“I was always interested in the family dynamic because I come from a musical family,” blockbuster producer Frank Marshall tells us on what drew him to direct the HBO documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.
“I was always interested in what made them tick. Until I examined their career and journey, I had no idea what an incredible story it was,” says Marshall, “They transcended five decades, and somehow they stayed together over these five decades and kept reinventing themselves.”
“People think about them as kind of lightweights and they’re really heavyweights,” adds Marshall who has executive produced such docus as 2018’s What Haunts Us and produced Alex Gibney’s 2013 nonfiction feature The Armstrong Lie.
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Of the myriad moments which Marshall explores in How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is the success behind Saturday Night Fever, both the 1977 film, which went on to gross over $237M and an Oscar Best Actor nom for John Travolta, and the soundtrack, which at 40M copies sold WW, is the second- biggest selling behind The Bodyguard. It all started off when Bee Gees’ manager Robert Stigwood bought the rights to the New York magazine article Tribal Rights of the New Saturday Night, which served as inspiration for the film despite the fact that it didn’t have any storyline. Stigwood then signed Travolta to a three-picture deal, which would encompass Grease and the romance drama he did with Lily Tomlin, Moment by Moment. Stigwood needed a soundtrack, and he looked to the Bee Gees to deliver. It was slam dunk for them while recording at Cheateau D’Herouville in France, where Elton John also made his legendary album Honky Chateau. The band was sent a script, but didn’t read it, rather they sent back an audio tape which contained the future-uber hit singles “Stayin’ Alive”, ” More Than a Woman”, “If I Can’t Have You”, “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Night Fever”. Stigwood got ahead of the film, dropping songs before the pic’s theatrical release and leveraging the power of that with Paramount. Initially, the Melrose Ave. lot was set to only release Saturday Night Fever in 200 theaters nationwide, but Stigwood made a deal whereby every time the soundtrack scored a single in the top 20, and then the top 10, the studio would increase the number of theaters accordingly.
We talk with Marshall today about his successful streak as a producer, how he’s maintained a balance between a studio and a filmmaker’s wants, the return of cinemas, the future of reboots Back to the Future, Goonies and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?; his next Hulu docu-music-series McCartney 3,2,1 and, of course, the new installment of Indiana Jones from director James Mangold.