During its appearance at the King’s Cross Theater in London, Lazarus was registered. Was the movie ever supposed to be seen in public? It was originally intended for the archive, but with seven or eight cameras, we filmed it, as they do at NT Live. It turned out to be very impressive, a very distinct experience when we saw the finished work.
I spoke to David’s management instead of banging it out right away and we decided it was right to wait until five years had passed after his passing. With the surge of lockdown streaming-something David might have been interested in and active in-it felt like the right moment.
And his birthday is January 8. Thomas Newton, who Bowie played in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth, continues the tale of Lazarus. What made him feel inspired by Newton? For so long after that, the character must have had a major influence on him that he decided to make a musical based on him.
David had a sense of’ otherness.’ The character’s loneliness and fame was probably a part of that, and he probably associated with the fact that Newton was a major drinker-David was too clean and sober in his day. Newton’s playing had a profound influence. Long before he came to me with the idea of turning it into a musical, he was fascinated with the character and chose the book “The Man Who Fell to Earth”…. You proposed writing Lazarus to Enda Walsh – how did you come up with him? For the character, it felt really fitting: he wants to leave the world and come home, but he can’t.
I also felt the energy and eccentricity of Enda would suit David very well. The dots are related by neither of them.
I needed a writer who was anarchic and free-flowing.
David said that he had read the work of Enda – and were there any other ideas? For writers, I gave him a lot of other ideas. He read them all and I received an email from him about three months later, saying, ‘Enda is the man.’ What now? I said we needed a boss.
I had spoken to Ivo van Hove about something entirely different.
At the Young Vic, I saw his “A View from the Bridge” and was blown away.
I left the theater and gave David a call to tell him that it was fine.
It turned out that Ivo was David’s passionate fan. He’d seen him in New York’s The Elephant Man. When I asked him if he was interested, he said he should try it. Who wanted to use Bowie’s songs in the show? A set of about 60 songs he had written and performed was given to Enda by David. He said that all of them were available for you to listen to. Enda listened to them, thought about where the songs would fit into the plot, and, with his feedback, approached David. David agreed, ninety-nine percent of the time. He wasn’t sure that the final number in the show should be Heroes. He figured it was a little too showbizy, maybe.
But when he heard the arrangement, which is very different from the way he recorded it, he agreed it was right.The project then evolved at a rapid paceDavid got sick and he wanted to keep doing it. He said, ‘I have to do this while I’m alive.’ The whole time, he was heavily involved, especially with the musical director, Henry Hey.
David said he wanted to meet Michael C. Hall, who played Newton, and they went over to the apartment with Henry.
David came in and was as charming as ever; then he said, “So you’re going to sing for me!” Michael was obviously quite startled by this, but he did it and David loved the way he sounded. What Michael meant was that David was making it easier to deal with an uncomfortable situation.
It wasn’t in a studio – it was someone’s apartment and they were sitting on the sofa.
It wasn’t done in a way that felt heavy or off-putting – although it probably was to do it.
Michael’s stronger than me! As a collaborator, what was Bowie like? The predominant feeling I got from him was one of creative generosity. He loved the people he worked with and he trusted them – he gave them 100% loyalty and was their champion. When we started rehearsing the show in New York, I got a message to meet him at a studio in Brooklyn.
I went to the address and it turned out to be the day he was shooting the video for his version of the song Lazarus, directed by Johan Renck. He was so professional and incredibly good-natured to everyone on the crew, really polite and engaging.
I went back to the dressing room and David said he was tired and needed to rest.
I realized that not a single person on set wu