'It's So Easy and Other Lies' Director Christopher Duddy Talks Duff McKagan and Guns N' Roses

Photo Credit: XLrator Media
June 3rd, 2016

Guns N’ Roses are probably one of the most well known bands of the last 30 years and there legacy will continue on for years to come. Most fans of the band have seen documentaries about them or about Axel or Slash but director Christopher Duddy has just released his brand new documentary, It's So Easy and Other Lies, which focuses on bass player Duff McKagan. Duff, who just released his best selling novel of the same name, offers up his life story in a unique and entertaining way as he reads passages from his book live in concert with his band scoring it and Christopher catching it on camera. Christopher was kind enough to sit down with TheMovieNetwork.com and tell us all about this film and his relationship with the famous rockstar. The film is in theaters now.

Nick Leyland from TheMovienetwork.com: This obviously is not just a normal documentary on Guns N' Roses, it's a documentary about one piece of the puzzle, a piece that you don't see that often, right? 

Christopher Duddy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, that's what Duff and I had lots of discussions about it at the beginning of this process was how can we make this different and stand out, and let's do something out of the box. And so that's kind of... I think we accomplished that.

TMN: How did you get involved with him in the first place? 

Christopher Duddy: Well, Duff and I met actually walking our kids to school. We lived on the same street, unbeknownst to me when we moved in. I lived three houses down from him and we met walking our kids to school and we became really good friends and we both share a love of sports and football and he used to come over to my house and watch football games on Sunday. We were friends for about five years before he wrote the book. And then he wrote the book and he wanted me to read it and when I read it, it really struck a chord in me reading his book. And as a film maker, you look for story-telling like this to put on screen and so I approached him after I read the book. I only kinda knew Duff from Guns N' Roses on, forward and I didn't really know his back story. And I thought it was just really interesting where it came from and the rags to riches element of it.

Christopher Duddy: And then the dark side with the drugs and alcohol and all that and almost dying and then reviving and having a second chance and all that. It's inspirational and I think I like to tell inspirational stories. I think a lot of people, especially this day and age, we need an uplift. So I approached him to make a documentary and he didn't want to at first. He was just dealing with the book. The book was doing really well and then I just kind of kept at it and finally when the book came out on paperback as a New York Best Seller, he finally called me one day and he said, "Hey, if we're gonna do this thing," because well, he started going, "I'm doing the press junket for the paper back release, why don't you come with me with your camera?" And so I did and we didn't really know what we were gonna do yet, and so I would just go with him and he would do these morning shows or book signings. It was cool just being with him and following him around and stuff. And then, sort of the defining moment was when Guns N' Roses got inducted into the Hall of Fame and he asked me to go to Cleveland with him. And I was like, "Of course man."

Christopher Duddy: He said, "Bring your camera and then come a day early. The night before I'm doing a book reading show at the House of Blues in Cleveland." And I was like, "A book reading show, what the hell is that?" I mean I didn't even know what he was talking about. He goes, "Yeah, I'm doing this show, on test we've only done it like twice, buy I'm just testing on an audience to see what they think of it and stuff." So anyway, I went and I watched this show and it really touched a chord in me, watching him do this show. And it was really interesting, I had never really seen anything like that before. And he was sitting on this stool on stage with his band behind him and he was reading pages of his book, different stories out of his book and the band was scoring it behind him and I was like, and then when I started shooting, I was shooting the audience reacting to it. And it was a sold out room and it was standing room only and people really responded to it, like they were into it. And they were laughing and I saw they were crying. It was emotional. It was powerful.

Christopher Duddy: Anyway, so when we got back to LA I was like, "Duff, I got it." I had a clear vision of how we could make this different and out of the box, blah blah blah. And so we decided to put a bigger, more elaborate show together for the movie specifically. More chapters of the book, a bigger orchestration and so that's what we did. And we shot up in Seattle for a couple of weeks. We shot that show for two days and I think it's really cool. It's a cool and unique way, a device if you will, to take the audience through the difference parts of the story and the story telling of it. And I just think that that book reading show is very special and unique and it comes off on screen, the way they play the orchestration of the Guns N' Roses songs with the steel slide guitar and the string quartet, it really resonates and it really brings back those songs in a really different and special way. You know what I mean? It's not like we used the original recording, we didn't use any Guns N' Roses or Velvet Revolver original masters recordings.

Christopher Duddy: It was all played live in the live show and the only master recordings we used in the movie was from his other bands, Walking Paper and Loaded. But, that's kinda the in-a-nutshell sort of story about how it came about.

TMN: You also obviously decided to go deeper. That's what I liked about it. It's obviously not just the show. You go deeper with what he's talking about with interviews and such.

Christopher Duddy: Well, yeah. Then it was because of the show reading. I mean, typically documentaries, you don't have a script, like a narrative, you have a script with dialogue and everything. It's more of ideas, and a description of what you're gonna do. The documentary you just start, it's like an investigation and you kinda find stuff out along the way and then that sorta dictates the narrative and the story telling. But with this, it was interesting because we took the book, and he had the script pages, the book pages, that he was gonna read, the chapters he was gonna read in the show really dictated the parts of the story that we were gonna tell beforehand.

Christopher Duddy: I remember writing the treatment or the outline for it. And in between the readings that he was going to do, I'm gonna go interview these people about this part of that story. It was actually Duff's idea to use animation. I was gonna use those sequences with animation. I was gonna try to do, especially the opening sequence when he almost dies, I was gonna shoot that like a re-creation sort of a flashback and shoot it real stylistically and all that, and hire a guy to play Duff. And as I'm describing it like that to Duff, he's like, "No man, why don't we use animation?" And he pulled his phone out and he shows me this animation sample from this movie, another documentary called Cocaine Cowboys 2. And it had some really cool like, stylized animation in it, and I was like, "Oh, that's cool." And then, I met this guy a couple weeks later, just coincidentally, that had just done this music video with all animation, and he was showing it to me, and I was like, "Oh my god, do you wanna do this movie?"

[chuckle]

Christopher Duddy: And literally the first time Duff saw the first test, the animation test with the animator, Matt Askew, he sent me a text with a sample of what Duff would look like animated and we were sitting in my living room. And Duff grabbed the phone outta my hand and jumped up, and ran to my kitchen where my wife was hanging out with some of her friends, and Duff ran in there and he was like, "Jolie, look at this, look at this."

[chuckle]

Christopher Duddy: So we ended up using more animation than I first kinda started out to do, but it's cool. We lucked out, also with Marc Canter, all his footage from the early Guns N' Roses days. Marc Canter grew up with Slash, and he was like Slash's childhood friend. And when Guns got together, they used to hang out at Canter's Deli, which was a famous deli here in LA, and 'cause they didn't have any money and Canter would feed them. So, they just gave him a VHS camcorder and said, "You're our photographer." And he shot their first 50 shows on a VHS camcorder, and when Duff told me he had this footage, when I approached Canter, he pulled the box out of his garage and he goes, "Aw." He was like, "Dude, I'm so happy that somebody's finally gonna use this footage."

[chuckle]

TMN: Oh my god.

Christopher Duddy: And I was like, "What? Nobody's used them, and nobody's seen this footage?" He's like, "Chris, this stuff has been sitting in my garage for 25 years and nobody's used it."

TMN: Wow.

Christopher Duddy: So, I wanted to use a lot more of that footage, 'cause it's so cool. And they were so good, even their first few shows, but at the end of the day, it wasn't a Guns N' Roses 80s documentary, as you've watched. It's more about, it's Duff's journey through it all, and of course, Guns N' Roses is a big part of his life and it meant a lot to him, and it did define who he is, not really 100% who he is, but it really, he is what he is because of that era in his life, but there's a lot more to Duff. There's a lot of layers with that guy, and that was another reason why I wanted to make the movie, 'cause it wasn't just like, "Oh, it's just about a rockstar, a musician." This guy has all kinds of layers in his life and things that happened, and ups and downs, and the drug addiction, and the alcohol addiction, and all that stuff. And then, getting a second chance and coming back and doing something really good and special, and he went back to college when he got sober at like 32 years old and got a degree in business.

TMN: What's interesting is that you're his friend. You've known him, and you don't run across too many movies where the person making the documentary actually knows their subject.

Christopher Duddy: Well, that was another reason why it worked for Duff and I to do it, because he trusted me because we were friends before. And he's just one of those guys, he's just a dude, he's a bro. We'll hang out and we'll have discussions about books and stuff and our kids and what our kids are going through. So, I don't know if Duff would've let just any documentary filmmaker make this movie, I think, because he's that kinda guy it had to have been a friend to do it. And I've been a filmmaker for 25 years before we met, so it wasn't like Canter where Duff handed me a camera and an edit bay and says, "Here, make my documentary." And like I said before I love these kinds of storytelling. As a kid, growing up movies about, hero movies and rags-to-riches stories and those kind of arcs of characters, I just always responded to me. And Duff's story is that, I think. I think he's the prime example that even in people's darkest times they can survive and come through it and be a better person. And, so anyway I just wanted, I wanted to tell that story.

TMN: I'm glad you got a lot of people to help you tell the story. You got Mike McCready, Slash, and other guys and was it easy to get them to come onboard? 

Christopher Duddy: Yeah. I mean, that's the thing. Duff is very well liked in the music orbit business, in the music industry, especially among the rockstar clan, if you will. There was a lot more people that we could've got. There's a few people we had that didn't make the movie just because it didn't fit. But with that being said, we also didn't wanna just go out and just get a bunch of rockstars just to have rockstars in the movie and not be part of the story. So there was sort of a fine line we had with that, because we could have gotten, we could have gone to all kinds of other people. I'm not gonna throw out names right now, but we were like, "Would that names really fit this part of the story?" And if it didn't, then we didn't approach that. I just put the blinders on and kept true to each little chapter that we were telling of the story. I mean, 'cause there's a lot of stuff that's not in the movie that A, was in the book or B, that happened in real life. But we have that template of what we were doing so we just stuck to it.