Lili Fini Zanuck On Documenting Icon’s Highs & Lows In ‘Eric Clapton: A Life In 12 Bars’ – Toronto Studio

Chris Chapman

Lili Fini Zanuck hasn’t made a feature since 1991’s Rush, a ’70s-set thriller in which Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric play undercover cops getting in over their heads in the Texas drug scene. That film features original music by British blues veteran Eric Clapton, whose call to Zanuck kickstarted the Toronto Film Festival entry Eric Clapton: A Life In 12 Bars. A candid look at the musician’s public and private life, it covers his early days with ’60s legends The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, revealing the backstory behind his iconic hit “Layla,’ before moving on to his solo years, .

Zanuck, a self-professed novice when it comes to the art of documentary, revealed that she was daunted when the process began, simply because so much material was not available from the start of his career. “In the early days,” she confessed during a visit to the Deadline studio, “it was very, very scary, because there’s not a lot of early performance footage. Sometimes we had to make a feast out of a contact sheet! There’s no performance footage of lots of things that you would find so important. In those early days it was pretty scary, because we’d have an interview and nothing to look at, because we had made a decision that I wasn’t going to have talking heads in the movie.”

Guiding Zanuck in her endeavors was British producer John Battsek, previously responsible for the Emmy-nominated documentaries Listen To Me Marlon and Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden. Battsek, an old hand when it comes to bringing non-fiction to life, explained that he hadn’t always shared Zanuck’s anxieties. “When you have someone as super-talented as she is,” he said, “you know that, one way or another, you’ll figure out how to do it.”

You can find out more by watching the video above.

Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii LoveWatford GroupPhilosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.

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