Duranalysis: The Making of Arena, Part Two

Continued from the previous post, let’s examine the second half of the “Making of Arena" featurette, a large chunk of which is devoted to footage of the dancers from Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” video rehearsing their routines. While this section is a little short on Durans, I have no real complaints. Toned, pantsless men who do high kicks and front flips are always fun to watch.

This poor young dancer was caught on camera at this unfortunate midpoint of his makeup job:

The featurette goes into some detail on the robotics required to move the disembodied animatronic head in “Wild Boys.” Many of the visual effects in Arena haven’t fared well over time, but that head? Highly effective. Still creepy as hell.

If “The Making of Arena” has a flaw, it’s that it’s sadly short on footage of beautiful John Taylor, who doesn’t appear in any of the interview segments. We’ll have to content ourselves with his one big moment here: John, who has dialed his personal skeeze factor straight up to eleven, describes his upcoming “Wild Boys” scene to an unidentified woman standing off-camera: “I’m chained to that Mercedes, being flashed with images of naked women and other things I love in life.”

Naked women? Really, John? While that scene in “Wild Boys” where John writhes around in chains is seared into my memory, I sure don’t remember him being forced to look at images of naked women. Let’s take a quick look back at the video to confirm:

I think Russell Mulcahy pulled a fast one on you, John.

Hey, remember how Andy Taylor pretty much stole the whole show in the Sing Blue Silver tour documentary? Remember how bright-eyed and cheeky and full of personality he was back then?

Here’s Andy being interviewed for the “The Making of Arena”:

Rough year.

On the “Wild Boys” set, Andy gets strapped into a harness up in the scaffolding of the underground fortress. He rhapsodizes about the experience: “I wore jeans! I’ve never worn denims in my life in anything to do with Duran Duran. I think it’s one of the rules we made, you know, no one wears jeans.”

He seems pretty stoked about this relatively small event, but if you put it into the proper context, you can see this was kind of a big deal. Here’s their former manager Paul Berrow, as quoted in Steve Malins’s Duran Duran Notorious: The Unauthorised Biography, talking about Andy’s initial audition: "He was in jeans, more early 1970s rock I suppose, not the glam rock side of it. There were doubts, I think Andy knows that. Nick in particular was thinking, 'Oh, God.' He’s a bit of a snob when it comes to rock. Nick’s not rock at all and the wit was streaming out of him on the issue of what Andy was wearing." Combine that with this quote from Roger Taylor in a 2011 interview with Paper Magazine: "Although Andy did join the group with a pair of dungarees on, we soon dealt with that!"

Hey, Nick and Roger? I’m feeling kind of Team Andy on this one. Wearing jeans appears to be really, really important to him. Just look at how happy he seems, bound up there in the scaffolding. Maybe if you’d relaxed your fervent anti-denim stance a notch, Andy wouldn’t have quit the band, twice.

Speaking of Roger, here he is, talking about filming the part in “Wild Boys” where he dangles from his own little jet-powered hot-air balloon: “It felt quite dangerous when we were doing it, but I’m sure it was very safe. When I was first in the balloon thing, people kept reassuring me that it was actually very safe, it was sort of hanging from wires from the ceiling. On the other hand, as much as people assure you, you always sort of have those doubts.”

In his interview segments, Roger appears very sweet and sensible, posing in a clean, sunny room with flowers in the window, flashing his new wedding band while looking wholesome and sane. Within months of this, Roger would walk away from the madness and mayhem of Duran Duran to lead a quiet, reclusive life in the English countryside, where nobody would ever dangle him from a jet-powered hot-air balloon again.

Throughout Arena, Durand Durand hobbles precariously around an underground fortress on tall stilts connected to his legs and arms. And then someone jumps on his back. And then he gets set on fire. Both of these stunts go horribly, predictably wrong, leading to: a) injured stunt people, and b) total validation of Roger’s quiet doubts about the safety of all this.

Let's give Simon the last word:

“I wouldn’t say the project turned out as I had imagined it would turn out. What we’ve got is something very, very different… But it doesn’t mean that… (pause) I’m not… (pause) proud of it, because it’s something very special.”

He almost sounds like he means it.


details-later said…
I may have quoted this before on this blog, but Andy's crack about "being sick he couldn't wear jeans, being told he had to wear eye makeup" (paraphrase) is pretty much brought to life in your recap! Yes, I feel the delayed joy of Andy on his jean freedom years after the fact!

Hey, did you John's daughter with Amanda de Cadenet is doing that Paris debut ball thing? I saw it in the current issue of Vanity Fair. As a little girl, Atlanta looked exactly like John! In her photos now, it doesn't seem so much anymore. I wonder if John attended…
Morgan Richter said…
Poor Andy. Only in Duran Duran could wearing denim be seen as this huge taboo. It seemed like a huge personal triumph for him that he got to wear jeans in Wild Boys...

It's so bizarre that some of the kids of the various Durans are now older than the boys themselves were when they first became famous. I haven't seen the photos of John's daughter, but between her mom and her dad, she sure inherited a whole lot of great genes.
Tracy said…
I love these guys, but they go all Spinal Tap at this point. They talk about this video as if they were creating Great Art, when in reality their work had become overproduced and overdone and, too often, cringe inducing. I remember watching it with my siblings when it premiered, and we kind of sat there afterwards, looking puzzled and going "huh." (Though we felt that way after Union and New Moon premieres as well.)

It was interested hearing them explain the narrative because, until I watched the "Making of" video today, I never understood it.

I think that what got lost was the fun in their earlier work, and that makes sense given the intense pressure of success, the crazy touring schedule, and their being in the bubble of celebrity, which is where you lose perspective. It's also where you start to take yourself and your work too seriously, especially when your minions tell you how great you are, and it's where people like Russell Mulcahy can use you to finance a crappy dream project.

Thankfully, their recent live shows have been so energetic and, yes, fun. They still play with video on stage and bring their own D2 sensibility to their work, but the focus is on the music, where it belongs. Their live shows these days are amazing, and they've really grown as a band.

All that said, there are some pretty cool things about the video, from some of the weird creatures to the dancing. And yes, I agree that the motorized head is still creepy as hell.
Tracy said…
Oh, and let me add that your observation about the change in Andy couldn't be more spot on. Again, it's clear that he's not having fun anymore. Actually, in the interview footage no one is -- except for Nick the Bedazzler. And I assume John isn't in the interviews because he was too much of a mess at the time. (Thank God he got clean and sober.)

All that talk about evil jeans made me think that what poor Andy needed was the modern take on them, where you can wear a nice pair with a dark wash and look good. Morgan, when you talk about how they should have just let him be a bit more himself, I found myself thinking that a family therapist would have said the same thing. "So, Andy, tell the guys how you feel when you aren't allowed to wear denim."
Morgan Richter said…
Tracy, absolutely -- they're all very Spinal Tap at this point. I still get frustrated with Arena, because there's a germ of a great project somewhere in there, but none of the ideas are developed nearly well enough, and it ends up being just sloppy and pretentious. And yeah, certainly Andy and Roger appear to be having no fun whatsoever.

I made a GIF of Nick the Bedazzler to celebrate your comment. I know by most reports he was totally drug-free by the time Arena came out, but holy hell, it's just easier and kinder to think he was stoned off his gourd during those interview segments. (One of my favorite quotes, from frequent Duran photographer Denis O'Regan: "The thing with Nick, it was difficult to tell whether he was on drugs or not.")

Should've let Andy wear his jeans, guys. It would've saved you all a lot of trouble down the road.

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