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Venice: Bruce Weber Returns For 25th Anniversary Screening of His Chet Baker Doc (Q&A)

Chet Baker - P 1961
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Chet Baker

The photographer and filmmaker screens 1988's "Let's Get Lost" and also screens footage from his work in progress about Robert Mitchum.

Photographer and film director Bruce Weber dropped by the Venice International Film Festival over the weekend to mark the 25th anniversary of 1988’s Let’s Get Lost, his Oscar-nominated film about jazz great Chet Baker, and to show off work-in-progress footage from his upcoming film about actor Robert Mitchum, Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast.

The Hollywood Reporter: What does it mean for you to be screening Let’s Get Lost as part of the Venice Classics sidebar?

Bruce Weber: When we first showed it there 25 years ago, it was our first festival screening. Chet had passed away [earlier that year], and we didn’t know if we could finish it, emotionally or financially, but we all got together and worked very hard to finish it. We hadn’t shown it to very many people, so we were nervous for the screening, but the Italian people were really fantastic, all the festival people were amazing. We were shocked and happy and surprised. It won the critics award. It was a really great time for film. Our only sadness was Chet wasn’t there with us. We had always talked about his being there with us. It would have been really great to be in Italy with him.

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THR: What led to the 25th anniversary screening?

Weber: Lucky Raven [the Italian distributor] first worked with us on the film 25 years ago, and they wanted to take it on and do the DVD. They spoke with some people at the Venice Film Festival and they wanted to do it, too. They also wanted to do something on the film I’ve been working on for about ten years about Robert Mitchum. So we decided do a work-in-progress and also show the Chet film.

THR: There has never been a U.S. DVD release of Let’s Get Lost either.

Weber: Yes, but we are pretty sure there is going to be one out in November, and also boxed set that will contain Let’s Get Lost as one of four of my films from the period 1988 to 1966.

THR: Have you yourself looked at Let’s Get Lost lately?

Weber: I saw it recently at a theater in the Cuban section of Miami, at a wonderful theater which still plays film. It was great to see it again. I hadn’t seen it in a while. I’m always nervous about seeing my films – you see all the good things and the bad things.

THR: Looking back, what do you think the film’s impact was? It did re-introduce Baker to a lot of people.

Weber: The impact was so different for a lot of different kinds of people. When [producer] Nan [Bush] and I were running around to festivals showing it, all these people would come up to us and tell us that they were all in love with Chet Baker at some time in their life, and that they had had an affair with him. Now there is no possible way that he could have had affairs with so many people. One thing I’ve noticed -- it even happened at that last screening in Miami -- people feel very romantic with each other when they watch this film. The film is sort of a landmark for them, not just in terms of discovering Chet Baker but also in discovering each other.

THR: How are along are you with your Mitchum movie?

Weber: We’re going to be showing about 30 minutes as a work-in-progress. I met Bob almost 25 years ago. It took a little bit of time to get him to do it, but once he said yes, he was a man of his word. He was a real gentleman like that.

We filmed him a lot. And it’s part musical. He sings with Rickie Lee Jones and Dr. John and Marianne Faithful. Bob, years ago in the ’50s, he did a calypso album. He also did a country-Western album.

We just started working on some more interviews. We’ll do a little more research. And then I think we’ll finish it. I’m hoping we can get some money to finish it. It gets really expensive making documentaries now – especially if you have a subject like Robert Mitchum, who was so prolific and did like 130-something films not counting his TV appearances. Plus we have a lot of music in the film.

But I feel really fortunate that I was to bump into people like Chet Baker and Robert Mitchum, because they were characters. Everybody wants everybody to be alike these days, but these men lived on their own terms.