Hendrix Biopic Producer Talks ‘Jimi: All Is By My Side’
Plenty of experienced filmmakers have tried and failed to get a Jimi Hendrix biopic off the ground, but producer Danny Bramson managed to pull it off without any prior hands-on experience in the film production business. What made ‘Jimi: All Is by My Side’ different?
In a new interview with Billboard, Bramson opened up about some of the bumps in the road he faced while bringing the story of a pivotal period in Hendrix’s career (1966-67) to the big screen — not the least of which was the Hendrix estate’s unwillingness to license any of his songs for the soundtrack.
“I was never preoccupied with getting the iconic material,” shrugged Bramson. “I felt so strongly in trying to go for interpretation of Hendrix and the musical environment that surrounded him and mirrored his sense of finding himself as a guitarist…The most serious of the challenges was the responsibility of creating and recording new and original material that puts you in the environment of interpreting Hendrix.”
To achieve that, Bramson — who saw Hendrix perform live during his too-brief career and has a deep background in the music industry — enlisted a trio of session ringers: guitarist Waddy Wachtel, bassist Leland Sklar, and drummer Kenny Aronoff (who discussed his experiences recording the soundtrack during an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock). Armed with a relatively paltry $5 million budget, he set about recreating Hendrix’s world, and turned to a few old friends along the way.
Talking about how he reached out to Paul McCartney to get permission to use ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ Bramson said, “I believe it’s the first license the Beatles have granted for ‘Sgt. Pepper.’ I had the great fortune of working with Paul (to secure) two instrumentals (“Sing-along Junk” and “Momma Miss America”) in ‘Jerry Maguire’ and convincing him during the editing of ‘Vanilla Sky’ to (write a new song). I had said we wanted to re-create the Saville show and without sending a page, within 72 hours it was approved.”
As for his choice to play Hendrix, OutKast member Andre ‘Andre 3000‘ Benjamin, Bramson insisted no one else would have been able to take the part. “We bet the house on our one and only choice,” he admitted. “The idea of anyone playing Hendrix, let alone a right-handed guitarist, was one of the greatest challenges of the project. I found a really patient teacher and put together a regimen for Andre when he came out to Los Angeles. He sat in a small studio, six hours a day, putting in dedication (to learn how to play left-handed). His guitarmanship had to carry the idea of grace and fluidity. John and I declared that we didn’t want to have the camera cropped on his face and not the guitar. He kept working in a rehearsal room throughout the production.”