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SXSW preview: Interview with 'Lemmy' filmmakers

Five questions with the documentarians brave enough to zoom in on the notorious Motörhead front-man

Chris Garcia

Using a five-question format, we're interviewing South by Southwest filmmakers about their movies before and during the festival, which runs March 12 through 20. The interview series is being posted at the Austin Movie Blog at austin360.com, with weekly updates.

The SXSW Film Festival and Conference announced its complete schedule this week at sxsw.com/film.

Here, we talk to Wes Orshoski and Greg Olliver, directors of the rock documentary "Lemmy," a moles-and-all portrait of the legendary Mot?rhead frontman. The movie, featuring concert footage and interviews with Slash, Ozzy and Metallica, follows Lemmy and the band from Moscow to Berlin, Seattle to Sweden.

"Lemmy" screens at 6:45 p.m. March 15 and 9:15 p.m. March 19 at the Paramount Theatre. Lemmy and Mot?rhead will play Stubb's on March 16 in celebration of the movie.

Chris Garcia: From a distance, Lemmy has always seemed like this rowdy, crude, dirty, biker-pirate, totally hard-core but also thoughtful and kind of sweet. You guys spent a lot of time with him. What's he really like?

Wes Orshoski: He isn't rowdy or crude (not anymore, anyway). He's far more well-read and quick-witted than people assume. He has a tough emotional shell that's hard to crack. Also, there's no artifice. The guy you meet is the real man; there's no pretense, no b.s.

How did you approach Lemmy for the film? Was he game or did you have to ply him? Did he even like you guys? Did he ever bite you?

Orshoski: No biting. That's Ozzy you're thinking of. We approached band management with the idea, and it took about six months for us all to sit down together to discuss the idea, because of Mot?rhead's rigorous international touring schedule. Greg and I met with him and management at his favorite spot in Los Angeles, the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill (on the Sunset Strip), and ate pizza and drank and just chewed the fat. We spoke five minutes of business and spent the next four hours laughing at Lem's stories and just getting to know one another. When Lem excused himself, his manager, Todd Singerman, told us that that was the longest he had ever seen him sit in a business meeting.

Greg Olliver: He actually did bite me, but I never told Wes.

What was the biggest revelation about Lemmy you learned in the course of shooting? Does he like puppies?

Orshoski: I don't think he's a puppy fan. I was shocked to learn recently that he bought a friend a puppy, to which he responded, "Just because I bought it doesn't mean I have to play with it." One revelation might be his love for Pat Benatar and his obsession with Kinder Eggs, the milk chocolate eggs with little tiny toys inside them. He doesn't eat the chocolate, but loves building the toys. Kinder Eggs are actually on the band's rider, at least in Europe, where they're easier to get.

Olliver: Nothing surprises me about Lemmy, although I was quite impressed to learn he knows more about world war history than the History Channel and the Military Channel combined. OK, maybe I was surprised that he has better hearing than I do — and he NEVER wears hearing protection on stage! My ears are literally ringing from editing the film. Imagine what it was like to shoot it!

Did you shoot any footage in Austin?

Oshoski: Yep, the daytime show in the teaser (in which Phil Campbell and Lemmy are wearing shades) was actually filmed at Stubb's (SXSW day party 2007). We filmed several things in Austin that will show up in both the movie and the DVD extras.

During your time with him, how many packs of Marlboro reds did Lemmy smoke and how much J.D. did he imbibe? Considering his lifestyle, how many years as the Great, Grouchy Metal God does Lemmy have left?

Orshoski: Probably an entire North Carolinian field of Marlboros and a probably two or three kiddie pools of Jack and Coke. Who knows how long. Only time will tell.

Olliver: Even if you're not a smoker, this movie will make you crave Marlboros. Even if you're straight-edge and never had a drink in your life, you'll be headed to a bar immediately after it's over for a shot of Jack. As for how long he has left, he recently said that he's going to keep rocking till 2047, and I believe him.

Watch the "Lemmy" trailer at www.lemmymovie.com.

cgarcia@statesman.com; 445-3649