The movie takes fact and fictionalises it and it takes fiction and factualises it [Hamm]
CLICK: Nick how did you get involved with Killing Bono – I hear you bought the rights quite a while ago?
NH: Yea I bought the rights to the book when I heard Neil being interviewed on the radio and thought there’s a story there about an everyman tale, trying to make it in the music business, which is both funny an endearing and really universal. So that was why I bought the book and then spent a long time trying to get the screenplay right.
CLICK: So you started getting writers involved...
NH: Yea, we got writers involved early. It’s hard because the book is an episodic kaleidoscope of different events, spread over many years. So it didn’t have a central narrative which a mainstream movie has to have. You have to take a journey and go on it and then deliver an end otherwise the audience is going to get very frustrated. So to make a long story short we had to take the best elements of that nook but most of all take the idea of that book which was this crazy, passionate, creative, hubristic madman making all the wrong decisions about the way that he would run his career.
CLICK: [to Neil] That’s you!
NM: Yea! [laughs]
CLICK: Neil did you have much, or any, involvement in the script?
NM: Very little. I read it and gave them my notes which they ignored. I tried to stand out of the way of this really. Because my career in music was pretty much a disaster and some of that was down to always being ready to tell other people how things should be done; to tell Rod Stewart's manager when he wanted to record a certain song that it was shit and our songs were better. So this time I thought I would let the professionals do their jobs and I wouldn’t count any of my chickens until they hatched. I’m so used to everything going wrong that I actually never thought this was going to happen. So I thought it was quite safe to let them just get on with it.
CLICK: The changes from the book and from reality are quite drastic – was that just done to create extra drama?
NH: The movie takes fact and fictionalises it and it takes fiction and factualises it – that’s how it works. Part true, part not true. It’s got some historical events in it that happened – the audition scene in Larry’s mum’s kitchen, the first disco. All of those events are rock history so you need to get those right. You don’t need to invent anything; you just want to represent what actually happened. You want to represent the passion and the drive of those kids at that moment. Then you have the rest of the picture to deal with and you want to take the essence of the journey and cement it around the notion of being driven crazy by someone else’s success and constantly measuring yourself against someone else you perceive to be more talented and more interesting. And I don’t know anyone on the planet that doesn’t do that. So that seemed to me to be an interesting way to start the premise of the movie.
CLICK: And the changes are also just so it makes sense as a two hour movie?
NH: You’re right, you have to collide and collate that material into it. And you conflate maybe 6 or 7 characters that sometimes you don’t really want to be there because they don’t really work into one character. Also there were certain legal things you can’t really say!
CLICK: Neil, how did you feel about the fact it ends up with your character pointing a gun at Bono – surely that didn’t happen!?
NM: I have never tried to kill Bono – I’ve maybe wished him harm from time to time! The whole thing is very strange for me to watch and I’ve really accepted it as my life in a parallel universe where I still don’t get to be a rock start but I get some good lines and I get to be played by a very handsome actor!
CLICK: What was the casting process like – difficult and long?
NH: It’s always long on a picture, unless you start with the actor. It’s always interesting and different people come and go. You kind of find somebody like Rob [Sheehan] and Ben [Barnes] and you kind of anchor into that with those two young actors. And then with somebody like Marty [McCann]... it was very difficult to imagine how to play Bono. Did you want someone to imitate him or did you want somebody famous to play him, all those questions. In the end we just wanted somebody to represent the essence of that guy at that moment in his career and to represent it well and with authenticity.
CLICK: Neil, were you sorry none of your original songs made the cut?
NM: [laughs] There was moment when I thought – well they’re going to make this movie and finally my music will be heard in the world! There’s a different narrative unfolding here but that was the bitterest pill to swallow. I've swallowed a few bitter pills in my time and if they don’t understand that they’ve thrown away this soundtrack of genius then...
NH: We changed everything!
CLICK: Was it just to make the sound more contemporary?
NH: Some elements of Neil’s stuff are still in there, small elements, because we had to tell a musical journey. You had to take them from a punk band through the late 70s into the 80s to end up as sort of stadium rock – sort of Simple Minds meets U2. And the journey of that music was important. And to be quite blunt they needed to be successful. There needed to be an element of the music at the end of their career that they could be at the cusp of real success.
NM: Nick said to me at one point – we might want to use Sleepwalking in this scene but we’re going to turn it into a bad new romantic’s song. And my response was why would you want to do that, it’s a beautiful song? And at that point I think he decided to get someone else to do the music!
NH: Because every time you touch some of Neil's music, it’s like ‘oh my god you are touching the Sistine Chapel roof!’ So we decided we were going to rewrite the music!
CLICK: Finally, do you have any insight now into why some bands make it and other don’t?
NM: Yea I got a lot of insight writing this book and writing U2 by U2 and my day job as a music critic. You need talent, you need persistence, and you need ambition and belief. But you also need luck; you need things to fall into place. The world in the end chooses the music it wants to hear – you don’t impose on it. And great talents have fallen by the wayside and mediocre talents have been inflated. But if you’re talented and you keep going, your only shot is that you’ll get the luck. U2 could have broken up in Dublin in 1978 and nobody would have heard of them. But they kept going, things came for them and in the end it becomes unstoppable because they turned into this great rock band and you can’t imagine them any other way.
NH: The movie is a shout out to all failed bands. That’s what it is. Everyone knows it’s a ridiculously ludicrous business where you try to convince people that you’re interesting and you’ve got something to say.