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Little known details behind the scenes of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'

“I’m not a drunkard, but I needed a drink before entering the site in the morning ... I just knew what was going to happen, and I knew that I had to mentally, let’s say, refresh myself in some way ...”

The cult film "The Wall" by Pink Floyd and little-known details about it

"The Wall." groups Pink Floyd considered by many to be one of the best albums ever released! The album was also made into a film, described by critics as a surreal incubus, drawing inspiration from both the record itself and the band's live experience... But few people know that the details that were left behind the scenes of the film "The Wall" were rather strange and places insane… Based on the classic album Pink Floyd 1979 the year that followed such hits as "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Animals", this film was inspired by the band's elaborate live performances and wild visions Roger Waters, vocalist and bassist Floyd. By the way: the movie was made Alan Parker and includes animated episodes created by Gerald Scarfe. But this is not the most interesting thing to tell about the iconic "Wall"...

Alan Parker says he "should never have taken on The Wall"

Images from the short film for the song "Another Brick in the Wall"
Images from the short film for the song "Another Brick in the Wall"

By the time he was invited to the team, the British director Alan Parker already had an impressive reputation in Hollywood! In fact, the guitarist of Pink Floyd David Gilmour once called his movie "Midnight Express" "The Dark Side of the Moon", which Parker found "very flattering..."

However, Parker did not want to take the reins of power over "The Wall." and later stated that he "should never have taken on this film ..." And although he later said that he was proud of the result, he also added:

“Looking back at the process, making the film was too tedious a task for me to get any pleasure from…”

Alan Parker
Alan Parker

Creative clashes between him, Roger Waters and animator Gerald Scarfe were a major source of Parker's "displeasure". He briefly described their union as follows:

“Three megalomaniacs creating in one room… It’s amazing that we have achieved something!”

But the most surprising, perhaps, is that initially "Wall" thought of as a completely different movie! Before Parker agreed to direct the project, he was attached to it as a producer, while directorial duties were entrusted to the cinematographer. Michael Serezina and already mentioned Gerald Scarfe. The film was supposed to include live footage of the band performing The Wall, but attempts to film five separate shows in Earl's Court in London did not give the desired results ...

"Neither Michael nor Gerald knew exactly what they were supposed to do," Parker later remarked.

Serezin eventually left the project, after which the film's concept was revised. As a result, they decided to refuse concert recordings, and Bob Geldof - vocalist The Boomtown Rats — replaced Roger Waters as Pink. They even re-recorded the original songs, turning "The Wall." into an abstract conceptual play...

Why the role of Pink was given to Geldof

The organizer of the festival is Bob Geldof. Photo: Steve Rapport
The organizer of the festival is Bob Geldof. Photo: Steve Rapport

Initially, the role of Pink - the main character, who from childhood protects himself from society, from the influence of the people around him, their morals and prejudices - was to be played by himself Roger Waters, however ... after a screen test, he was deemed unsuitable for the main role. As a music journalist noted Nick Kent:

"He (Waters) is incapable of projecting anything but a banal tantrum on stage, punching himself in the chest..."

Syd Barrett and Roger Waters
Syd Barrett and Roger Waters

Then for the role Pink was invited Bob Geldof. According to Parker, he was harder to convince Waters to let Geldof re-record his songs than to force him to give him the title role! Actually ... on the set Parker and Waters often clashed over creative differences. Parker described Waters' approach as "autocratic control of the whole process". Also, according to Alan Parker, Waters was "the only person in the whole world who really knew what the movie was about," but ... he was wrong. As it turned out, Waters himself does not quite understand the concept of his creation to this day:

“Gradually, the film becomes so strange ... I don’t know how to call it,” Waters admitted in an interview.

Bob Geldof decides to "pour fuel on the fire"

Bob Geldof in The Wall
Bob Geldof in The Wall

Remarkable, but at first Bob Geldof refused to participate in the project, saying that he did not like the music Pink Floyd! In the end, Parker managed to persuade him: the director was simply amazed by the screen test, in which Geldof performed a scene from "Midnight Express".

However, the difficulties that arose at the very beginning did not bode well for the future ... Already during the filming "The Wall" Geldof faced unusual obstacles: as it turned out, he could not swim and was afraid of blood. During the scene "Thin Ice" Pink swims and thrashes about in the hotel pool. Since Geldof could not swim, he was placed on a transparent plastic body mold similar to those used for the flight scenes in Superman 1978 of the year!

Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof

Geldof also had to face his fear of blood while filming the scene in which Pink shaves off all of his body hair - he had a $1 million insurance policy in case his eyebrows didn't grow back.

Bob Geldof shaves off his eyebrows...
Bob Geldof shaves off his eyebrows...

Worse than that Geldof accidentally cut himself while throwing a TV out of a window, and post-production kept the scene in the film.

There were real skinheads on the set

Still from the movie The Wall by Pink Floyd
Still from the movie The Wall by Pink Floyd

Few people know about this, but the film crew hired for the film 380 real skinheads! They specially hired members Tilbury Skins, a notorious rowdy gang based in a port city Tilbury on the Thames. One participant told the BBC in 1980 year:

“We did what we wanted and didn’t worry about anyone!”

Managing hundreds of skinheads on the set was, to put it mildly, not easy ... Dressed in a special livery, they went into pubs to wreak havoc there and disturb the locals ... Later Alan Parker described his difficult mission:

“I had to keep them from getting bored, but at the same time not to let them hit everyone in the head…”

Parker thought it would be difficult to capture the feel of a stage show.

The Wall Concert by Pink Floyd
The Wall Concert by Pink Floyd

Before filming "Walls" by Alan Parker and Michael Serezin flew to Germany to see Floyd live… The production used animation Gerald Scarfe and a huge, literal wall built on stage! Calling it "rock theater on a gigantic scale," Parker felt that matching—not to mention exceeding—a live show on tape would be a challenge.

Parker said that the group "created a theatrical sensation that would be difficult to improve within the confines of the conventional movie screen." Initially, the production team thought that the best way to simulate the spectacle of a live performance was to film actual concert footage. Struggling to adequately capture the tone of the tour, they turned the film into a lengthy, surreal music video that tells the story of "the descent Pink from the level of a rock icon to catatonic alienation and transformation into a megalomaniac dictator…”

Gerald Scarfe kept whiskey in the car to calm his nerves

Gerald Scarfe
Gerald Scarfe

Animator Gerald Scarfe provided the album cover and created a cool animation that played during live performances Pink Floyd… He was also asked to display his artistic talents in the film, resulting in Parker, Waters and Scarfe creatively clashed, and the situation escalated so much that Scarfe kept whiskey in his car to calm his nerves before filming:

“I’m not a drunkard, but I needed a drink before entering the site in the morning ... I just knew what was going to happen, and I knew that I had to mentally, let’s say, refresh myself in some way ...”

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