Johnny Depp to Produce Documentary on Shane MacGowan

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Johnny Depp

The legendary Irish folk-punker is getting the doc treatment, with Julien Temple directing and HanWay Films selling in Berlin.

Johnny Depp is set to produce an upcoming doc about legendary Irish folk-punker (and his friend) Shane MacGowan. 

Julien Temple (Glastonbury, The Filth and the Fury, London: The Modern Babylon) will direct Shane, a feature documentary about the man, the music, the Irish diaspora and what the filmmakers describe as his "seemingly effortless facility for writing lyrics to some of the world’s most listened to songs including 'Fairytale of New York,' capturing the spirit of Ireland whilst on his own very personal voyage into the heart of darkness."

Temple will produce through Nitrate Film together with Depp and Stephen Deuters (Minamata) through Depp’s production entity Infinitum Nihil and Stephen Malit (London: The Modern Babylon). HanWay Films has acquired worldwide sales rights and will introduce the project at the upcoming European Film Market where the company will screen footage for the first time. Altitude Films will distribute the film in the U.K. and Ireland and it will be broadcast on BBC Four at a later date. The film is being made in association with Warner Music Group.

"Knowing Shane for 30 years, I am honoured to be producing the definitive film on both my friend and one of the most important artists and beloved poets of the twentieth century,” said Depp.

No one has bared their soul quite like Irish poet and musician MacGowan. In pursuing the visceral emotional truth demanded by his own personal trials and tribulations growing up in a culture of strong anti-Irish sentiment in Britain, he has lived life to the hilt and beyond, putting every atom of his humanity on the line. For in a world where music has become increasingly sanitized and unable to venture beneath the surface cliches of human emotion, Shane’s songs stand out in ever greater relief. His work is raw, unflinching and unashamed. Reflecting all the many places Shane inhabits — the invisible world, hedonism, alcoholism, God, redemption and romance, in all their respective grit and glory, this film will weave his story in and out of the music as we journey in nonlinear fashion from childhood to the present day.

Shane will use animation, unseen footage from Temple’s own archives and contributions from collaborators, artists and, most important, MacGowan's own family, in an effort to reveal MacGowan's true punk and poetic nature, culminating in his 60th birthday celebration, where singers, movie stars and rock ’n' roll outlaws gathered for a "knees-up to remember."

"It’s not the easiest thing to make a film about Shane MacGowan," says Temple. "The nearest thing I can think of is one of those David Attenborough films. You set the camera traps. You wait and you wait, in the hope that one day the snow leopard will trigger them. Then when you do actually capture the unique force of Shane’s personality, even for a moment on screen, you realise it was all worthwhile."

Jan Younghusband, head of music commissioning, is executive producer for BBC Music, along with Steven Lappin for Warner Music Entertainment, Jeremy Thomas of Recorded Picture Company, Gerry O’Boyle, Manish Patel and Sam Sarkar. Victoria Clarke is associate producer.

Welsh illustrator Ralph Steadman, well known for his collaborations with American writer Hunter S. Thompson, is providing artworks for animator Jonny Halifax (All Tomorrow’s Parties, Ibiza: The Silent Movie) to bring to life.

“Shane had a dream to bring Irish music to the next generation and to the world," says HanWay Films managing director Gabrielle Stewart. "In that he was truly successful and a purpose very much fulfilled. Woven into his documentary Temple movingly manages to bring Shane’s lyrics to life and connects you to the man who has encapsulated the soul of the Irish worldwide."