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Filmmaker Todd Haynes has already explored the likes of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Bob Dylan in his fictionalized dramas, Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There, respectively. The latter even earned Cate Blanchett an Oscar nomination for her uncanny portrayal of Dylan.
Now, it’s being reported that Haynes will shine his spotlight on Lou Reed and his influential early band, the Velvet Underground, in a new documentary film. It will be Haynes’ second attempt at working in the doc format after providing a segment for HBO’s Six by Sondheim.
Lou Reed formed the Velvet Underground in 1964 New York, along with multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison and Angus MacLise on drums, but a year later, Moe Tucker would replace the latter. The band would be together for a couple years before releasing their 1967 album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, produced by artist Andy Warhol and featuring the German chanteuse and model Nico on vocals with Reed. The album was met with general indifference when first released but over the next few decades, it would become hugely influential on other bands.
The group broke up in 1973 for Reed to pursue a solo career, while Cale would become a prolific record producer, but the band reunited for a number of tours throughout the nineties after Reed and Cale made Songs for Drella for their late friend, Warhol.
Cale and Tucker are currently the only surviving members of the group after Morrison’s passing in 1995 and Reed’s in 2013, so it will be interesting to find out whom Haynes might talk to in order to put together a definitive history of the group. (Or he might take a more artistic approach ala I’m Not There, which would also be appropriate considering the Underground’s presence in the New York art scene.)
Warhol filmed the group quite extensively during the sixties, and besides the two surviving members of the group, a few others who were part of that scene fifty years ago are still around. Rock manager Danny Fields, the subject of last year’s documentary, Danny Says, spoke about Reed’s early muse, Nico, in that film.
Haynes will work with his long-time collaborator, producer Christine Vachon of Killer Films, as well as David Blackman and the Universal Music Group on the documentary.
Variety spoke with Haynes at the Locarno Film Festival, where the filmmaker was honored with the festival’s Pardo d’onore Manor prize, as well as screening his latest film, Wonderstruck.
“They’re the most influential of bands,” Haynes told them about his interest in the group. “As Brian Eno said, everybody who bought [‘Velvet Underground & Nico’] started a band.” He also referred to them as “a truly experimental cross-section of film, contemporary art, and a rejection of mainstream consumer culture at a very rich and fertile time of the 1960s in New York City.”
Haynes wouldn’t say more about a separate limited television series he was developing with Amazon but hinted that it would be about “an intensely important figure of immense historical and cultural influence.”
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor