Posts Tagged ‘Olivia’
The following article by Olivia was printed today in the Huffington Post.
As the 10th anniversary of George’s death approaches, and Living In The Material World, the Martin Scorsese documentary about his life, about to be aired, I have been looking back at the last 10 years of my own life. Like standing at the window of a moving train, I have watched each year as a fleeting reflection in a foreign landscape. I did not want to be on board but had no choice, nor was I sure if there was even a destination.
In 2001, when it became evident that George was not going to live, a friend said to him, “this will be the most exciting chapter of your life.” The usual dialogue surrounding a terminal illness is so grim that even the best platitudes fall flat; but at that moment, after all the negative medical certainties, those particular words were inspirational. After years of speculation about the moment of death, we knew the spectre of disembodiment was actually imminent.
“To die will be an awfully big adventure,” wrote JM Barrie. In fact, death is such a big adventure it profoundly alters the lives of all those attached to the departing soul. When the time for George came, that momentarily open door to the infinite caught my sleeve then slammed shut, leaving behind the fabric of my being in jagged shreds.
Tragedy is much more of an adventure than joy. I am not saying joy is over-rated. But happiness is fleeting; it exists in the present. Tragedy casts a long and persistent shadow with the power to dim even the most perfect moment. It also has the potential to follow us to the end. We don’t stop to analyze happiness but when grief and strife occur we recount the events leading up to it over and over. It wakes us from our sleep as we try to figure out how and where it all went wrong. Of course, with death, the question is more of a ‘why’? But for me, the question was, “what is it I am meant to do now?” The script was changed, as George said when John Lennon was killed: “That’s not how the script goes. It was like someone tore out that page and stuck a new one in.” My movie changed too.
After George died, I was certain the usual tower of mail on the kitchen chair would dwindle, the house would be tidy and the sofas would seat people rather than guitars. None of that happened. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Maybe it was the momentum of his hectic life, in addition to my need to keep busy, but my own life began to pick up speed. Thankfully George and I didn’t spend much time looking back. I mean, we weren’t making scrapbooks. We were steaming ahead. Thirty years of stuffing letters, tapes and film in drawers turned the house into one enormous discombobulated archive. Having an over-developed sense of duty, and the recent deep awareness of my own mortality, I began to organize the remnants and treasures of the life George lived. It seemed so unfair to leave this task to my son and it was important to me that things be in order. It was also an obvious way of staying close to life as I knew it, not being ready to ‘move on’ — as they say, a term I have come to detest.
Half way through the treasure hunt it became even more obvious how rich a life George led. From the bin bag of reel-to-reel tapes I listened to George working out his first song, “Don’t Bother Me” and Ravi Shankar giving George his first sitar lesson in 1966.
There were traces of him everywhere; chord sequences and tablatures written out, notes and silly drawings but also deeper reminders, one written on a scrap from the Bel-Air Hotel, “When you strip it all away, there is only God.”
And I have been stripping it away, from the past, as well as streamlining the present. Isn’t it what we of a certain age all desire now? To simplify our lives, to get rid of some of the ‘stuff’ we worked so hard to accumulate so we don’t spend the rest of our lives as slaves to our material world? Through work and the process of producing this film I have discovered new skills, broader perspectives, new interests and above all, I cemented old friendships while nurturing new ones. I worked hard at it all and the results pulled me out from under the cool shadow of sadness. I admit I have had a pretty amazing 10 years. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that not in a million years would I have made that trade. I have to thank George for my life with him and oddly enough, for with my life without him.
Q. Olivia, Through the band you’re also connected to the extended Beatle family, the band members’ spouses and children. What’s your relationship like with them?
A. They’ve been the most kind, embracing people in my life. The children, Paul’s family especially, I’m really close to them. Dhani’s close to the girls as well, and it’s an odd thing. They know what it’s like to have a dad, as a Beatle. With it comes certain baggage. They’re siblings, they understand, they get it. They roll their eyes at the same things. [laughs]
The below was recently posted on Yoko’s Twitter account, let the peace continue in the Beatle family for evermore, this is how it should always be.
“@MikeWoodhead, Hi yoko I was at anfield in 2008 where you were in the crowd to see Paul. What is your favourite Paul Mccartney song?
Yes, I was at Paul’s concert at Anfield. We all enjoyed his performance which was brilliant. Paul wrote many great songs, as you know. But, to me, “Here Today”, the one he made for John right after John’s passing is the most beautiful song. There are many others, too, of course. We love his songs. He is family.”
CANNES — 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.
“Living in the Material World” is a production of Scorsese’s Sikelia Prods., Olivia Harrison’s Grove Street Prods. and Exclusive’s Spitfire Pictures documentary label.
Film also uses never-before-seen footage in tracing the guitarist and songwriter’s life, from his days with the Beatles until his death in 2001. It includes interviews with those closest to him, including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Eric Idle, Tom Petty, Yoko Ono and Phil Spector.
“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?”
She says that during the research period, Scorsese would ask for something from 1945, she would dig something up, and then get lost in old letters, drawings, ideas and reveries. Or she’d come across a lost cassette from 1966 with music she had never heard.
“So that’s been wonderful, but emotional, too,” Olivia says. “But I feel really safe, I feel protected. Marty had a connection with George, and they spent time together. And he’s passionate about film and music as George was passionate about music and film.”
“This is undertaken, not casually,” Scorsese says. “It’s a great deal of reticence and thinking.”
And juggling, since the director was working on it as he developed and shot “Shutter Island.” His editor on the Dylan doc, David Tedeschi, has been working on the Harrison piece as well, and would forge ahead when Scorsese was indisposed on the fiction film. Scorsese notes that their work on the Dylan film stretched from “The Aviator” through to “The Departed.”
” ‘Shutter Island’ took a great deal out of me,” Scorsese says. “This was a form of interest and a really good sense of ignorance — not knowing what you’re getting into. I know the level is deep, and I know at some point there’s going to be conflicts between the projects. But this is a labor of love, it’s not something that has that kind of a deadline.”
So Scorsese spent weekends and margins looking at footage and cuts of the Harrison work, and doing research. “Even though it’s complex and it’s hard to do, in a very complicated way it frees me from the strictures of the feature and makes me think — I hope — a little more clearly about the feature,” Scorsese says of the process. “Because there’s something in these films that had a narrative freedom to them, and it’s something that the features may be going this way, and the nonfiction films are going this way, and somehow you hope they interweave.”
But at this point, Scorsese says that they are moving toward a 2011 release date and nearly have finished a final cut of the second of three parts of the movie.
Olivia and Scorsese acknowledge that their film will feature never-before-seen footage and personal recordings of Harrison’s, as he saved everything and left a ton of material. Scorsese says that all of that personal music led the way to the nonchronological exploration they wanted to take.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to have the development of his own music tell the story, if we can,” he says. “And the images that he shot, that [Olivia] shot, a lot of this is telling the story. There are some famous bits and some very interesting new material.”
Olivia adds: “I think it’s not only about George Harrison, but about how a person moves through life and deals with his own life. And it was a pretty intense life for a young person.”
In addition to his achievements as a master filmmaker and preservationist, Scorsese has now made a number of films — “Shine a Light,” “Last Waltz,” “No Direction Home,” “The Blues” (he was even an editor on the “Woodstock” concert film) — that he is personally building a library of the history of rock.
“We certainly haven’t done it intentionally,” Scorsese says. “We never really intended to make a chronicle of rock music. But the music inspires so much of what I do with my fiction films that they both seem to be blending now. They seem to be interweaving.”