This movie retrospective special appeared in the 2002 Xmas issue of Scorpywag.And The Walls Screamed Poetry…...a Doors Movie retrospective
We all know how much passion Oliver Stones Doors movie invokes in Doors fans around the world but what exactly did the likes of Oliver and star Val Kilmer think about the project in those heady days in the Spring of 1991 when the world got its first glimpse of James Douglas Morrison on the big screen.
Scorpywag takes an in depth look at the project and gives all involved a say!Screen Shots
….what was said about the movie!
"Spectacular filmmaking. Staggering performance by Val Kilmer!"
Joel Siegel, Good Morning America.
Kilmer concedes he used a few tricks in his portrayal of Jim such as guzzling ‘iced tea’ from a Jack Daniels bottle while he delved into Morrison’s drunken side. Cheating with tea is one thing but some Doors purists complained about liberties taken for ‘dramatic’ purposes.
Rolling Stone 1991
“If we can trust Oliver Stone's new bio-film, "The Doors," life for Jim Morrison was like being trapped for months at a time in the party from hell. He wanders out of the sun's glare, a curly haired Southern California beach boy with a cute pout and a notebook full of poetry. He picks up a beer, he smokes a joint, and then life goes on fast-forward as he gobbles up drugs and booze with both hands, while betraying his friends and making life miserable for anyone who loves him. By the age of 27 he is dead. Watching the movie is like being stuck in a bar with an obnoxious drunk, when you're not drinking.
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times 1991
Val Kilmer delivers what was considered one of 1991's best performances as Jim Morrison in Stone's hallucinatory bio-pic of the seminal 1960s rock group The Doors.
Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide
Camera as all-seeing god, satisfies our longing for omniscience.
To spy on others from this height and angle: pedestrians pass in and out of our lens like rare aquatic insects
©James Douglas Morrison.
There has never been such a grand-scale rock bio-pic.
Thankfully Stone’s end-product is a mesmerising, inventive movie that does justice to the creative spirit of it’s subject.
Andrew Perry, Select Magazine 1991. "Hey Hey we're The Monkee's"
“For 10 years Ray has been the one who’s promoted the idea of making a movie and now he’s feeling the fear of turning it over to someone else. Robby was against it for a long time but he’s cautiously coming round. And now I’m getting scared as it comes to fruition. Finally it’s in the hands of Oliver Stone. Even though he’s an excellent film-maker I still worry that the film will use Jim’s dark side to overshadow what he really was trying to say. As a friend of mine said ‘they’re going to take your six year career and squash it down to two hours and then blow it up to the size of a two storey building…is that going to be reality.’ I just hope when it’s done it has some sense of truth to it.”
John Densmore from ‘Riders On The Storm’ 1990,
“Val’s an asshole and I don’t like what he’s been saying in interviews but he really pulled it off in the movie. Oliver got the performance of this kid’s life.
It may not be The Doors story as Ray, John, Robby or even myself would have it but it’s a valid interpretation and it’s the best rock n roll movie I’ve ever seen.”
Danny Sugerman. May 1991.
The story of ‘The Doors’ movie is one of pissing contests and soaring egos, of complicated ‘fuck you’ option deals and people changing partners and sides, of Indians dancing on Malibu beach and an aging rock star dancing on Morrison’s grave. It is the story of parents and siblings along with the surviving Doors and who knows how many agents and lawyers and movie biz types. All sides talking about karma and curses and the forces of evil and light bickering over the Morrison myth and who has the right to do what with it.
Jerry Hopkins 1990.
As a lavish extended promo of the band it’s a wet dream for all those that wallow in the mire of the Morrison myth but as a document to offer any understanding of the man the times or any insight into that myth it’s worthless.
Patrick Humphries reviews the movie. Vox Doors Special, May 1991.
“What can Val know of being fat all his life and suddenly one summer taking so much LSD and waking up a Prince? Val has always been a Prince so he can’t have the Glow. When you’ve never been a mud lark it’s just not the same.”
Eve Babitz, Esquire Magazine 1991.Cinema is the most totalitarian of the arts
©James Douglas Morrison.
“There will be Doors movies and hopefully there will be the Jim Morrison screen biography but that won’t happen for a while. And it won’t be Travolta!”
Ray Manzarek. Creem Summer 1981.
Would you like to see a movie made?
“No! The definitive movie is very frightening.
John Densmore. Creem Summer 1981.
“I put a curse on it. Scoff all you like but for 20 years there was no movie!”.
Patricia Kennealy. ‘The Road to Excess’ The appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death.
©James Douglas Morrison.
“They sent me to a guitar coach in New York, called Elliot Randall. It mainly went that I held the guitar and he drank. From this I met Robby Krieger and he and I became friends. I spent a lot of time at his house and he showed me how to hold my fingers on the guitar. He was very specific about that; he wanted it to look real. During the first scene I was really apprehensive about it all and hoping the camera would just swing by me. By the time we got to the New Haven scene I was fucking Eddie Van Halen.”
Frank Whaley. ‘The Road To Excess’ The Doors Movie Documentary.
Certainly the movie works well though it may be right to surmise that Stone’s bleak depiction may owe much to the fact that he spent some of the 60’s removed from the optimistic ambience of The Doors in Vietnam.
Worth watching certainly but as with any good myth you’ll have to search for the seeds of truth within.
James Blandford. Record Collector Doors Special July 2002.
“They’re not going to make a movie as far as I know. I wouldn’t want to see anyone play Jim.”
Robby Krieger. Creem Summer 1981
Veteran Of The Psychic Wars!
In the Spring of 1991 Paul Rothchild spoke to Allan Varela about the daunting task of turning Hollywood actor Val Kilmer into the legendary Lizard King .
One of the most intriguing aspects of ‘The Doors’ production is director Oliver Stone’s calling on the many talents of Paul A. Rothchild as the feature’s musical producer and his intimate knowledge of the original music - and of Jim Morrison - provided insight into the production’s toughest question: how to convincingly capture the cloudy, intense, emotional performances of Jim Morrison on film. Rothchild produced all the music, and trained the actors who were playing the musicians. This effort paled in comparison with his work in the shaping of Val Kilmer.
“I worked with Val for six months before we started shooting I trained him in singing the role of Jim Morrison. Ninety-five percent of the time you see Val singing, it is his voice - not pre-produced, not post production; it’s Val live, singing on camera.”
This decision was not arrived at easily - the enormous cost of the shoot alone should dictate a safer production through lip syncing. Allowing an actor to actually sing the part of a rock legend such as the idiosyncratic Morrison was both bold and risky, but yielded wonderful results.
“In the very early stages, when I first met Oliver, he asked me: ‘How should we record Val? Should he lip sync to Jim or what?’ I said that I have been waiting for a director to ask me that question for 15 or 20 years now. I said that I’m fairly certain about one thing, and that is that its’ going to be bizarre to see an actor performing and hear Jim Morrison’s voice come out of his mouth.”
The game was afoot and a simple plan was devised.
“Stone asked what should we do, and I said that I would like to work with Val and
pre-record the vocals, and when we are on shoots, I would like to see if we could do it live. He said, ‘well that’s pretty risky.’ I said, ‘Well in three weeks you have a hair and makeup test coming up. Let me
pre-produce a vocal and we’ll go on the sound stage and have him [Val] lip sync to Jim, lip sync to himself, and just sing live to the track.’ Stone said ‘good idea,’ and I did just that.” Film spectators are quiet vampires
©James Douglas Morrison.
The pre-record was done in Hollywood, with Bruce Botnick the original engineer on the Doors albums.
“We did some excellent pre-production on the song ‘Backdoor Man,’ on the appointed day Val lip synced to Jim’s original performance, he lip synced to his own performance, and then he sang live. Then we took the tapes away, converted them [the vocals] to digital, and the first thing I did was work on the lip sync to Jim’s part. I broke the vocal [Jim’s] up into segments, and moved bits of the vocal around so that they sat as best as possible to Val’s mouth imitation. I did the same with Val’s pre-produced vocal. We moved it around and I brought Val in and we tweaked some of the lines until we got some better performances. Then I mixed all three of them with a really nice stereo sound for a screening room.”
The day of reckoning happened, and the three versions were screened.
“At the end of hearing the tune the three different ways, Oliver was behind me and he smacked me on the back and said, ‘Well what do you think?’ I said it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what you think. He said, ‘I only know one thing. We can’t have Jim Morrison’s voice coming out of Val’s face.’”
The straight lip-syncing approach using Morrison’s original performance was now out of the race.
“I think he thought that I had so many hours into the pre-record that I would want to go that way. Finally, I said, to tell the truth, if we can film and record him live on camera, I think we can get a minimum of 40 percent which we can then fix in post-production. Every inch that we get is worth its weight in gold.”
Stone’s reply was ‘let’s go for the gold’. The Doors live-performance production approach was in place, and recreating a legend began.
“Across the months, Val learned to sing all the songs, and, in addition to teaching him all the nuances and idiosyncrasies of Jim’s singing and pronunciations, we spent hundreds of hours talking about Jim’s personality and what drove him, and how he’d react in certain situations. We weren’t trying to clone Jim’s vocal, which would be a very difficult thing to do. We wanted it to be the essence of the character, and we have won very big. The consistent comment from the screenings has been that you can’t tell, and after ten minutes of the film, you don’t care. And that’s music to all of our ears. Jim’s humour, which existed was the smaller part of drunken insanity and level headed intellectualism. But all of Jim’s aspects are represented in the film.
To what degree? It depends on which blind person is presenting their view of the elephant. The Softer Jim- the Gentleman Jim- there could have been a little bit more of that perhaps.”
Paul Rothchild, often called the fifth Door because his significant contribution to the music of the band, died in March of 1995. He was only 59. Actors must make us
think they're real
Our friends must not
make us think we’re acting.
©James Douglas Morrison.
All Hail The American Night.
Val Kilmer recalls what it was to be ‘The Lizard King’ for a day….“For Christ's sake Oliver if I drink anymore of this cold tea I will piss my pants. How many bloody takes do you want of me sitting on a fucking stool!!”
What did you know about Jim Morrison?
“A few things. I hadn't read any biographies, I hadn't observed his life
close-up…Instead, I often listened to his songs which was a very useful teaching tool because they were a valid intimate journal. I believe that the fact that I never met him was an advantage. When we began pre-recording the songs, I learned them from Jim Morrison's point of view, not from mine.”
“Someone gave me his biography on several occasions, but I always lost it. I did not own any of "the Doors" albums. Living in California, I knew of their success… Instead, my nanny, a veteran from Vietnam, who used to be an Arts student was really into rock and roll.Films have an illusion of timelessness fostered by their regular indomitable appearance
©James Douglas Morrison.
At the age of seven, he explained to me that the "Purple Haze" (purple fog) was when you are stoned. He once showed me a poster in the dark that had "The Doors" logo on it, and I was unable to see it or read it. He said that this type of graphics hid important life concepts…I also remember having passed by the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, when "The Doors" were in concert. I was eight years old at the time. There was a big traffic jam, and I wondered why so many people were in a rush to see… "The Doors ".
At the time I didn't know they were a musical group.”
How did you work your voice and your body?
“I listened to a lot of records. I smoked quite a few cigarettes and that - the smoking - stayed with me unfortunately! And I copied his voice in much the same way as I would learn an accent. With a lot of work, I got it. I found Jim's voice. Whenever people see me singing, it's really me singing. It's live. Oliver was counting a lot on the spontaneity and the authenticity, especially in the concert scenes. Everything was pre-recorded just in case but I ended up performing it all live. It is all a thing of imagination and one can have the tendency to underestimate it. Physically, I enjoyed myself a lot when I had to gain wait to incarnate Jim Morrison at the end of his life. When he is in a stupor, intoxicated by alcohol and drugs, he resembles Karl Marx. The make-up artists took Polaroid's and showed them to the Doors guitarist and to Alan Ronay to get their approval. They were amazed by the resemblance and that helped me a lot.”
In your opinion, is Morrison a poet, a singer, a rebel or a religion?
“It's a mix of all that. Depending on the circumstances, one personality would take over where the other one left off. He was a very cultured man, with an eclectic spirit.
He had an unbelievable capacity to assimilate, when we consider to what extent he could pollute his spirit and his body.
And yet he was still always able to throw himself into deep intellectual and spiritual discussions.
The basis for his art came from his knowledge and understanding of classical authors. He had a passion for Greek theatre. His Dionysian aspect went with him everywhere - in the street, on the beach or at home. His name, Morrison, is the synthesis of a Scottish word that is used to describe a party where everyone slept with everyone else. I believe that when he found this out he told himself - 'There's my true roots, I will live this way as well.’”
What are the dangers of playing such a legendary person on screen?
“ Of course, we take the risk of people saying: No he wasn't like this or that. There, it was invented. Luckily, Oliver had cleared the air. He is a man who is meticulous. and a real expert when it comes to the sixties and he checked out everything that was real or truthful in Jim's life. Myself, I wasn't shy about bringing to life a person who had really existed. I also spoke to people who were close to him such as Paul Rothchild, who was the Doors producer.
We were neighbours in Los Angeles, and the both of us lived about two hundred metres from the place where Morrison lived. All of L.A. is nothing but one immense remnant of the Doors.
This hotel, this restaurant, this building, their imprint is everywhere.
Paul taught me a lot about him, his troubles, his passions…
And furthermore, I met Alan Ronay, who shared a room with Jim when he was studying film at UCLA and who was with him, in Paris, when he died. He was without a doubt his best friend. He and Paul gave many suggestions about an attitude, an intonation, and the clothing.…”
Do you not think he was a prisoner of his own image?
“Certainly. The famous Miami concert in '69 where he was arrested for exhibitionism and drunkenness certainly hit him hard.
The audience was already illuminated - in a trance. It didn't really matter if the Doors played or not. They had just seen the Lizard King.
That's all that mattered to them. A Morrison that he had created for himself and that was not really fundamentally him. He once said, 'People came more to see my butt than to listen to my words.'
He had to live with his deformed image. We have to be careful what we wish for because we take the risk that someday we may get precisely that.
In the beginning, to his way of thinking, it was simple: 'Let's form a group and make a lot of money,' and then boom, a year later, the success, the hit record and everything spiralled out of control. Even today, it represents something unbelievable. He was a politician of provocation and eroticism - a kind of genius. A very gentle guy too caught up in his own image.”
You have said that it was the leather pants that killed Jim Morrison.
What do you mean by that?
“In the way that Oliver chose to tell this story (It could be told a 100 different ways and they would still all be right), it means that Jim went so far, had so much success in this aspect, that it was then impossible for him to back up the machine.
He had become a prisoner of the image he had forged for himself. He was cornered. It was a whirlpool of recording sessions, drugs and concerts...He was more an actor in the way he lived his life than a singer. I would like to believe that in his last hours he could have resolved his agonies. In coming to Paris, he was searching for a change; he wanted to change his skin.
In rock music, similarly as in the movie business, when you do something right, people always want you to do the exact same thing again.
And for him, like me, this point of view was totally ridiculous.”
Is it true you have a double in the scenes where we see Morrison nude. (laughs)
“I have a double. I arranged that the day that Oliver turned this scene into a longer bedroom scene. It is not my butt but it is definitely my voice.” (laughs)
How did you get rid of Jim Morrison's character?
“I put the leather pants and the cowboy boots in the closet and I cut my hair.
It was that simple.”
Val Kilmer in conversation with Michel Rebichon in 1991.
“Part of what made it easy to play Jim
was that he was a brilliant actor.
He acted a lot. He didn’t want people to know him and he presented something which prevented you from getting close.”
Val Kilmer- Doors Movie DVD Featurette.“Ray will you just fuck off! Oliver! How the hell can I concentrate on my Indian dance with him picking fault with every bloody step!
I thought you said Ray was banned from the set after he laced your tea with LSD &Yak piss!. “
J.L. One of the most remarkable performances of the 1990s was Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Jim Morrison in the film ‘The Doors’.
How much do you know about Morrison.
V.K. “Not much bizarrely. I didn’t much care for the songs on the radio though I was a real fan at 8,9,10 of Rock & Roll.
I read the bio they gave me and talked to a lot of people.”
This was the most fiercely contested role of that decade. Did you want the part?
“Yeah! The conversations I had with Oliver Stone made me concerned that he might want to promote substance abuse. I didn’t believe in that. I didn’t want to play the role in that style.”
You went to the trouble of videoing an audition tape.
“That was more for the singing than the acting. Because they were a very live band and Morrison was a very brilliant student, very erudite with a strong sense of what theatre was and these ideas interested him. Trying to reach for a feeling rather than a performance. I thought it important to capture that feeling.”
Val Kilmer talking to James Lipton ‘Inside The Actors Studio’.
What was it like to play Jim Morrison?
"Playing him is like drinking muddy water out of an old boot. A unique experience, but not one you'd want to repeat everyday."
Val Kilmer interviewed by Exposure Magazine, 1991. "Ray! No you can NOT operate the clapperboard and this DOES NOT
taste like fucking tea!"