Harry Nilsson Doc Lands Distributor

Lorber Films picks up film about ’60s and ’70s hitmaker and hellraiser

Four years after making its debut at the Santa Barbara and Seattle film festivals, the documentary “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” has finally secured a distributor.

Director John Scheinfeld’s look at the singer, songwriter and man-about-town responsible for the hits “Without You,” “Coconut” and “Everybody’s Talkin’” has been acquired by Lorber Films for theatrical distribution and DVD release before the end of the year.

The Brooklyn-born Nilsson was a respected songwriter and vocalist in the ‘60s and ‘70s, whose friends and admirers included some of the biggest stars of the era – including the Beatles, particularly John Lennon and Ringo Starr. But in his later years, Nilsson was as known for his reckless lifestyle – he was Lennon’s constant companion during the Beatle’s famous “lost weekend” in Los Angeles in the early- and mid-1970s – as for his music, despite a track record that included 17 gold records and two Grammy Awards.

Harry NilssonThe documentary features private and performance footage of Nilsson, as well as interviews with Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Micky Dolenz, Randy Newman, Yoko Ono, the Smothers Brothers, RobinWilliams and many more.

“This is one of those rare docs that leaves no stone unturned,” said Kino Lorber CEO Richard Lorber in the press release announcing the acquisition. “Besides all the amazing and exclusive material Scheinfeld managed to uncover, what impressed me most about ‘Who is Harry Nilsson’ was the film’s capacity to make you fall in love with Nilsson’s work all over again.”

As befits a film about a musician more admired by aficionados than celebrated by the public, Scheinfeld’s documentary has been looking for distribution since it played at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival in 2006. The following year, the film screened at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre as part of the American Cinematheque’s “Mods and Rockers” series, and in a post-screening Q&A the director spoke of his problems landing a distributor.

In general, critics have written favorably about the movie. The Hollywood Reporter said it “doesn’t exactly break any fresh docu ground, but its ability to richly evoke a highly tactile time and place should make it a viable theatrical and DVD release through the right distributor.”

Added Variety, “Pic's positioned to revive Nilsson's name, which should happen through fest exposure and vid, and a few modest theatrical gigs.”

“Who Is Harry Nilsson?” will open at New York’s Cinema Village on September 10. It will be released on DVD before the end of the year.