Based on musician Duff McKagan’s New York Times best-selling autobiography, rockumentary IT’S SO EASY AND OTHER LIES takes audiences on an incredible cinematic journey from the driven Seattle teenager’s meager beginnings to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With the film set to open in theatres on June 3, I had the chance to ask filmmaker Christopher Duddy about the film and working with Duff.
Hi Chris, how are you today?
Can you tell us a bit about “It’s So Easy And Other Lies”?
It’s So Easy and Other Lies is a autobiographical story about rock star Duff McKagan of GunsNRoses, Velvet Revolver, Janes Addiction, Loaded and many other bands. The movie is based on Duff’s New York best selling autobiography with the same title. The book is a collection of non-linear memoirs reflecting his early life, his rise to fame and then his dark side with drug and alcohol abuse that almost killed him and then his redemption and journey to sobriety and clarity. The movie is told through a unique one of a kind stage show where Duff himself reads portions of his book while a rock orchestra scores the storytelling on stage intercut with never seen before footage of the early GNR club shows in the mid 80’s and from Duff’s personal vault of home movies and photographs. The movie is wall to wall music with the live unplugged versions of classic GNR and Velvet Revolver songs.
How did you come to make the film?
The first time I met Duff we were walking our kids to school. We hit it off right away with our parenting skills and our love of sports and became fast friends. As we walked our kids to school together we noticed the amount of morning traffic on our street and because of the lack of sidewalks, it was a little dangerous and scary for the kids. So after a little research, Duff and I decided to petition the neighbors to have speed bumps installed by the city. After a successful campaign led by Duff and I, the city did indeed install the speed bumps and made our street safer for all the kids in our neighborhood. I remember through this process always feeling that Duff was very genuine and down to earth even going door to door with me to get the signatures needed for the petition. After being a little jaded from my almost four decades in the film business, I really respected and appreciated his kindness especially from a ROCK STAR.
One morning walking back from school he handed me his book “It’s So Easy and Other Lies” that had just come out and asked me if I would read it. So of course I read it and was blown away with his honesty and the details of his personal struggles early in life. His story is a classic inspirational rags to riches, true american hero story but, with an underlying, dark, unorthodox journey that almost killed him. After reading it , I approached him with the possibilities of making a documentary film based on his inspirational story. At first he said no, and then he said no probably a dozen more times despite my persistence. Then when the book came out in paper back as a New York Best Seller and he was doing the press junket for it he called me one day and said that maybe, if we were going to maybe do a documentary, maybe I should go with him with a camera and start exploring the possibility of maybe making a film. So, I slowly started going with him with my camera shooting b-roll stuff. At one particular book signing at Book Soup in Hollywood a guy waited in a long line to get Duff to sign his book. When he finally stepped up he hugged Duff and told him that he read his book while in re-hab and the book saved his life. That really resonated in me how inspirational this all really was. Then the more we shot the more Duff got comfortable with the idea of really doing this.
Then in the spring of 2012 it got really interesting when he asked me to go with him to Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Again, of course I went. The night before the ceremony he told me to come with him to the House of Blues in Cleveland with my camera to shoot some B-Roll of him doing this book reading show that he was testing out on audiences. I was like, a book reading show? WTF is that? As a filmmaker I was very curious. What I witnessed there was not shy from genius, just an incredible show. Something I have never seen before. He sat on a stool and read excerpts from his book as his band LOADED scored the reading with live music, sort of an unplugged vibe with a steel slide guitar playing GNR and Velvet Revolver songs. I started shooting the sold out audiences reaction to what they were watching. I was looking through my viewfinder seeing people cry, laugh, and then cheering, all the while in complete AWE of his presence. WOW, how awesome was this?
After the Hall of Fame induction night where Duff’s speech was incredibly moving and the GNR reunion (Axl less) set blew the roof off of that Cleveland arena, I was traveling back to LA and had a clear vision of what the film could look like. When Duff and I talked back in LA, I approached him with my new vision for the film using the book reading show as the catalyst or device to motivate the story telling and how unique and unorthodox this method could be. He immediately responded to the idea and we started writing an extended version of the book reading show with bigger orchestration and then, of course we would have to shoot at an iconic theatre in Seattle as the backdrop. DONE.
What was it like working with Duff McKagan?
Well, Duff is an interesting guy. He’s really down to earth for a huge rock star so, that being said, it made it easy for me to connect with him on a very human level which is where I needed to get to with him to be able to convey his story the way he wanted to portray it on screen. It can be a very scary place opening up your life and pulling back the curtains just enough to let everyone see in and not just see the good stuff, I mean he is extremely honest about his dark days with drug and alcohol addictions. That can be a very humiliating place to put yourself in with this kind of documentary and he was extremely conscious of not letting it become a self indulgent, self righteous, superficial fluff piece film about himself. So in that regard, it was a difficult film to make to find the right balance but ultimately it became more about the music, Duff is all about the music. He was in several bands while we were making the movie and he would constantly go on tour and at the same time the whole GNR reunion debate was going on and this was all happening during the coarse of a three year span that it took to complete the movie. So he was like a ping pong ball bouncing hard and swift, back and forth. But in the end, it was an amzing journey for me and it allowed me to experiment and grow as a storyteller and a filmmaker.
What’s next for you? Have you got any upcoming projects?
My brother and I are putting together another rockumentary about a famous music family, the Porcaro brothers of the band Toto called Porcaro: A Band of Brothers and I’m shooting a remix of a horror classic Nosferatu. Then off to Thailand to shoot a family adventure that my wife Joely Fisher is directing called Oliver Storm.
The film opens theatrically on June 3, with event screenings taking place around the country on May 26 and June 1.