Why James Hetfield Thought It Was Painful To Watch The Metallica Documentary, Film-Maker Joe Berlinger Explains

In a recent episode of the Greatest Music Of All Time podcast, the film-maker Joe Berlinger talked about the time when Metallica members watched their 2004 documentary ‘Some Kind of Monster‘ and explained why James Hetfield stated that it was painful for him to watch.

As you may recall, back in 2004, the documentary film, ‘Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,’ was released by the legendary thrash metal band Metallica. The film was named after the band’s song ‘Some Kind of Monster,’ which was released within their eight studio album, ‘St. Anger.’ The documentary filmmakers Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger collaborated with the band on their highly-anticipated film, which displayed footage from their studio rehearsals as well as shows in various venues.

Metallica members were in a complicated phase of their career for the last couple of years prior to the documentary. In 1999, the band released their live album ‘S&M’ which was the final album featuring their bassist Jason Newsted. In the same year, Metallica won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for their cover of ‘Whiskey in the Jar.’ In the following year, they performed over 20 shows along with Korn, System of a Down, and Kid Rock.

Later in that year, Metallica took a short break during which Jason Newsted wanted to release an album with his side project, Echobrain. The conflict between him and Hetfield led to his departure from the band in 2001, who was later replaced by the bassist Rob Trujillo. Around the same time, Metallica was also dealing with the Napster lawsuit which they filed against the file-trading service accusing them of copyright infringement and racketeering.

All these events were clearly reflected in the ‘Some Kind of Monster,’ which apparently made it difficult to watch for James Hetfield, according to Joe Berlinger. During an interview he joined, Berlinger recalled how Metallica members reacted to the documentary after they watched it the first time. Joe stated that he and Bruce Sinofsky were nervous since the film involved some raw honesty.

Berlinger mentioned that there was total silence during the first screening of the film which made them even more nervous. After watching the film, Hetfield told the filmmakers that even though they did exactly what they said they would do, it was an honest, raw, truthful portrait of what Metallica went through. Joe stated that even though the band members seemed like they hated the documentary at first, they eventually admitted that it was simply portraying the things that they experienced in an honest way.

Here is what Joe Berlinger said about Metallica members’ initial reactions to the documentary:

“Bruce and I are really nervous, because they haven’t seen anything, and there’s some raw honesty in the film. We have a screening, and each band member is in a different corner of this big screening room, and the management is kind of up in the back, huddled in the back.

It’s a longer cut. The movie was ultimately, I think, two hours and 20 minutes. This was probably a three-hour-and-15-minute rough cut because we wanted everything in there. We knew we had more editing to do, but we wanted to know if any scenes were gonna trouble them. We were basically looking for their blessing, which is a very precarious position for a filmmaker to be in.

So, the movie plays. It’s a three-hour-plus screening. There was literally not a peep through the whole screening — not a laugh, not a moment of recognition — just total silence. And it wasn’t feeling good.”

Here’s what Berlinger stated about James Hetfield’s first reaction:

“He said, ‘Look, it’s painful to watch. But you guys did exactly what you said you would do. It’s an honest, raw, truthful portrait of what we went through. I’m not sure I ever wanna look at it again, but we either treat this movie like Cocksucker Blues and lock it away in the drawer and nobody gets to see it, or we let these guys make the film they wanna make. We can’t sit here and tell them what scenes to cut and put in and take out or whatever. Let them make the film they wanna make. And I’m good with that.’ And he walked out of the room.

And Lars looked at me and gave me a ‘good job’ look; he gave me great affirmation in that look, like, ‘You got your film’.”

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