Sacha Gervasi Lifts “Anvil”

Sacha Gervasi Lifts “Anvil” (photo)

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The story of “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” began in a London rock club in the early ’80s, where a teenage metal devotee named Sacha Gervasi first saw Canadian rockers Anvil. After the show, Gervasi went backstage and met the band, striking up a friendship with Anvil’s lead singer and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner. Eventually, Lips and Robb invited the then-15-year-old to be a roadie on their North American tour the next summer. Asked what a documentary on his relationship with the band during that period might have looked like, Gervasi replies, “That would have been amazing. People would not have believed it. My 17th birthday party: Angus Young of AC/DC, Kelly Johnson from Girlschool, Lemmy from Motörhead. I was hanging out with these guys! I was this young precocious public school boy who was into heavy metal.”

The precocious public school boy lost touch with the band, but years later, Gervasi looked up Anvil, and discovered that Lips and Robb had continued to record and tour together, despite the fact that rock stardom had eluded them. Eventually, Gervasi became convinced he needed to capture their struggle on film, a project he believed in so strongly that he sunk his own money into it. His documentary follows Lips, Robb and their bandmates on a journey that’s both hilarious and touching. Early sequences follow the group on a disastrously Spinal Tap-ish tour of Europe, where they play 10,000-seat venues to audiences of 175, and where, after a particularly bad gig, Robb notes of Anvil’s travel woes, “I can sum it up in one word… two words… three words: We don’t have good management.”

But “Anvil!” is ultimately a genuinely moving tribute to a remarkable friendship between a couple of guys who’ve never given up their dreams. And after decades in the musical desert, the band — thanks to the escalating buzz surrounding the film — is suddenly in high demand. I spoke with Gervasi just before he, Lips and Robb headed off to a GQ photo shoot; Gervasi was also trying to figure out how to make time for the guys to appear the following morning on “The Opie & Anthony Show.” For the director, this was the whole point. “I wanted to do a good thing for these guys,” he says. “And it’s amazing. When your heart’s in the right place, you can’t really fail.”

The movie begins with metal heavyweights like Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Anthrax’s Scott Ian talking about the band. You ask all of them why Anvil didn’t make it, and no one seems to have a good answer. I’m wondering why you think they never became superstars.

I think it was a combination of things. Anvil is notoriously too early or too late. In this case, they were too early. In 1982, they came out with “Metal on Metal” and while they were figuring out what direction to go in, they signed with this big manager named David Krebs, who managed AC/DC, The Scorpions and Bon Jovi. He was saying, “You shouldn’t be doing the hard stuff like ‘Metal on Metal’ or ‘666!’ You should be focusing on being like Bon Jovi.” The biggest manager in the business is telling them that if they want to be huge, this is what they should be doing. Meanwhile, Metallica, who were listening to [Canadian speed metal bands] Exciter and Anvil, took all of that and went bang! And while Anvil was arguing amongst themselves, I think there was a window that they missed. That’s my personal theory.

04072009_anvil4.jpgAt a certain point, you lost contact with the band. Was the idea of making a documentary about Anvil what brought you guys back together?

Not at all. In the summer of 2005, Anvil just came into my mind one night. I remember I was at the beach, just hanging out and listening to Metallica and I thought “That sounds so much like Anvil!” And I was like “What happened to them?”

I went online and discovered that the band had never quit. And I was like, “How is it possible that they didn’t make it and they didn’t kill each other?” I discovered ten albums I’d never heard of and saw photos from a show at the Horseshoe Tavern the week before. I was fascinated.

I wrote to the web site and got an e-mail back from Lips a week later. He was in L.A. It was as if the 20 years went by [snaps fingers] like that. I took him to my mentor, [screenwriter] Steve Zallian’s house — he was the one who introduced me to Steven Spielberg [who directed Gervasi’s screenplay for “The Terminal”]. I remember sitting in Steve’s kitchen and looking through the window at Lips explaining speed metal to Steve’s wife Elizabeth. I said to Steve, “He’s never given up. Why? Wouldn’t you just give up? He still believes he can make it.” It just suddenly hit me: It’s a movie.

“Anvil!” includes many obvious references to “Spinal Tap.” The one big difference — besides the fact that “Spinal Tap” is a fake documentary and yours is real — is that the director of “Spinal Tap” appears onscreen to lead us through the film. Did you ever consider putting yourself into “Anvil!” in a similar role?

I did. In an earlier version, I thought we’d just do “Spinal Tap” and we’ll freak people out because it’s real. So we did a version where I narrated. But the movie’s about these two guys. And by removing myself entirely, it just became obvious that that was what the film was. I just felt like it was an unnecessary filter.

at arrivals for PORTLANDIA Second Season Premiere on IFC, The American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY January 5, 2012. Photo By: Eric Reichbaum/Everett Collection

Carrie Loves Madonna?

5 Things We Learned About Carrie Brownstein From Her Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Q&A

Get the scoop on Carrie's live book release event.

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Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl is out on shelves both physical and digital, and the book tour kicked off with a Q&A session for fans at the metal bar Saint Vitus in Brooklyn. Questlove from The Roots and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon joined the Portlandia star on stage to moderate a conversation before a huddled crowd holding their plastic cups filled with draft IPA. “It’s familiar to both of us,” Brownstein joked. “There’s no bathroom backstage…it’s very humbling.”

From Madonna to Portlandia, check out some highlights from the Brownstein-Questlove extravaganza.

1. Carrie and Questlove Are Now BFFs

Portlandia pregnant

After the Portlandia funny gal read a passage from the book, which follows her life in music with the band Sleater-Kinney, Questlove remarked how surprised he was to hear he would be accompanying her for this event. “I don’t know if growing up we’d be best friends, but I know that we’re the same person,” he said. As proof that they would totally be Bffs, Brownstein continued to say how the first thing they bonded over backstage was the TV series The Affair, which she said is so unrealistic because both stars are British. “Half of The Wire is British,” Questlove said.

2. She Has a Major Madonna Obsession

Carrie call me

Some of the topics discussed were Brownstein’s band experience, absorbing feminism through punk rock, taping pictures of Dennis Quaid and Mel Gibson to her wall, and — more impactful — her obsession with Madonna. “I remember sitting on my bed and crying because I’d never be friends with Madonna,” she said of her 10-year-old self. Brownstein still hasn’t met her, though Questlove only hesitated a moment before bragging about how the “Material Girl” is “kinda” his manager. Guess we know what to get Carrie for her birthday.

3. She Went Incognito at Traffic Class

Portlandia driving

You know that traffic class you have to take after you get a ticket? No? Well, Brownstein does, because she had to take one. Not only that, but she took it just after the season 2 premiere of Portlandia. As she said, this wasn’t even season 1 when most people didn’t know her name. She was quite recognizable at this point, so to ward off unwanted attention at driver’s ed she tried to disguise herself as best she could.

4. Music Is Her Lifeline

Portlandia cat nap

Things got a bit real when Questlove asked Brownstein whether she would be okay with the possibility of her acting career overshadowing her musical endeavors. He likened the subject to how most people recognize him as “Jimmy Fallon’s drummer” instead of everything else he does with The Roots or his writing. The short answer is yes. She said she wouldn’t do anything creative — music or otherwise — if she didn’t want her named associated with it. That said, music has and always will be her “lifeline.”

5. Shocker! She’s Not a Ben Carson Fan

Portlandia what are you

Things got even more real when a fan asked a question about politics. Brownstein said that the fact that Ben Carson, and many other presidential candidates, came out against abortion and Planned Parenthood is “madness” and also shared her thoughts on racism and police brutality. She also noted “a collective voice of dissent” and “people starting to be more connected,” especially on social media. To lighten the mood, Carrie then joked, “Let’s have another clothing question.”

For more Carrie quotes, check out her Tumblr Q&A and our live-tweet of the Brooklyn event.


New Arrivals

This Week on IFC: Benders and Gigi Does It Are Here!

Benders and Gigi Does It invade IFC Thursday, October 1st starting at 10P.

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This Thursday, October 1st, get to know two great new shows on IFC. At 10P, get on the ice and join the team on Benders. On the premiere episode, Paul’s (Andrew Schulz) grandpa makes him an offer he can’t refuse, even if it interferes with his busy schedule of hockey playing and beer drinking.

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The stay tuned at 10:30P for Gigi Does It, the new show starring David Krumholtz as a grandma who gets her groove back. This week, Gigi Rotblum inherits her late husband’s secret fortune, hires an assistant (Ricky Mabe), and takes unexpected measures to protect herself. James Urbaniak (Difficult People) guest stars.

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Can’t wait until Thursday? We’ve got you covered. Click below to watch FREE episodes of Benders and Gigi Does It.

Watch an episode of Benders

Watch an episode of Gigi Does It

In addition to YouTube and right here on IFC.com, an episode each of Benders and Gigi Does It can be seen on VOD and TV Everywhere platforms through IFC’s cable partners.

Portlandia Season 5

Is It January Yet???

Portlandia Returns With Danzig, Louis C.K. and More on January 21

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT.

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Circle the day on your calendar and mark your sundial, because Portlandia is returning to IFC for its sixth season on Thursday, January 21st at 10P ET/PT for ten all-new episodes.

Portlandia gif

In season six, Fred and Carrie embark on all new Portland-based adventures, including inadvertently creating a ramen noodle monster that wreaks havoc on the city.

Other things to look forward to this season: Doug and Claire break up, only to wind up frustrated by a way-younger party girl and an overly caring feminist, respectively. Dave and Kath decide to run a marathon that takes place the following day. Fred turns grey overnight and, in seeking answers from the universe, gets sucked into a black hole. Kyle MacLachlan, reprising his role as the Mayor, tries to lure a tech company to Portland and also puts the moves on Carrie with a canister of frozen sperm from his office refrigerator.

Guest stars coming to Portlandia this season include Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Louis C.K. (Louie), musician Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, rocker Glenn Danzig, Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef), Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), Moshe Kasher (Another Period), Zoe Kravitz (Dope, Mad Max), John Levenstein (Kroll Show), NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), and Bitsie Tulloch (rimm).

Returning guest stars include Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). Be sure to catch Seasons 1-5 of Portlandia on iTunes and Netflix and check back here for more announcements before the season six premiere on January 21st.


Stephen's Lavish Life

Stephen Merchant Has Big Real Estate Dreams on This Week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!

Comedy Bang! Bang! is all-new Thursday at 11P with guest Stephan Merchant.

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Stephen Merchant says “Hello Ladies” on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, dropping by to tell Scott all about the lavish lifestyle that comes with having cocreated The Office.

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The British actor and comedian sits down with Scott and Cudi to talk about his many homes and what he has in common with Elton John. Learn all about how Stephen rolls Thursday at 11p PT/ET after an all-new Benders and an encore of this week’s skate-tastic Gigi Does It.

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