INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Q DECEMBER 2018 - by Niall Doherty
COLDPLAY'S DREAM SEQUENCE
Director Mat Whitecross on following his Oasis film with a documentary more than two decades in the making.
A Head Full Of Dreams, a new Coldplay film from Supersonic director Mat Whitecross, begins with an incongruous transatlantic phone call between Chris Martin and the film-maker. "I was wondering if you'd had a chance to see the film yet?" asks Whitecross. Martin replies that he can't bring himself to watch it. "I feel like if I see it, I might just want to remove myself," says the singer. "If it's OK with you, could I just trust you on it? We've known you for so long and we trust you."
That theme of friendship and belief sets the tone for an access-all-areas documentary that has been more than two decades in the making. Whitecross met Martin and the rest of the band - Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion - when they were all students at University College London in 1996, living in halls of residence just off Tottenham Court Road. He was an aspiring film-maker and his friends were in a fledgling band, so he started following them with a camera.
"I kept pestering them and filming all the time, saying, 'I wanna make a film about you guys,'" recalls Whitecross. When the band were about to sign to Parlophone, he suggested doing something with his year's worth of footage, but they weren't convinced. "They were like, 'I'm not sure if we've really got a story yet,'" he says.
Ever since, the band have encouraged Whitecross to keep documenting them, inviting him along to various tours and recording sessions. "Every two or three years, I'd say, 'Come on, we've got a lot of footage now, let's make something!' but they'd go, 'Don't worry about it, stick it on the shelf.'" He shot lots of material when the band were making 2008's Viva La Vida with Brian Eno, but that ended up gathering dust too. "It was like the most expensive home movie never made," says the director.
He still isn't certain why the band decided that now was the right time. "I don't know if Chris is one hundred per cent sure that he ever wanted the film to be released. But he said, '[The album] A Head Full Of Dreams feels like the culmination of something we were trying to do when we first met, the end of a certain chapter of our lives and we don't know what we're doing next, so maybe now is finally the time to take stock.'"
Whitecross had more than a thousand hours of footage to work through. Mixed in with concert clips, interviews and contributions from their collaborators over the years, A Head Full Of Dreams (on Amazon Prime Video from November 16; in cinemas from November 14) gives a detailed insight into the inner-workings of one of the world's biggest bands, capturing their rise in the early '00s and the ruptures that appeared as they dealt with both being huge and their frontman's ascendance into the world of A-list celebrity. One scene shows drummer Will Champion's amusingly unimpressed reaction when Martin shares a potential lyric name-checking Leonardo DiCaprio. "It's a bit wanky, talking about 'Leonardo'," the drummer reasons, probably correctly.
Brian Eno helped to re-establish the bond between the quartet, and Whitecross says that that connection between them is key to his film. "It's not a sexy subject, friendship," he says. "When we were making Supersonic, it was about rivalry and confrontation and anger. This is about the opposite. Friendship and unity. In some ways, you realise that that's just as fascinating, that what unifies you is more important than what divides you. I think that's the story of Coldplay."
With millions of album sales and some of the most successful tours in modern music behind them, Coldplay have earned the right to look back. A Head Full Of Dreams is a compelling recounting of their tale. Chris Martin is missing out.