Q&A: Don Henley Opens Up About 'The History of the Eagles' at Sundance
Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh of The Eagles attend the 'History of the Eagles Part 1' Documentary Announcement during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19th, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
After remaining notoriously mum for the majority of their career, the Eagles let the world in on Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of The History of the Eagles Part 1. "We were very private," Don Henley said at a press conference for the movie. (Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit were also present for the premiere.) "We didn't allow access. We tried to keep it in-house. But we had the foresight to film some backstage stuff. And that's in the film."
The rockumentary, directed by Alison Ellwood and produced by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), uncovers the band's personal Super 8 footage, photographs and tape from a never-finished Haskell Wexler documentary. Featuring interviews with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and David Geffen, the film follows the band from its Troubadour-filled beginnings in Southern California to its beer-bottle-throwing end in 1980. Acquired by Showtime, Part 1 will air on February 15th at 8 p.m. EST, and Part 2 – which picks up with the band's 1994 reunion – will premiere February 16th at 8 p.m. EST.
Rolling Stone sat down with Don Henley on the eve of the film's Sundance debut. He talked about why they finally made the film (someone might die), what type of movie he wanted to see (an honest one) and how his bandmates still drive him nuts (but he's learned to live with it).
How did the movie come about? Did Glenn approach you on this?
I don’t know who brought it up first, probably our manager. Probably Irving Azoff said it’s time for you guys to do a documentary. We'd been kicking it around for a few years but we finally decided that the time had come and, after 42 years had passed, it was probably a good time to get it done, because we said it was a three-year process. We knew it was going to be time consuming so we thought we’d better get started. You know, at our age people keel over, and so we wanted to get it done.
What did you want to see come out of this? What was the ideal film that they’d make about you?
We wanted to see an honest look at who we are, and what the group is. And, as Glenn said at the [press conference], there have been a lot of misconceptions about this band and about how we got along or didn’t get along. And we wanted people to know how hard we worked and how hard we tried. From my own personal point of view, it's a wonderful thing for my kids to have because we all, most of us in the band, became fathers later in life and our kids don't really understand what happened. In some respects that's good, there's just some things they don't need to know about. But on the other hand, it's a wonderful portrait.
The film begins in our hometowns where Glenn and I were born and raised and what that was like, and our journey from our hometowns to California and that escape and all the dreams and aspirations that we had. And the desire to transcend your culture, to get out and not to abandon your culture, but to transcend it and to go out into a wider world and to see that and be a part of the wider world. I think kids in bands have that dream and athletes have that dream and it's one of the iconic American dreams, to get out of where you are and go somewhere and reinvent yourself. And this film would follow that story. So it's the story of that and a bunch of young guys who took a lot of risks. Big risks. A lot of my friends during that time had parents who were saying, you've got to get a haircut and get a real job. My parents never said that to me. I went to college for three and a half years and that made them happy, so when I decided to go to California, it was okay with them. And so, we gambled and we won and that's a very rare thing.