Sundance 2015 Interview: Brett Morgen on ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’

Nirvana

CraveOnline: Talking about the tools: you talked to his parents, and his first girlfriend, and Courtney, and you talked to Krist, but I noticed that Dave Grohl wasn’t in the film in any newer interviews. Was he unavailable? Did you want to get him?

Brett Morgen: Correct. Firstly, it’s a film in which I didn’t feel I needed two people to represent Kurt’s time in the band. It’s not that movie. It’s not a talking head movie, and every person there represents a specific point of view. These are the people who, if Kurt had never become famous, would have appeared as his funeral. These are the people who are closest to Kurt Cobain on this planet. 

So what you’re saying is, Dave Grohl wasn’t as close to Kurt as Krist, in your estimation? That’s what it sounds like you’re saying, so I just want to clarify.

Oh no, you can’t put that on me. You can’t put that on me as my estimation. Krist grew up in Aberdeen and was with Kurt from the very beginning. Dave was the third or fourth drummer of the band. But that said, let me go further with it. That said, I felt that there would be a lot of people such as yourself, who – because Kurt was associated with Dave – would feel that there was something missing if Dave was not present in the film. So I reached out to get an interview with Dave and unfortunately he was recording his new album and did not make himself available to me until a month after I locked picture.

So I did do an interview with Dave, but I did the interview with Dave after picture was locked, after I’d resigned that this was the picture I’m making, and I will try to get this interview in. This was in late December [2014]. My schedule at that point was beyond full with trying to get the film color graded and mixed. So that’s where we were at. There’s nothing nefarious. Dave fully supports it, Dave sat down for the interview, it’s just unfortunately he was making his album and that’s where we landed.

And I say that, William, I say that in that I’m not sure where we’re going to go with it. I mean, we’ll go to work probably for a little bit after [the Berlin International Film Festival] next week, and wrestle with the Grohl interview a little bit more, but if he’s not included in the final version it should be noted that that was the version I’d locked picture on. The version you saw [at Sundance] was the version I intended the world to see, at the point when I had to put it down.

I can only imagine it must be difficult when you’re dealing with a figure, even moreso than someone like Robert Evans, about whom everyone has certain notions and ideas, and in some cases facts, but maybe not the whole picture, and they’re going to bring something to the film regardless of what the film brings to them. How much of a consideration is that when you make it, or do you try to put that out of your head entirely?

Well William, it was sort of alleviated by the fact that when I evaluated what the world had based their opinions of Kurt Cobain on, there was a certain empowerment because how, outside of his music, Kurt presented himself to the public in such a limited manner, and what I had access to was so much deeper than what the public had. So I never felt that we would be confronting them with preconceived notions of Kurt. I felt that in many ways it was going to be like meeting an old friend for the first time.