Rob Reiner reminisces about ‘This Is Spinal Tap,’ reveals the key role Meat Loaf accidentally played in its conception
Director also explains why Martin Scorsese was initially furious with the film.
This Is Spinal Tap is rightfully regarded as one of the funniest films of all time, as the rock music mockumentary comedy has inspired countless other releases since it was released in 1984.
Back in October I had the opportunity to talk to director Rob Reiner about his prestigious career, and while we touched upon his most recent film “LBJ,” I couldn’t resist the opportunity to discuss his directorial debut “This Is Spinal Tap,” which he also wrote and starred in.
“I was on this television show in the late 70s. It was basically a guy flipping through the channels, and we’d do a take on the commercials, of soap operas, telethons, whatever we had on at that time,” Reiner recalled when I asked about the film’s origins.
“One of the things we did was on a light night rock ‘n’ roll show called ‘Midnight Special’. We introduced this band Spinal Tap as, ‘Britain’s Loudest Rock Band.’ Chris [Guest], Michael [McKean], and Harry [Shearer] would just mess around and improvise as the characters, and Harry and I had an idea for this film called ‘Roadie,’ which was going to be backstage.”
It turns out, though, that the 1980 film ‘Roadie,’ which stars Meat Loaf as a truck driver that becomes a roadie for a travelling rock and roll show, soon altered their plans.
“Then ‘Roadie’ with Meat Loaf came out and we were like, ‘Oh forget that.’ Chris and Michael meanwhile did this video of two guys that run into each other in a hotel. And they are both kind of stoned, and don’t really remember being in a band together. They are two Brits and they start talking, and so we kind of came back together, and we thought we could bring it all together.”
The rest as they say is history. But one cinematic icon was initially furious with the film, as Martin Scorsese knew that Reiner’s Marty Di Bergi was inspired by the director’s presence in his 1976 concert film “The Last Waltz.”
“Initially Martin Scorsese was mad. But then he came to love it. I worked with him recently on ‘Wolf Of Wall Street,’ and he said, ‘I love it. I love what you did.’ Because I did, basically I grew my beard because of him. He was in [‘The Last Waltz’]! So I put myself in the movie.”
But for Reiner the real talent was Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer as the members of Spinal Tap. Especially because of the music they created. During our chat Reiner even recalled how, when the trio toured as Spinal Tap, they would also open the concert as The Folksman, too.
“The had a group called The Folksman. And at one time, Chris and Harry and Michael playing as The Folksman would open for Spinal Tap. They would come out and be wearing these stripe things and have these big instruments, and then they would have an intermission.”
But even that musical adroitness can’t match up to the all-round perfection that is “This Is Spinal Tap,” which nearly 34 years after it was released is still the pinnacle of the comedy genre.