The Doors story has always been a strange one. Now, a feature-length documentary offers some new insight into the legendary rock group.
Narrated by Johnny Depp, "When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors" opens in limited release this weekend, offering never-before-seen footage, including singer Jim Morrison in an experimental film called "HWY (Highway)."
Morrison, who died in 1971, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore made six studio albums in just 54 months in the late 1960s and early '70s. Four decades after they last played together, the group continues to sell over one-million units a year.
Manzarek, who met Morrison while attending UCLA, has since authored several books and recorded numerous solo albums. Krieger, who wrote the chart-topping hit "Light My Fire" at age 18, is working on a book about his life and will release a new album later this year. Densmore is a best-selling writer, with his latest book due out later this year.
Densmore, Krieger, Manzarek and "When You're Strange" director Tom DiCillo took some questions recently at a press gathering at a Los Angeles hotel. Although Densmore and DiCillo were in one room and Krieger and Manzarek in another, they were asked the same questions.
AP: What did you feel the first time you saw "When You're Strange"?
MANZAREK: At once a sad experience. My heart was heavy and yet joyous seeing all of us: Kid Krieger, Kid Manzarek, my wife Dorothy - Kid Dorothy Fujikowa. Bunch of kids. It was really great.
KRIEGER: Nostalgic. What I took from it was how great we were. I was amazed at how good we played. Because when you are doing it you go "OK. We are just playing. You know, we are pretty good. We are as good as The Beatles, aren't we?" But looking back, you are afraid that maybe we weren't any good and maybe this is going to look embarrassing.
DENSMORE: I knew all the footage, but I was very pleased that he (DiCillo) found a narrative and put it together. That he went with Johnny Depp to have you have an experience of the band rather than watch me talking about it. Like I am doing now.
AP: What did you think the first time you heard Johnny Depp reading Jim Morrison's poetry in the film?
DENSMORE: Very pleased at his kind, shy, careful, non-ego type of reading. He just got it. He is an icon. He understands Jim.
KRIEGER: He has got this great voice and it sounds like he really cares about what he is saying, you know. Just works perfectly for the movie. We tried a few other guys before Johnny Depp. It just didn't work. But this was right on. I heard later that he was a big Doors fan. I said, "That's why he did so good."
MANZAREK: I thought it was excellent. I thought he did a brilliant job. I thought his voice was at once understated and dynamic at the same time and he told the story beautifully.
AP: Do you have a favorite poem of Jim's?
KRIEGER: "Visitation of Energy." Not sure why. I just love the way it feels.
MANZAREK: I have got a short Jim Morrison American haiku. It goes, "Snakeskin jacket. Indian eyes. Brilliant hair. He moves in disturbed Nile insect air." Great words.
DENSMORE: I like "American Prayer" quite a bit. Talks about our country's struggles, then, at the end, what are those lines? "I will not go. Prefer a feast of friends. To the giant family. I am human. I love being here, but it's hard. Oh, great creator being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perform our lives."
AP: The film features scenes from "HWY (Highway)." What are you thinking when you look at that footage now?
MANZAREK: He is alive. It lives. Jim is alive again. It was fabulous. It's like he is not gone. There he is, man. He is right up on the screen.
DICILLO: We had a problem because people would refuse to believe it was Morrison. It never struck me for a second when I saw that footage that people would have that reaction, that they would say, "It's not him." I thought the exact opposite would happen. That footage was shot on 35-millimeter negative in 1969.
DENSMORE: Someone stormed out at Sundance, a journalist in the first few minutes, infuriated. I like that. You are going to make them aware that is the real deal. Even with the beard, he is very charismatic. It looks so good, people think we are doing a reality show.
KRIEGER: I hope that people don't think that this is an actor playing Jim Morrison. It looks so good, so new. That is probably what they are going to think. But they will find out that is really Jim. I wish that Jim had finished that film. They only did about 10 minutes worth. It would have been a great movie.
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