Note: This interview was originally conducted and posted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. With Kurt Cobain: Motage of Heck premiering tonight on HBO, I decided to repost it.
Back at Sundance 2008, director Brett Morgen (Chicago 10, The Kid Stays in the Picture) told me that he was going to make a mixed media documentary about Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. When we spoke he revealed that he’d have access to Cobain’s artifacts, journals, home movies, paintings, and his unheard music. As a fan of the troubled artist, I was ecstatic. Not only because a filmmaker whose work I appreciated was going to make the movie, but also because I knew I’d see a side of Cobain I had never seen. The only thing that brought me down was Morgen saying it would take at least four years.
Since doing that interview, I’d been wondering what happened to that documentary. So when Sundance announced their 2015 lineup and it included Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, it immediately landed on my must see list.
Thankfully I’m happy to report Morgen has hit a massive home-run. The way he uses Cobain’s music, art, never-before-seen home movies and combines them with animation and insightful interviews from his closest confidantes and family reveal an expansive look at Cobain the likes of which I’ve never seen. If you’re a fan of Cobain and Nirvana, it’s an absolute must see. For more on the film, read Adam’s review here.
Shortly after seeing the film, I landed an exclusive video interview with Brett Morgen. He talked about why it took so long to get made, his first cut, his personal theories about the suicide attempt in Rome, how the movie has new information for even the most die-hard fans, the challenge of getting Kurt’s early girlfriend Tracy Marander to participate in the film and her influence on Kurt’s life, and so much more.
Here’s the interview followed by the time index of the conversation.
Brett Morgen Time Index:
- 0:17 – On wanting to make the movie more visually interesting than a bunch of talking heads.
- 2:01 – He started the project in 2008, but then spent six years wrangling the various rights.
- 2:57 – Was there anything that Morgen wanted to use in the film but they told him “no?”
- 4:08 – The current cut of the film is 132 minutes. The original cut was 144 minutes.
- 4:38 – The film will be widely distributed in international cinemas.
- 5:24 – “The film is meant to be loud.”
- 7:31 – On how the movie has new information for even the most die-hard fans.
- 10:25 – Discusses the suicide attempt in Rome a few months before Cobain’s death.
- 11:15 – One of his personal theories about that penultimate suicide attempt.
- 12:49 – Morgen talks about the film’s blended media approach.
- 14:20 – How the interviews were inspired by Bob Fosse’s Lenny.
- 14:40 – The biggest challenge was animating Kurt’s journals.
- 16:08 – Morgen doesn’t farm out his animation like most documentary directors.
- 17:14 – On getting Kurt’s early girlfriend Tracy Marander to participate in the film and her influence on Kurt’s life.
- 17:45 – Some of Tracy’s journals were in the same facility Kurt’s journals were stored in.
- 19:13 – Morgen put everything he had into this film and doesn’t know what his next project is.