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by dr andrew cousins

‘Robbie Wooliams — Singing Thru the Tears’

The singer Robbie Wooliams has sold over twenty million records worldwide since he acrimoniously departed company from the boy band ‘Get Lost!’ in 1992. Last year he allowed himself to be filmed by documentary maker Simon Merkin during his nationwide tour. The film, ‘Robbie Wooliams — Singing Thru the Tears’ will be released in cinemas next week. It’s an extremely honest and moving portrayal of millionaire celebrity life. I met with Robbie to talk about the film.

AC: What was it that first made you agree to the film being made?

RW: I don’t know really. Why do I get up in the morning? Do I have cornflakes or toast? Do I spend the day writing a lyrically simple yet catchy song or do I watch cartoons? Why did you wear that tie?

It was a Christmas present.

I got a tie for Christmas too. It’s hand painted on Japanese silk by Stella McCartney. It's the only one like it in the whole world.

Mine’s from Burtons. Er, I can’t help feeling that you haven’t answered my original question.

Well, I suppose I wanted people to see me as I really am. Not filtered through a magazine interview or appearing on CD:UK but in a fly-on-the-wall documentary that shows you the real me. A documentary that lets you into my life. And most importantly a documentary that I have full editorial control over.

I was struck by the fact that throughout the film you keep repeating how bored you are with being famous. Is that still how you feel?

Yeah. I do actually. Yeah. Being famous is crap. I’ll do a concert, right? And there’ll be about 20, 000 people screaming "Robbie, Robbie" and you know that they’re all there just to see you. Just to be near you and to hear you sing. Have you any idea how depressing that is?

Well, er… No. No I don’t.

It’s crap. I can’t go anywhere without people shouting out, "Hello Robbie" at me. Don’t they realise what a massive intrusion of your privacy it is to have total strangers shouting out your name at book signings and gala premieres?

Mmm. That must be… awful.

And I hate music too. All my songs are crap. On my last tour I wanted to do a selection of stuff by Judith Durham and the New Seekers — songs that actually mean something. But my management wouldn’t let me. They’re crap too.

But your songs are enormously popular.

That’s just so depressingly crap though isn’t it? People treat you like their own personal Christ just because you’ve sung a few whingy ballads. People are crap aren’t they?

It’s well publicised that you turned to drink and drugs. Did they help you to cope with the enormous burden of fame?

No. It just made it go a bit faster and in slightly different colours. Anyway I’m clean now.

Robbie Wooliams — thank you.

You’re really crap at interviews aren’t you?

Simon Merkin is the man who made ‘Robbie Wooliams — Singing Thru the Tears’. I spoke to him about his experiences on the project.

AC: Was the film a difficult one to make?

SM: Anybody who tells you that making a film isn’t hard is talking out of the end of their cock.

Except if they’re a woman presumably

No they’d be talking out of the end of their cock too. The hardest part of the film was gaining Robbie’s trust. I knew that once he trusted me making the film would go a lot more smoothly.

Presumably gaining his trust involved talking to him a lot, sharing your life experiences and finding common points of interest. Was that how you approached it?

No I bought him a Playstation 2. That seemed to do the trick.

Robbie seemed quite depressed during a lot of the film. Where you aware of how he feeling?

Obviously, when you’re with a person twelve hours a day, you get to know that person quite well. You learn how to spot the little signs that indicate how they might be feeling. Are they more tetchy or irritable then usual? Are they unusually quiet? Have they scrawled, "piss off you nosey film making bastards" in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror? Much of being a documentary maker is learning how to read people’s emotions.

There are scenes in the film that depict Robbie being mobbed by hundreds of young screaming fans. What was it like to be caught up in that?

It was amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like that. Afterwards Robbie was very nonchalant. "Happens all the time", he said. Then he broke down in tears. It’s like he’s riding an emotional roller coaster and there’s nobody at the controls. Except his management team and publicist.

Robbie had full editorial control over the film. Did that lead to problems during the editing stage?

You’d love me to say yes, wouldn’t you? Every journalist would love me to say "Robbie was a pain in the arse and he wouldn’t let me show anything that portrayed him in a bad light"

And is that what you’re going to say?

No. I’m going to read out a statement prepared by Robbie’s lawyers.


(Reading from statement) Despite Robbie Wooliams retaining full editorial control over the film, ‘Robbie Wooliams — Singing Thru the Tears’. He in no way interfered during the editing process. He was entirely happy with the film. Any rumours that the negatives of the unused footage were incinerated are entirely untrue. Further more Robbie wishes it to be known that he has every confidence in Mr Merkin’s abilities as a director. Mr Merkin’s wife and children will therefore be released from their incarceration at a secret address on his completion of the reading of this statement.

Er, right. So the film went pretty smoothly then?

Yes. Yes it did.

Simon Merkin — thanks for your time.

Robbie Wooliams — Singing Thru the Tears’ is in cinemas from Monday.

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