Abacus Media Rights has acquired the Sky Original feature documentary “The Ghost of Richard Harris,” about the Hollywood star and notorious hell-raiser, for worldwide distribution. The release of the film, directed by Adrian Sibley, coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Irish actor’s death.
The film, produced by Bright Yellow Films, Samson Films and Groove Intl., tracks Harris’ career, which was overshadowed by a reputation for drinking and riotous behavior. Exploring this complex, flawed individual, the documentary features Harris’ three sons, BAFTA Award-winning actor Jared Harris (“Chernobyl,” “The Crown”), actor Jamie Harris (“Carnival Row,” “West Side Story”) and director Damian Harris (“Brave the Dark,” “Wilde Wedding”).
The film “builds a new picture of a fascinating man seen through the eyes of his sons and close friends,” including Russell Crowe, Stephen Rea, Jimmy Webb and Vanessa Redgrave. It uses unseen family footage shot by Harris himself from the family’s archive, recently discovered Super 8 footage from his childhood, and audio from interviews he gave, including selected extracts from interviews with Joe Jackson, which he conducted with Harris over the course of 15 years for a biography Harris commissioned, and that Jackson is publishing this year, titled “Richard Harris Hellraiser Reaching for Heaven.”
The film will air in the U.K. on Sky Arts and streaming service NOW later this year.
Sibley said: “I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Harris through his son Damian at the Savoy to talk about making a documentary about his life and times. He’d seen my film with Anthony Hopkins where he talked about drinking and thought we’d work well together. Richard took me out for supper and I had one of the best nights of my life. He was the ultimate storyteller and everyone in the restaurant stopped to listen to him, but I still felt that he was only talking to me.
“I knew I could make a fascinating film about this unusual man, but unfortunately soon afterwards he became ill and died. Now on the 20th anniversary of his death, using hours of unheard audio tapes of interviews with Richard over many years, I have the opportunity to actually work with him from beyond the grave and make the film we discussed, with him unravelling the story of what he calls ‘a turbulent journey’ of ‘great highs and lows,’ in short, a life that few can even imagine.”
Damian, Jared and Jamie Harris said: “We have been approached several times over the years to participate in various documentaries about our father. We turned them all down, because Adrian’s was the one our father wanted to tell his tale.
“As sons, we all saw Dad differently, through the lens he allowed us to see him by. As a man he resisted being discovered, jealously guarding his mystery, delighting in his ultimate creation, the character ‘Richard Harris.’ This is a remarkable opportunity for us to re-engage with our father once more, beyond the memories we have, or the dreams in which he appears to us. It’s a story told in hindsight, frankly, without sentiment, but always with affection. Like all good mysteries we don’t know where the story will lead us, but we welcome the chance to embrace the complete man.”
Jonathan Ford, managing director at AMR, said the film offers “an intriguing and insightful look into the life of a person we all know from his global work and talent.”
It is produced by Bright Yellow Films, David Collins of Samson Films and George Waud of Groove Intl., who most recently was a financier/co-producer of “Cabaret,” which just won seven Olivier Awards.
It is financed by Groove Intl. and Screen Ireland alongside Sky Arts. Executive producers are Celine Haddad for Screen Ireland, along with David Blake Knox, Mike Downey, Philip Edgar-Jones and Jack Oliver.