Director Christopher Duddy joins us today to talk about everyone’s favorite Gunner, Duff McKagan. It’s So Easy and Other Lies is the documentary version of Duff’s book that goes back to the Seattle pre-grunge days through Guns N’ Roses and carries you up to Loaded and Velvet Revolver. The bassist performs with a live band as he reads from his best selling book intertwined with interviews from friends Nikki Sixx, Slash, Matt Sorum, Mike McCready and many others.
Animated transitions and visualizations of some of the stories give the world an uncensored look at addiction, recovery, touring and being trying to survive being a musician in the best rock and roll band in the world.
Duddy is know for his many visual effects credits but sits in the director’s chair for It’s So Easy and Other Lies. He starts by letting us know how this movie came to be.
FOG!: Thanks for joining us, Chris! How did this come about?
Christopher Duddy: I only knew Duff’s story from Guns N’ Roses forward, I didn’t know the back history until I read his book, and that caught my attention. It was really interesting, his whole story, not just the GNR story.
I met Duff when we were both walking our kids to school. We became friends, we’re both big football fans, Duff would come over my house and watch football. A few years later he asked if I would read his book.
We talked about the book after I read it, and I said to Duff, “Your story is one of those that is really inspirational, and as a filmmaker, to get an opportunity to tell a story that inspires people is a gift”.
I approached him to make a documentary about it and his initial reaction was “No”. He didn’t want to be too self indulgent, he had already written the book about himself. I was just persistent because his story is one that needed to be shared on film, not just on pages.
Finally, he warmed up to it. When the book became a NYT Best Seller and came out in paperback, he started doing a press junket for the paperback release. He finally called me for that, “Hey if we are going to do this thing, maybe you should come with me on this press tour”.
Of course I jumped at it and we started doing morning shows and book signings. The more we did it on that level, he started to warm up to it more and more.
The pinnacle moment of the whole project was when Guns was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and he asked me to go with him to Cleveland.
I said, “Of course, that will be insane!” The ceremony was on Saturday but he asked me to come out on Friday to do a book reading show at the House of Blues Cleveland with my camera.
I thought, “What’s a book reading show?”
He said, “You’ll see, I’m trying this show out”. He had only tried it in LA one other time at some little bar, the Viper Room.
And was that with the band the first time?
Yeah, in Cleveland it was with the band, but a much smaller presence. Just a drummer, a guitar player and a bass player as well as a steel slide.
I went to that show not knowing what I was going to see, I was shooting stuff and was blown away by the show, the way the music went along with the spoken word, and I started to shoot the audience watching it and that is what really clicked with me then. People were really in awe of what they were seeing.
It was packed, sold out, the crowd was really into it. When I got back to LA I realized that’s how we make the documentary. Both Duff and I wanted to make the documentary different. We didn’t want this to be a cookie-cutter, standard talking head documentary.
I approached him with the idea of doing the idea of doing the book reading show as the catalyst. If I took the different chapters of the story, which chapters really convey and show on screen.
That’s the spine.
We did a bigger show for the movie, and shot it in Seattle, his home turf, a sold out venue in a cool old theatre. I had 12 cameras, it was really cool.
It is visually a cool documentary, you have some animation, a lot with the text from the book. It really did stand out as a different looking film. Very cool. Was it Duff’s idea to do the animation or you from your visual effects background?
It was a collaborative idea. I initially wanted to shoot that opening sequence when he had his pancreas explode and he almost died, I wanted to recreate that in live action.
I would hire an actor to play Duff, and shoot it unrealistically and unnaturally, warped and psychedelic.
Duff was the one that suggested we do the animation, and he showed me a clip of another documentary, Cocaine Cowboys 2, they did some stuff in animation. A couple of days later I was shooting something and a guy on one of the crews showed me a music video that he made, all animated.
It was so good we hired him!
“You’re Hired”! On the spot!
By the way, Duff loved the animation. I showed him the first test clip of it and he jumped up out of the couch, ran into the kitchen where my wife was with some friends,”Look at this! Look at this”!
I also think when people are struggling with addiction and drug stuff, and you put it into a movie, the animation puts you into a different world, it takes you out of reality, I really appreciate that. That was great for the narrative of the movie.
Also, I think it takes away the melodramatic nature of that. I agree, a lot of times, they over do that, and sensationalize it. We were real conscious of not being self indulgent. Duff was really nervous about that. He didn’t want it to be a fluff piece about himself.
A lot of the distributors wanted this to be more of a Guns N’ Roses documentary. Duff and I wanted to make a doc about this guy that grew up in the streets of Seattle stealing cars and doing drugs then became a huge world-renowned rock star! He made 2-3 albums when they were all together.
Appetite for Destruction is arguable one of the greatest debut albums in rock history. But…that’s another movie. We wanted to make the movie based on his book, the struggles of life, struggles of trying to reach success, and the dark side of alcohol abuse and all that.
That’s one thing that riveted me about his book and his honesty. A lot of people don’t talk about that stuff, and kind of gloss over it. They just want to show and reveal the good stuff.
Duff wanted to show it all. Duff’s the guy that a lot of rock stars, not surprisingly, he will go help rock star people that were having a crisis. There was one time we were in a meeting and he said “I gotta go, I gotta go help this guy he is in trouble. He was on a 4-5 day binge and he’s int trouble”.
I said, “Oh is he a friend of yours?”
Duff said, “No, I don’t know him but I’m gonna go help him.”
Bless him man, that’s the best! And you have Nikki Sixx and Slash in there to attest that these things were happening. You have some voices in the past too that were all living it too. They provide some color and some really interesting commentary about what was happening.
Nikki Sixx was the coolest guy, Slash too, of course those guys were all down that same rabbit hole!
For screening information, visit itssoeasymovie.com