Metallica goes Hollywood for 'Through the Never' movie

05:00 AM, Jul 29, 2013

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett plays a lick during the live concert footage in 'Metallica Through the Never.' He might be playing in a recording studio soon — the band has tentative plans to record a new album in 2014. Carole Segal/


Written By by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

The songs of Metallica are blistering, dynamic masterpieces of in-your-face musicianship. The messages within them, though? Well, the band would rather have folks headbang their way to a personal interpretation.

And so it goes with the 3-D IMAX hybrid concert/feature film Metallica Through the Never (in theaters Sept. 27), where the heavy-metal rock gods fade to black, Hollywood style, for the first time.

I get out of (expletive) bed every day for experiences I don’t know anything about,” says drummer and admitted “movie geek” Lars Ulrich.

Directed by Nimród Antal (Predators),Through the Never intersperses a rockin’ show — featuring band members Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, singer James Hetfield and bass player Robert Trujillo — with a dark fantasy narrative.

The story stars Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as Trip, a roadie and Metallica acolyte who’s sent on a mission and runs right into a seemingly post-apocalyptic situation that includes riots and a gas-masked, horse-riding harvester of sorrow — the Death Dealer.

Dane has a certain intensity about him on camera that I think really fits the intensity of our music,” Hammett says. “Our fans are very, very passionate and intense in their own way, and I’m hoping when they see Dane, they can see themselves.”

The band internally discussed doing an IMAX movie for a decade, during which it released the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster, which explored the exit of bassist Jason Newsted, Hetfield’s visit to rehab for alcohol abuse and the group struggling to stay together.

The idea for a feature stayed on the back burner until about four years ago, when Metallica started hearing pitches from a variety of filmmakers. Of the final four proposals, three were sci-fi flicks and the other was Antal’s hybrid.

Instantly, we thought, ‘Uh, we’re not going to make a sci-fi movie.’ But Nim’s concept had more of a Metallica-type feel and it was a better vehicle for our music and songs,” Hammett says. “He’s seen us live, he knows our music intimately, he gets it.”

And when it came to Antal’s script, Ulrich adds, “there was a kind of chaotic beauty to it and utter madness.”

In addition to having “pretty much the most badass soundtrack a film has ever had,” Antal confides that Metallica tracks such as Master of Puppets, Wherever I May Roam,Enter Sandman and One heavily influenced the tonal direction of his story. (A two-disc, 16-song soundtrack album will be released Sept. 24.)

You don’t think of puppies running in fields with flowers when you’re dealing with Metallica,” he says. “I saw it as a guy where everything is being thrown at him, and he’s got to persevere and succeed. Some of those things are pretty dark. It’s an emotional thing.”

Ulrich was impressed with the fact that Antal’s story had great energy but was also ambiguous, a trademark of many of the band’s tunes.

There’s no dialogue, and the first couple of times DeHaan read the script, he couldn’t get a handle on it.

It’s not literal at all,” Hammett says.

We don’t like to get up on our soapboxes and talk about what people should think or shouldn’t think,” Ulrich explains. “Over 30 years, we’ve tried to encourage people to sort of figure out themselves rather than listen to what Kirk or I say. When people see this film, there’ll be some debate as to what’s actually going on.”

Producer Charlotte Huggins (Journey to the Center of the Earth) was impressed not only by Metallica’s raw talent but also the musicians’ respect for each other. “If all rock stars are like the guys in Metallica, then this is definitely an industry I’d like to be part of,” she says.

The idea of taking a concert film and turning it on its head was the most difficult part of the project as the band paraded it through Hollywood and tried to find creative collaborators, says Ulrich. Everybody wanted to have a point of reference or elevator pitch, he says: “I’m making ‘Saving Private Ryan meets Star Trek’ or ‘Prometheus meets Fight Club’ or whatever.”

For him, it was easier to say what this movie wasn’t. “It’s not (Led Zeppelin’s) The Song Remains the Same, it’s not (Pink Floyd’s) The Wall. It’s not (The Band’s) The Last Waltz. It’s not the Katy Perry/Justin Bieber/Britney Spears doc. It’s not Some Kind of Monster.”

With their Monster documentary, there was a dramatic arc — “Fortunately for the audience and unfortunately for us,” Ulrich quips. “The movie worked so much especially for a film audience. There were some people in the music world who were a little taken aback by the transparency of that film.”

Through the Never needed to have that narrative from the start, and if they could put that into a music film, it would be something special.

If people like it, then it’s a great thing. But there had to be a story in there of more than four guys playing a rock show and eating sandwiches backstage in a prayer circle. The world doesn’t need another movie like that.”

Metallica still has a couple of weeks left before finishing the movie. As for their next project, Ulrich thinks 2014 will finally find them back at home in the studio working on their 10th studio album and first since 2008’sDeath Magnetic.

We may be fresh out of excuses to not make another record,” he says.

I’m sure I can come up with something,” Hammett replies with a laugh. “Isn’t there any other old established artists we can go out there and make an album with? Is Harry Nilsson still around? What about Harry Chapin?”

Ulrich jokes that they’ve been procrastinating for a while: “Hey, let’s do this instead! Let’s make this movie so we don’t have to make a new record.”

More seriously, he adds, “the reason we do all these projects is to go into an area of discomfort or unknown, go into a place where you don’t know exactly what’s going on, and theoretically when you go back to music then it reinvigorates you and makes you come back to the studio and say, ‘Now we’re ready to make a record because we’ve learned all this stuff!’ “