'Super Duper Alice Cooper' Explores the Mythology of Rock's Jekyll and Hyde
Alice and "Super" director talk about the new "doc opera" premiering at Tribeca. "You can't just do a documentary on Alice Cooper"
You wouldn't expect a film about Alice Cooper to be a normal documentary, would you?
Of course not. So here comes "Super Duper Alice Cooper," an authorized project that its makers -- Banger Films, the folks behind "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage" and "Iron Maiden: Flight 666," among others -- have dubbed a "doc opera."
"They came to us and said, 'You can't just do a documentary on Alice Cooper. You've got to make it something that's as theatrical as the character,' " Cooper tells Billboard. "I said, 'I agree with that. What's your idea?' And they said, 'We love the idea of a Jekyll and Hyde thing, 'cause you are Jekyll and Hyde, basically. The guy who walks around all day and does interviews and plays golf and goes to church, that's Dr. Jekyll. And your stage character is Mr. Hyde.' I said, 'Well, I love that. That's great.' And it certainly is not going to look like everyone else's documentary."
"Super Duper Alice Cooper" -- directed by Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen and Reginald Harkema -- debuts Thursday [April 17] at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, with a showing on April 22 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles and screenings at theaters around the country starting on April 30. The revealing film includes a load of rare footage, extensive interviews with Cooper, manager Shep Gordon and original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, as well as commentary from Elton John, Iggy Pop, John Lydon, Dee Snyder and Bernie Taupin, the latter of whom talks for the first time about his role in hooking Cooper on cocaine while they were working on the 1978 album "From the Inside."
"It definitely stretched our creative boundaries in ways we never imagined," says Banger's Dunn, who was approached by Gordon about the project. "We wanted to do something different. We felt that Alice is such a visual character, and creating something theatrical is absolutely integral to Alice's DNA. He just seemed a perfect fit for tacking people into this archival world, and rather than doing your conventional talking-head approach, we wanted people to feel like they were living in the world of Alice at any particular time during his career, like they're living in the moment with him."
Dunn says that bringing in Harkema, whose background is more in feature filmmaking than documentary, was key to making "Super Duper Alice Cooper" more of a narrative experience. "I wasn't indoctrinated with the sort of standard documentary ethics," Harkema explains. "After we'd done some interviews and no one was giving us the same story, I said, 'Let's do a mythology of Alice -- whoever tells the best story wins, that's the story we'll use.' And his music just lends itself so well to that."
Cooper acknowledges that the film has "some flinches, a couple of stingers" -- including the details about his recovery from cocaine abuse, assisted by his parents in Arizona, and hearing how Dunaway felt slighted when he wasn't included in Cooper's 1973 collaboration with Salvador Dali, who they both admired while studying art in high school. But Cooper says he and Gordon did not exert any editorial control over the project.
"We gave them the right to say what they felt, and we weren't going to go back in and change it just to save our own egos," Cooper says. "When you get into something like this, every once in awhile you get punched in the nose, and you go, 'OK, next time I'll duck...'"
A DVD version of "Super Duper Alice Cooper" is due out June, according to Dunn and Harkema, with outtakes and more from the interviews. A special VIP Edition will also include a set of commemorative panties, recalling the stunt used for Cooper's 1972 "School's Out" album.
Cooper, meanwhile, is gearing up for a European tour that starts May 30 in the Czech Republic, and then for a swing as the special guest on Motley Crue's farewell tour, which starts July 2 in Grand Rapids, Mich. He's also putting the finishing touches on his next album, a mostly covers tribute to the "Hollywood vampires" crowd (John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, the Who's Keith Moon and others) he partied with during the early 70s, though he's also written four new songs for the project. He's currently adding guest musicians, though Cooper won't reveal any names yet.
"The album's 99 percent done," Cooper reports, "but every once in awhile somebody comes up and says, 'Hey, you forgot to include me,' and it's somebody you can't ignore, so it's like, 'Sure, absolutely...I never thought that guy would ever want to be on the album, but, cool, let's get him on.' All these people loved the idea, some huge names that we never really had the guts to call. There's no hurry to put this thing out right now, 'cause we've got the (Crue) tour and of course we want to wrap a show around (the album), so it'll have to wait, but I don't think it will lose anything."