Internal fighting, therapy sessions and tumultuous making of the band's latest album are headed to the big screen in the documentary "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster." An unflinching, warts-and-all look at the band, the film will be part of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and will be released next year in theaters.
As previously reported, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky directed the film. The duo also directed the HBO documentaries "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" and "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations," both of which prominently featured Metallica's music.
A rough cut of the "Monster" was shown at private screenings Thursday (Dec. 11) in New York and Los Angeles. Billboard.com was among those who got an early look at the film.
Filmed across more than two years, the film mostly chronicles the band's ups and downs in making the band's 2003 Elektra release "St. Anger," and takes its title from one of the album's songs. On screen, singer/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich often clash, with lead guitarist Kirk Hammett usually acting as peacemaker. Sessions are interrupted for several months as Hetfield goes into rehab for alcoholism and other addictions.
Struggles with artistic credibility, the Napster controversy and accusations of "selling out" are presented for all to see. In one scene, manager Cliff Burnstein pressures the band to record promotional announcements for an unnamed radio conglomerate's contest. When Burnstein explains that the company may retaliate by trying to ruin the band's career, Hetfield's anger and surprise inspires him to write the lyrics, "Wash your back so you won't stab mine" for the "St. Anger" track "Sweet Amber."
Besides the members of Metallica, other key figures in the film are producer Bob Rock and therapist Phil Towle, whom Metallica paid $40,000 a month to help resolve tension in the band. Towle's ubiquitous presence is notable, as he even spends time in the studio and in songwriting sessions with Metallica.
During one therapy session, Ulrich meets with Dave Mustaine, who was fired from Metallica in 1983 and went on to form Megadeth. Mustaine talks about the anger and pain he has experienced because of being labeled as a Metallica reject. The band also deals with the exit of longtime bassist Jason Newsted, who quit in 2001 and is also featured in the movie.
Auditions to replace Newsted see several notable players try out for the band, including Eric Avery (formerly of Jane's Addiction), ex-Marilyn Manson
guitarist Twiggy Ramirez, Nine Inch Nails
' Danny Lohner and Pepper Keenan of Corrosion Of Conformity fame.
Ulrich admits Suicidal Tendencies' Robert Trujillo was ultimately chosen because he was the only one who auditioned who did not struggle to play Metallica songs. Hetfield adds that Trujillo makes the band play better and his presence brings a new, more positive energy to the band that lightens the tone of the film.
"Monster" details that despite problems, undeniable bandmember camaraderie and underlying mutual respect has allowed Metallica to survive. Honored with an "MTVicon" tribute and performing to sold out stadiums at the film's conclusion, shows the band where it is at its best: playing live. The adoration, undoubtedly crucial to healing some of the wounds, seems to be the fuel that keeps the band going.
In addition to this documentary, the inner workings of Metallica will also be revealed in the group's first official autobiography, tentatively titled "So What! The Metallibook by Metallica." Random House subsidiary Broadway Books will publish the book in August 2004.
-- Carla Hay, N.Y.