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Red Rocket Had to Seek the Approval of Every ’N Sync Member to Use ‘Bye Bye Bye’

Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Vulture

An indie drama about a washed-up porn star isn’t necessarily the place where you’d expect to hear a classic boy-band single, and yet, somehow ’N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” is a crucial piece of Simon Baker’s film Red Rocket. As the director explained at a panel with Vulture’s Alison Willmore and Red Rocket star Simon Rex, a significant investment for the micro-budget indie went into securing the song, which became “an anthem for the film” — it even underscores the movie’s trailer. “The price on that track wasn’t part of our initial budget,” Baker said, but they decided to incorporate the song thanks to the musical talents of Suzanna Son, who plays Strawberry, a young woman with whom Rex’s character gets involved. “We thought, let’s display her talent in the movie, and wrote a scene where she plays ‘Bye Bye Bye’ on the keyboard, and she does an incredible job at it.”

While filming the movie, unsure if they could get “Bye Bye Bye” approved, Baker also taped a version of the scene where Son played one of her own songs on the piano. In order to clear the song, they had to go out to ’N Sync to have them sign off on the script and how the song is used in the film. “All members had to sign off on it,” Baker said. “So Justin has seen part of this movie.”

Baker referred to deciding to use “Bye Bye Bye” specifically as a bit of a gambit for the movie, not just because it might have been difficult to clear, but because it’s “such a classic pop song that’s it’s like casting an A-lister in your movie.” To that, Rex quipped: “which you didn’t do in this movie.” But even though Red Rocket uses ’N Sync, Rex, a former MTV VJ and sometime rapper, says he’s staying out of the boy-band wars. Asked if he was an ’N Sync or Backstreet Boys person, Rex answered, “I was neither, honestly, but now I’ll say ’N Sync, to be fair.”

Red Rocket Had to Ask *NSYNC’s Approval to Use ‘Bye Bye Bye’