Pearl Jam continued its anniversary celebration with the raucous premiere of “Pearl Jam Twenty” over the weekend in Toronto. Proclaimed the “hottest ticket of the festival” by TIFF’s Thom Powers, the movie is an exhilarating ride with the band through their well-documented history.
Director Cameron Crowe introduced the film by bringing each of the band members on stage but almost forgot lead guitarist Mike McCready — until the roaring fans in the audience quickly reminded him.
At a post-screening press conference, Crowe said he convinced the notoriously private band to open up and tell their story through a mix of current interviews and an unbelievable amount of never-before-seen archival footage by making “a movie that lets you feel like a Pearl Jam concert or record lets you feel.”
Crowe said the holy grail was the much-talked-about but never-seen footage of Eddie Vedder slow-dancing with Kurt Cobain to Eric Clapton’s “Tears of Heaven” at the VMAs. He said the scene is “so powerful, such a human moment and it is what happens outside the glare of the spotlight” and “the fact that it’s on film is amazing and so poignant.”
Vedder recalled when seeing the footage for the first time in the movie that it was “incredibly emotional, just ’cause he’s smiling… and you wish he just could have pulled through.”
In making the film, Crowe said he traded on his long-time relationship with the band to do interviews that felt more like actual conversations so that he could “show what it would be like to be inside the band instead of on the outside looking in.”
The film also served as a cathartic moment for Crowe to apologize 20 years later for begging Pearl Jam to play an MTV promotional concert for the release of his grunge-era “Singles” movie and its accompanying soundtrack.
In one of the pivotal moments of the film, it was revealed that the tequila-fueled disaster of a concert became the turning point in which the band finally learned it was OK to say, “No.” And at the press conference, it was further revealed that the notorious event was never mentioned among Crowe and the band until making the movie and the cameras were turned on.
Vedder also reflected on how difficult the intense pressures of fame and success were back in the earlier days, noting that “What we had at the time was too much for me, for a human,” but “he can’t even fucking imagine for a second” how young stars deal with the even more intense media scrutiny of today.
Now, he’s proud that they have all survived and are who they want to be. Looking back through the film, it’s something he appreciates even more.
“It’s just music,” he said, “but to turn it into this other thing, a monument, is something.”