad had ever heard his kids say anything negative to that degree about him, especially Jessica and Louis. But their relationship has improved in leaps and bounds, they see each other all the time. Ever since he got sober, he's made a concerted effort to try to right what he did wrong."
Arguably the sharpest emotional kick of the film comes when Jack effectively shames his boozy wreck of a father into getting sober himself. Osbourne Junior has not touched alcohol since he was 16, and nowadays prefers to keep temptation at bay.
"There's a saying people tell you when you get sober," he says. "Your disease is never gone, it's just in the closet doing push-ups. It's been nearly nine years for me, and my friends are always saying: 'I'm sure you can drink now, you'll be fine…' But for me, there are two reasons why I don't do it. One, I don't really want to, I know what it's like to be drunk. And two, it's a huge risk. I think my dad respects that too."
Born in London in 1985, Jack was raised in mansions in rural England and Beverly Hills. But despite his privileged upbringing, he insists he has inherited a strong work ethic from his parents – especially his hard-nosed, business-savvy mother Sharon. A former record company talent scout and TV presenter, he now works mainly behind the camera as a film and TV producer. Surprisingly, perhaps, Jack was never tempted to follow in his father's footsteps with a career in music - why bother, he reasons, when he would always be judged by his family connections?
"I could write the next Sergeant Pepper, theoretically," Jack argues, "but even if I were to do that, I would still always be Ozzy Osbourne's son. I tip my hat to musicians' kids that try to go out and pursue a realistic career in music, but they are constantly compared to their parents. It's stifling and unfair."
Coincidentally, Jack is launching God Bless Ozzy Osbourne just as he faces the prospect of imminent fatherhood himself. Last month, he announced he is expecting his first child with his fiancée, the aspiring model-actress Lisa Stelly. He also confesses he aims to "pick and choose" lessons from his famous parents, taking the good qualities while hopefully avoiding repetition of his father's mistakes.
"I definitely would like my kid to focus more in school, whereas I didn't, I was always messing around," he says, laughing softly. "It's funny, people keep asking: 'Aren't you scared?' But the one thing we are undeniably meant to do on this planet is have kids. People have been doing it for billions of years, why should it be any different with me?"
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is released on DVD today