Almost eight years ago, Courtney Love gave director Brett Morgen a key to a storage unit full of Kurt Cobain's notebooks, photographs and tapes. With that, the filmmaker took a big step into the world of enigmatic Nirvana frontman.
Morgen created his new documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, by weaving together the wealth of material he found in that locker with old home movies provided by Cobain's mother Wendy, as well as interviews with Cobain's family and associates. As he tells us, it wasn't an easy journey -- in addition to the massive amount of material to sift through, there were lawsuits and issues obtaining the music rights that held up production for years.
Among Morgen's other projects, he co-directed the 2002 documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, about former film executive and producer Robert Evans. That film was part of the reason Love sought Morgen out -- she liked the way he worked with photographs and other mementos.
Montage of Heck is is the first documentary about Cobain made with the permission of his widow and daughter Frances, now 22, who is an executive producer on the film.
Now on HBO, the film goes all the way back to the musician's earliest days and provides a deep dive into the life of perhaps the most famous rock star of the 1990's -- a man who was, as friends and family explain, complicated.
Among Cobain's demons was an addiction to heroin. Montage of Heck shows both Cobain and Love under the influence of the drug as they cared for their baby daughter, Frances. Because of those sequences, Morgen was nervous about Love's reaction to the film, even though she had been the one to approach him about making it in the first place. But when she saw the film for the first time, just a few days before its world premiere, she told him it was beautiful.
The documentary debuted to strong reviews at Sundance in January -- more than 20 years after Cobain's death. Morgen told us he's been shocked at the response -- he had no idea it would be so huge. He knew that people from his generation who grew up with Nirvana had strong feelings for Cobain, but was clueless about how many teenagers from other generations had also found their way to Nirvana's music over the years.
And now, some of Cobain's music that's never seen the light of day can find its way into the hands of fans new and old. Morgen has assembled an album made up of Cobain recordings and spoken word pieces he found in Love's storage unit. There were so many hours of material that not all of it was able to fit into the film, so instead of releasing a traditional soundtrack, Morgen opted to use some of the cuts that didn't make it on screen to create something much more personal: "It feels like you're in Kurt's house, watching him create."
There hasn't been an official announcement from the record label, so Morgen wasn't able to give us all the details, but the hope is that the album will be available this summer.
Brett Morgen, documentary filmmaker (@brettmorgen)