Portrait of an artist

Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
Nick Cave
COMING TO NEW ZEALAND: NickCave

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Nick Cave has announced New Zealand solo shows in the North Island in December. A film portraying a fictionalised 24 hours in his life, 20,000 Days on Earth, will open the New Zealand International Film Festival this month.

Nick Cave had an immediate reaction when film-makers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard pitched the idea of a rock documentary.

"I couldn't think of anything worse," Cave said during rehearsals last week in Nashville before his appearance at the Bonnaroo music festival. "Because of all the other rock'n'roll documentaries out there that are just such a yawn, that do more damage than they do good. You always walk away from these films about your heroes or people that you're interested in feeling like you'd wish you'd never seen the film."

The film-makers eventually convinced Cave to do the documentary, but as you might expect from one of rock's most unique figures, 20,000 Days on Earth isn't much like anything you've ever seen before. The film portrays a fictionalised 24 hours in Cave's life.

The film premiered at Sundance in January and received several awards. Now Cave is taking it on the road as he tours the United States with The Bad Seeds. 20,000 Days will be in theatres days ahead of the band's arrival.

It's not like your average rock documentary. Much of the movie is scripted or staged, with Cave giving viewers a peek at key moments in his life, but in controlled situations. It opens with a shot of Cave in his office, stacked high with books and cluttered with pictures, as he pecks away at a manual typewriter riffing on creativity. He admits that he's a cannibal, consuming the lives and stories of others for his songs, novels and screenplays.

You won't catch the imposing 56-year-old Australian in a pair of rubber gloves washing dishes as cameras roll. Why did the idea appeal?

"I think it's wrong to think that the celebrity or the person who lives a lot of their life in the public eye is a normal person, even though there's a lot of celebrities who go to great lengths to appear that they're normal people," Cave said. "There's no way they can be normal people. Their lives are mutations, and so sometimes it's easier for people who've been in the public eye or have done a million interviews to actually speak more truthfully in that environment than it is in their natural environment."

Forsyth and Pollard were initially commissioned to shoot video footage of recording sessions for Cave and The Bad Seeds' last album, 2013's Push the Sky Away. Cave invited them in for the entire length of the sessions and was quite taken with the result, which shows the band intensely crafting Cave's lyrics and ideas into songs that carry his dark vision and humour. It wasn't until Forsyth and Pollard showed up with storyboards outlining a different kind of film that he allowed the project to go forward. Even after shooting was completed, he wasn't sold and didn't relish sitting in a dark room watching himself on a screen for 90 minutes. What changed your mind?

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"When I actually went and saw it in the cinema, I was really blown away by the idea that a couple of directors had an idea and they made the film and the result is just like the original idea they had, which is very difficult to do in the film world," Cave said. "Basically they were allowed to realise their vision by the producers and financiers of the film. I was blown away by that." AP THE DETAILS:

Nick Cave at the Civic Theatre Auckland, December 6-7; St James Theatre, Wellington, December 8-9. Tickets on sale Thursday.

- Canterbury

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