Michael Wadleigh: The man who filmed the original

By Chris Nashawaty
Updated August 26, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Just about everyone over 40 claims to have splashed in the mud on Max Yasgur’s farm 25 years ago. Maybe that’s because Michael Wadleigh’s Academy Award- winning 1970 documentary, Woodstock, made you feel like you’d lived the event, even if you’d spent the weekend sticking neon daisies to your bedroom wall. His crew (which included a young assistant editor named Martin Scorsese) captured the counterculture making history, something the organizers of Woodstock ’94 hoped to repeat with the generation that trekked to Saugerties, N.Y. But you’ll have to excuse the London-based Wadleigh if he isn’t busting out of his Birkenstocks about the experience. ”People came to (the original) Woodstock to go back to the garden, not to go to a mall,” snorts Wadleigh, 51, who covered last weekend’s festival as an on-camera commentator for European pay per view. ”This was a dirty trick on the kids. They were lured by the image, then surrounded by all this s — – to buy. Neil Young was offered a million dollars to play and turned it down. He made up a logo of a vulture on a guitar neck, rather than a dove, in protest.”

Although Wadleigh is supportive of an ”alternative Woodstock” being planned for next summer in the Northwest, he denies rumors that he’s involved. ”I was misquoted about that,” he says, ”but someone is trying to put one together. And this one will hopefully feature groups like Pearl Jam, who are the real spiritual inheritors of Woodstock. The tough part will be finding the money to back it in a clean way, so you don’t end up with corporate sponsorship. If Pepsi had brought you the original Woodstock, it would have been as much the enemy as the war in Vietnam.”

If the alternative Woodstock does come off, would Wadleigh consider filming it? ”For the right kind of event, of course,” he says. ”But a festival for people in their 20s should be filmed by people in their 20s.”