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DOC NYC: The Police Guitarist Andy Summers On Getting the Doc Treatment in 'Can't Stand Losing You' and Why He'd "Entertain the Idea" of Touring Again With the Band

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire November 14, 2012 at 11:17AM

In the DOC NYC documentary "Can't Stand Losing You," which had its world premiere Friday at the festival, The Police guitarist Andy Summers revisits the past he laid bare in his hit 2007 memoir "One Train Later." Coming on the heels of the band's massively successful worldwide reunion tour that wrapped in 2008, the film, directed by Andy Grieve and Lauren Lazin, frames the English musician's fascinating backstory with exclusive concert footage and behind-the-scenes access.

"Can't Stand Losing You"
DOC NYC "Can't Stand Losing You"

Are you a fan of the Rock documentary genre?

No, I can't say I am. I'll get more or less interested in the film, depending on the band. I know the story so well. I thought one about George Harrison was good, but about an hour and a half too long; the [Bob] Dylan one was the really great one -- "No Direction Home," was it? Now that was 4 hours and it was riveting. I also like the one on Rush, actually. I'm not particularly a Rush fan but the guys are so sweet that I really enjoyed the film. I like the one on Anvil... Hilarious, brilliant. I can't say I'm really a fan of Rock documentaries; I'll see one if it's recommended to me, but I don't seek them out. It's probably because I'm in that scene. I go, "Oh, yeah, I know that move... I know that one." I've done it all. It's less interesting for me. It's too self referential... I like all of my inspiration to come from other places.

How is this different than your book launch for you -- is it kind of like revisiting that time of your life, in a way?

It's not totally dissimilar because I'm talking about the same stuff. Except, you know, 'What are you trying to do in making the film?' requires a slightly different response. In a way, I was a lot less involved... And that became one of the problems for me. With everything else that I do in my life, I like calling all of the shots. Obviously, when I was writing the book -- that was just me, facing the wall. I'm talking about the same material, but the sitting down and the writing of the book was the daily, creative challenge to put that project together. With the film, I'd get calls: "Can you add a bit of music to this," "Can you do something about this," and somebody else was actually telling the story of the film and, subsequently, I had a lot less control over it. I can't say that making the film was as fully, artistically fulfilling to me. It ended up in the hands of Andy Grieve. Although, in a sense, I created all of the material by living it... It's constructed from my photographs and all of the videos. But I'm not a filmmaker, I'm not an editor.

" It was also such a great tour; it was one of the biggest tours of all time, done at a particularly auspicious moment because it was before the recession. Everyone had money to buy tickets, we were able to do it at that level. If we went back, what would we do?"

If you could change anything about the film, what would it be?

Well, of course, vanity would make every scene of it my philosophical thoughts about playing the guitar, but you can't get all of that into the film. It's just impossible, it becomes too literal. That's like photographing the pages of the book, it's a different medium; and that's why I thought Andy Grieve was so brillaint. With all of my little cherished moments, he'd say, "Throw 'em out, they don't work." I'd say, "You can't throw that out, it's so great." And then he'd just say that it doesn't work, it doesn't forward the movie. He was always talking about forwarding the movie, pushing it to the next moment from whatever he's doing at the time. So I'm bowing to his editorial judgment. He's still telling the story as it was lived. He's a brilliant editor, and it made all of the difference.

We were with another director and another editor for a long time and it wasn't working; that was someone who was literally trying to make every page in the book. It was nice for me, in a way, but it wasn't working... it was getting muddled, too much. Andy came in, and he flipped all that material into what we've got now -- great editing.

Given that your memoir came out two years before you reunited with The Police, do you guys ever foresee coming back together and going on the road again, once this film starts gaining traction?

Yeah... Again, you never want to say never. At the end of that tour, it was, "Well, we'll never do that again." It was also such a great tour; it was one of the biggest tours of all time, done at a particularly auspicious moment because it was before the recession. Everyone had money to buy tickets, we were able to do it at that level. If we went back, what would we do? Try and repeat a stadium tour like that? It would probably be smaller. I doubt we could do that again, so I don't know why we would -- we went out on a total high. We just killed it on that tour, no one could compete with that tour. So I'd say it's unlikely, but you never know what's going to happen. I'd entertain the idea. I don't think we could go back out without new material. Apparently The Eagles go back out every once in a while and they've made a couple new records. What was that tour they did? "Hell Freezes Over"? They named it that because they'd never play together again, and they did. They all grew up. I don't know, we'll see. It seems unlikely.

In a way, it's nice to get the film out. I don't think there's anything left we can do... Everything has been repackaged, we've got all the awards, we've done the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, did the reunion tour... What else can you do? Death? We'll die. I don't think there's really much else.

This article is related to: DOC NYC, Interviews

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