David Byrne says he saw his musical American Utopia as a film long before it got to Broadway.
In a joint interview with director Spike Lee about the film, which debuts Saturday on HBO, Byrne tells Esquire, “I had a sense that it had a beginning and a middle and an end and a visual look. So I thought, Let’s see if this could be something that works on a screen. I mean, Spike immediately zeroed in on all that stuff.”
Lee says he was drawn to work on the project because, “What I dig about David’s act is — He’s not going to do the same thing twice. And I just love artists like that. They’re going to do whatever it is they’re going to do. They’re going to take a risk and not just do what’s safe. Let’s try to explore something. You know, just do it!”
Byrne also adds that he sees himself as a much better bandmate now than he ever was with Talking Heads. “I’ve learned to sort of work together with people without yelling at people, by not telling everybody exactly what to do. Letting them have some input, you sometimes end up with something better.”
As for his relations with his former bandmates, he concludes, “We’ve reconciled on some things, which is good. Other areas, no, we don’t see eye-to-eye. For that divorced-couple kind of thing, we actually manage to function okay. It’s not purely cutthroat.”