Van Morrison says he has “put aside all the documentary material” he has on hand to allow a filmmaker to create a proper doc portrait along the lines of Martin Scorsese’s Dylan doc, “No Direction Home.”
“I have all this material collected and I realized we weren’t getting past 1968,” Van Morrison told Daily Variety. “We were really squeezing everything in. It was getting very complicated and I realized, ‘I need someone to collaborate with,’ so I just put it all aside for now.”
Morrison has had movies on his mind lately. EMI released on Feb. 13 “Van Morrison at the Movies: The Soundtrack Hits,” a compilation of 19 of the more than 70 Morrison songs that have graced films.
It’s a potent reminder of the role the Belfast-born star’s music has played on screen over the past few decades.
Morrison’s system today is to “watch a clip of the movie” before granting approval, a process he says is made easier “when top directors ask to use one of your songs. If Neil Jordan wants to use a song, you can be pretty sure he’s going to use it appropriately and he’s going to be sensitive to the material.” Morrison says it wasn’t always so and like his early career music biz travails, “back in the 70s my songs were just turning up in films I knew nothing about. The songs were just being used indiscriminately and I had no say in it.”
Over the past two decades, however, Morrison has no complaints and points to films such as Oscar best pic “As Good As It Gets,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and Neil Jordan’s most recent film “Breakfast on Pluto” as positive examples of films using his songs.
“It’s great now,” says Morrison, who was winding down this morning from Wednesday night’s Gibson Amphitheatre sell-out show and before tonight’s Oscar Wilde Awards at the Wilshire Ebell Theater where he is being honored for “Irish literary contributions to film,” alongside scribes Terry George and William Monahan.
Morrison has regularly expressed his love of culture – mostly literary and musical – in his songs. References to Coleridge, Yeats and Kerouac bop up regularly alongside tips of the porkpie hat to Jackie Wilson, Big Bill Broonzy and Gene Vincent.
Until now, however, Morrison’s cinematic influences and filmmaking heroes haven’t popped up much in the press or on the disc or stage. He quickly rejects the tag “movie buff,” but then demonstrates that he’s not surprisingly, a rather sophisticated movie viewer. Saturday matinees in Belfast were filled with pics such as “The Cisco Kid and Hopalong Cassidy,” but by his teens Morrison had moved on to heavier fare.
“I love Hitchcock and Welles and Brando. ‘On the Waterfront’ was the big one, you know, the taxi scene with Brando and Rod Steiger. ‘I coulda been a contender.’ And ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ was way ahead of its time.”
Euro faves on Morrison’s list include Alain Resnais’s “Last Year at Marienbad,” Jean Cocteau’s “Blood of a Poet” and “everything by Fellini.”
“If you see anything with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson or Joe Pesci, you know it’s going to be good,” he said, and not surprisingly, Nicholson and Pesci were in the audience the last time he played the amphitheater. Closer to his Irish home he cites director Jim Sheridan and thesp Daniel Day-Lewis as “two of the greats.”
Morrison has never appeared in a film. Tantalizingly, he answers affirmatively when asked if he would consider being involved in one. “It was a long time ago, but there was talk about doing a movie around ‘Astral Weeks.’ It’s one that lends itself the most to being a film. It’s probably the most cinematic.”