This month sees the release of the extraordinary documentary CLAYDREAM, a fascinating and hugely entertaining look at the life of pioneering animator Will Vinton. After winning an Oscar in the mid-1970s, Vinton looked set for a glittering career – he made the first full-length claymation feature film, collaborated with Hollywood megastars and set up a huge studio employing over 300 animators. But he hadn’t reckoned on death threats from former friends, claymation falling out of fashion, and business deals that would see him lose everything. CLAYDREAM joins the ranks of other must-see documentaries listed here, about influential figures – actors, fashion icons and billionaires among them – whose lives and careers have been characterised by all the ups and downs you’d expect when you don’t play by the rules.
Lost in La Mancha (2002)
The Monty Python star and hugely successful filmmaker spent years trying to get his dream project – a big screen adaptation of the novel Don Quixote – off the ground. He finally assembled a cast, including Johnny Depp, and financing, and shooting commenced… only to end in disaster. Lost in La Mancha charts Gilliam’s doomed efforts to make his epic, a document of what might have been had he not been plagued by one catastrophe after another.
The cautionary tale of a young filmmaker, Troy Duffy, whose wildest dreams came true when he scored a studio deal with his first script, that he also directed, with Hollywood stars in the leading roles. The film – crime thriller The Boondock Saints – has become something of a cult movie, but Duffy’s Hollywood career didn’t quite pan out. Why? Overnight goes some way into explaining, showing that his brash, arrogant style might have rubbed people up the wrong way. A definite case of too much, too soon, this is a fascinating look at how becoming a success isn’t the hard part, it’s staying one that is.
Politician Anthony Weiner, a man of the people Congressman from New York City, was married to Hillary Clinton’s key aide, and was a high-flying politico with a great future ahead of him. That was until in 2011, when he had to resign in disgrace after it was discovered that he had sent lewd images to a woman he met online. The film charts Weiner’s astonishing attempt at a political comeback two years later, in the face of ongoing ridicule – in his determination to make something good come out of something bad.
Team Foxcatcher (2016)
The astonishing story of the mega rich John du Pont, heir to the du Pont fortune, who, rather than live the life of a super rich playboy, decided instead to fund the USA Olympic wrestling “Team Foxcatcher”, building facilities on his Foxcatcher farm, and pouring money into an obsessive pursuit of winning gold. It seemed like du Pont had found his calling – a philanthropic, patriotic use of his money and time. But then he formed a close friendship with one of the team, Dave Schultz, one of the best wrestlers in the country at the time – a relationship that would end in tragedy.
A design icon, one of the most famous and influential of his era, in the 1970s Halston was synonymous with style, celebrity and glamour. From boutique beginnings, Halston expanded into big business, moving beyond clothes to perfume, shoes and furniture, eventually lining up an incredible $1 billion dollar business deal with retail giant JC Penney, described as going from “class to mass”. It was then that Halston’e empire began to fall apart.
In 1984 the world’s most celebrated football genius Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee. The charismatic Argentine quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams. But there was a price… Diego could do as he pleased whilst performing miracles on the pitch, but when the magic faded it was a different story. This is a wild and unforgettable story of God-given talent, glory, despair and betrayal, of corruption and ultimately redemption.
This storming rockumentary tells the honest and emotional story of how one of the most electrifying rock’n’roll frontmen went from the dizzying heights of his champagne supernova years in Oasis to living on the edge, ostracised and lost in the musical wilderness of booze, notoriety and bitter legal battles. Starting again alone, stripped bare and with nowhere to hide, Liam risks everything to make the greatest comeback of all time.
“We were loud, we were coarse, we were strange” – the music of Frank Zappa chimed with the era, and the incredibly talented musician became a superstar offbeat icon of the 1960s and 70s. Zappa didn’t so much tear up the musical rule book as shred it into tiny pieces – prolific and provocative, he clashed with authority, railed against censorship, and followed a defiantly uncompromising path with his music. With unfettered access to the Zappa family trust and all archival footage, Zappa explores the private life behind the mammoth musical career that never shied away from the political turbulence of its time.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Val Kilmer found himself in an enviable position – he was a sought after leading man, star of big budget films like Top Gun, Willow and Batman Forever… but Kilmer, not content with being just a heartthrob, started to seek out more challenging and edgy roles. Val incorporates footage shot by the actor himself over his long career, charting his incredible acting career and then confronting head on his diagnosis with throat cancer, and how it has impacted his life.
Known as the father of “Claymation”, and poised to become the Walt Disney of the modern age, Will Vinton revolutionised the animation business during the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Vinton became a household name as the creator of the iconic advertising campaigns behind the California Raisins, Domino’s The Noid, and the digital M&M characters. But after 30 years of being the unrivalled king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream began to go awry after the entrance of an at-first promising outside investor – Nike’s Phil Knight.