Okay, you've won an Oscar for best documentary for a film that wanted to save the world -- An Inconvenient Truth. So, Davis Guggenheim -- how do you follow that act?
Simple. Go in another direction all together and make a rock 'n' roll movie.
In Guggenheim's case, the film is It Might Get Loud, opening Friday, a portrait of three generations of guitarists -- Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge of U2 and Jack White of the White Stripes, etc. -- talking about their love of the electric guitar. Guggenheim chatted about the film recently in a telephone interview.
Q: How did you pick those particular guitarists to focus on?
A: I really wanted Jimi Hendrix but he wasn't available. I checked. I thought about putting an empty seat for Hendrix when the three guys got together.
Q: Why three?
A: I knew that if I followed every guitarist around, I'd be deluged with footage. I didn't want to have so many that I could only do two minutes of, say, Eric Clapton. So then I thought, well, if I could get three guitarists -- one from each generation -- that would be interesting. I also wanted three guys who wanted to talk, who were open to telling their story about how this came to be, about the emotional side of it. Documentaries, for me, are about people's willingness to open up.
Q: Who was on your wish list?
A: These guys were my first three choices. Isn't that amazing?
Q: Were they immediately interested?
A: Each of them opened up to the concept very differently. But ultimately the concept is what made them do it.
I almost made a mistake. We assumed that Jimmy Page would never do it because he doesn't give interviews, he's never been in a documentary. But we said, well, let's try. It was a process, starting with his manager -- and then he said yes.
Q: Can you talk about that concept?
A: I thought, wouldn't it be cool if we heard Jimmy Page and The Edge and Jack White do all the talking? And for most of the movie, they're the only ones you do hear.
I started from the point of view that this movie has no ex-girlfriends, band mates or rock historians. I was not trying to avoid controversy; I just wanted to make it super-personal.
Q: How long did you shoot?
A: I shot on and off for a year. I'd be in Dublin for a week with The Edge and then I'd go home and edit what I had. I'd be in London for a week with Jimmy Page and then go home and edit what I had. It was a personal process. We were kind of making a movie together. Like, I'd say to Jimmy, hey, what if we filmed you playing records at your house? So Jimmy brought us into his house and did just that.
Q: Same thing with your opening sequence?
A: That opening thing, with Jack making the electric guitar out of a board, two nails and a piece of wire -- he said, "Watch this." and he just did it. He told me later it was based on the diddley bow. Poor black sharecroppers would string barbed wire between two nails and pluck it. And that's where Bo Diddley got his name. Jack just added an electric pickup.
Q: How hard was it to get the three of them together in one place?
A: We filmed them together for two days -- two glorious days. We called it "The Summit" because it was so complicated to arrange.
For the rest of this interview, click HERE to reach my website: www.hollywoodandfine.com.