Producer Heather Parry will never be accused of taking the easy way out.
The Macungie native was only a couple of weeks into her new job as the President of Film and TV Production at Live Nation when she decided to greenlight her first movie: Colin Hanks’ documentary “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends),” a look at the members of the titular Southern California band as they attempt to put their lives back together following the deadly terrorist attack which interrupted their 2015 concert in Paris.
Rather than waiting until she was settled in at Live Nation, Parry decided to act quickly and bankroll the doc, making “Eagles of Death Metal” the first film project from the powerhouse entertainment company which produces concerts all over the world.
Parry’s decision turned out to be a very good one. Not only did HBO pick up the distribution rights to “Eagles of Death Metal,” which it will begin broadcasting in February, but the documentary has already netted positive reviews from industry bibles Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
“You don’t have to be a follower of Eagles of Death Metal, or even glancingly familiar with their music, to appreciate the emotional power of Hanks’ deeply felt film,” raved the Hollywood Reporter.
The documentary begins with footage from the Paris concert which was interrupted by machine-gun-toting Islamic State terrorists. The men stormed into the Bataclan on Nov. 13, 2015, and opened fire, killing 89 people and leaving countless more wounded. While the band members were able to escape as the shooters reloaded, they witnessed a good deal of the carnage.
From there, the doc flashes back to the relationship between bandmates Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme. Hughes relates how, as a teenager, Homme saved him from bullies at a pool party, forever cementing the bond between the pals.
Hanks also provides footage of the group joining U2 on a stage in Paris three weeks after the attacks and documents the Eagles of Death Metal as they return to Paris in 2016 for a show at the Olympia.
Finally, Hanks interviews a handful of survivors who recall the Bataclan attack and gather together to “finish the show,” as one puts it, at the Olympia.
In many ways, the theme of the movie is a simple one: music heals.
“Josh says it in the movie,” notes Parry. “He says that music has always saved them and always healed them.”
In the end, Parry believes “Eagles of Death Metal” imparts a positive and uplifting message.
“No one should be able to take away your joy of going to concerts and going to clubs. In this world where shootings keep happening, I think of the movie as a little piece of hope. ... I’m very proud of it.”
Parry has had a long relationship with actor/director Colin Hanks, whose father is Tom Hanks. While a producer at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, she cast him in “The House Bunny” alongside Emma Stone and Anna Faris.
After “House Bunny,” Parry and Hanks remained friends and he invited her to the premiere of his first documentary “All Things Must Pass,” a look at the rise and fall of the Tower Records chain. At the movie’s premiere party, Hanks’ pals, the Eagles of Death Metal, played a concert in the parking lot of Tower’s now-shuttered Sunset Blvd store.
Not long afterwards, at her birthday party, Parry asked Hanks how the band members were coping with the Bataclan attack.
“When I asked Colin how his friends were doing, he said, ‘They’re not great,’” recalls Parry. “And then he told me that they were about to go back to Paris for their tour and he was thinking of documenting them.”
“I said, ‘That’s a great story. We have to make a story about how when life knocks you down, you get back up. And how important it is not to fear terrorists but to go live your life. I told him, ‘That would make a great movie.’”
Hanks listened to Parry’s advice and accompanied the Eagles of Death Metal for their February 2016 show in Paris, the band’s first headlining performance in the city since the attacks. “Colin was the perfect guy to direct the movie because he’s the biggest music fan,” says Parry. “He loves music. He’s incredibly thoughtful and passionate. And these guys were his friends.
“He was very determined not to let the band down. He didn’t want to let anyone involved with the shows down. He was very conscious of the weight that was on his shoulders.”