Scorsese Takes An Intimate Look at the Biggest Rock and Roll Band

Mick JaggerScorsese Shines a Light on Jagger. Richards Like No Other

By Robin Rowe for Hollywood Today

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA (RUSHPRNEWS) 4/05/08 – “We started to think, if we’re going to do this, we might as well start with a really top-flight filmmaker,” says Mick Jagger. “Martin Scorsese is perhaps the most talented American film director, and the Rolling Stones is, you know, a good rock band, with a vintage approach to things. The combination of the two would hopefully make an interesting couple hours.”

“We had this stunning meeting in my hotel room,” says Jagger. “There was a storm. The wind was blowing. There was a window that wouldn’t close. The curtains were blowing and the chandeliers were wobbling. We talked about shooting in 3-D and shooting in IMAX, because it was such a big event. I was focused on this big event because I thought it was different. Marty seemed very excited by this idea.” Jagger’s “big event” was the Rolling Stones “Bigger Bang” tour, the group’s biggest concert ever. 

 However, Scorsese had other ideas. “Every time I saw them perform, sometimes further back, sometimes they’d actually bring me on stage, I became more and more obsessed with getting it on film,” says Martin Scorsese. “We did talk about making an official tour film, but at a certain point, I thought making something more intimate would be more suited to me as a filmmaker…a more personal connection between the audience and the band. I went to see the show again, and I’m sitting there, and the band is this small on the screen. They’ve got 50 cameras already. What am I going to bring to that?”
“Marty came back and said he’d been thinking about it and what he really wanted to do was shoot something more intimate,” says Jagger. “It took me quite a long while to get used to the idea because I was rather fixated on this huge show. In my mind, it was an amazing thing for a filmmaker to shoot because there was so much stuff in the event in Brazil. On the beach there was so much action, and there were so many people. There was so much music of every different kind. He had to convince me. He said, ‘This is kind of my forté, to shoot these intimate things’.”
Keith Richards was more amenable to Scorsese’s suggestion to play on a smaller stage, especially so since the suggestion was the Beacon Theatre in New York where Richards had performed with his solo band the X-pensive Winos. “The idea of doing it at the Beacon was great and very warm to my heart since I worked there with the Winos,” says Keith Richardson. “We did five nights there so I knew the room.” Richardson came up with some of the key dramatic lighting schemes, such as a “wall of light” that Jagger bursts through on his entrance through a door at the rear of the theater.

To shoot the Rolling Stones at the Beacon, Scorsese had more than 18 cameras under the direction of DP Robert Richardson, who won Academy Awards for “The Aviator” and “JFK”. The cameras were operated by some of the top directors of photography in the motion picture business, including Albert Maysles, who had directed the Stones in “Gimme Shelter”, two-time Oscar winner John Toll, Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie, , Oscar nominee Stuart Dryburgh, Oscar winner Robert Elswit, Oscar nominee Emmanuel Lubezki and Ellen Kuras (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). “I wanted to see the music,” says Scorsese. “But, you have to be cognizant and aware that if you put five cameras in front of a person, and you’re moving one way and he another, there’s a good chance he will run into the camera. It was a matter of trial and error and, at times, very funny.”

“All those cameras also helped us with our focus issue,” says Scorsese. “The Stones are so quick and wonderfully spontaneous. It would be a pity if we got the move but it wasn’t in focus. So, if we had a designated camera position, Richardson would say, ‘Let’s have a back-up right above it,’ and the double camera was primarily for focus. The primary images camera came from maybe seven or eight cameras and the rest were filling in, helping and hoping and trying to get the best compositions in impossible situations.”

Rolling Stones songs often turn up in Scorsese’s movies. “He’s used the Rolling Stones’ music in many of his films and has such a tremendous respect for their songs,” says producers Victoria Pearman. “He was a joy, very easy to work with,” says guitarist Ronnie Wood. “I liked his street cred. He’s just like a grown-up school kid. His attitude was very loose, like, let’s have a laugh, go for it and see what comes out. He’s a very warm guy to be around and I think that brings out the best in you, whatever that might be. He makes you feel comfortable, even with all those cameras. Anywhere you looked there was a huge tripod with a giant machine on it and someone signaling to somebody else. You just had to concentrate on the music, really, which was what Marty wanted.”

“Performing to me is something you’re born with in some ways,” says Jagger. “You can learn some of it, and you have to…but ultimately, I think that performing urge is within you and the best shows are from people who just naturally take to it. I don’t know where the energy comes from, it’s just there.” Martin Scorsese chases that energy in the Rolling Stones concert documentary “Shine A Light”.

Distributor: Paramount Classics

Release date: April 3, 2008

Duration: 120 minutes

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, drug references and smoking.
Robin Rowe is a co-founder of ScreenPlayLab (


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