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Paul Jay on the whole work with Bret Hart

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Last Played: January 28, 2022
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Paul Jay on the whole work with Bret Hart
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speaking of of of shits happening. Well at the, at the end, at the end of, towards the end of uh, your documentary resting with shadows. We see, we see the, the infamous scene of uh, of retired asking you to leave the locker room and then allegedly a punched vince McMahon in the face. Is that something that you had the chance to to see or you or you were out of the locker room at that moment. Oh no. We were told to leave. We had to leave. We had extraordinary access because it was Brett, if it had been anybody else, what happened early on when we were first doing the film and we were signing our contract with the w what was then W. W. S. Brett was the star. He he and vents were tight. There were no problems. And the contract we got was that we agreed with only one thing I I agree that I wouldn't show the behind the scenes theater. Uh, because I figured it's like if I was doing a film about a magician, I couldn't show the magic tricks to reveal the tricks. Yeah, but the deal was, it was up to bret what could go in or not only on that one issue, not on anything else, Brett had no creative control of the film other than what could I show of the behind the scenes scripting and all that. Well, as we, by the time we got into the film and things started to unfold, he started to have his falling out with Vince. So there was a point where he was planning a match and I said can we put a mic on you and film from a distance, your conversation planning the match. And he thought about it and he said you know what fuck it, go ahead. It was getting to a point, he just didn't care anymore. Plus he knew that on this one issue. Later on he could ask me not to include it. So from that point on he said, look film whatever you want, I'll wear a mic anytime you want me to and later we'll figure out if there's any issues. And as I say, the more we got into the filming, the more antagonistic his relationship with then scott. So by the time we made the film, Vince Brett didn't ask us to take any, we made zero changes, Brett Brett didn't ask for any and we didn't make anything. Yeah. Um so like for example when he goes in for that conversation with Vince in the film where they planned the match, Vince doesn't know that brat's might that he has a wire. Okay? Yeah. Um so when we, but because it's Brett we were able to have access to the dressing room. So at that key moment after the match in Montreal and we're in the dressing room um I knew that if I turned the camera towards anyone but Brett, it might trigger them to say, hey you got to get this camera crew out of here. So that's why in the film you don't see anybody but bread, you can hear Sean saying I wasn't in on it blah blah blah, which he's lying through his teeth. Yeah, but but we were there and then as Vince comes in, he he knows that Vince is gonna freak out if he sees the camera so he tells us to leave. Um I have no doubt that they had their words and Brent punched him in the face and he fell to the ground like a ton of bricks and we heard from various people afterwards, that's what happened. And then you see the shot of Vince staggering down the hallway afterwards. And it's kind of funny because I know a guy who worked very closely with Vince and I said did you see the film now, Vince publicly claimed he'd never watched the film, which is all nonsense. Of course he did. But this guy said of course Vince saw it. I said what did he think? He said, oh he was fine with all of that. He just didn't like one scene and that's him staggering down the hallway because it made him look weak. He didn't want to people see that he'd been punched. So yeah it was as far as I know it was a real punch. Yeah. And I'm curious how how did all the idea of of filming this because it takes place did your documentary takes place like around the year more give or take and how did the old idea started? Because it clearly it clearly wasn't wasn't planned. What the screw job wasn't planned one year before. So what did trigger bread? Oh no, the school job was, you know, you know the guards of documentary filmmaking giving me an ending to the film. No, no, that was totally a last minute thing. Um I just, you know, I'm I'm a dual citizen us Canadian. But I grew up mostly in Canada and my filmmaking was mostly based in Canada. So you're always looking for a Canadian big name. And Brett was at the time maybe the best known Canadian in the world. Yeah. And uh, and then I saw him on television and he was doing this uh moody interview from the banks of the Rhine river in Germany and and talking about retiring and this and that and there was some truth to it. He really was talking about taking a break for a while and it's during that time he gets the his contract is up and he's get this offer from WCW and he's debating what to do. Um he just looked like an interesting character that his, that moody's interview with him was half theatrical but half real and he just looked like he'd be a compelling character. Then I looked into his family. You know his father, this The guy has, you know the 12 kids, six boys, six girls, every boy went into wrestling. Every girl married a wrestler and stu Hart. The father was would train these people in the basement and torture them with wrestling moves and the whole thing was a crazy story and a good one. And so so that with the wrestling theater, I I originally what intrigued me it was and it made me want to do. The film was actually an article by this french philosopher Roland Barthes who wrote a book called, I can't remember now, but it's about symbols. And one of us, one of the articles or essays in the book, I think it's in 1955, is about professional wrestling in Paris. And there's this wonderful quote about wrestling being light without shadows, a motion without reserve and about how wrestling characters play these like these iconic characters like in greek mythology, somebody plays kurds, somebody plays cowards, somebody plays you know the betrayer and so on and the fact the way the audience would buy into this theater and get so engaged and be so willing to suspend disbelief. And and and you know, for a lot of the audience knowing that this was theatrical fighting. But still it's so well done. It's so artful because your gut feelings. Yeah. And it was all that intrigued me and I sold the film and I got a you know, BBC came into it, artie in europe came into it a and E in the US and Canadians and then and then the fight with Vince McMahon broke out when we were almost near the end of the film. So basically you approached bret hart. It wasn't the end. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I went to visit him in Calgary. I was I was out actually in at the Banff Television Festival which I used to go to and which is near Calgary. Yeah, I went and knocked on his door and asked him if he wanted to do it. And eventually he said, yeah, okay, how I was working with him because since since you're not a wrestling fan, I assume you you you had like a different relationship. You were you were in starstruck possibly. I don't know. No, no, I mean I've no I wasn't starstruck. I've worked with lots of big names in various ways. Uh he was I mean I liked them, I found that and the thing, I guess in some ways one of the things at least I liked the most about him is he really respected, like loved the audience. Um I saw a lot of other wrestlers behind the scenes and they actually had a mostly contempt for the audience. I think the you know, the Groucho Marx joke about I'd never join a club that would have me as a member. It's kind of like that. Like you know, if you believe all this bullshit about wrestling, you know, you gotta be well I I'm not going to treat you with much respect and they would, you know, some of them are the bigger stars. They wouldn't even give autographs and yeah, I don't know, Brett, I, I don't think I ever saw Brett turned down a request for an autograph. You know, even if it held him out up late after a long show, mm hmm. No doubt. He loved the love, he loved the attention. But so did the other guys. They love the attention, but they didn't treat people well. Yeah. And, and Brett was thoughtful guy. Um, you know, as you can see from the film, he takes his character seriously. You know, when Brett wants to turn him into a hell in Montreal near the end, um, and have him lose, um, he didn't want to disappoint his fans. It was this character of the hitman being a good guy. It really did mean something to him. Now. Vince had turned him into kind of a heel in the United States and a and a hero in the Canada because he had all this anti american stuff. But that was okay with bret. I mean that's mostly how Canadians feel Anyway. Part of the Canadian identity is not liking us control of Canada and the Canadian healthcare system and so on. And those scenes in the film are some of my favorite were Brett's in Alberta, which is the most conservative province in our country. You know bragging about Canadian healthcare and all that Well. So he was honestly he was great, he was great to work with. There was no arrogance. There was no, he wasn't a prima donna. He was very cooperative. So he was one of the people I've done films with that was best to work with. Yeah. And as you said before, you were able to to catch a moment in time where everybody got to peek through the curtain and see and see what was really happening in wrestling. Because nowadays people often forget that that Vince McMahon was known as a commentator back then, it wasn't necessarily known as the owner of WWF and uh and all of this, this kind of stuff. And now we, we see like someone like Triple H who eventually ended up marrying Vince's daughter and and uh and so on and so forth. And at the time he he wasn't even one of the most prominent registers. But, but we see the at Triple H. Hunter hearst, Helmsley. Yeah. Yeah, I know he was pretty, he was, he'd become fairly prominent because he was part of that. Yeah. The X thing with Shane. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. But behind the scenes he was already like politicking his way up and it seemed like that people at least the people behind the scenes knew about it for example, uh julie hart, she she she she seemed to know about this um, do you recall like any um anything else that, that then what we've seen in the movie, like from someone like Triple H or Shawn Michaels or like they're, they're acting weird and in a suspicious way or something like that. Well for people that follow wrestling, they know that Shawn Michaels and Hunter that they all have admitted to what really went on, uh, that essentially they, you know, they conspired with Vince to have an ending that wasn't scripted and make Brett lose. Um, you know, they justify it because it was good for business. It's like the mafia, Tony soprano. It's not personal. It's good for business and, but at the time, I don't know that I knew that. I don't think Hunter was so on the inside as he became later. Um, I guess one of the things is the extent to which when the film came out and people who don't know about the film, it was a big deal. When the film came out, it was, you know seen all over the world, I'm certainly anyone interested in wrestling. Probably watched the film back then. Yeah. And as you say, Vince wasn't, his role wasn't really so known, but, but by, he came out of the film for most people, not all, but most he was the corporate bad guy. Well, Vince is brilliant. He adopted that as a character. He became the corporate bad guy who could come into the ring preening and dancing around and play the character, okay, you think I'm the corporate bad guy. Great, I'll be the corporate bad guy and it was a storyline for ages vince the corporate bad guy. Um So he, you know, he and his writers, they really are great storytellers. Um I despise their politics, but they're very talented, talented at what they do. Um So the film changed wrestling quite a bit both in terms of exposing what it really was, but also, you know how the story lines evolved. Yeah. And uh did you had the chance to talk with Vince at all? Like where you were received behind the scenes and stuff like that? A little bit. Not a lot. I mean he was certainly aware of the film, we filmed him several times. Uh we had scheduled a sit down long interview with him um and we were just trying to arrange the time and then the ship broke out in Montreal. And you know, I don't know if you know the story afterwards, He tried to stop the release of the film. Oh okay. No, I I didn't know that. Oh yeah, that's that was a big story. That was a front page story in the Hollywood reporter, which is like one of the main trade newspapers in Hollywood. Yeah, I guess I can tell that story quickly. Um Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, so, so the deal we had with Vince was that when the film was finished uh he would give us releases for all the individuals in the film that worked for the Wrestling Federation, they would all sign releases allowing us to have them in the film. And he would hand over any stock footage we wanted from the video library. Yeah. And it would all be copyright cleared for us. Well, that was very in the contract, very hard and clear. So we finished the film and we're editing and uh you know, we contact the WWF and we say, you know, we need those privacy releases and we need access to the footage, okay. And they wouldn't answer. And we'd ask over and over and over and they wouldn't answer. And it got to a point where clearly they were going to violate the contract and not give us what we wanted, which would have killed the film because we, you know, we're dealing with major broadcasters and you have to have what's called ian, oh, insurance errors and omissions insurance. And to meet the requirements of the insurance policy, you need all these releases. And if you don't have the releases, the insurers won't ensure and the broadcasters won't pay you. So, so we get down near the wire, so that's going on right around the same time. We get a call from the WCW. Mhm. Who was the guy that ran the WCW eric bischoff? I'm not sure if he called himself or maybe it was one of his lawyers and they want to buy the rights to the film for a pay per view, okay. And they guarantee us, I think it was, there were $500,000 And they told us in all likelihood our end of the pay per view would be at least $1 million dollars now for a documentary. That's unheard of. Um, and we contacted our broadcasters who kind of had to agree because this would have gone before the public broadcast and they were okay with it because the pay per view doesn't really interfere with no, you know, a and ES and whatever. But we needed the errors and emissions insurance. We needed the releases. And so, you know, I said to Turner, yeah, we'd love to do the pay per view. I'll try once more for the releases. And they said to me, well, if you don't, if they don't give you the releases, we'll help you sue them. Okay? So, so I sent a fax to vince and his lawyers, this is like on a Wednesday, I said if we don't hear from you friday at noon giving us the releases, uh we're going to have to proceed with legal action because you're in violation of the contract. And the turner lawyers, you know, turn her own WCW. The Turner lawyers had told us we had a slam dunk case. That was their language which lawyers don't usually like to use, but it was very clear in the contract, they noticed this stuff. So I said friday at noon or we're going to start litigation and you know, we'll get an injunction or something to make you give us the footage. So at noon we get the facts from like five minutes to 12 noon. We got a fax from WWF. They said you can have your releases and you can have your footage. But on one condition you cannot do business in any way with this film with the Turner organization in any shape or form. You can't do anything with the WCW. Uh and you can't do anything with anything to do with Turner which would have been connected to Warner brothers as well because at that point it was Warner Brothers had made us an offer for the DVD release. Okay well clearly Vince had a spy in Bishop's Camp because everything we've been talking about with WCW supposed to be secret and they obviously knew about him. So we get this facts and I have to go back the turner and I say you know here's the deal. I said well you know what what comes next And Turner says to me we will finance you suing them Uh up to up to a cap of $750,000. Now this is back in 191998. So what is that like a mill and a half or something. Now I don't know. So that's a lot of lawyer legal fees. I said great, okay let's do it, let's can we get an injunction to make them hand the stuff over. And there's a long silence and they said, well we can try. But usually in the United States it's it's not, it's very hard to get an injunction to make somebody do something. You can get an injunction to stop them from doing something damaging but but to make them do something to avoid damages is very difficult. In all likelihood you have to sue them for not allowing you to deliver to your broadcasters, which means all the A and E deal, the BBC deal, all of that would go down the toilet. We would probably have to refund the initial money we were paid by those people. Well the the pay per view would go down the toilet at least for quite some time forever really. Because in all likelihood, according to the turner lawyers, all you'd ever get is money, you'd never get the releases, you'd never get the video footage, but they'd have to pay you damages, which could amount to millions of dollars. Yeah. So I had a decision to make, do we want to make release this, finish this film which looked like it was going to be one of the great films or take a few years and hopefully win a legal case and make a lot of money. And in the end, in the end I said, you know, the hell with it. You know, I'm a filmmaker, this is too good a film to barry, and I said okay the hell with you, so I, we said no to the pay per view, we said no to Turner, we made the deal with vince, we got all the, the stuff and they lived up to it at that point, they gave us the releases the footage because they only really cared about the war with Turner, that's what really mattered to them, the fact that the film exposed wrestling and made vince look bad, coming down the hallway, that was all secondary to them, the fact that they killed the pay per view, that was for them, The big win Yeah, yeah, I get that uh paul, one last question before I let you go, uh your memory, do you remember like that someone on that night in Montreal that someone went to you, your team or to Brett to say like I'm sorry this happened, this is really fucked up, and then afterwards, yeah, afterwards, oh blah, blah, blah, blah blah, I don't think I actually witnessed it, but I know I heard that the oh god, what was his name? The guy that walked around, the great big tall guy that looks like he's a zombie or something, the undertaker, I heard the guy that plays undertaker did say that to Brett um I know a lot of the guys were extremely disturbed about it at the time because uh not so so much necessarily what happened to Brett it was that to violate a script can be really dangerous that you're in many of these situations, you're kind of putting your life on the line. So once it's agreed, what should be done, you don't change the script because somebody can get hurt. Um so a lot of people, a lot of the wrestlers were very disturbed that an agreed outcome, what's changed. Um, I heard that from various people in indirectly, um, later, I think a lot of the guys, I mean, they made their money out of the Wrestling Federation, a lot of them bought Vince's argument, I can't have my guy go to the other federations still wearing my belt, even though Vince had offered to give up the belt. But Vince and this is what one of the more important parts of the film, you know, Brett's on camera saying Vince treats his wrestlers like circus animals and especially back then, the wrestlers did not get paid very well except for like a hulk Hogan or a brat, but everyone else is pretty bad. A lot of them got hurt. Many, many of them were on steroids and wound up with brain injuries. The suicide rate is ridiculous amongst retired wrestlers. The, you know, even the numbers of people in that are in the film that are dead in one way or another because of their role, You know, starting with Brett's brother who It was, it was killed because of the negligence of the Wrestling Federation. In fact they had to pay Owen Hart's wife when I was $13 million dollars out of a civil litigation suit. Um So, so that, so that was kind of the other important metaphor out of the wrestling is that it's like the way workers are treated, especially in unionized workers. Uh they're treated like animals and that's how those wrestlers were treated. Yeah. Yeah, I see that. And all those years after. Um do you still are you still in touch with breath? Yeah. Yeah. We, I would say at least once a year or so we talk or you know, when I was living in Baltimore for a while if he was in that area he would call and we'd catch up or you know in Toronto, I haven't seen him now maybe for a couple of years, but his daughter called me the other day about something and yeah, yeah. We're friends. We're still in touch in some ways. Did you did you have the chance to to uh talk with him? Like, I don't know if if you don't know about that, but a few years back he came back to to WWD to like make peace with with Shawn Michaels or at least that's what they've shown on tv, do you know, do you know how their relationship is right now. Uh Yeah, I I remember when he made up with this, that was sort of the big deal. I think he actually talked to me about it. What I thought when Vince was asking him to come back and make a few appearances and and and we talked about it, I didn't why not you know it in the end it was about a piece of theater and yeah he was betrayed by Vance but it's not like he got killed or something, he didn't, he went to the WCW and he made a lot of money um and so I mean I didn't see any big reason for him not to and he kind of felt like he wanted you know one he could use the money, you know Vince was gonna pay him a decent money to come back and in the end it was a business. So uh he certainly didn't feel that way at the time Brett Brett was really betrayed and and and as the film shows to a large extent Vince had become his a new father figure for Brett in a very real way. So when Vince betrayed him, it was like his second father betrayed him, but after a few years, you know he got a he got over the hurt of that um And as far as Sean goes, you know, Sean became this born again christian and and and and and admitted to all of it oh he's you know he's lying about it all. Um So yeah, I think it's fairly genuine that he sort of made up with Sean. Okay, okay, well, well thank you so much for this chat. This is, has been truly interesting, interesting to hear from you and uh, if you want to to plug where people can find you feel free to do it. Yeah, go to the analysis dot News and in fact the film is in the documentary section. So if you want to see Wrestling with Shadows, go to the documentary section of the analysis dot news and you can watch the film and if you want to know more about Ukraine and all the other kinds of stuff we cover. You'll see there's lots of interviews and stories about what's going on in the world and they're all in the same spirit. We we try to pierce the theater, theatrical bullshit of how news is covered by mainstream media and get to the real core of what's happening. Yeah, thank you so much paul and have a nice day there. Alright, thanks for the invitation by how
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