What: Super Duper Alice Cooper
When: Monday, 6 p.m.
Where: Cineplex Odeon Victoria Cinemas, 780 Yates St.
Tickets: $14.95 (adult/senior), $12.95 (child)
Filmmakers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn have done on-camera interviews with some of the biggest names in music, from Elton John to Gene Simmons. But when it was time to turn a lens on their latest subject, Alice Cooper, the documentarians were thrown for something of a loop.
“He was a very different character for us,” Dunn said of Cooper. “Unlike the bands we’ve worked with in the past, such as Iron Maiden and Rush, Alice set out to be an entertainer, not a musician. He was interested in putting on a great show and bringing things to the stage that hadn’t been done before. That was at the forefront of his mind. And that was new for us.”
The mystique surrounding the shock rocker — whose stage antics included straitjackets, beheadings, and sundry horror film accoutrements — is the focus of Dunn and McFadyen’s fifth feature-length documentary, Super Duper Alice Cooper, a mind-warping trip through 18 influential years of Cooper’s life.
The performer’s on-stage and off-stage antics were such that it made for great filmmaking fodder, as it was during this era, from 1965 to 1983, that Cooper and his band shot to the forefront of music, eventually becoming the biggest band in the world at one point.
Cooper said he enjoyed pushing a few boundaries of his own during filming. He told the Times Colonist in November, prior to playing two sold-out shows at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre, that the experience of making the film is something he will remember fondly. Being open to what some might consider an unusual experience — and the animated excess of Super Duper Alice Cooper certainly qualifies in that regard — is part of what makes rock ’n’ roll such an interesting profession for the man born Vincent Fournier.
“Whether it’s appearing on The Muppets or a movie with Johnny Depp, I look at every project as what we can pull out of it to have some fun,” Cooper said in an interview with the Times Colonist.
“We have to keep within the boundaries of Alice Cooper, but I don’t mind stretching those boundaries a little bit.”
McFadyen said he loved exploring the polarity of what Cooper represents. Fans are aware of his shtick today, but when he arrived in the ‘60s it was a shock to the system, indeed. “When you think about Alice Cooper in the late ’60s, he really seems ahead of his time. This was something bizarre and new. It was a rich, interesting time in rock ’n’ roll history.”
Dunn and McFadyen, who worked alongside co-writer and co-director Reginald Harkema on the project, started putting the pieces of the film together two years ago. Super Duper Alice Cooper officially wrapped just before Christmas, after the animation elements — which are intercut with archival footage of Cooper in the film — required a full year of intense work. The finished product premiéred last weekend at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and will make its Canadian debut Monday as part of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America’s largest documentary festival.
The Cineplex Odeon in Victoria is one of 47 theatres across Canada carrying the Super Duper Alice Cooper simulcast at 6 p.m. on Monday. The Hot Docs screening will be followed by a live Q&A beamed out of Toronto featuring Cooper, Dunn, McFadyen and Harkema.
Seeing one of their films available in Victoria for family and friends is always a special moment for Dunn, a Vic High grad, and McFadyen, who met while living in Victoria during the 1990s. The friends were a big part of the Victoria music scene back then, and they have parlayed that into a thriving career as Toronto-based filmmakers. As the co-owners and operators of Banger Films, which now employs 30 staff, the pair have put their names to a string of successful documentaries over the company’s 10-year run, including 2005’s Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, 2008’s Global Metal, 2009’s Iron Maiden: Flight 666, and 2010’s Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.
Plenty of work is forthcoming for the pair. McFadyen said they recently inked contracts to make full-length documentaries on both Black Sabbath and Soundgarden, which will begin filming this summer. Those are the newest additions to a busy schedule that already includes a nearly completed documentary on Satan, the creation of Banger TV (programming for both online and broadcast platforms) and kids’ programming for the Family Channel.
The best part of being so busy is the constant influx of information, Dunn said. He knew a fair bit about Cooper going into the project, but he came away with a newfound respect for the rock ’n’ roll pioneer.
“Working on the film shed new light on that for me, as a music fan and filmmaker,” Dunn said. “His persona, who he is, is an artform.”
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