Music fans love to get an inside look at the lifestyles of their idols, and the new documentary “It’s So Easy and Other Lies,” directed by Christopher Duddy, does not disappoint. The film is a vertiginous ride through the life and times of Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. Be warned ahead of time though, because some rides can leave you a little queasy at the end. This is no puff piece on the band, far from it. It’s a brutally honest look at the life lived by McKagan, his battles with substance abuse and his eventual triumph.
Set against the stirring yet unobtrusive melodies of the music of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, the film is about personal triumph and battling one’s inner demons, and winning. Fans of McKagans, Guns, and Revolver are probably well aware of his struggles, but this is still a must-see film, even for the casual and uninitiated. The film features some exclusive archival footage, interviews with the people who were closest to McKagan, and a very unique soundtrack.
I chatted briefly with director Christopher Duddy on the day of the film’s screening, ahead of its theatrical release on June 3. In an exclusive interview, Duddy takes me inside the making of the film, how he came to be involved with the story, and even his famous family. Connie Stevens and Eddie Fisher are his in-laws, and he is the half-brother-in-law of Carrie and Todd Fisher.
Ivor Levene (IL): At times, the film comes across as a Public Service Address against a lifestyle almost glamorized by a slew of rock stars. Whose idea was that? Is this film meant as a warning to those who may want to follow in those footsteps?
Christopher Duddy (CD): Duff is a survivor, and a big part of it is his story. He’s very open and honest about his life, and if it was up to him it would have been even more frank. Duff wants to inspire people.
(IL): Are you trying to shock the viewer in some ways? Some parts of the film are pretty graphic.
(CD): It’s a hard subject that’s being dealt with, and I think it’s very honorable that Duff is willing to expose the darker side of his life.
(IL): This film seems more like a book-reading than either a documentary or a biopic, was that deliberate?
(CD): We’re trying to do something different than just a documentary. If the investors and the distributors had it their way, it would have been a movie just about Guns N’ Roses.
(IL): Honestly, there were scenes that I found very unpalatable. Aren’t you afraid of losing the audience?
(CD): As a filmmaker I understand there’s a fine line between entertainment and something else, so there was a fine line with that between Duff and I.
(IL): What do you think the film will give the fans that the book didn’t?
(CD): Well, integrating his music into the live reading of the book is different, and I hope that viewers respond. The entire movie has “wall to wall” music in it, there isn’t a dry moment.
(IL): Do you think the musical component will attract more viewers, even if they’ve read the book?
(CD): Yes, definitely, especially since the music of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver are done in such a different way. There’s steel guitars, a string quartet, many different angles to the music. I think people will find that hearing the songs played that way is a very powerful experience.
(IL): Where was it recorded?
(CD): It was done at the House of Blues in Cleveland before the Rock and Roll hall of fame induction.
(IL): Most of the reviews [of the book] I’ve read feel that Duff holds back. Why didn’t you put more salacious scenes in it? I’m sure the average viewer wants to hear the inside dirt on the band.
(CD): Duff and I wanted to make absolutely certain that this was not a Guns N’ Roses documentary. If they decide to make that film, I’d be happy to oblige them. This movie is about one man’s journey through all of that salaciousness and how he came through it all.
(IL): How did you and Duff first meet?
(CD): We met walking our kids to school and eventually became friends. We’re both big sports fans and we would hang out and watch football games together. We’d become friends about five years before he wrote the book.
(IL): Did Duff have final cut on the film?
(CD): Yes, he did.
(IL): What is it like having Duff as a neighbor? Does it sometimes get loud in the hood?
(CD):No, he’s very down to earth and approachable. People really like Duff, it’s not like that at all. He’s actually quite eloquent and soft spoken.
(IL): Have you shown the film to your in-laws?
(CD): My Mother-in-law, Connie Stevens is going to see it for the first time tonight.
(IL): I’d love to be a fly on the wall and see what their reaction to all the debauchery is.
(CD): Well, they lived very similar experiences, with the salaciousness, the quick rise to fame, the tabloid journalism. They just did it in a different era.
(IL): The film is a bit of a departure for you, Sci-Fi is more your kind of genre isn’t it?
(CD): I just love the documentary form of storytelling. I recently did a couple of documentary films. This particular film happened kind of organically. Duff trusted me to make it because we were already friends. You have to have a lot of trust from the subject to make a film like this. There are a couple more documentaries I have my eye on to make.
Here’s a link to the official trailer: It’s So Easy And Other Lies – Official Trailer