For Frank Marshall, director of HBO Max’s new documentary “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” and its producer, Nigel Sinclair, the key to capturing the essence of the Bee Gees — formed by Barry Gibb and his two younger twin brothers, Robin and Maurice Gibb — was to focus on family.
Marshall and Sinclair spoke to TheWrap about the hit doc and while the conversation centered on the Gibb family, Marshall, best known as a co-founder of Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg and Marshall’s wife Kathleen Kennedy, happened to mention that his own family ties parallel Barry Gibb’s in an unusual way: Marshall and his two younger brothers once formed a band called The Mersh Brothers.
“A couple of people called my youngest brother ‘Mersh’,” Marshall explained, a bit sheepishly. He did not give his own band of brothers as much credit for lighting the disco inferno as the Bee Gees, but said aspiring to the same goals as the Gibbs’ helped make the personal connection that led to the making of the film.
“I have two brothers that are younger and we had a band for about 10 minutes, but it’s inspiring when you know another family that did it,” Marshall said. Could another family come together and find the same musical success in the 2020s that the Bee Gees found in the 1970s and beyond?
“Yeah, it could happen again,” Marshall said.
Marshall is also the same age as Barry Gibb — in fact, their birth dates are just 13 days apart, he said. (Gibb, Sept. 1, 1946, on the Isle of Mann; Marshall, Sept. 13, 1946, in Glendale). But seriously, Marshall said, the musical connection runs deeper than coincidence.
“I come from a musical family,” Marshall told TheWrap. “My Dad (Jack) was a composer, arranger, producer and guitar player who was actually under contract at Capitol (Records) back in the ’50s and ’60s, and so I spent a lot of time at Capitol Records when I was a kid.”
Marshall said he was invited to go on a tour of the iconic Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood a few years ago following a 15-month renovation. The tour also included the chance to meet Steve Barnett, then Chairman CEO of Capitol Music Group. Barnett recently retired from the post. At the time, the Capitol had just acquired the Bee Gees voluminous catalog of music.
“And there we were, sitting in his office, and it was an incredible moment for me, very nostalgic,” Marshall said. Barnett asked him to brainstorm about ideas for feature films and documentaries and things that would reinvigorate their catalog. Barnett mentioned the Bee Gees. “I said, what about them?” Marshall remembered.
Aside from musical connections, both the director and the producer said they kept the human connection stayin’ alive in the documentary by focusing on family ties. Sinclair said that for him, the film’s most poignant moment was a final scene when “Barry says he’d leave it all behind to have his brothers back with him, and we see them singing a medley on the one-night concert of ‘Run To Me.’ And they are all at the microphone, and what we’re hearing is what they’re recording, because you can’t separate tracks when they are all on one microphone.”
Marshall said that despite Barry Gibb’s sadness at losing his brothers, making the documentary “was cathartic for him. You know he obviously misses his brothers immensely, he’s the oldest. But he also wants to celebrate the legacy. I think he wants people to know the story. A lot of people think they just did ‘Saturday Night Fever.'”