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Pistol true story: How much of the Disney Plus series is real?

Danny Boyle's new series tells the story of influential punk band the Sex Pistols.

Anson Boon as John Lyndon, Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones, Jacob Slater as Paul Cook in Pistol
Rebecca Brenneman/FX
Published: Tuesday, 31st May 2022 at 9:00 am
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Pistol on Disney Plus tells the story of one of the most influential and often infamous bands of all time, the Sex Pistols.

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Made up of Steve Jones, Paul Cook, John Lydon, Glen Matlock and later Sid Vicious, they are often credited with instigating the punk movement in England in the mid to late 1970s.

The new series comes from acclaimed, Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle, who puts his own spin on the band's initial years together.

But just how much of the new series is based on real life? Read on for everything you need to know about the true story behind Pistol on Disney Plus.

Pistol true story: Who were the Sex Pistols?

Toby Wallace as Steve Jones, Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious, Anson Boon as John Lyndon, Jacob Slater as Paul Cook.
Toby Wallace as Steve Jones, Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious, Anson Boon as John Lydon, Jacob Slater as Paul Cook. Miya Mizuno/FX

The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band who were first active between 1975 and 1978. The band evolved from an original group alternately known as The Strand and Swankers, with the members being Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Wally Nightingale.

Jones asked Malcolm McLaren, who owned boutique clothes shop SEX with Vivienne Westwood, to manage the band, following which Glen Matlock and John Lydon (later known as Johnny Rotten) were recruited, with Nightingale kicked out.

The band gained a following and put out their first single, Anarchy in the UK.

In 1977, Matlock was replaced by John Simon Ritchie AKA Sid Vicious, a Sex Pistols fan and friend of Lydon. Their music was often highly controversial, leading to them being dropped by multiple record companies. The second single, God Save the Queen, was banned by most broadcasters, but rose to number two in the charts.

The band's one and only album, the iconic Never Mind the B******s, Here's the Sex Pistols, was released in late 1977.

They broke up in 1978 after a tumultuous US tour, although a mockumentary film about and starring the band was released in 1980, entitled The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle.

What is the series based on?

Toby Wallace as Steve Jones.
Toby Wallace as Steve Jones. Miya Mizuno/FX

The series is based on Steve Jones' 2017 autobiography, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, and so follows the story from his point of view.

The blurb of the book states: "Without the Sex Pistols there would be no Punk. And without Steve Jones there would be no Sex Pistols. It was Steve who formed Kutie Jones and his Sex Pistols, the band that eventually went on to become the Sex Pistols, with his schoolmate Paul Cook and who was its original leader.

"As the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of Punk – the influence and cultural significance of which is felt in music, fashion and the visual arts to this day – Steve tells his story for the very first time."

Were the Sex Pistols involved in the making of the series?

Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious, Anson Boon as John Lyndon, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones.
Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious, Anson Boon as John Lydon, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones. Miya Mizuno/FX

Jones is an executive producer on the series, while Cook, Matlock and the estate of Sid Vicious all agreed for their music to be licensed for the show.

However, in April 2021, Lydon called the series “the most disrespectful s**t I’ve ever had to endure” and tried to stop the band's music being used in the series. Paul Cook and Steve Jones sued Lydon to allow their songs to feature, and won the legal battle in August last year.

In the month of the show's release he once again spoke out against it, telling The Mirror: “It’s upsetting as a lot of it has sexual connotations which are dubious at best. They have gone for the wrong end of things just to be sensational. I think there is much more quality to the Pistols than that.”

It's understood by The Mirror that Lydon hasn't seen the show. A post on Lydon's website meanwhile accused the series of "rewriting history" and called it "a middle class fantasy... which bears little resemblance to the truth".

Where are the Sex Pistols now?

Jacob Slater as Paul Cook, Anson Boon as John Lyndon, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones, Christian Lees as Glen Matlock.
Jacob Slater as Paul Cook, Anson Boon as John Lydon, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones, Christian Lees as Glen Matlock. Miya Mizuno/FX

Vicious died in 1979, months after his girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death. Vicious was arrested and charged in connection with her death, but after being released on bail on two separate occasions, was found dead of a drug overdose. Spungen's death has never been solved.

After splitting up, the rest of the band did reunite on a number of occasions, including in 1996 with Matlock returning for a highly successful tour.

Since then Jones has released two solo albums and hosts radio show Jonesy's Jukebox, Matlock has collaborated with various other bands, and Cook released music with his band The Philistines.

Lydon meanwhile founded his own experimental band Public Image Ltd and has appeared on both I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! and the US version of The Masked Singer.

Pistol arrives on Disney Plus in the UK today (31st May). You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now.

Check out our Drama hub for more news, interviews and features or find something to watch with our TV Guide.

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