When we last saw the mighty veteran heavy metal outfit Metallica on screen, in 2004’s rock-doc Some Kind of Monster, this most intensely fan-beloved of bands was on the brink of dissolution. Then, thanks to the intervention of – I kid you not – a “performance enhancing coach,” and the recruitment of the formidably sturdy bass player Robert Trujillo, the band not only soldiered on, but it lived to appear in Metallica: Through the Never, a skull-rattling 3-D concert film that shifts between a thunderously tight live show in Vancouver and scenes of a wandering roadie (Dane DeHaan) searching apocalyptic streets for a certain whatzit.
During the Toronto International Film Festival, three members of Metallica – drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bass player Trujillo – and director Nimrod Antal spoke about the process of making a movie out of pure, molten metal.
The idea’s been kicking around since the mid- to late 1990s. Our manager just kept on pushing. “We have to get our performance on film, and this is the time to do it.” And then he gave us this whole pitch: “We’re going to build a monstrous stage that’s going to have the best aspects of all your former tours, you’re going to play all your best songs. We’re going to film it in 3-D IMAX so that you guys are larger than life, like you guys are on a stage naturally.” So we were hit with all these concepts that made sense to us, but what really pushed it through was once we decided on a director. Nimrod Antal was the guy because he had a feel for what Metallica was all about. In a creative way, he took a concept that really just screamed: Metallica.
We put a lot of effort into the show. I mean, we rehearsed, put a lot of time into that dangerous stage, so by the time we got to Vancouver, we were pretty sharp. But I have to give props to our management and our team, because they’re the ones that put together this whole thing in Mexico City for two weeks: 20,000 crazy fans each night. That’s how we work-shopped it. A test run in front of a wicked audience. That was an intense situation. We walked out on that stage and people were bouncing so hard that the stage was moving. It was like an earthquake. It was scary. This is how we train, how we get ready, to film. Welcome to our world. It’s a dangerous one, but we love it.
The Some Kind of Monster experience, although obviously a very tumultuous time in the band’s history, ultimately was a very satisfying undertaking as a kind of creative endeavour. So lurking in the shadows had been this idea of doing a sort of next-level concert film in theatres, 3-D, and taking it somewhere else. Within the band, we’re still just a bunch of middle-aged men who still think that we’re 18 years old and just do things completely on the fly. That’s kind of the spirit I think Metallica still has at its core, that purity, and that’s behind this. And with all the good buzz on this film, there may even be a chance that we’ll get our mortgaged houses back at some point in the next couple of years, so we’ll have places to live again. So it all may work out.
It’s been a really, really difficult experience. We had no point of reference. Usually, when you’re making a film you can say, “Hey, remember that thing in Blade Runner? Why don’t we try that?” You don’t have that opportunity here, because it was such an unusual thing. But even in the tough times, there was always, and this is going to sound cheesy, but there was always just the feeling from the band that “you’re one of us, dude,’ you know? We’ll get through this. We’ll figure it out. And you don’t get that feeling often, especially in American filmmaking, where there seems to be quite a bit of distrust and wariness. But with this film, it’s been gift from the get-go, and I’m super-proud of it. I’m super-proud that I had an opportunity to work with them. Someone asked me what was my favourite part of making the movie a few weeks ago, and I was like, ‘Right now. Sitting here talking about this thing right now is pretty cool.”
Special to The Globe and Mail