Green Day are still one of the biggest rock bands on the planet and they further proved that with the release of their Broadway show “American Idiot” based on their successful 2004 album. While there were some skeptics, the show has been a huge success. This year the guys have another hit on their hands with “Broadway Idiot,” the documentary that shows the beginnings of the production and Billie Joe putting it all the line. The director of the film Doug Hamilton, shares his thoughts on the production, how the film came about, and what effect he wants the film to have on audiences.
How were you approached to do the film?
Doug Hamilton: I knew the creative team making “American Idiot” and I normally work as a photographer in Broadway. I worked with Michael Mayer on “Spring Awakening” and we were taking some photos and getting some video footage because we thought it would be great to have that early process documented. People don't realize how much theater changes and evolves in the early process and I hope this film helps people understand that.
How was it working with Billie Joe Armstrong and the rest of the cast?
DH: It was amazing. Billie Joe surprised me with just how open and generous he was. There was no rock star stuff. He was really present and he was there as an artist with no attitude. He wanted to work with this group of people and was around all the time because the cast became his friends. He really got pulled into the world of theater because he was isolated with these people to get this work done. The film gives a sense of what it's like on the inside. We were in that room; you're with the actors. You're not watching some expert talk about trends in Broadway. This wasn't a vanity project, but rather this huge meaningful thing for Billie Joe.
Ever since its premiere at the South by Southwest festival the film has gotten numerous rave reviews. As a director how excited were you to hear that the film was going over so well?
DH: It was very gratifying, not just the reviews but the reactions of the audience as well. Normally I work in television where you work alone or with a small group of people and it's broadcasted, but you never feel the reaction. To be in a room with 1,200 people who are into it, laughing at parts that I never even thought of, and getting completely absorbed by the film— I get to be a part of that and it's very gratifying.
A lot of people weren’t sure what to think about “American Idiot” as a Broadway production. What did you think of the idea when you first heard it?
DH: As a fan of theater and of Broadway I thought it was a cool idea; I never would've thought of that. I'm not the Green Day fan that wanted to protect that album. The main story of the film is Billie being skeptical but saying take my baby and get creative with it. He's so generous and likes to do things differently, to break barriers, and to keep trying new things and he knew he needed to do that with this film. He and Mayer had an amazing connection and was willing to support that. Once he saw the process he got really excited to be a part of it.
What was the most difficult part of filming?
DH: The struggle all along was at different times you think you know the story you're going after, but you start to question it. I thought there was going to be an interesting clash between the two cultures and I was surprised when that didn't happen. Then you think what's going to be the tension, what's going to keep the audience going? This process continued throughout the edit. We wanted to do more than a “making of” film, so we focused more on Billie Joe's story. We had to give up scenes that we loved to make sure the film is a fun ride. We also wanted to give the audience a chance to see some of the stage numbers. It's coming out in theaters and anyone who can see it in a theater will see it's a difference experience. It's big, the stage was big, so I encourage people to see it in different ways and see how they think it comes out.
Fans in the Green Day community have been excited about this film since its release earlier this year. Will there be a home video release?
DH: There will be a DVD. I was just working on it with a booklet with behind the scenes photos. There are multiple ways people can own this. As of the 11th people can own it on iTunes.
What is the goal of this film? What do you want the audience to come away with after watching it?
DH: There are a lot of people who wanted to see the production and didn't get to. I hope it's inspiring to people about theater and how exciting it can be and how exciting art can be. It's fun to get to see something new getting made. Hopefully, there are lessons for people that they can apply to their own world and own work. When you look at the finished product of a project it sometimes seems unapproachable, but when they see the process they can see how much work goes into production.
“Broadway Idiot” is available on demand now. You can get your digital copy from iTunes or Amazon. The film is also being shown in select theaters around the country. The film will play in Chicago November 1 at the Music Box Theater. Tickets have yet to go on sale. To learn more about the film, see the trailer, and to see where else it's playing, visit the official website.