A digitally restored version of the classic sci-fi film The Man Who Fell To Earth, starring David Bowie, is released on blu-ray for the first time on April 4. To mark the occasion we’re taking an exclusive look behind the scenes on the set.
The film was based on a 1963 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, who also wrote The Hustler. The plot concerns an alien who crash lands on earth, seeking to get water back to his planet which is in the throes of a severe drought. Here’s a shot of Bowie in hair and make up for the film.
It was Bowie’s first film role. Director Nic Roeg realised Bowie was perfect for the lead role when he happened to catch the singer’s edgy appearance in tour documentary Cracked Actor. Here’s a shot of a Bowie with the clapperboard from the set.
Roeg praised Bowie in an interview with Creem saying: “I think a lot of rock stars think they can just transfer the art of their personality to film. David is quite an exception to the rule”. Here’s Bowie with Roeg and co-star Candy Clark.
Filming took place in the latter half of 1975. In between shooting Bowie read, wrote short stories and practiced filming on a 16mm newsreel camera he was given by Roeg. Here’s a shot of Bowie and Larry Sanders Show co-star Rip Thorn being given direction from Roeg.
Bowie also wrote some songs which were intended for the film soundtrack. One of these tracks was ‘Subterraneans’ which ended up on ‘Low’. Roeg decided against using Bowie songs for the film, instead opting to go with Stomu Yamashta’s score. Here’s a shot of Bowie reading a biography of Buster Keaton, in preparation for a planned biopic.
Bowie’s sessions for the soundtrack took place in late ’75, following the recording of ‘Station To Station’. Speaking in 2007, arranger Paul Buckmaster, who was involved in the sessions, said he didn’t think the music produced was “really what Roeg was looking for”. In ’77 Bowie sent a copy of ‘Low’ to Roeg with a note attached which said: ‘This is what I wanted to do for the film’.
In an on-set interview with Creem Bowie said: “Working with Nic is nice because we get on well, we understand one another. There’s a marvelous chemistry between us. He’s very sensitive to everything that’s going on. He’s brilliant.” Here’s a shot of Roeg, Bowie and son Duncan Jones.
Filming did not go smoothly. Cameras were jammed for no reason, rowdy Hell’s Angels interrupted filming of a scene on an old Aztec burial ground and Bowie was ill for two days after drinking contaminated milk. Here’s Bowie in full ‘alien’ costume.
Jim Lovell, the Spacecraft Commander of the dramatic Apollo 13 flight, made an appearance in the film as himself. In one scene he congratulates Bowie’s character. Here’s shot of Lovell with Bowie on-set.
American Graffiti actress Candy Clark played the cheerfully coarse chambermaid Mary-Lou. Clark, who was dating Roeg at the time, is pictured here on set with Bowie.
In 1999, Roeg said: “With The Man Who Fell To Earth I wanted to get rid of any sense of time, because it’s surprising how often we mention it in our lives.” Here he is with Bowie and Candy Clark.