When You’re Strange

In April of 2010, The Doors released the Grammy Award winning documentary, “When You’re Strange”. Directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, Ray referred to it as the “Anti-Oliver Stone” film, or the “antidote” to Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie “The Doors”.

The film itself was initially going to follow the standard documentary format, with footage from the Doors’ vaults and TV performances played along with commentary. Production work was already proceeding when one day in 2007 The Doors’ archivist came across ten boxes of unmarked 35mm footage in The Doors’ vaults. Inside was the original, pristine raw outtake footage shot for Jim Morrison’s unreleased 1969 film, “HWY”. The archivist knew he had discovered something that could change the direction of the documentary since up until that point the footage was not known to exist. He immediately called Ray stating he had just found some unseen film of Jim that was the most amazing footage he had ever seen. Rays response, “Never before seen? I’ll believe it when I see it!”. Ray was sent a few images from the film and was blown away. “Beautiful!!” was Ray’s response. The footage was transferred immediately and given to director Tom DiCillo. When he saw the footage he knew it had to be the cornerstone of the film. The footage looked so good that many thought it was new footage shot using a Jim lookalike. A majority of the other footage used in the film was transferred from the original 16mm footage shot for the Doors 1968 film “Feast of Friends”.

After two years of work on the film, it was finally ready to be shown to the public. The initial screening occurred at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2009, which was attended by Ray and his wife Dorothy. Although the film received very positive reviews, they decided after the screening that they definitely needed a change in the narration. Multiple Hollywood A-listers were brought to record narration, but in the end they decided on Johnny Depp. The change was exactly what was needed and the final version of the film was released in theaters on April 9, 2010.

In addition to winning the Grammy Award for “Best Long Form Video”, it was also nominated for an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Nonfiction Series” after it’s television debut on the PBS show “American Masters”.

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