Jimi Hendrix Biopic Producer Says Andre 3000 Was Their Only Choice
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 03.09.2014
They bet the house on him...
Danny Bramson, one of the producers of the Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All By My Side, spoke with Billboard this weekend about the film, Andre 3000 as Hendrix and more. Check out the highlights:
On the hardest part of the film: "The most serious of the challenges was the responsibility of creating and recording new and original material that puts you in the environment of interpreting Hendrix. I needed a guitarist with the skill and dexterity, but also that X factor of malleability where you can transcend your ego and personal styles and licks and let the musicology of Hendrix shine. I felt Waddy Wachtel was it for me."
On not being granted the rights to any of Hendrix's music: "I was never preoccupied with getting the iconic material. I felt so strongly in trying to go for interpretation of Hendrix and the musical environment that surrounded him and mirrored his sense of finding himself as a guitarist."
On whether there was any fear in taking on the film due to the music rights issues: "My long-time agent at CAA wanted me to read a script by a write I was familiar with, John Ridley, who had written 'Three Kings.' The script came with three or four concerns. It came in the wake of Paul Greengrass' ambitious attempt to do the Jimi Hendrix bio at Warner Bros. (Legendary Pictures was financing) that had been scuttled because of the estate's concerns. I had no previous relationship with John or the independent world or the budget. This had the ambitiousness of a period piece as well as conveying Jimi Hendrix. Within 10 pages of John's script, the prose had pulled me all the way in."
On the first draft of the script and subsequent changes: "Within 48 hours of me getting those pages, I sat down with John along with the other principal producers, Sean McKittrick and Jeff Culotta of Darko, a company I was absolutely unfamiliar with. I sat down at that lunch meeting, challenging John on everything and lunch turned into dinner and five hours later we left. His acceptance of my desire for changes to bring absolute credibility and get the little things right -- the buzzes of amplifiers. But the onstage moments, the artistic pondering and the inspirations that his first draft illuminated along with various anecdotes and environs that I was unaware of, that turned me on. The next morning, John and Sean rang me and my agent and invited me not only produce and direct the musical design, but produce the picture."
On what he did to help the script aling: "I was relentless in preaching and converting John (to include) what I felt was always the greatest rock story never told -- EMI releases 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' on a Thursday and Jimi performs it the following Sunday in front of Paul McCartney and Jane Asher and George Harrison and Patti Boyd. We all know that when he walks through (Heathrow) airport what's going to happen at Monterey."
On getting the rights for 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band': "I believe it's the first license the Beatles have granted for 'Sgt. Pepper.' I had the great fortune of working with Paul (to secure) two instrumentals ("Sing-along Junk" and "Momma Miss America") in Jerry Maguire and convincing him during the editing of 'Vanilla Sky' to (write a new song). I had said we wanted to re-create the Saville show and without sending a page, within 72 hours it was approved."
On Andre's performance as Hendrix: "We bet the house on our one and only choice, Andre Benjamin. Andre and I had ironically spoken once before -- when I was producing music for Higher Learning. (Director) John Singleton had turned me on to the scene in Atlanta and the song they delivered to us predated their first album. I flew to Atlanta probably two and half years ago and sat down with Andre; I could finally thank him. The idea of anyone playing Hendrix, let alone a right-handed guitarist, was one of the greatest challenges of the project. I found a really patient teacher and put together a regimen for Andre when he came out to Los Angeles. He sat in a small studio, six hours a day, putting in dedication (to learn how to play left-handed). His guitarmanship had to carry the idea of grace and fluidity. John and I declared that we didn't want to have the camera cropped on his face and not the guitar. He kept working in a rehearsal room throughout the production."
On the songs used in the movie: "I always look for those songs less traveled, like the two Dylan cuts 'Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat' and 'Obviously Five Believers.' It's too easy to say B-sides or album cuts. I wanted to go for those stolen moments when you're sitting around and that fourth song on side B that hasn't come to light is playing. Buddy Guy's 'Out of Sight,' the Yardbirds' 'Little Games', Savoy Brown's 'Train to Nowhere' - songs from old mixtapes that I have always tried to put up against picture and see what works. This time, with the eye on the dollar, I went for the overall color and hues of Hendrix's environment. I hope it made an impression."