Bogdanovich followed Tom Petty for ‘Dream’
By Mike Snider
USA Today — October 28, 2007
For director Peter Bogdanovich and Tom Petty, making the biographical film Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers was similar to the music-making process.
“Our goal was getting it to where it works,” Bogdanovich says. “If it works, it plays.”
The film wound up an LP, as in long player, with a running time of four hours. “I kept saying if (director Martin) Scorsese (No Direction Home: Bob Dylan) can spend three hours on six years of Bob Dylan’s life, we can spend 3½ hours on 30 years of Tom Petty’s life, and we did,” says Bogdanovich, who spent much of 2006 on tour with the band and interviewing other musicians and family.
The saga of Petty and The Heartbreakers has plenty of dramatic fodder. As a band leader for more than 30 years, Petty withstood battles with his then-record label MCA, the departure of band members and the death of one (bass player Howie Epstein, whose drug use led to his death in 2003).
Runnin’ Down a Dream plays on The Sundance Channel starting tonight at 7 p.m. ET/PT with repeat showings Wednesday at 3 a.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. The film also is available on DVD ($30) at Best Buy this week; it played in theaters earlier this month. More theatrical showings are planned throughout the year.
The DVD includes the movie on two discs, a 2006 concert in Gainesville, Fla., on a third disc and a soundtrack CD of rarities.
Bogdanovich, whose directing credits include The Last Picture Show and They All Laughed, concedes he didn’t know much about Petty when contacted about the film. “He liked some of my work,” he says. “What usually interests me is if I don’t know how to do it, then I figure I can learn while I do it.”
He watched many music documentaries, learning less about how to make one himself than what he did not want to do.
“I didn’t want to have any long interviews,” Bogdanovich says. “And if anyone was going to be seen talking for a very long time, I wanted to have images over it.”
The interview subjects — Petty, the Heartbreakers, including Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, fellow musicians such as Eddie Vedder and Stevie Nicks, producers Jimmy Iovine and Jeff Lynne (also a bandmate in the Traveling Wilburys) — serve as the narrators. Full performances of songs such as Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shadow of a Doubt (Complex Kid) and You Don’t Know How It Feels are part of the film, too.
The underlying theme, Bodganovich says, is “Tom’s integrity, dedication and his ability and determination not to back down, as he wrote, when it had to do with the music.”