Never mind the fact he’s made When Harry Met Sally, Stand By Me and Misery, Rob Reiner knows that This Is Spinal Tap is his greatest achievement. As monumental as Stonehenge, the 1984 cult mockumentary – or rockumentary, if you will – about a fictional heavy metal band unerringly nailed the music industry. Reiner, now 75, has lost count of how many famous musicians have paid tribute since, with Sting once telling him: “I’ve seen the movie so many times: every time I watch it, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!”
He isn’t the only one. When NME sits down with Reiner at the Cannes Film Festival, This Is Spinal Tap has just been screened as part of the Cinéma de la Plage sidebar. More intriguingly, Reiner is here to sell the long-awaited sequel in the Cannes market. Yes, after nearly four decades, two albums and sundry live appearances, Spinal Tap are getting back together for a follow-up film: Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) will be shoving cucumbers down their trousers all over again.
But will it go to 11 or just be a “shit sandwich”, to coin one of the memorable reviews of the band’s sadly fictional album ‘Shark Sandwich’? Here are five insights we gleaned from our chat with Reiner.
Spinal Tap’s big-screen reunion is not being taken lightly
For years, Reiner has been asked about making a sequel to This Is Spinal Tap, but he and the others have always resisted. “We never thought we would do a sequel,” he admits to NME. “It was only because we started to talk to each other and we came up with an idea we think might work – we don’t know it will. We’re going to try. The bar is incredibly high. We debated whether or not we should do it… I said, ‘Look at us, we’re all in our 70s. How much time are we going to have [left] to have some fun?’”
The director accepts that there are a lot of Spinal Tap fans out there who are worried it might suck. “You don’t want us to cock it up!” he laughs. “That’s the thing: we wouldn’t try unless we thought we had something that could work.”
But it is an enforced reunion…
“Ian Faith, he’s dead – so what are we going to do?” announces Reiner, referring to Tap’s cricket-bat wielding manager. In reality, Tony Hendra, who played Faith, sadly passed away in March 2021. Rather than recast the role, Reiner and co. have built the plot of the sequel around Faith’s death, with the band forced to reunite and play one last gig after Faith’s widow threatens to sue unless they fulfil a contractual obligation. Immediately, it taps – sorry – into the idea of ageing bands reforming for lucrative gigs. “Look at them all,” says Reiner. “The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac… they all keep going. It’s amazing. You want to hear them play.”
Marty DiBergi will return
Reiner himself is also returning for the sequel as Marty DiBergi, the filmmaker who documented the band in the first film. “Here’s the thing,” Reiner tells us. “Marty DiBergi was roundly criticised by the band members for having done a hatchet job, [but] he’s going to be doing the second film. Marty has not been that successful [since]. I think he made Kramer vs Kramer vs Godzilla, which didn’t do very well. It was a threesome, and they were all in love… and, unfortunately, Godzilla crushed the other two, so it didn’t work.”
Reiner originally based DiBergi on legendary director Martin Scorsese, whose The Last Waltz chronicled the farewell tour of Canadian-American rockers The Band. “When [Scorsese] first saw it, he was a little bit pissed off at me!” says Reiner. “But over the years, he’s come to love it.” To show there were no hard feelings, Reiner even acted in Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street. So what about a Scorsese cameo in the Tap sequel? “If he would come…” Reiner hints.
This Is Spinal Tap 2 will be hitting screens in 2024
“We want it to be out for the 40th anniversary – March 19, 2024,” says Reiner. “So we’d shoot it sometime next year.” Once again, like the original, it will be heavily improvised, with Guest, McKean and Shearer riffing together. “We had a four-page outline [for the first film], that’s what we worked off of. Something similar to what we’ll do now,” the director confirms.
And there may be some real musician cameos in the new film
The original Spinal Tap was not flush with star cameos. “We did have Cherie Currie, who was originally with The Runaways and Joan Jett. She was in a band called The Dose, but we cut that out,” explains Reiner. Still, there’s already talk that the sequel will feature some real-life musicians. Ozzy? Slash? Grohl? The list is endless.
Meanwhile, Guest and co. will almost certainly be writing new material to go alongside the first film’s classic cuts like ‘Big Bottom’ and ‘Lick My Love Pump’, although Reiner is very coy on the prospect of fresh songs. “I don’t know what they’re going to do!” he says. “I don’t know these people! I don’t think they’ve told Marty! I don’t think Marty knows what they’re going to do!”