‘Teen Spirit’ Director Calls Green Day Clip His Career Highlight

Samuel Bayer says 'Wake Me Up When September Ends' is his best work.

Here’s director Samuel Bayer on Green Day’s new video, the seven-minute long, big-budget, bombs-and-tanks-and-heartbreaks epic “Wake Me Up When September Ends”:

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked with so many rock acts over the years, and I’ve shot so many videos, but ‘September’ is hands down the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

And for a guy whose résumé includes not just Nirvana’s decade-defining “Smells Like Teen Spirit” clip, but also clips for acts like the Smashing Pumpkins (“Bullet With Butterfly Wings”), Hole (“Doll Parts”) and Metallica (“Until It Sleeps”), that’s not a statement to be taken lightly. But the “September” clip might actually back up Bayer’s hyperbole. Featuring speaking roles from actors Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell, it tells the story of young love stretched thin when a boy goes off to war (see “It’s A Dark Day For Green Day In Somber ‘September’ Video” ), and with its graphic violence, big-ticket battle scenes and ambiguous ending, it’s already leaving viewers shocked and teary-eyed.

“When I watch music videos it seems like the genre becomes predictable. Sometimes directors, when they’re telling a story, it’s not about dialogue and constructing scenes, it’s about getting a couple of models and having them pretend to act,” Bayer explained. “I wrote a real script and we cast really great actors. We spent a month casting the video. Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell are both great actors. We did rehearsals, casting calls, we tackled it exactly like a major motion picture.

“It’s a sad song. It’s a song about loss and heartbreak. And I’ve played the video for people and seen them cry,” he continued. “To have a video that evokes that kind of emotion from people is amazing. In my career, I’ve never had anything affect people like that.”

Obviously, Green Day and Bayer have affected plenty of people this year. Witness their eight VMA nominations — more than anybody — all for videos Bayer directed (see “Green Day, Gwen, Missy Nab Most Nominations For MTV Video Music Awards” ). And they’re not about to let up, either. As frontman Billie Joe Armstrong hinted at earlier this month, the band plans on teaming up with Bayer for one more video off American Idiot: the nine-plus-minute “Jesus of Suburbia” (see “Green Day ‘Overwhelmed’ By VMA Nods; More New Clips On The Way” ). And for Bayer, the clip will hold special meaning … because it just might be the last video he ever makes.

“I think it’ll be my swan song. I can’t think of a better way to end my video career. It’s going to be the most literal translation of the record. It’s about the Jesus of Suburbia, and the lyrics will come to life,” he said. “It’s going to be very raw, sort of be like Larry Clark’s film ‘Kids.’ We’re going to cast all unknowns, real kids from Los Angeles and Northern California, and tell the story of Jesus of Suburbia.”

And if you think Bayer sounds like he’s up to speed on all of Green Day’s upcoming projects, you’d be correct — with one notable exception: the long-rumored “American Idiot” movie. Turns out that while the film might still be a go, Bayer’s no longer attached to the project — a fact that seems a bit odd, considering he’s helmed every video off the album and is even directing the band’s live DVD, due this Christmas (see “Green Day Shoot American Documentary In British Suburbia” ). But Bayer’s not too disappointed. After all, he feels like the videos he’s made with Green Day are the perfect career-topper. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s attached to direct an upcoming Bruce Willis drama, either.

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“I have another film in development in January, a hit-man picture starring Bruce Willis, and, to be honest, the band never came to me about doing the movie. I mean, I love these guys, but they never, ever have talked to me about doing the movie,” Bayer laughed. “I would’ve loved to do it. I think they’re probably going to work with another director, and I’m moving on to another project. But it’s OK. We’ve all got to move on sometime. And I’ll always look back on the things we’ve done with pride. I know they’ll stand the test of time.”

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