Colin Hanks Talks Friendship and Filmmaking in Nos Amis
The director of the documentary shares thoughts on his process, his friendship with the band, and the power of music in times of need.
HBO: How long have you known the band?
Colin Hanks: I’ve known those guys for a while now… seven or eight years. I met Josh [Homme] at a show many moons ago, and then met Jesse [Hughes] shortly thereafter. They’re just really funny light-hearted guys. At the tail end of making my documentary about Tower Records, they helped me out with some music issues I was having for our trailer, and ended up playing our premiere party. That party was four weeks before the Bataclan show. I actually talked to Jesse two days before the attack.
HBO: How did the documentary get started?
Colin Hanks: About three months after the attack, they were going back on the road to finish the tour, and play at the Olympia in Paris. My producing partner, Sean [Stuart] was talking with one of the band’s managers about whether they were going to bring anyone to document that show. The band said if anyone was going to, it would be us. We had a conversation about it and I said, “I think there is a really good opportunity here to put a punctuation at the end of this chapter.” It was an important moment to try and capture, people trying to make something positive out of that horrible mess.
HBO: Why start the film with Jesse and Joshua’s relationship?
Colin Hanks: It was kind of a happy accident. We didn’t have a lot of time -- we decided to do the film two weeks before they were going on tour, so we were running on instinct. Sitting down in front of a camera is about the most uncomfortable thing you can imagine, so normally, my process is to use the first few questions to make the interviewee comfortable. I tend to ask questions that have nothing to do with what we plan to talk about. I knew what their relationship was and I knew the bond they have -- it’s unique and very special. Halfway through Joshua’s interview, Sean came up to me and said, “We’re going to see what their story is.” Jesse was in Paris [during the attack] and Joshua wasn’t, and this was a part of the story that most people don’t know about.
HBO: Why did you decide not to include news footage in the film?
Colin Hanks: There was a lot of sensitivity there. We wanted to make something that wasn’t gratuitous -- that wasn’t exploitive of their experience and the fans that we spoke to. I didn’t want to show too many images of violence. The weeks afterwards, that stuff shows on television and you become desensitized to it.
HBO: Were you concerned about asking them to speak on the subject?
Colin Hanks: It was hard because it wasn’t that long after the attacks. Everything was fresh in their minds. Luckily, we have a good friendship, so we were able to lean on and be honest with each other. It was harder with the survivors because we didn’t have that friendship and they hadn’t told their stories to any other public outlet. I promised them I would try to be honest and truthful and represent them the best way I can. I am honored to call them my friends now because they took a flying leap of faith to speak to me.
HBO: What does the film say about music’s ability to create a community and the significance of those communities in moments like the Paris attack?
Colin Hanks: You know for some people music is what they hear in the elevator or waiting in line. For other people, music is incredibly important: It’s either a way to escape or to help you get through whatever you need to get through, good or bad. A lot of the people at the Bataclan were music fanatics. Those people in the front row were the people in the front row at every Eagles of Death Metal concert up to 15 years prior. Music can really save people. I think that return show at the Olympia was a chance for everyone to reclaim something that had been taken from them that they really hold valuable.
I have so much admiration for U2 because they knew what an important gesture it was for Eagles of Death Metal to get back out there. Jesse and Joshua and the band, they don’t look at their fans as just fans, they really see them as friends. I think Bono was spot on when he said the attack represented an attack on our way of life but I think what is more important is what that return show represented. It wasn’t political -- even though you can see it that way. It was a bunch of people coming together and taking steps to move on with their life. That’s a powerful thing. There were people who couldn’t go or who weren’t able to go and that’s completely understandable. Everyone was dealing with it in their own way. Going to that show was definitely what some of the fans needed, and it was definitely what the band needed. That’s what we were there to document.