One of Tribeca Festival 2021’s most electrifying selections is Creation Stories, a madcap biopic based on the autobiography of Creation Records founder Alan McGee.
Directed by Nick Moran (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Harry Potter and the Death Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2) from a screenplay by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh, Creation Stories is adapted from the 2013 autobiography of the same name by McGee.
The film follows McGee’s outrageous trajectory to one of the most important names in music industry history, having launched the careers of bands like Oasis, Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine. In Creation Stories, he’s portrayed by Trainspotting alum Ewen Bremner, with a terrific cast including Suki Waterhouse and Jason Isaacs.
Framed by McGee’s drug-fueled mid-90’s trip to Los Angeles where he sits poolside and reminisces with a reporter (Suki Waterhouse) about his past, Creation Stories charts McGee’s rollercoaster ride from working-class Glasgow schoolkid with an ear for music and an entrepreneurial streak to becoming one of the biggest and most influential music moguls in Britain.
I had the pleasure of discussing the film with Nick, exploring the alchemical process from page to screen and how he worked closely with Alan McGee to capture a wild life for which perhaps no song could ever fully do justice.
Alan McGee is such an interesting choice of person to adapt to the big screen. I’m always interested in how autobiographical stories change in the process of adapting them as films, in the interest of better pacing and visual storytelling – how much would you say Creation Stories embellishes the truth?
Nick: It’s very interesting, that, because Alan’s sort of like, “it’s about sixty-forty, a lot of that didn’t happen”. But you know, a lot of it did. When you’re talking to the real people, they get a bit hung up on specifics. But the actual main events in the film, the actual outcome and the historical events, they did happen.
So, you do end up with the real guys and the real story. You can only get there by exposing people’s real motivations and real agendas. That’s what’s so interesting. This is my third film, and the other two biopics to a certain extent; especially with Telstar, my first movie. I was so massively historically accurate with it, because when you do that, you honor everybody’s motivations. If you tell the story as it happened, then you can’t get the motivations wrong. You can see why people did things. And that’s not open to conjecture – he did this because.
And what I think with this film, even if we made a few amendments to history, is that everything was done for the same reason. The characters were motivated by the same reason, and the outcomes were the same. It’s a very watertight script about somebody taking on the world on their own terms, even though they shouldn’t be able to, even though they’re not really qualified to, and then becoming this tremendous success despite the fact that it’s just run on hubris and anarchy and drug abuse. It’s the only thing motivating his record label. The specifics that happened, they’re historically right. And the motivation behind the characters are right.
Alan is funny, he gets turned on by the fact that I made sure we had the right shoes in certain scenes. That scene with Tony Blair and Jimmy Saville, that was the right suit and everybody was in the right formation. All these specifics are things that Alan gets really excited about, and then some things are completely fictional. But they will take you to a place that’s historically accurate. So, I haven’t changed it in a way that some Hollywood movies are, you know, “let’s forget about that, forget about the fact that he was married”. It’s very, very accurate.
There are a few things that lend themselves to a slicker way of getting to the truth, but it always goes back to what actually happened. There’re just a few moments where we took advantage and made sure that it was entertaining rather than specific.
That’s one of the parts that always fascinates me the most with crafting a biopic; capturing the balance between what the story is about at heart as opposed to just clinically running through exactly what happened.
Nick: Everything comes out the same, you know? You arrive at the same destination. Jason Isaacs, who’s so very good in the movie, his role doesn’t exist. That was an amalgamation of three or four characters to get us to the point where Alan overdoses and has a breakdown, and has to revaluate his life. Now, what happened in reality is a little bit less specific, so we came up with this one character that will make that one thing happen. It’s the same with the interview; Suki (Waterhouse)’s character is a fictional interviewer that gets you backwards and forwards, out of the timeline of the man’s life. But those characters are tools to tell the same story.
From what you said about the specifics of the shoes and such, I take it you worked quite closely with Alan throughout the creative process to make sure you were capturing the spirit of what he sees the story as.
Nick: Yeah, I spoke to Alan a great deal. Every now and then he’d say something which was salacious or hilarious or insane, and I’d say, “can I put that in the script?”. We’d adapt it around these things, because the closer I got to him and the more he trusted me, the more transparent he was and the more gems that would come out. The script was structurally sound, but it needed those bits of personality and craziness that can only come from the source.
Alan’s the only person mad enough to come out with something like that, and it goes in the script. A lot of the voiceover stuff, which I wrote after the script was finished, was stuff that Alan had said in conversation as we were going along. It was constantly being informed by some mad, crazy insane thing that Alan would say. He came on set a lot of times, and he loved it. And then he gets upset about the tiniest little thing, but then you’d explain it to him and he’d say, “alright, alright, I get it”. I mean, it’s a weird thing having a film made about your life.
I imagine it must be strange to see yourself reflected on the script and the screen in that way.
Nick: Sometimes stuff he said, I’d have to cut out. Some things were just so hardcore, you’re like, “that is un-filmable”. I can’t even say that out loud, that’s unbelievable! He’d say, “oh, it needs to be more violent. We were more violent!” And I’d say, “well, it’s pretty hardcore! We don’t need more violence in there as well”. [laughs]
CREATION STORIES is now streaming on the Tribeca at Home digital platform as part of Tribeca Festival 2021. Stay tuned for more of our conversation with Nick when the film celebrates its theatrical release!