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COLIN HANKS' EODM DOC: "A POSITIVE MESSAGE"

Colin Hanks and Sean Stuart have been friends since junior high school as have Josh Homme and Jesse Hughes. Sacramento natives Hanks and Stuart, partners in the film production unit Company Name, crossed paths with the Coachella Valley-raised Homme and Hughes, partners in Eagles of Death Metal, about seven years ago while they were making a documentary on Tower Records, All Things Must Pass.

Their meeting paid off for the film. First, an EODM track made it onto the film’s trailer; second, the band played the L.A. premiere at the old Tower Records Sunset location. Most importantly, the four men developed a friendship, one that led to Hughes and Homme trusting Hanks and Stuart with a horrific story— the terrorist attacks of 11/13/15 in Paris  during an EODM performance and the band’s return to France to perform for survivors. As emotional stories in rock & roll history go, it’s tough to top.

The film Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis, which Hanks directed and Stuart produced, opens in select theaters 2/10 in L.A. and New York; it premieres on HBO on Monday. It is much more than a news report on a rock band—it delves deep into personal relationships, musical careers and the enthusiasm of fans.

“I had two specific goals,” Hanks says. “I wanted this film to have a positive message and I wanted it to show that people can come together and can heal through music. I also didn’t want it to be exploitative or show any of the violence.

“I just let the people tell the story to give people a better understanding of that event was like for them. It was a tall order.”

This film is much more than a retelling of the attacks at The Bataclan. It’s very much the history of their friendship, the power of that friendship. When did you realize that was the heart of the story?

SEAN STUART: We quickly realized Josh and Jesse’s path, how Josh looked out for Jesse. That was a catalyst for our ability to tell the story of what happened at the Bataclan. Dramatically, because Josh wasn’t there, it catapulted the stakes and the energy of the relationship.

COLIN HANKS: I knew that their friendship was going to be part of the story but it wasn’t until we started talking that it became apparent how it would play out.

After the first hour and a half of interviewing Joshua, he was the first person interviewed, Sean came up to me during a break and said “I see what this is—it’s the story of two friends who have always been there for one other, always protected each other. The moment that [Jesse] needs [Josh] the most, he’s a world away.”

That was the first inkling of where our story could start. Going into Paris, I wanted to try to capture a moment if it existed, which thankfully it did, that showed everybody coming together and trying to move on with their lives. That was not an easy thing. Once we got back from Paris after filming the Olympia show, I sort of that had my overall arc in mind.

Who approached whom about doing the film?

SS: In December [2015] the band did an interview with Vice; it was a pretty tough thing to watch. Right after the new year, I checked in with the band’s manager to see how things were going and during the conversation I asked if Vice was going to go back to Paris [in mid-February 2016] with them. He said no and I thought there could be something here, a chance to show unity and the power of music to heal, a really strong statement about survival.

I called Colin and he was trepidatious about the emotional toll. It wasn’t something to be taken lightly. We decided to ask the band and they decided they would be interested in it.

We had three weeks to finance the thing. And Colin was at Heather Parry’s birthday party and she asked what he was up to. He mentioned it and she had just become head of production for Live Nation and she said “sounds like an incredible and important thing. We’re in.” [Nos Amis is Live Nation’s first film production.]

There’s a rawness to all of the interviews, whether they’re band members or survivors.

CH: It was only three months after the attack.

How did your friendship with the band affect the way you did the interviews. What surprised you?

CH: Obviously, I would have never approached them had I not known them. It was because of that friendship and trust that we decided to try this.

There were definitely difficult and awkward moments—we sort of said “in order for this to really work we needed to be open and honest with each other. We had to push each other even when the friend instinct is to give them their space.” We did say to each other we have got to go to that uncomfortable place. There were a handful of times when were interviewing and it was “OK, that’s enough.”

I didn’t know the survivors. I met them an hour and a half before we were interviewing them, so there was a great deal of trepidation on my part, because these were people who had not spoken publicly with anyone before—they had turned down interview requests from around the world. They put their trust in me. And they were incredibly brave. I can’t state that enough: It’s a hard thing when you’re trying to ask someone about the most difficult day of their lives.

SS: Colin did every interview. I’ve known him my whole adult life and I’ve never been more proud as a friend with his ability to help people and sympathize. The emotional toll this movie took on him was unbelievable. His sensitivity in these situations, as a director and as a human being, was astonishing.

I told every member of our crew at one point or another in France that you will have to leave the room at some point—there’s no other way to put it—to hysterically cry. It was such an emotional subject and you wind up feeling so much for these people and what they’ve been through.

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