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Alice Cooper documentary is a "Super Duper" treat
Given his druthers, Alice Cooper says, "I don't live in the past at all."
But the Detroit-born shock rocker made an exception for the new documentary "Super Duper Alice Cooper" -- especially when the filmmakers pitched something other than a traditional documentary.
Instead, Toronto's Banger Films -- the folks who brought us the critically acclaimed "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage" and "Iron Maiden: Flight 666," among others -- called "Super Duper Alice Cooper" a "doc opera," eschewing talking heads and spicing the narrative with feature film and fantasy elements to enhance the narrative about the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's 46-year career.
"They came to us and said, 'You can't just do a documentary on Alice Cooper. You've got to make it something that's as theatrical as the character,' " says Cooper, 66, who was born Vincent Furnier and Detroit and moved to Phoenix with his family as a youth -- though he and his band returned to Detroit for a brief period from 1970-72.
"I said, 'I agree with that. What's your idea?' And they said, 'We love the idea of a Jeckyl and Hyde thing, 'cause you are Jeckyl and Hyde, basically. The guy who walks around all day and does interviews and plays golf and goes to church, that's Dr. Jeckyl. And your stage character is Mr. Hyde.'
"I said, 'Well, I love that. That's great.' And it certainly is not going to look like everyone else's documentary."
"Super Duper Alice Cooper" debuted April 17 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and rolls out for nationwide screenings this week in advance of its June DVD release. Banger's Sam Dunn says Cooper's longtime manager Shep Gordon approached him with the idea of a Cooper documentary at the 2011 Classic Rock Awards in Britain, where the Rush film was honored. Gordon promised full cooperation and access to both people and a treasure trove of footage and artifacts from Cooper's ground-breaking blend of rock 'n' roll and macabre theatrics.
"It definitely stretched our creative boundaries in ways we never imagined," says Dunn, who shared directing duties with Scot McFadyen and Reginald Harkema. "We wanted to do something different. We felt that Alice is such a visual character, and creating something theatrical is absolutely integral to Alice's DNA. He just seemed a perfect fit for tacking people into this archival world, and rather than doing your conventional talking-head approach, we wanted people to feel like they were living in the world of Alice at any particular time during his career, like they're living in the moment with him."
Dunn says that bringing in Harkema, whose background is more in feature filmmaking than documentary, was key to making "Super Duper Alice Cooper" more of a narrative experience.
"I wasn't indoctrinated with the sort of standard documentary ethics," Harkema explains. "After we'd done some interviews and no one was giving us the same story, I said, 'Let's do a mythology of Alice -- whoever tells the best story wins, that's the story we'll use.' And his music just lends itself so well to that."
"Super Duper Alice Cooper" includes extensive interviews with Cooper, manager Gordon and original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, as well as commentary from Elton John, Iggy Pop, John Lydon and Twisted Sister's Dee Snyder. The "Holy Grail" moment for the filmmakers, meanwhile was getting Bernie Taupin, John's longtime lyricist, to talk about his role in hooking Cooper on cocaine while they were working on the 1978 album "From the Inside," which sent the singer into a downward spiral that almost cost him his marriage as well as his life.
Cooper, meanwhile, was also moved by Dunaway's comments about feeling slighted when he wasn't included in Cooper's 1973 collaboration with Salvador Dali, who they both admired while studying art in high school.
"There were some flinches, a couple of stingers," acknowledges Cooper. But he and Gordon never exerted any editorial control over the project.
"We gave them the right to say what they felt, and we weren't going to go back in and change it just to save our own egos," says the father of three, who's written two memoirs. "When you get into something like this, every once in awhile you get punched in the nose, and you go, 'OK, next time I'll duck...' "
"Super Duper Alice Cooper" is just the start of a busy year for Cooper, which includes serving as the special guest for Motley Crue's Farewell Tour, which currently stretches into November. He's also "99 percent done" with his next album, a concept set that will pay tribute to his fellow "Hollywood vampires" of the early and mid-70s -- including John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and others -- which will feature four new songs and covers of those artists' material. Cooper is currently adding guests ("Some huge names that we never really had the guts to call") to the recordings, with no clear timetable for its release.
"There's no hurry to put this thing out right now, 'cause we've got the (Motley Crue) tour and of course we want to wrap a show around (the album)," Cooper says. "So it'll have to wait, but I don't think it will lose anything."
"Super Duper Alice Cooper" begins screening at theaters nationwide on Wednesday, April 30, and opens May 2 at Cinema Detroit in the Burton Theater, 3420 Cass Ave., Detroit. Call 313-281-8301 or visit www.cinemadetroit.com and www.superduperalicecooper.com for details. Cooper performs with Motley Crue on Aug. 9 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Independence Township and on Nov. 8 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Tickets, priced $20-$75, are still available for the latter; call 313-741-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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