A Life That Never Goes Out

Riverfront Times talks with director Julien Temple about the making of The Future is Unwritten.

I was helped by being the same age as Joe as well, 'cause I was born in the same year. So I lived a lot of the same moves that Joe made — like in the mid-'60s, I got involved in that same music in a big way, although different, because I was not a player. I was in a band as well...well, I guess Joe wasn't very good then, either. I became a bit of a hippie — but not really, because we were both too young, but we'd grow our hair, I guess. I didn't know him then, but I went to the same festivals and then I went to the squats and lived in the squats. I first became aware of him when I was squatting in west London. Then we both got into the punk thing, married girls from the same bloody school, even. It's a bit crazy. So I did feel I knew the subject of the time that he'd lived through quite intensely. So that was a good thing about making the film.

Where was [Clash bassist] Paul Simonon, were you not able to get in touch with him?

No, I was in touch with him, and he kept saying, "Yeah, I'll do an interview." And then you'd say, "OK, when can we do it?" "Well, I'll get back to you." And then, "I don't want to do an interview," and you'd call him in another few days and he would want to do an interview, and we would agree to do an interview... In the end, he didn't do an interview, and we had run out of time to try and persuade him to do one. I had the same thing with Topper [Headon], I just got lucky with Topper and not with Paul, I think. But you'd have to ask Paul why, when I was asking him if we can do it.

I understand. Paul was very close to Joe at a certain time, and that's a very personal thing to talk about that kind of friendship. I understand people not wanting to be on the film. His daughters didn't want to do it. Understandably, I think.

It's very much, like you said, a wake. Partly I would think it's emotional catharsis, but bringing up these deep emotions are also painful.

Yeah, and not everyone wants to do that at a certain point in time. Maybe some times are better than others in people's lives to do that. Selfishly, it would have been great to have Paul in the film. But I completely understand he might not want to do it. I think it survives without Paul, because it's not a film about the Clash, obviously. I think a film about the Clash would be pretty mortally wounded by not having Paul in it. [Laughs]

Is there anyone you wanted for the movie you weren't able to get?

Not really. I have some people I didn't really want for the movie in it, truth be known. I wanted Jimi Hendrix, some music, and I couldn't afford...they wanted $186,000 for this Hendrix track. We got everyone else for $3,000, so that was a bit out of whack. I would have liked [his music] to be part of it, 'cause Joe loved Hendrix.

Were there any surprises you learned about Joe or his life and his career in the course of making the movie?

I was shocked to know how many really good friends he had all over the world. In cities like LA and New York and Paris and Spain, in Granada. He lived in those cities as well as living in London and Somerset. He didn't just visit them; he actually seemed to have parallel lives going on in these other cities — which, having known him in Somerset and in London, I didn't really experience. When I did the film, I was like, "Wow, this whole Joe dimension to New York, and this whole Joe dimension to LA, or Paris." I didn't know about that. I got the feeling maybe he'd lived three lives in one — which probably made him a very old person when he died. 'Cause he did have this ability to really live in these places, rather than just visit them.

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