Documentary looking earlier at singer’s last five years says suggestion the his last solitary Lazarus to be a ‘parting gift’ to pan is wrong


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Johan Renck that directed the video clip for Lazarus states hospital bed idea was assumed up prior to Bowie knew he was dying. Photograph: Screengrab
Johan Renck who directed the video clip for Lazarus claims hospital bed idea was assumed up before Bowie knew he was dying. Photograph: Screengrab

David Bowie only found his cancer to be terminal three months before he died, according to a documentary noting the anniversary that the superstar’s death.

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The film, David Bowie: The Last five Years – because of air top top BBC2 ~ above Saturday night, a day before what would have actually been the singer’s 70th date of birth – reveals that Bowie discovered his treatment was to be quit while he was filming the music video for his final single, Lazarus.


Bowie passed away on 10 January 2016, days after turning 69 and the release of his 25th studio album, Blackstar, having kept his illness a mystery from the world.

“David said: ‘I simply want to do it a simple performance video’,” said Johan Renck who directed the video, which functions Bowie singing lines such together “Look up here, i’m in heaven” native a hospital bed.

He insists the typical interpretation that the video – the the singer to be hinting the he to be on his deathbed – is wrong, due to the fact that he come up through the concept a week prior to Bowie got his last diagnosis.

“I automatically said ‘the track is dubbed Lazarus, you should be in the bed’,” claims Renck. “To me it had to do with the biblical facet of that ... It had actually nothing to carry out with him gift ill.

“I discovered out later on that, the week we were shooting, that was when he to be told it to be over, castle were ending treatments and also that his condition had won,” stated Renck.

Yet also then, Bowie had not given up expect of enduring his cancer and was still keen come make brand-new work simply weeks before he died, according to Ivo valve Hove, who directed Bowie’s musical, Lazarus. In the programme that recalls one of the critical exchanges the pair had, ~ the play do its debut in new York in 2015.


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David Bowie in ~ the premiere that Lazarus in brand-new York. Photograph: BR/ dana press/PA Describing how they satellite chatting backstage, regardless of Bowie being noticeably dilute by his illness, van Hove said: “He acquired through the night. Ns really am convinced that he to be fighting death and also he want to continue and continue. Afterwards we were sitting behind stage and he said ‘let’s begin a 2nd one now, the sequel to Lazarus’.”

The new documentary is the occupational of Francis Whately, and also continues a narrative native his ahead Bowie documentary because that the BBC, David Bowie: five Years, i m sorry was first broadcast in 2013 and also focused on 5 of the singer’s most far-reaching years between 1971 and also 1983.

As part of a series of program this month, BBC4 will broadcast hardly ever seen Bowie performances indigenous its archive, martin Kemp will present a show specialized to Bowie’s Life ~ above Mars, and 6Music will organize a “listening party” for the public’s favourite Bowie album, and also a tribute show.


The recent Whately documentary looks in depth at the making of Bowie’s surprise 2013 album, The next Day, his 2016 jazz-infused album Blackstar, which was released days before he died, and his first stage musical, Lazarus.

“This period hadn’t to be explored by anyone so it was an extremely interesting territory,” Whately called the Guardian. “In some ways he appears to have worked harder in that duration than at practically any other time, except the beginning of the 1970s as soon as he was producing Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory and also Aladdin Sane.”

Bowie’s death came as a shock to the world. He had actually only common news that his disease with those closest come him, and also those partners who required to understand for experienced reasons, such together Lazarus producer Robert Fox and also his long-time friend and also collaborator Tony Visconti, that both additionally appear in the documentary.

Whately emphasised exactly how much power Bowie had actually thrown into his last three projects, an especially Blackstar and Lazarus, best up till his death.

“Often he would certainly go and also record in the studio and also then go and watch the rehearsals because that Lazarus in the evening, or talk around the beat in the morning, walk to the studio, and also then come back. The was rather an particularly workload,” stated Whately.

“I think anyone would prefer me come say the was turning up to the studio to document Blackstar and he was terribly ill, but I don’t think he was. There room musicians in the Blackstar band who didn’t also know. Us all now know he was ill, we recognize he was undergoing treatment, but it doesn’t seem to have had an result at every on his output.”

Was he a guy who took on these multiple projects due to the fact that he sensed his time was to run out? “We just don’t know,” stated Whately.

The documentary likewise explores Bowie’s increasingly uncomfortable connection with fame, which the had embraced at the beginning of his career as a method to gain an innovative freedom, but in later on years he involved loathe.

After a heart strike in 2003, he took himself almost entirely out of the general public eye. Whately claims Bowie would have liked to have moved ago to London, yet stayed in brand-new York because that the family member anonymity it permitted him.

“I don’t discover it strange he preserved his illness so private,” stated Whately. “He’d had actually his life picked over because that 40 years and also he assumed he had actually said everything he wanted to say, there was nothing more.”

Whately explains as “simplistic” the narrative adopted by the media after Bowie died, that Blackstar was the singer’s deliberate parting gift come fans.

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“I quiet don’t know if he started making Blackstar prior to he knew he to be ill, or after,” that said. “People room so desperate because that Blackstar to be this parting gift that Bowie made for the human being when the knew he to be dying but I think it’s simplistic to think that. Over there is more ambiguity over there than world want come acknowledge. Ns don’t think the knew he to be going come die.


“However, the must have actually known there to be a chance he wasn’t going to recover, so, to perform an album with a particular amount of faint in it, is Bowie play the cat and mouse game that he always played.”

Whately and Bowie had actually known each various other for practically two decades, having functioned together on a brief film in ~ the beginning of Whately’s career, and the pair frequently kept in touch over email. It to be an exchange mainly of book and film recommendations, every little thing from Pulitzer-prize to win novel The short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz to the 1973 BBC documentary collection The ascent of Man. Whately stated Bowie would certainly consume a book a day.

“I mental him as soon as emailing me about American female soccer,” said Whately. “Who would have thought that David Bowie was a female soccer fan? It’s just not what girlfriend expect however it speak to the man, that there was plainly nothing he no willing to learn about.”

He added: “The David Bowie that i knew in my restricted way was very courteous, was extremely polite, well informed, utterly charming. However I would concern anyone who said they yes, really knew him. Ns don’t think anyone knew him.”

Out of respect for the privacy that Bowie valued for this reason highly, Whately did not interview any kind of of his family members and also the film concentrates on his musical, not his personal, life. However, he claimed he hoped that he had recorded Bowie’s heat personality, and the certain pride the singer had actually in realising a lifelong dream to phase a musical in new York.

Michael C Hall, that played the lead duty in the play, claimed Bowie’s satisfaction had been evident. “The last point I mental David saying to me, ~ the hugs and the smiles ~ that opening night performance, was: ‘I think it went well tonight, nothing you?’”