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Ozzy Osbourne's son wanted his dad's full story for documentary
Jack Osbourne certainly wasn't modest with his first feature film production project.
The son of Ozzy Osbourne decided to make a documentary -- about his dad. And now that "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne," which comes Tuesday, Nov. 15, on DVD and Blu-ray, debuted to rave reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival in April -- Rotten Tomatoes called it a "definitive bio-doc" -- and won even more praise during a limited theatrical run in August, he's "kind of ecstatic" over the reception.
"It was going to go one of two ways -- people either were going to say 'That's a pile of crap!' or 'That's awesome!~' " says Osbourne, 25, the youngest of Ozzy Osbourne's five children from two marriages. "It seems to be like everyone's going the way I want it."
In other words, that it's not a "pile of crap."
What Jack Osbourne is happiest about, however, is that the film -- directed by Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli -- tells the story of a man rather than the caricature his father (born John Osbourne in Birmingham, England) has became during years of publicly chronicled substance abuse, wild misbehavior and celebrated incidents such as biting the heads off a dove (on purpose) and a live bat (by accident).
"I was essentially fed up with my dad having this Osbournesque image in the mainstream media," explains Osbourne, 25, who appeared in his family's hit MTV reality series "The Osbournes" and in the short-lived "Osbournes Reloaded"
and his own "Jack Osbourne: Adrenaline Junkie." "That's really frustrated me. Since 'The Osbournes' he got sober and became a totally different person, and I wanted to kind of celebrate that. Everyone knows what he's done, so for me this was about more who he is as a person.
"I hadn't seen a biographical piece on my dad that really went into who he is and what makes him tick. The focus is not so much Ozzy as it is John. That's the story I wanted to tell."
Ozzy, meanwhile, says he wanted the film to just be "honest. When Jack said he was gonna do it, I said, 'All I want you to do is don't make a film to make me happy. Make a film as you.' I didn't say, 'I don't like that, take that out.' Whatever he felt he wanted to do in, I didn't have anything to do with it whatsoever. I let him decide what to do with it."
Jack Osbourne started working on "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne" in November of 2007, lining up the cast of real-life characters he wanted to be part of the film, including the members of the band Black Sabbath -- which Ozzy fronted from 1968-79 -- and many of his father's musical colleagues, plus family members including Ozzy's sisters and the two children from his first marriage. Jack was even able to persuade older sister Aimee, who declined to be part of "The Osbournes" series and generally keeps a lower profile, to be interviewed.
"It took a bit of hemming and hawing," he says, "but I think she understood the importance of having her involved. It wouldn't have been the same without her."
Also taking part was Tony Dennis, Ozzy's longtime assistant who Jack says, "very much respects my dad's privacy. He doesn't like talking about him when he's not around, and it took him a long time to warm up to wanting to do this. But this is a guy who's been attached to my dad's hips since 1981. He's probably spent just as much time with my dad as my mum, so it was key to have him be part of it as well."
Then there was Ozzy himself, who proved to be a bit difficult for the filmmakers when the cameras were rolling.
"It took him about four months or so to kind of get in the groove of it," says Jack Osbourne, adding that, "My dad's been asked probably every possible question 9,000 times. So he had a go-to answer for everything already, and we were getting the go-to answers just like everybody else, which was frustrating.
"But after a year or so, a year of asking those same questions, he would get a little bit deeper and drop his guard down a bit more and...eventually cut through all the typical, go-to answers. He would not so much tell you what happened but tell you his feelings about the situations.
"That was the trick of this, and that's what kind of makes this (film) truly stand out -- it's not his go-to answers."
For his part, Ozzy Osbourne says that he simply finds being interviewed to be "very difficult...You don't want to look like a (expletive) head or you don't want to look like an idiot. So sometimes it works. It sometimes confuses me, to be honest, because my mind don't work like normal people. I'm crazy -- and proud of it!"
Jack Osbourne and the directors wound up spending two and a half years and accumulated more than 2,000 hours of interviews and performance footage, including some intimate backstage moments that show Ozzy preparing for concerts with calisthenics and vocal exercises. The commentary is frank and occasionally very emotional -- particularly an encounter between father and son when Ozzy points out to Jack that "you never wanted for anything" and Jack responds "except a proper father."
For the most part, however, Jack says he wasn't surprised by much of what the film brought out of Ozzy. "I've heard all these stories, from his perspective and everyone else's," he says. "We're very open with each other. There were very few secrets my dad ever kept from me." He was, however, taken aback by "the mount of crazy stuff" that happened between 1979, when Ozzy was fired by Black Sabbath, and 1983, when Aimee was born.
"That was a crazy, whirlwind three or four years," notes Jack. "He was fired from Sabbath, met my mum, started his own band and within a year released (the albums) 'Blizzard of Ozz' and 'Diary of a Madman,' (guitarist) Randy Rhoads died, he divorced from his first wife, married my mom, then had Aimee and went on the road with Motley Crue...
"When you look at it on paper, it's like there's no way one man could have experienced all that in such a short period of time. It's just madness."
Jack Osbourne says the soul-baring throughout the movie also inspired his dad to write his best-selling 2010 autobiography "I Am Ozzy." "He didn't want to do the book at all," Jack recalls. "then, when we started doing the documentary and he realized it wasn't that big of a deal, the stuff he was talking about, and it was a lot easier than he thought it would be, that's what got him thinking, 'Maybe a book isn't a bad idea.' They kind of went hand in hand with each other.
"So you have the book, where he said what he wanted to say, and in the movie you have a different perspective of what he said because of everyone else involved."
Jack Osbourne has ready answers for the couple of criticisms that are directed at "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne." He says more recent events, such as the OZZFest tour, Black Sabbath's reunion and later albums, are excluded "because it happened within the last 10 years and we didn't want to waste time talking about stuff a lot of people already knew about." And the film's length was an issue, he adds.
"The first cut ran two and a half hours," Jack notes. "When you make a documentary that long, you lose the non-fans. Fans could sit there all day long, but the non-fan is not going to have the patience and excitement to want to sit through two and a half hours of it. We had to make it something grandma would watch and say, 'That's really a good documentary. I learned something from that.'
"So we had to really pick and choose wisely what we wanted to use. I would have liked to make it into two movies."
Jack did, however, bow to one frequent fan complaint, adding some of his father's more recent comments about guitarist Rhoads' death in a March 1982 airplane crash to the DVD version of the film.
"People were frustrated there was nothing of my dad, present day, talking about Randy," Osbourne acknowledges. "In the film we used an archival clip. We have a really emotional (interview) where my dad gets really into talking about Randy and his death and what it meant to him, how he feels this massive level of guilt and remorse over it. So we put that in the DVD."
As "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne" rolls out for broader public consumption, Osbourne father and son have moved on to new projects. The original lineup of Black Sabbath is working together again, while Ozzy is also on the bestseller lists again with his second book, "Trust Me I'm Dr. Ozzy," which collects his unlikely health advice columns published in Rolling Stone magazine and Britain's Sunday Times.
Jack, meanwhile, is expecting his first child with fiance, Lisa Stelly, and is also looking for more projects for his Schweet Entertainment company to produce. He's talking to Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee about a documentary, and he has ideas for horror movies based on Black Sabbath songs.
He would also entertain returning to his father's life for a sequel to "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne."
"I absolutely would have no problem doing it," Jack says. "Maybe in a few years we could kind of revisit and see where things are. But I think I just need a break from it after working on (the film) for so long."
"God Bless Ozzy Osbourne" is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
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