Skull ring? Check. Bandana? Check. Wrinkles deep as the Grand Canyon? Check. Keith Richards looks every inch the hard-living rock star of legend as he greets EW in a Manhattan hotel suite to discuss the new Martin Scorsese-directed Rolling Stones concert film, Shine a Light. The 64-year-old guitarist proceeds to ruminate on Scorsese’s genius, Jean-Luc Godard’s weirdness, and Mick Jagger’s limited acting abilities.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the first five minutes of Shine a Light, the band really tortures Scorsese by not giving him a set list ahead of time. Is that any way to treat arguably America’s greatest living director?
KEITH RICHARDS: It’s not the band! Who does that is Mick. I think Marty wanted to point out what a pain in the arse Mick could be. I wait for a set list every night we’re playing! And I’ll play whatever Mick says he feels like singing that night. I might say, ”You realize, Mick, that you’ve got five songs in the same key.” But this is a musical thing, and Mick is not very musical! [Laughs]
What was it like working with Scorsese?
It was sort of seamless. I wasn’t aware of ”Oh my God, I’m shooting a movie.” My first talk with Martin was about that: ”The only problem is, Martin, that certain people in this band — when they know that the camera is pointing at them — won’t give you the Rolling Stones show.” He said, ”I promise you will not notice anything.” And I’ve got to say it was true. I was always very aware of his films from Mean Streets on. I think he’s one of the best moviemakers.
Are you much of a film buff?
Oh, I love film. D.W. Griffith. Hitchcock. William Wellman. I mean, should I go on? I know my movies.
Another film featuring the Rolling Stones, 1970’s bizarre Sympathy for the Devil, was directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Did you have much to do with him?
No, except avoiding him burning down the studio. There were very bright lights and they caught fire. The lights are falling down: Crash, bang! It’s a miracle nobody was killed, quite honestly. Godard…I really liked his dark, French-gangster movies. I think the guy went mad. He’s a Frenchman. We can’t help them.
Do you enjoy the company of actors and directors?
Yeah, because you can talk about film, I can talk about Chaplin’s reverse shots. A lot of actors are damned good musicians too. One of my best friends, in a way, is Bruce Willis. I mean, terrible movies. We know that. But a great [harmonica] player.
Did you ask Mick for any acting advice before playing Johnny Depp’s dad in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End?
He’s the last person I’d ask in the world! [Chuckles] Are you kidding me? I might give him a tip here and there. But no, as an actor Mick is very good at being Mick. I didn’t even ask Johnny. Johnny had told me, ”Well, all of [Jack Sparrow’s] moves are based on you.” I said, ”That’s why you paid for the dinner, eh?” I just went there and did my stuff.
You recently signed a contract to write your memoirs. How’s that going?
Oh, fine. I’m working with James Fox [the author of White Mischief]. I occasionally send him notebooks and he sends me more stuff about my past than I care to know.
Are there any years completely missing from the Richards noggin?
No, but there are certain chicks.