PARK CITY, UTAH -- To hear members of the iconic rock group the Eagles tell it, the choice to break almost four decades of near total media silence and put out a revealing rockumentary that traces their humble beginnings through superstardom to spectacular in-fighting to the band’s inevitable 1980 bust-up came down to a simple proposition.
“It was time to get it down if we were going to do it,” said the Eagles’ notoriously reticent drummer-singer, Don Henley. “It could come to a screeching halt tomorrow. We thought it was time.”
“The History of the Eagles Part I” is making its world premiere at Sundance Saturday night and the group held a news conference several hours before to announce that the film -- produced by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney and directed by longtime documentary editor Alison Eliwood -- has been acquired by Showtime, which will begin airing and streaming it on demand Feb. 15. “History of the Eagles Part 2” will premiere on the network the following day.
Eagles singer-songwriter Glenn Frey noted that the global audience who reveres the group’s music has never had the chance to have insight into its creative imagineering (and bickering) until now.
“We have not over exposed in the last 42 years,” said Frey. “There’s a lot that’s been left to people’s imaginations. For us, it’s an opportunity to sort of give people a view of what it was like to be running around the country in the 1970s, making records. . . ”
“. . . Growing up in public,” interrupted Henley.
Much of the film probably will come as a revelation even to super fans of the Southern-fried balladeers who rose to fame for their brand of rock with a conceptual bent. Aside from talking head interviews with the members, a substantial portion of “History of the Eagles’” footage -- Super 8 with sound, outtakes for a never released 1977 documentary partially shot by cinematographer Haskell Wexler -- was locked in band members’ personal archives and has never been seen by the public.
“We were very private. We didn’t allow access,” Henley said. “We tried to keep it in-house. But we had the foresight to film some backstage stuff. And that’s in the film.”
Lead guitarist Joe Walsh used the news conference as an opportunity to revise what he feels has been a long-held misconception about the Eagles.
“The bitter fighting that the media loved to talk about really didn’t take place,” Walsh said. “We argued a lot and we discussed stuff a lot. That tension had a lot to do with our creative process.”
“Most of the things written about this band are focused on conflict,” added Henley. “We call it the Journalism of Conflict. It sells magazines and newspapers. But as people will see in this documentary we had fun. Some of it is not on film, and that’s good. But a lot of it is.”
For the Record, 11:10 a.m. Jan. 21: A previous version of the photo caption on this post incorrectly identified two members of the Eagles. Don Henley is second from left, and Glenn Frey is third from left.