If you’re a fan of The Doors or have any interest in gaining insight into who they were, what they became and what they meant to our culture, it really doesn’t get any better than this. The new feature documentary, When You’re Strange, uncovers historic and previously unseen footage of the Los Angeles rock band and provides new insights into the revolutionary impact of its music and legacy. Directed by award-winning writer/director Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, the film is a riveting account of the band’s history and the first feature documentary about them.
The film reveals an intimate perspective on the creative chemistry between drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison – four brilliant artists who made The Doors one of America’s most iconic and influential rock bands. Using footage shot between the band’s 1965 formation and Morrison’s 1971 death, When You’re Strange follows the band from the corridors of UCLA’s Film School, where Manzarek and Morrison met, to the stages of sold-out arenas.
Mystery and lore have always surrounded The Doors. To uncover the personal truth behind the legend and reveal it as accurately as possible, independent filmmaker Tom DiCillo drew upon a wealth of original documentary footage shot by Paul Ferrara, frontman Jim Morrison’s UCLA film school buddy, and wove into it scenes from HWY, Morrison’s unreleased experimental film from 1969, in which he starred and made with a group of filmmaker friends. The end result is When You’re Strange, a riveting account of the creative journey of one of the most revolutionary bands seen through the unique prism of America 40 years ago. Narrated by Johnny Depp, the film provides an amazingly perceptive perspective on The Doors.
We sat down with director Tom DiCillo and former Doors drummer John Densmore at a recent roundtable interview to discuss their new film. DiCillo’s most recent feature film, Delirious was released in 2007. When You’re Strange is his first full-length documentary. Densmore was far more than merely the rhythmic engine of The Doors. He brought a highly evolved sense of dynamics, structure and musicality to his beats. DiCillo and Densmore talked to us about the challenge of combining an overwhelming amount of 40-year-old footage into a cohesive narrative to capture the zeitgeist and fraction of an era while providing insight into who The Doors were, what they became and what they meant to our culture.