Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar
After the success of Channel 7's two-part INXS: Never Tear Us Apart mini-series - for which Luke Arnold (who played Hutch) deservedly took home the 2015 Silver Logie for Most Outstanding Actor - the network will air a world-exclusive, two-part documentary, Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar, this November to mark the 20th anniversary of the celebrated INXS frontman's death. One of the trailers for this Seven News special promises, "Meet the man behind the rockstar". Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar's director Mark Llewellyn claims the documentary's findings "will make headlines around the world". But will INXS fans learn anything new? Certainly not in Part I.
Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar follows a two-year Seven News investigation, spanning five countries and four continents, after hidden bank vaults - in Zurich, Paris and London - were opened, revealing the late singer's prized possessions, private photographs and family videos.
During a Q&A held at The Backlot Studios in Melbourne following the advance screening of Part I and a ten-minute teaser of Part II, Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar's producer Gareth Harvey revealed, "There is one kind of bombshell in Part II, which we'll be airing, in terms of his state of mind; you know, what drove him to do whatever he did."
In another Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar trailer, much is made of a yellow notepad containing Hutchence's "last written words from the night he died that answers [sic], 'Why?'" These words, believed to be penned in Room 524 of The Ritz-Carlton on that fateful night as a suicide note of sorts, have since been published by various media outlets:
"Look at the mess
Look at the mess
Across your face
All the bitterness
Has started showing
No one hears
Just another heart
Too scared to b..."
[It's difficult to determine this last word, because it's been scrawled over several times.]
We wonder how it can actually be confirmed that Hutchence put pen to paper on that particular night since songwriters often carry notebooks around with them containing lyrical sketches and half-formed ideas. Maybe this is touched upon in Part II?
Also during the post-screening Q&A, Harvey was asked whether Part II of the documentary gives us a more definitive answer as to what actually happened on the night Hutchence tragically passed. He offered, "I think, you know, without breaking that [bombshell] now: the consensus is that it was suicide... And as [Hutchence's photographer friend] Nick Egan said, 'He could've just as easily written those lyrics and woken up in the morning and thrown it away.' He could've easily woken up the next morning and been alive. So, you know, we know that he'd been on some prescriptions, prescription drugs, we know he'd been drinking - all of those facts are known, but I think those who knew him are fairly certain that this wasn't a planned suicide; it was a suicide of the moment."
Bono, a member of Hutchence's inner circle, is one of this doco's recurring talking heads and some of the INXS frontman's friends - including lawyer/Hutchence executor Colin Diamond and girlfriend of three years, Rosanna Crash - speak publicly about Hutchence for the first time in Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar. Other talking heads include his father Kelland (who strangely states, "Michael was a great lover"!?) and sister Tina Hutchence, Simon Le Bon (who we're told got in touch requesting his involvment in this project), actor Billy Zane (Hutch met him on the set of Dead Calm), Danny Saber (LA-based producer of Hutchence's solo material), Nick Egan, actress Peta Wilson and Leslie Bega (who was married to INXS drummer Jon Farriss).
After the screening and when asked whether Kylie Minogue was approached for an interview, Harvey tells us that they received "two very nice private notes back from Helena [Christensen] and Kylie". "Both of them just respectfully said that they wanted to keep their silence, you know," Harvey adds, "they wished us well."
So, how is the experience of watching Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar? It's wonderful to see the great man who is so dearly missed by many (teary moments by the talking heads are plentiful) lighting up the screen and celebrating his immense talent 20 years after his untimely death. Home movies of Hutchence surrounded by friends and family at his villa in the South of France make us feel as if we've entered his inner sanctum. Footage of Tiger as a baby, filmed by a doting Hutchence interacting with his daughter as he zooms in, is incredibly touching. We're reminded just how charismatic he was; no one else on the planet boasts such an effortlessly sexy, slinky strut.
The footage of INXS performing live at Wembley Stadium in 1991, where the GA section appears to be pogoing in unison on a sprung floor during New Sensation, demonstrates just how unstoppable this band was in their prime.
A lot is made of the night Hutchence was punched by a taxi driver in Denmark, falling to the pavement and fracturing his skull, which resulted in the permanent loss of his sense of smell and taste. But this has already been widely reported, particularly in INXS Story To Story: The Official Autobiography by Anthony Bozza (originally published in 2005). Still, watching Hutchence's sister try to explain the impact this had on her brother's sex life in prudish language is odd.
All of Hutchence's mates tell stories of how charming he was and how much fun there was to be had when out with him on drug-fuelled benders. Then it's pointed out that Hutchence was concerned INXS were losing popularity and playing to smaller rooms. Hutch was concerned about staying relevant. As such, footage of Hutchence presenting Oasis with the 1996 BRIT Award for Best Video, after which Noel Gallagher quipped, "Has-beens shouldn't present fookin' awards to gonna-bes," is heart-breaking.
We hear snippets of unreleased solo material throughout Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar, particularly one song called Kik It. A solo posthumous set, Michael Hutchence, was released just two years after his death in 1999 so this isn't the first time we've pondered whether Hutchence would prefer this material (now at least 20 years old) had stayed in the vault.
The Music asked Harvey whether there was any information from when Hutchence's solo material was originally recorded, insofar as intended release dates or whether the late legend had in fact signed off on any of this material. "No, there wasn't... For a while there was a parallel plan, but really we - as in Seven Network - don't have anything to do with whether this is released as an album, or on iTunes - that's still in the works."
An interview snippet that features in one of the trailers speaks volumes when Hutchence says, "I'd certainly like to be remembered in a good light".
Bono labelled Hutch "The Last Rockstar", hence this documentary's title. During another interview featured in Michael Hutchence - The Last Rockstar, Hutchence opines, "There's lots of great people coming up, they can take my slot." But, 20 years on, Hutchence's slot remains open.
If you need help dealing with depression or want to talk to someone, call BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or head to beyondblue.org.au.
Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar airs on Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 Oct at 7.30pm on Channel 7