Martin Scorsese swept into the Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel down the coast from Cannes on Saturday afternoon with George Harrison's widow, Olivia. The two have been collaborating on a documentary about the famous songwriter for the past three years and are finally nearing the end of a long and winding road.
Titled "Living in the Material World: George Harrison," the documentary will take on the whole of the Beatles guitarist's life before, during and after his time in the world's most popular and successful band. Producer Nigel Sinclair of Exclusive Media Group, home of the Spitfire Pictures label that will release the doc, was also on hand to provide background and perspective on the forthcoming project.
"His music is very important to me," Scorsese said of Harrison. "So I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don't know. We're just feeling our way through."
Among other things, Scorsese says he related to Harrison's quest for "spirituality," something the filmmaker has explored his whole life, and especially in movies from "Mean Streets" to "Kundun."
"That subject matter has never left me," says Scorsese. "The more you're in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you."
"He always said he gave his nervous system for the Beatles," Olivia chimes in.
"I'm an outsider on this," says Scorsese, taking on the project from the perspective of a curious fan. He tells the story of one morning getting ready for school at NYU on the Lower East Side in the early '60s, when an AM radio DJ announced that he was going to play the very first stateside single of the Beatles. Scorsese says he heard the song and felt it was the first time U.K. pop could really hold up to American pop music.
Scorsese met Harrison several times, first when he, Jack Nicholson and Robbie Robertson knocked on his door in a frantic moment during the filming of "The Last Waltz" in the late '70s, and then again in the early '90s.
Olivia finally initiated the current project several years ago because she says she had been approached by numerous production companies, including the BBC, looking to make a documentary about Harrison from the moment he died in 2001. She resisted at first because Harrison had always wanted to do his own documentary using his own archive of videos.
Eventually, she realized it "was something that needed to be done," and was pointed to Sinclair, who had produced the Bob Dylan documentary "No Direction Home" that Scorsese directed. But still, it was a traumatic experience for her to dig back through all of that history.
"This is a deeply personal journey for me, it's been excruciating," she says. "I've been archiving for five years -- 35 years, really. Throwing cassettes and letters in drawers, little things and pieces of paper that you find that say, 'Goats on my roof.' You think, What does that mean?"