After 11 years pushing A Star Is Born as producer though three studio administrations — not counting the earlier iterations with Whitney Houston, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill and Will Smith he worked on while a Warner Bros exec — Bill Gerber is moving on to other projects. Not surprising, a lot of what he’s working on remains in the realm of music.
One of them solves the lingering mystery of the absence of Neil Young in Woodstock, the 1970 Michael Wadleigh-directed documentary. Young will be seen in a new docu that Gerber is producing as a companion piece to the original, and the singer is reunited onscreen for the first time with ex-bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Gerber is hard at work on a documentary that will be released within a re-release of the 1970 Michael Wadleigh-directed documentary chronicle of – sorry, Live Aid, Queen and Freddie Mercury — the most famous and infamous mass rock concert in history. Woodstock’s 50th anniversary arrives in August and Warner Bros is finalizing rerelease plans.
“The film has new interviews and is also the Young Men With Unlimited Capital story of John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, these two young guy who started Woodstock as a capital raise to build a recording studio,” Gerber said.
“There is also material no one has ever seen. Neil Young was not in the movie for a variety of reasons, until now. There is unseen footage of Janis Joplin and performance footage that hasn’t been seen. There are some great stories, like how Nelson Rockefeller was going to send in the National Guard to shut the festival down. Roberts and Rosenman had family in finance and banking and they got on the phone with the governor and pleaded with him to call off sending in the National Guard on that first Saturday. Otherwise, the festival never would have happened.
Gerber, who is nominated for Best Picture for A Star is Born along with Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor among the film’s eight Oscar nominations, could do a documentary on the many manifestations of the fourth version of A Star Is Born until it stopped with Cooper.
“Clint Eastwood wanted Bradley to do A Star is Born with Beyonce when he was going to direct it, and that is how they ended up doing American Sniper together,” he said. “Bradley had his play The Elephant Man and wasn’t sure he was old enough and instead went off to do the play.”
Even though Lady Gaga and Cooper are nominated for their performances, Gerber confirms it was no easy task to get the studio to say yes to the teaming.
“It started with them having little interest in the pairing, until Bradley and Gaga crushed a screen test that turned them around,” he said. “The scene that Bradley wrote for the screen test never made into movie. It was a fight scene with a very romantic make up, Janusz Kaminsky came in to shoot it, and a lot of black belts were lined up to make sure it was great. Thrown in some Little Richard, and they turned around on a dime. You could see there was real true chemistry between them, something you don’t often see in movies anymore.”
Gerber, who wanted to bridge music with movies since watching Hard Day’s Night, started in the A&M mailroom, and is producing a documentary on the record label’s heyday. “It was the greatest indie label of its time, founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, and we’ve got Cat Stevens, Sting, Lou Adler, Quincy Jones and Burt Bachrach re-creating the incredible atmosphere that resulted in everything from Peter Frampton to Carole King. Gary Khammar is directing.
A Star Is Born co-writer Will Fetters is this weekend turning into Gerber and Warner Bros a new draft of Crazy For the Storm, a drama based on the true survival tale of Norman Ollestad, who at age 11 survived a small craft plane crash and used the survival skills taught him by his father, an FBI agent, who died in the crash. “It’s a story of Topanga Beach culture in the ‘70s, and the values this father instilled in his son,” Gerber said.
Gerber expects that to happen at Warner Bros soon, along with The 6 Billion Dollar Man, the film Mark Wahlberg will star in, which is zeroing in on a director. There is also a biopic of Elizabeth Taylor that Lucy Walker is directing and Gerber is producing with Bad Robot and Glen Zipper, and What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, the HBO docu that Antoine Fuqua directed and exec produced along with Gerber, LeBron James and Maverick Carter.