Alright. I’ve finally got a moment to turn the page from Delirious to the Doors. After all it’s only been 3 years.
And after all, we’re only talking about THE DOORS.
Some quick updates. The title of the film is WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE. The title was chosen because of its several meanings and connections to The Doors. It is a lyric from one of their signature songs, “People Are Strange.” As a band their music has an indefinable quality, a strangeness that makes them completely unique. Morrison described the haunting darkness at the heart of their music as the sound “of no one at home.” When the term is applied to the band and their music it is done so with honor.
WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE of course applies directly to Morrison himself. There is no figure in the history of American Rock and Roll who inspired so many myths; and continues to. The title also touches all those who have ever felt the cool chill of isolation and oddness themselves. Which, in a way, is all of us.
The film will be in the main documentary competition at Sundance. It will premiere there on Jan. 17. There has also been an official invitation from the Berlin Film Festival in February.
The picture is locked; all the picture editing is done and all the visual elements of the film are in place. All the detailed soundwork is in progress. Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore have seen the film and given it their endorsement. More on this unique series of experiences later.
Bruce Botnick, who engineered the first 5 Doors albums and produced “LA Woman,” is supervising and mixing all the music. In most cases the tracks will be in 5.1 Dolby surround. A huge amount of music is in the film, from studio sessions and live performances. The final mix is scheduled for the end of December. The finished film needs to be delivered to Sundance on Dec. 29 which is part of the reason I’ve been working like a meth freak on acid for the past two months.
I had one task in making this film; to capture the essence of The Doors in the most truthful and intimate way possible. It wasn’t easy. The Doors are enveloped in a cloak of legend so thick sometimes it is impossible to penetrate it. People have deeply personal and passionate convictions regarding the “Truth” about the band. In my research I never met any two people whose version of this Truth was the same. In fact, most of the time the versions were in direct contradiction.
Also, 40 years after their meteoric rise, fall and rise, more has been written about The Doors than just about any American band. I was frequently plagued by a nagging inner voice that kept asking, “Who the hell are you to add anything to the story of The Doors?”
Here’s how it happened. I was approached to direct the film in January of 2007 by Peter Jankowski, the film’s Producer. He’s also 2nd in command at Wolf Films. Wolf Films is Dick Wolf. Dick Wolf created Law and Order, soon to surpass Gunsmoke as the most successful TV series on the planet. Chris Noth used to be on Law and Order. Chris and I have been friends since 1979. He starred in one of my films, Double Whammy. A few years ago Chris threw my name into the mix to direct an episode of Criminal Intent. And that’s how I met Peter Jankowski.
This Doors film has been a personal labor of love for Jankowski for over 6 years. In every one of our conversations I was struck by his passion for the band, his love of the music and most importantly, his understanding of what The Doors represented at that turbulent and hugely transformative time in America. The more we talked the more I saw we shared the same respect for what The Doors accomplished both musically and politically. I told Jankowski that if I was going to direct the film I would ask him to honor my responsibility to tell the truth as I saw it. He agreed and has never backed away from it.
Fact Number 1: a huge amount of information about the Doors is total bullshit. I’m still bewildered by the number of fans who stagger into walls shouting, “Morrison lives!” as a psychic greenlight to piss themselves and suck booze through all orifices. I’m not judging them; I’ve done the same many times in my life. But WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE is not a glorification of getting slammed. Jim Morrison was not a drunk. He was an alcoholic. This is a medical fact. It takes nothing away from the great complexity that makes up his personna.
I believe there are other things that make Morrison infinitely more heroic, and other things that make Ray, John and Robby the perfect counterparts to his wild, unrestricted chaos. He (and his bandmates) believed only in the Truth. All aspects and dimensions of it. Many times it wasn’t pretty. Many times it was intensely disturbing. But, it was always the Truth.
This was a huge connection for me. As an independent filmmaker I identified with their commitment to total artistic freedom. No matter what you think of them, The Doors stand today as one of the few bands in the history of rock music who have not sold out. It was inspiring to be reminded that not everything is for sale.
Other connections surprised me and drew me deeper. Morrison’s father was an Admiral in the Navy; mine was a Colonel in the Marine Corps. His struggle with his father’s authority echoed my own and made him extremely real to me.
The Doors came out of a wildly turbulent time in America. During the 1960’s everything was being questioned; especially authority in any form. Protesting college kids were making the nightly news. As I submerged myself into this world I was amazed by the ferocity and courage of the Youth Movement. Nothing like it had happened before. It is nowhere in sight today. Some believe it was hopelessly naive. Yet, at the time that cry of outrage was intoxicating in what it proposed.
The Doors were born out of this conflict. I am left feeling a huge admiration for them and for the wild, anarchistic spirit that forged their consciousness.