Who wants to be a gofer for Metallica? Well, after watching Metallica Through the Never, you might just want to stay put at McDonald's. The unique live concert documentary, which opens in IMAX theaters Friday and in regular 3D cinemas October 4th, has a narrative woven throughout the 92-minute film that is suspenseful, apocalyptic and intriguing.
Directed by Nimrod Antal (Predators, Kontroll) and co-written with the band's James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo, it stars actor Dane DeHann (Kill Your Darlings, Devil's Knot, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as one dedicated young roadie named Trip, given an urgent task – while Metallica is performing to a sold-out arena – that takes him on an adventure most people would not see through. Luckily, he has a Little Man totem. Oh, never mind. We don't want to give too much away.
Some of the 3D shots for the concert portions of the film make you feel like you're a fifth member of Metallica, like I should be up there with a tambourine or given something to do. Sorry I sat on the drum riser. Why am I on the stage?
Hetfield: Why am I on fire? [Laughs]
Hammett: Why is this thing falling towards me? Should I duck?
James, I understand you wanted to do a concert doc but something more interesting, but didn't quite know what, at first?
Hetfield: Once we saw that we were financing it and how much it was gonna cost, I started thinking, "We better make this pretty special." [Laughs] I don't know how many times we're going to be able to do this in our careers, but let's go the extra distance. Lars and I started getting a little freaked out – I think we all did – that it's just a 3D concert film. I've been to see a few of those, and they're novel, all right [laughs]. At the end of the day, I don't know if I'd see it again. If you have a 3D TV at home, maybe, eventually we might get there, but it needed something way more than that. And I just started thinking, "Let's get creative," thinking The Song Remains the Same, thinking The Wall, thinking even the Monkees movie [Head], or the Beatles.
Did you watch them all to refresh your memory?
Hetfield: I did not. Whatever I remembered about them was good enough. I thought, "Why don't we go crazy with it? We're all pretty creative, and we're all networked in different things. We know people in the animation world and all of that. Let's try everything."
The main character, this poor kid, must've really loved Metallica to not quit.
Hammett: When [Dane] first looked at the script, he couldn't make heads nor tails out of it, because there's no dialogue. The whole script is only four or five pages long, because it's just a description of scenes.
As a viewer, you actually don't realize that he doesn't have any words, which shows how much you get swept into his story and what a great actor Dane is.
Hetfield: He's got the face for that. He's got the right face. He's got these eyes, [like] they've been through life a few times. It feels like he's an older soul and he's got depth, and his movements, his actions, his facial expressions say it all.
Hammett: He definitely has an intensity about him onscreen that's good for us, because his onscreen performance balances out the intensity of our performance.
You weren't there for the narrative shots, so you really didn't know what this thing was going to look like in the end.
Hammett: It was a total leap of faith, a total shot in the dark.
When you saw it for the first time, what elements stood out?
Hammett: After reading the synopsis of the script numerous times, I was having problems just grasping it all. So I asked Nimrod for storyboards, and then he storyboarded the entire thing out and gave it to all of us. Then, for me, it was a lot more clear. It was a lot more consistent in terms of a storyline emerging. But when we first saw the first edits, after they shot the footage for the narrative, I was scared [laughs]. I was thinking, "Wait a second, this is not what I was thinking it was gonna turn out like." It needed a lot of work. And me not being experienced in making movies, I didn't know that that was part of the process – you see a rough cut and you put in your ideas, your opinions and whatnot, and you slowly help it and push it along and try to get it as close to your vision as possible.
As apocalyptic a tale as it is, the story is partly about loyalty, and Metallica has a loyalty as a unit and probably your crew and everyone who works with you. But we never find out the true story, because there is something major that is not revealed. I don't want to spoil it for anyone going to see it.
Hetfield: That's what we want. We want it to be what you want. And we want it to be what we want.
Hammett: It's all open for interpretation.
Hetfield: That's the beauty of it. It's open-ended, and that's what will help people maybe talk about it – "What does it mean?" It's the journey for him. He went out on a journey to get something. That was a mission, that was a destination, but all that happened in between was he went from some little runner boy to a hero at the end of the day. You never know what's gonna happen in 12 hours.
Working for Metallica.
Hetfield: [Laughs] Exactly.
Your next tour, you need to have a bag to give someone who works for you.
Hammett: They've been through a bit more than just trying to get a bag.
Hetfield: Our road crew has been through a lot of stuff [laughs]. They have better movies than this one.
Do you think there could be merch – an action figure of this Little Man?
Hetfield: Merch? I have no idea.
I thought it was cute. Great on a T-shirt.
Hetfield: It is cute. Little Man doll. Little Trip doll. He's his conscience. He's his guardian angel, whatever it is. What I really liked is inside, as his heart, there is actually a wishbone.
Hammett: I didn't see that.
You shot the concert footage in Vancouver and Edmonton. They were real audiences, but they seemed to be on their best behavior. Not a lot of cell phones raised or activity in the aisles from people going to get beer and hot dogs.
Hammett: Well, they knew we were filming.
Hetfield: I don't know if we said to do or don't do that. We pretty much let it be. It's the film first. We were there to film a film, and they knew that. So they were gonna be a part of something extra special, so you don't need to film it [laughs] – we're filming it.
The stage is amazing – so large it won't fit into 60 percent of arenas?
Hetfield: Something crazy like that.
It is not in the round, but in the rectangle.
Hetfield: Yes, it's in the rectangle. It takes up the whole hockey ice, pretty much.
Where it is now?
Hetfield: It's waiting to be used. It is the Swiss Army knife of stages. It's got everything in it. It's the ultimate stage for us.
This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone: Metallica: We Looked to 'The Wall' and the Monkees for Concert Film