Thrash Hits

May 27th, 2008

Iron Maiden go to Cannes for a Chemical Wedding

When Bruce Dickinson, singer with legendary metallers Iron Maiden, invited Thrash Hits .com onto the band’s private jet for a special screening of his film, we were never going to refuse. Ruby Q reports back on a tough day out.

Iron Maiden\'s private jet

“Welcome aboard Flight 666 to Hell and back,” splutters the plane tannoy while passengers choke on their early morning Bloody Marys. It’s not because of what’s being said, or because it’s 10.30am and we’re on our third drink of the morning, no. It’s who’s saying it.

We’re at Gatwick airport on the Iron Maiden tour plane, (ahem, Maiden logo-adorned Boeing 757) Ed Force One, destined for Cannes listening to the band’s front man – fencer, radio DJ, author, screenplay writer, et cetera, et cetera, Mr Bruce Dickinson – make the final call before takeoff.

He’ll be our pilot today, flying us to Satan’s lair and back via a screening of his new film, Chemical Wedding, in Cannes in just under thirteen hours. Yes. Really.

official chemical wedding film poster

More of that later but now let’s go back to the start; to the 1990s when Brucie took some time off from being the howling, hard rock overlord he normally is to write a screenplay about infamous occultist Aleister Crowley. For those unsure of Crowley’s omnipotent presence over the music world, take note.

    1. Jimmy Page bought and lived in his house during Led Zeppelin’s heyday.
    2. John Lennon fought, and won, to have Crowley’s face on the cover of seminal Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
    3. Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson has now written a supernatural thriller flick about him.

Oft dubbed “the wickedest man in the world”, Crowley was an obsession of many a rock icon due to his hedonistic ways and avant garde philosophical thoughts and musings. He was seen as an evil, bisexual demon by many and caused uproar and outrage much like Elvis and his guitar-gnawing, pheromone-sweating songs did in the ‘50s, yet Crowley did it forty years prior – without music.

Going against the grain of everything that was seen as righteous and good around the turn of the twentieth century he paved the way for many of the guitar slayers that grace our stages nowadays, or as Bruce Dickinson proclaims in a pre screening chat, “He was the first rock star – a sort of ‘70s zeitgeist.”

Bruce has bought him nose first into the Noughties with Chemical Wedding. The film sees iconic Brit flick actor Simon Callow take up residence as a modern day reincarnation of Crowley who has possessed an Oxford tutor.

Simon Callow as Aleister Crowley

As Dickinson aptly puts it, “We bring [Aleister Crowley] back from the dead and we do it for three days – it’s like Christ, only better.” It’s weird, it’s whacky and it’s stylistically superglued to the ‘70s – where most musical Crowley obsessives seem to originate from – but it’s a future straight-to-DVD cult movie. Plus Brucie penned the soundtrack to it so it can’t be all bad.

We’re not just here to gush about the film though. It’s the journey that presides over that. We were off to where the devil lives, right?

After an airplane-food breakfast we land in Cannes. Slightly inebriated but ready for action, thanks to a free in-air bar, we head to the screening with the Maiden frontman in tow. The post-plane journey passes with a distinct lack of alcohol but we follow Bruce through the confused streets of Cannes to the awaiting press conference.

Picture the scene: wrinkly perma-tanned film walruses and their Chanel-encrusted wives litter the streets like withering, half-smoked cigarette butts while camera crews and Dictaphones dodge them amateur commando-style (myself included) for a piece of Brucie pie. It’s utter chaos.

There are cameras papping possible celebutards in boats across the way, middling film stars eyeballing anyone for a vague sense of recognition while Bruce himself sits at a plastic table in the corner with director Julian Doyle talking to a line of press about his first ever film. Random.

Having lost a journalist on the way – who apparently ended up puffing Gauloises and chatting with some lovely, froggy French ladies in a bar over the road – it’s over to the watch the film. It proves entertaining viewing, not only due to its supernatural plot but also thanks to a few smuggled beer cans that join the viewing. Great. Watch the trailer here.

With the obligatory dodgy sex scenes, crassly cast and slightly clichéd American scientist/love interest and midnight séance it’s definitely one for the front room late night DVD shelf but not in a bad way. It’s a must see for any Aleister Crowley enthusiast but if you’re looking for an Iron Maiden biopic rather than a whacky horror flick, it’s probably not for you.

“It’s an odd eccentric movie,” smiles Dickinson. “If you want an exploitation movie that involves a lot of nubile girls and rock music go somewhere else – this is Withnail And I meets The Wickerman.” To be honest that sums up Chemical Wedding pretty well.

With the screening over, the bleary-eyed Flight 666 herd gathers for their return but this isn’t without its problems. After being cattle prodded back to the buses, with a few mandatory “have you seen ?”s along the way, the coach journey to the airport sees beer spillage aplenty.

The flight home is much of the same with some well-needed mouth-open, tongue-drooling shuteye as well, of course. After touching down just after 11pm half-hungover but intact after a 12-hour boozing session, it was all a tad surreal.

Bruce Dickinson live onstage with Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson has refused to stick to the cock rock singer rulebook of being just a bit of big-haired, small-brained, groupie-loving eye candy. He’s gone beyond that and re-written it by making this oddly intriguing film and flying us over to France in his plane to see it. So R-E-S-P-E-C-T to Bruce and his non-blockbuster destined masterpiece.

Just the less said the better about the chocolate milkshake and orange juice projectile vomit combo on the train home. I blame the post-turbulence blues. And my lack of an Iron (Maiden) stomach. Hic.

Chemical Wedding hits screens May 30th.


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