Days Of Our Lives Documentary: Simon Lupton Interview
You must be thrilled at the response that the 'Days Of Our Lives' documentary received?
We have been absolutely blown away by the response to the documentaries. As you know, the aspiration Rhys and I had for this was that it would be regarded as the 'definitive' telling of the Queen story. With a story so compelling and fascinating, along with the access and trust given to us by the band and Jim Beach, the opportunity was there. The challenge was to make something the band would feel was an accurate portrayal of their history, that satisfied what the BBC needed, and was something the public would want to watch. The response we got from Brian, Roger and Jim was everything we could have hoped for, and the BBC showed us their delight by scheduling it in such a prominent slot, which was fantastic. It's impossible to make something that pleases all the people all the time, but I have to say all the feedback we've had from viewers would suggest that we got it largely right. Fans have said they loved all the rare and unseen stuff, and people who 'kind of like' Queen said they were hooked by the story. Our Director, Matt O'Casey, has taken it to a couple of festivals and seen an audience react to it - which is nice because you don't get to see that immediate reaction when something goes out on TV. All the people involved in the making of the documentaries said they were proud to be associated with them - so we've got to be happy with that. Oh, and the critics seemed to like them too...
Did you get across everything that you planned too?
I think we got to tell the story we wanted to, but 40 years is a lot to cover and we only had two hours, so no, we didn't feature everything. It's worth remembering that not long ago there was an hour long BBC documentary just on Bohemian Rhapsody, and "The Untold Story" just covered Freddies life. That's the thing with Queen, there is so much to say about everything they did. We could have gone on for hours, but I suspect we would have exhausted even the most die-hard of fans. Also, we really wanted this film to appeal to people who perhaps wouldn't call themselves fans but were curious about the band - so you have to keep the story moving to hold their attention. On this DVD you'll see some of the stories that only just missed out on the final cut - and as with the main feature, there's some great moments and brilliant footage. Plus, some stories the band told that we couldn't include because we didn't have visuals to make it work. My particular favourite is Roger talking about the one concert Freddie did drunk - it's a great story.
Following that up did you find yourself with material that you really were shocked at finding or responses from the band that happily surprised you?
The beginning of this documentary actually started six years ago when I was at Bray Studios with our film researcher, Keith Badman, viewing all the 16mm film in the Queen archive. It's there that we came across the Bob Harris documentary footage from 1977. I'd seen some of it before, but there was loads of it. I remember Keith turned to me and said "this is Gold!". From that moment on we've been finding amazing footage that really gets the blood pumping - the lost Top of The Pops, promo rushes, backstage footage. We are all benefiting from the fact Queen recognised the importance of their film archive very early, and kept so much stuff. Not many bands did that. Greg Brooks (Queen Archivist) and his network of collectors were also extremely helpful in identifying footage and solving mysteries. When it came to the interviews, everyone spoke so honestly we got plenty of surprises in their answers. In a lot of cases we deliberately asked questions we felt hadn't been asked before - or properly answered! However, on top of that we would often get stories or revelations we weren't expecting - so the overall story we were telling evolved the whole way through the process.
Were the band happy with it?
It's nice to have an opportunity to mention the bands involvement in this. As well as giving us permission to run riot in the archive, they both agreed to a total of six interviews between them - each one lasting for a few hours. It was incredibly gruelling and emotionally draining for them. Of course it's nice sitting there remembering all those magical moments, but we also went over the difficult times and that's not easy. I think you can see in their responses how upset and angry they still get when you discuss how the media hounded Freddie in his last months. But they wanted this film to be warts and all, and I think it's testament to them that they spoke so honestly and allowed us to include everything. Even when Brian and Roger had differing points of view, we were able to show that, and I think moments like that are important for the pieces integrity. We were so nervous when we showed it to them, but they loved it and haven't interfered at all. I think they particularly liked that we kept the humour in - that was important to them.
Jim Beach came across well, we never really hear much from him normally...
You're right, Jim normally likes to stay in the background and very rarely gives interviews. He took a little persuading, but I'm so glad he agreed because he has such a unique overview. Once again, he was honest and candid, and his stories were amazing. He is a very intelligent man, and I think he comes across very well. I understand why he doesn't normally want to be interviewed, but he's good at it and is succinct and to the point - which our editor loved! We filmed that in Montreux and I was woefully unprepared for the cold - by the end of the interview I could barely string a question together. Beautiful place though...
Is the original main film the same as the version that was originally aired? Pretty much, yes. We had to make some tiny trims for practical reasons, for example footage we couldn't clear for DVD release, but hardly anything has changed.
Was it nice to be able to go back and use footage that did not make the cut for the main feature?
Without doubt, Rhys, our editor Christopher Bird and I have had a great time getting into the stories we couldn't manage previously. We didn't want to extend the original film because that worked as it was, but we built these new sequences as if they would be inserted. So hopefully they are as engaging and surprising as the rest of it. Also there were moments that were nice, but didn't really add anything to the main story. It's great that we now have an opportunity to put those together and say 'take a look at these if you're interested'.
Do you have a favourite 'extra' that has now been included?
I'm sure most people will have seen the Scrabble Wars clip by now, and that's a real favourite. There's something very Queen about it. Also, I love the way it's Brian and Roger, sat together remembering it fondly. A great moment I think. Also, our editor Chris did an amazing job on the original films making new promo videos for some of the songs, like "Seven Seas of Rhye" and "Somebody To Love". Of course, in the film we couldn't show the whole song, and it was intercut with people telling the story. So I'm delighted we were able to finish the videos, and include them here in their entirety without the talking heads. It was a real joy diving back into the raw footage for those songs and coming up with something new.
Sadly no new contributions from John...
There's no question that this would have been even better if John had taken part - and we did try. We approached him a few times but he declined. Most Queen fans know that he has chosen not to be in the public eye anymore, and while that is a shame for us it's something we must understand and respect. From what I've heard he never really enjoyed being interviewed anyway, so I suspect if he is to be tempted out of retirement, it probably won't be by a film crew wanting to ask him loads of questions!
Any further Queen related projects that you are working on?
It's been an amazing year celebrating the 40th anniversary, and I think we probably all felt this would be a manic year and 2012 would calm down. No chance. There's lots in the pipeline but I can't go into detail, not because I want to be secretive, but simply because it's not my place to make any announcements like that, plus things are always changing so I don't want to make promises we can't end up keeping. I'm pretty sure though that if it's got Queen music at the heart of it, it's going to be good!