Interview: Tim Pope, Director of The Cure: Anniversary
If you are a fan of The Cure, then chances are you are a fan of Tim Pope, the director behind the band’s most famous music videos. Pope has worked with The Cure for almost 40 years, and their latest collaboration is concert film that captures the band’s 40th Anniversary performance at London’s Hyde Park.
We spoke to Pope about the new film, the legacy of his work with The Cure.
Curzon: How did your relationship with Robert Smith and The Cure start?
Tim Pope: I met Robert in 1982 when he asked me to do the video for ‘Let’s Go To Bed’. I subsequently directed many of the videos for their most famous songs - and, yes, I did the one for ‘Close To Me’, set in a wardrobe which goes over a cliff with the band inside, as well as ‘Lovecats’ with the psychedelic pussycats and ‘Lullaby’ with the giant spider’s mouth.
MTV was starting up and spreading across the world and our videos became very well known with people literally waiting to see what we did next. I think [that] created a lot of The Cure’s visual identity. Videos subsequently have become formulaic and boring, and our work let us cut free of convention, mainly as the rule book had yet to be written. I also directed the 1987 35mm film The Cure In Orange, which had a theatrical release and became a fan favourite, capturing the band just at the moment they hit the big time.
In many ways, our new film Anniversary is Orange 2 and I think, given my appearance in the director’s chair, our audience will pick up on this. For its part, it draws a line in the sand between their old catalogue of songs and their upcoming album which Robert has just announced and is their first in over 10 years.
How did the film Anniversary 1978-2018 come about and your involvement?
Pope: Robert pinged me an email. It said, “Fancy filming us at Hyde Park?” I should mention, as usual with Cure projects which always historically had short lead-up times far too short for what was humanly possible, this was no exception. I didn’t really know the set list, so immersed myself back in Cure music. I attended a band rehearsal in the tiny room where they do this, and plonked myself on a chair near to Jason the drummer, and between Robert and Reeves the guitarist as I listened on headphones. This, I figured, was the best place to see them from and they performed the entire gig.
From this, I decided I wanted to capture two things: the epic quality that the band’s music uniquely has with songs like Pictures Of You, Fascination Street and A Forest, and also the subtle and intimate musical relationship of the band when they play. They do actually laugh a lot more than people might think they do! I think they truly create a remarkable sound, given it is just five people making it. It was bloody great to see the forthcoming gig in rehearsal.
How did you capture the Hyde Park gig? How do you capture something on that scale?
Pope: As it happened, we got a killer summer evening in Hyde Park, which I think is the perfect atmosphere and setting for The Cure’s music. Throughout the film, we literally see the daylight giving itself over to the night. I managed to get a camera up on a cherrypicker to give us the wonderful dusky London skyscape and to see the 65,000 audience.
We shot in 4K and had only 20 minutes to get the special cameras in place before the band came on stage. Due to various technical reasons, not all my cameras were ready in time. I thought to myself, I could really freak out here, but opted for a calmer, more zen-like approach. I closed my eyes and literally imagined the shots as I spoke. By the time the set reached the 5th song, I was all set and finally with all the cameras up to see.
I guess my main preparation was literally to place myself inside the music, which is how I always work. Robert is very trusting, although I worked alongside him for the edit. I do love this audience, as I know they will ‘get' certain things. For example, how I cut the song The Walkharkens back to the video I made in 1983.
What do you hope fans will experience when they see Anniversary 1978-2018 in cinemas?
Pope: Well, I want the audience to feel like they are sat in the band’s middle, like I did that day that I described earlier. It is an up close and personal experience. At moments we are super close to Robert’s face, the next so wide the audience looks like ants. Given that so much of The Cure’s music literally provided the soundtracks to people’s lives I want our audience to come on the 40-year journey, too.
It was fantastic to mix the music at Abbey Road Studios and the 5:1 surround sound mix sort of places us in the middle of the experience, so to speak. I hope it will be a heightened experience for people and that they feel they are watching a real gig rather than a film, but from the best seat ever imaginable. I want to see audiences up on their feet, cheering and dancing. I plan to send a note to the 1, 500 cinemas around the world in 50 countries where Anniversary will show to say, ‘Please turn this up LOUD.’ Like in Spinal Tap, I seriously want to the volume knob to hit 11!
What's coming up next for you?
Pope: In the mid-nineties, I had a bit of a bad experience in Hollywood making the Crow 2 movie, when the producers and Miramax Studios were at loggerheads and recut the movie to be like the original Brandon Lee Crow, despite the fact I had shot and cut a whole other movie. I think this story is pretty much known by a lot of people. This bruised me quite a lot, especially when my name was credited at the end. Tell you how ridiculous it was - a studio head rang me in London to say did I wish to see the director’s cut of the movie, which I (im)politely declined!!! Before the Crow 2, I directed a short, Phone, which Martin Scorsese wrote to me to say how much he loved.
Anyway, finally I am back in the saddle to make my next self-written movie, Drone, which takes place in Brighton and tells the story of a couple who become addicted to their neighbour’s life via, yes, their drone. I hope this will hit cinemas late next year and we are currently casting some very big names. I am working with the fantastic producer Derek Frey who has produced most of Tim Burton’s movies. Watch out for this one, but in the meantime I plan to enjoy the release of Anniversary, and it will be a unique feeling to know people will synchronously be watching in Hawaii, Iceland, Russia, Australia, the US and the UK. Technology is amazing and what a world we live in!
The Cure - One Night Only Cinema Event
The Cure, acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest live bands, take the stage on a perfect July evening in London's Hyde Park 2018 to deliver a set of songs celebrating four decades of music making.
The ensuing film Anniversary 1978-2018, directed by long-time collaborator Tim Pope, captures them in glorious HD. The 5.1 audio mix by Robert Smith and Paul Corkett complements and completes this fabulously immersive cinematic experience.
From Lovesong to Lullaby, from Boys Don’t Cry to Burn, from Fascination Street to Friday I’m in Love, Robert Smith and his extraordinary band – Simon Gallup, Jason Cooper, Roger O’Donnell and Reeves Gabrels - take us on a magical trip through time.
The Cure: Anniversary 1978-2018, Live in Hyde Park plays for one night only on Thursday 11 July, at our cinemas in Knutsford, Oxford, Aldgate, Bloomsbury, Richmond, Soho, Victoria and Wimbledon.