The new documentary Oasis: Supersonic compellingly positions Britpop legends Oasis among the most influential artists of the ’90s — and maybe of rock history. The film chronicles the band’s early years, from playing dingy Manchester rehearsal spaces to releasing two of the decade’s beloved albums, 1994’s Definitely Maybe and 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, to the seeds of brotherly conflict between Oasis’ Gallagher brothers that eventually precipitated their downfall.
And though the band dissolved years ago — and faded into chaos long before that — singer Liam Gallagher tells EW by email that he always expected the Oasis story would be depicted on the silver screen. “Without a doubt,” he says, “as we were the band of a generation.”
As director Mat Whitecross explains to EW, the film’s making was “really quick.” Producer Simon Halfon approached Whitecross “a year and a half ago” with a simple question: “Do you like Oasis?” The director immediately jumped to grand conclusions. “Are they getting back together?” he recalls asking. “Maybe we’re going on tour with them! This is going to be great or terrible or something — it’s going to be interesting. … As it turned out, they wanted to make a film about the past, but they didn’t really know what it was going to be. It was up to us to decide, which is great. Kind of terrifying, but great.”
Whitecross bookends Oasis: Supersonic with with footage of their famed, Aug. 1996 gigs in Knebworth, England, where the band drew a quarter-million fans over two consecutive nights. The shows represented, in some ways, Oasis’ apex and Whitecross says they were a focus of conversation from his earliest interview with guitarist and primary songwriter Noel Gallagher.
“He’d been talking about Knebworth and how they had all this unseen footage and how important the gig was to him,” Whitecross says. Beginning and ending with those concerts seemed “like a great way of focusing our attention on the really exciting bit in any band’s life and trajectory, which is the early days,” he continues. “Once you get big, the stories kind of converge and become similar. Whereas the early days, particularly for Oasis, were so intense.” Adds Liam: “With it being 20 years since Knebworth, I guess it was the perfect time to do it.”
The anniversary was also meaningful to Noel who, according to Whitecross, said the documentary might have to wait until the 25th anniversary of the shows in 2021 if the production team couldn’t complete it for a 2016 release. But while the Gallagher brothers had similar visions for the film and both served as executive producers, the endeavor didn’t help to sweeten their notoriously sour relationship. Liam says they weren’t in communication “one bit.” When asked about his own executive producer credit, he says, “Well, obviously I was in it. I’m the good looking chap down the front, center stage.”
But Liam adds that he — like Noel — spent a tremendous time with Whitecross answering questions and going through troves of unseen footage that made it into the documentary. “To be honest, I didn’t realize we were being filmed, especially in rehearsals,” Liam writes. “I’m not really sure how that happened, but I’m glad that it did. Whenever there was a camera around, we’d shut up shop, as [we] didn’t really like being filmed. We must’ve let our guard down.”
So, while Oasis shows seems unlikely to reunite in the near future — Noel released his second album as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in 2015 and Liam’s solo debut is expected to arrive next year — the documentary proved a positive experience for both Gallaghers. “I said, ‘Look, I’m going to ask you a lot of questions, but you need to forget about what you read on Twitter this morning and try and remember how it really was,'” Whitecross recalls. “They seemed quite moved by trying to remember the relationship they had, as opposed to the relationship they have now.” And in reflecting on those early years, Liam notes that “the whole experience was f—ing great!”
Oasis: Supersonic hits American theaters for a limited, one-week run throughout the U.S. tonight. Read on for EW’s full interview about the documentary’s creation below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about your earliest meetings with the Gallaghers.
MAT WHITECROSS: [Halfon] said, “Do you want to come meet Noel?” The next question was, “Is Liam on board?” Everyone was like, “Yeah!” It was wishful thinking, because no one had dared to pick up the phone in case he wasn’t. And actually, he was great. He said, “Well, you should’ve come to me first. Secondly, why didn’t we make this film 10 years ago?” The other thing he said was, “There’s no footage from that time. It’s going to have to be a radio play or something.” I was lying through my teeth and I was like, “No, we’ve got great footage!” I just wanted him to say yes.
How did you go about acquiring footage?
There were like a couple terrifying months where we were just [seeing] if there was any. Before we even knew we had the green light, I started looking on YouTube. Then we started doing shoutouts and fans started sending things in. And a lot of people that we interviewed were like, “Well, I’ve got some footage” or “I might know someone.”
What role did the Gallaghers play as executive producers?
It was just having them on board and them allowing us into their lives. They watched the film a couple times at the end; I wanted to know what they thought. [Their feedback] wasn’t [what] I expected. They were very happy with all the insults and all the banter. That was fine — I guess they’re used to it. It was much more like, “That gig feels like we don’t spend enough time with it. Let’s talk more about that.”
Noel said, “If there’s any point to this film, it should inspire musicians now who feel that the world of music is too bleak, it’s too difficult for them to get into, it’s too corporate. They should feel, if these five s—kickers can do something like this, then we can do it too.” I had taken all that [background] out, because we needed to save time. And he was like, “Look, to me that feels important.”
They opened up their contact books to us. The people we spoke to, a lot of them have turned down interviews in the past, because they haven’t been given the nod from Noel or from Liam.
They have such a fraught relationship. Did you ever worry about portraying one Gallagher more positively than the other?
They didn’t pull their punches when they were talking about each other. The question [was] about finding that balance in terms of remembering the good times as well as the bad. From the amount of insults they threw at each other when we were doing the interviews, I could have made something that was pure vitriol from beginning to end, but that didn’t feel right to me. As far as I’m concerned, they’re both right and they’re both wrong. What made them work was the same thing that destroyed the relationship in the end.