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10/24 Press Conference featuring “Born to be Blue” from Competition Section

Born To be Blue

©2015 TIFF

Robert Budreau’s Born to be Blue, which is screening in Competition section of the Tokyo International Film Festival, takes a look at the brilliant, yet addiction-tormented, jazz artist Chet Baker through a key time in his life, the late 60s, when he was beaten up and thought never to recover and play the trumpet again. The film creates a fiction, based on some key facts, creating a moving portrait of a great artist, struggling with addiction, personal torments and monumental difficulties. It’s also a love story.
As Rob Budreau described it, “I think we like to see it as a re-imagining. Because jazz is an improvisational art, we wanted to capture the spirit of jazz in the story. Chet Baker was approached in real life by Dino De Laurentiis, Fellini’s producer, to do a movie about himself. That movie never did happen, but I love the idea of pretending that it did happen. I think there is a certain fallacy with the purported authenticity of certain biopics. I think nobody really knows what happened to certain people. Even Chet Baker, himself, for example, described the beating which he suffered, which is one of the central points of our story, very differently over time.”
“As part of the re-imagining, what I wanted to do with the female character is in a sense, combine all the women and wives of Chet Baker’s life into one women. So Jane [played by Carmen Ejogo] clearly doesn’t exist. She was the female that Chet was starring in a movie with and I was able to focus and make the film much more of a love story – because Chet Baker did have a lot of women in his life. And it allowed us to explore a more universal love story in that sense.”
Chet Baker, apart from his soulful and lyrical trumpet style was infamous for his drug use. His story is inseparable from his addiction. Rob Budreau’s take – and Ethan Hawke’s portrayal – shows Baker in a non-judgmental way, bringing out his essential humanness, describing the tragedy of addiction through the singular and complex person that was Chet Baker.
Rob pointed out, “There’s a line in the movie from Jane, who reminds Chet at one point that he played a lot of his best music before he ever was on drugs – when he was clean. Up until the mid-50s, a lot of Chet’s most famous songs were when he hadn’t yet touched drugs. Our film explores addiction, obviously, and hopefully in a kind of universal way. I think Chet Baker felt he needed drugs not only for the music but also just for life. I think it insulated him from life.”
In describing Ethan Hawke brought out the complexity of his role, Rob adds “[He] did a very good job of portraying that junkies, in particular, can be very manipulative, charismatic people – and very funny and very multi-dimensional. And not just kind of bad drug addicts. I think Ethan did a very good job capturing someone like Chet Baker, who obviously has faults and his addictions, but can be wonderfully funny and human in a lot of different ways. I think it’s easy to see why women would be attracted. And there’s also this thing fans – and women in particular – have for the victim complex. Chet always had people feeling sympathy for him. And I think a lot of women fell for him because of that. And ultimately he was very good looking rock star kind of a person.”
Born to be Blue had been on Rob’s mind for a while. But it came together quickly, once it was brought to producer Jennifer Jonas.
As she related, “Rob Budreau brought my partner, Leonard Farlinger and I the script. He was aware that our film company, New Real Films had made quite a few films with musical themes. And we were thrilled to read the script and become part of it. And very soon on we were thrilled to learn that Ethan Hawke was interested in playing Chet Baker. And to our good fortune he was filming another project in Toronto at the time and as I mentioned we were able, thanks to David [Braid], to have the music arrangements early enough to film them and it meant that Ethan Hawke had a full six months to practice the trumpet and the fingerings, which is an unusually long amount of time in film time. Six months may sound short, but for us it was a gift that he was able to learn the trumpet music for a full six months before we started filming.
She added, with a chuckle, “And did I mention that Ethan does his own singing.”
David Braid, their musical collaborator, added his own personal story. “To be honest, it’s a dream project for a jazz musician, especially for myself, who just by complete coincidence, one of the first artists that was most influential to me was Chet Baker. The first record I ever bought. I bought it because I liked the look of the CD cover. It looked cool. But he had a very lyrical style, which I sort of related to. I feel like he was part of my musical identity from a very early age. So, naturally when Rob approached me about this film, I was thrilled, because I got to do something creative with this music that was so important to me.”
Like great jazz, Born to be Blue, was born out of a collaboration, an improvisation as it may be, between a group of talented film artists sticking true to the values of creative impulses and, in particular, to the legacy and genius of Chet Baker.
[Nicholas Vroman]

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)