“CBGB,” a film chronicle of the iconic New York club starring Alan Rickman has hit theaters. And though Rickman disappears into his linchpin role as club founder Hilly Kristal, as MTV News’ Josh Horowitz found out, Rickman had no idea what the punk mecca was until filming.
“I, of course, as a student in London in the 1970s had never heard of CBGB’s,” Rickman told Horowitz. “I knew nothing about it, so I’m on big catch-up about the whole thing… But by the time we started shooting, I felt like it had been part of my life forever.”
It probably didn’t help that they filmed in Savannah, Georgia, rather than the landmark’s home in New York City.
“Most days it was 95 degrees,” continued Rickman. “That’s when I wasn’t thankful for flannel shirts, and a wig on my head. But that’s American filmmaking. It’s a city that’s wise enough to give you tax breaks, so you go there and guess what! It looks like New York. You have these beautiful eighteenth century squares in Savannah, and yet, lo and behold, there’s some crappy backyard two minutes away.”
Interestingly, Rickman was actually in New York during the club’s second renaissance. After defining the Punk and New Wave scene in the 1970s — despite the letters in CBGB standing for “Country, Bluegrass, and Blues” — CBGB became the home of the hardcore punk scene throughout the 1980s. Rickman, though, was a little too busy with theater gigs to check out The Misfits.
“The first time that I came to New York to work properly was the mid-’80s, but I was doing eight shows a week,” noted Rickman. “You have no life. Going to a punk rock club — or whatever the music was at that time — would not have been on my agenda.”