For those of you who haven’t heard, Martin Scorsese announced that he is going to produce and direct a biopic about the Grateful Dead, in which Jonah Hill plays Jerry Garcia, the band’s iconic pater familias.
The news sparked quite a stir in the world of the Grateful Dead, with excitement to see a famous iconoclastic group hitting the big screen, mixed with healthy skepticism about Hollywood’s ability to film the Dead and Garcia at any level. authenticity.
Garcia died of a heart attack at the age of 53 at the San Geronimo Valley Drug Treatment Center in 1995, tragically ending the Grateful Dead’s 40-year career. Since then, he has become something of a saint, so you can be sure that any film about him will become the subject of intense discussion and controversy among the legions of the group’s devoted dumbass.
“I love Scorsese, and I love the way he films and uses music (both in his documents and in the plot films), but I’m still very afraid of what he will do with the story of the Grateful Dead,” says Blair Jackson. author of the book “Garcia”. : American Life, ”reads the direct message. “I hope, but not optimistic, that Scorsese will be able to capture some of the essence of Garcia.”
Another source close to the group says it would be very surprising if the filmmakers were able to capture even a tenth of Garcia’s lovable personality.
Despite this daunting challenge, 37-year-old Hill, Oscar winner for his supporting role in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, is clearly looking forward to playing the charismatic guitarist, singer and songwriter. … On Instagram, he shared the news with his 3.3 million followers along with praying hands and skull emoji. The post received about 5,400 comments and about 222,000 likes.
If the Grateful Dead is filmed, it’s reassuring that Scorsese, one of the great directors of our time (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, King of Comedy, The Good Guys), will be filming It. As executive producer of the Grateful Dead’s comprehensive four-hour documentary, A Long Strange Journey, the 79-year-old Oscar winner knows the band’s history more than practically. He also directed the prestigious roster of rock documentaries – 1978’s The Last Waltz, 2011’s George Harrison: Living in a Material World, and 2019’s Rolling Thunder Review: The Bob Dylan Story.
And it’s a good sign for the project that surviving Dead bandmates Bob Weir, Phil Lesch, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreuzmann have given it their blessing by signing as executive producers alongside one of Garcia’s daughters, Trixie Garcia, and the band’s manager. , Bernie Cahill.
Just for fun, what actors would you choose for the other band members, including Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the Dead’s original keyboardist? (I should note that Weir, Hart, and Kreuzmann are continuing the groundbreaking Grateful Dead improvisational rock Dead & Company featuring John Mayer on lead guitar.)
Apple, which is developing the film, reportedly won the rights to the band’s music, a catalog of classics that would remind even non-Deadheads of the timeless rock and American songs the band wrote and recorded, especially on two of its 1970 masterpieces. ” Dead Workers ”and“ American Beauty ”.
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, renowned screenwriters for People vs. O. J. Simpson: An American Crime Story, were hired to write the script. There is a lot to glean from the band’s humble beginnings as a Palo Alto pitcher to its incarnation as the Grateful Dead in the LSD-infused 60s counterculture to its most recent career success as the most lucrative concert group. peace.
Keep in mind that just because a movie is in development doesn’t necessarily mean it will be filmed. Hopefully, Scorsese will begin filming after completing his first Western, Killer of the Flower Moon, also directed by Apple, starring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jesse Plemons. And since this as-yet unnamed Grateful Dead project is in its early stages, the group’s inner circle has little to say about it until it moves on.
For Sam Cutler, former British-born tour manager for the Dead and the Rolling Stones, the Hollywood movie about the good old Grateful Dead was not good news.
“On the surface, this is a terrible idea, regardless of the directors, producers and actors involved,” he writes in a Facebook post from his home in Brisbane, Australia. “Garcia doesn’t need a biopic to solidify his reputation. His music is more than adequate for this task. I am genuinely shocked by the choice of his former bandmates to support this project, but what do I know? “
Cutler admits that he doesn’t know much about the film yet, but somehow it doesn’t seem right to him.
“All I know is that several central and fundamental events in Garcia’s life happened during my hours, and no one (including his former band members) has much (if any) idea of what happened.” he says. “Nobody talked to me about some kind of ‘biopic’, so I’ll keep the powder dry and wait and watch.”
In this film, he can sense the impending “deification” of Garcia, which, he fears, will be “extremely painful to watch and will not damage the memory of this man.”
With all due respect to him, from my point of view, a quality film that honors Garcia’s talent and honors the Grateful Dead’s legacy as a musical and cultural phenomenon can only be good. Since the Dead have been based in Marina since the late 60s, they also educate an international audience about a fascinating chapter in our vast rock heritage that deserves recognition and praise.
Giving up fame
The Grateful Dead film opportunity inspired me to recall a couple of interviews I had with Garcia and the band over the decades, starting with the first one at their San Rafael office in 1973. They just got back from their game with Allman. A group of brothers in front of 600,000 fans at the Watkins Glen Racetrack in New York City. One thing is clear: Garcia, then 31, wanted nothing to do with the growing demand for celebrities.
“We don’t want to be famous,” he told me, adding his own special kind of ironic humor, “My face has become a household name.”
Fast forward to October 1989, right after the release of the band’s 13th album, Built to Last. This interview with Garcia took place at the band’s studio and club on Front Street in San Rafael. At 47, his long hair and beard had already turned gray, three years later he was at his peak of health – weakened by his addiction to drugs – he fell into a diabetic coma and almost died.
He and the band reached the pinnacle of their careers with the release of their previous album, In the Dark, recorded at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium. It includes “Touch of Gray”, their first Top 10 single. By then, Garcia’s rock stardom was inevitable. I asked him what it was like to be Jerry Garcia, a rock icon.
“It sucks,” he said without hesitation, adding, “It’s bad enough to live with yourself without having to constantly remind you of it.”
He went on to discuss the incredible popularity of the Dead, an unparalleled rock odyssey.
“Our success story is so strange,” he said. “This is called a fall uphill. It’s like the old adage, “Persistence helps.” It was the slowest and most stable rise in rock and roll history. “
And now that we are working on a major film, it’s not over yet.
Contact Paul Liberatore at [email protected]