For The Sopranos creator David Chase, with the chance to direct his first big screen movie after the HBO mafia hit went off the air, he went to his youth. Not Fade Away takes place in 1960s New Jersey and follows a band as they try to make it big after the splash that was the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Bella Heathcote stars as the love interest, and inspiration, for lead singer Douglas (John Magaro), as seen on the Not Fade Away poster. She phoned Movie Fanatic for an exclusive interview where she takes us back in time when rock 'n' roll ruled the world.
“A lot of us of my generation, there is so much of this era that we idealized,” Heathcote said of the 1960s. “There was a lot of change happening. The fashion was great. The music was outstanding. To be able to step into it was fun.”
The era was so rich musically, and with so much of it documented, Heathcote welcomed an introduction to some musicians from that time period that had escaped her radar. “I learned a lot about the music and I became more familiar with bands of that era that I didn’t know about before,” she said.
Chase played the role of music teacher, as well as writer-director. “He introduced me to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band! Hearing that new-to-me stuff was great.”
Before diving into Not Fade Away, Heathcote was partial to the Stones. The film allowed her to discover even more about her favorite band. “I’m now more familiar with more of their work,” Heathcote said. She shared something the studio did to help them find the right notes for the tone of the film. “Paramount was kind of enough to give the lead actors their first six records and record players. To be able to listen to the music on vinyl was pretty special.”
As seen in the latest Not Fade Away trailer, the costumes and set design of the film are impeccable, something that helped Heathcote and her fellow actors close the deal on finding their characters. “Between the clothes and the music, it set the tone so well for us,” she said.
“Cat (Catherine Marie Thomas, costume designer) did so well with the costumes. They don’t feel costume-y or from a BBC drama about the 1960s. I feel really good in those great outfits. They’re all bought from vintage stores that are extraordinary.”
Of course the most treasured aspect of making Not Fade Away was the chance to explore the brilliance of both David Chase the writer and David Chase the director.
“The first time I read David’s script, I had just moved to L.A. and I was reading a lot of stuff. David’s was the first script that really got me. The second time I read it, it was even better. That impressed me so much. Each time I read it, it got better and better,” Heathcote said. “I love the way he writes. I love his dialogue. The characters are real people. I don’t feel they were caricature.”
As for Chase the talented helmer, Heathcote believes that a steady hand leads a successful ship. “He’s so gentle and has a great sense of humor. The way he is with the actors, he knows what to say. I remember the Time Is on Your Side scene, I was really struggling with that,” Heathcote recalled. “I love that he was willing to wait for what he wanted.”
Whether ever-present in his show The Sopranos or the landscape for Not Fade Away, the feel of Chase’s New Jersey home permeates. The Australian-born actress was worried she’d have to learn a new American dialect and Chase told her to avoid the tendency to go for a stereotype.
“I went into it wondering if I would have to do a Jersey accent. David said, 'We don’t speak like the people on Jersey Shore!'" Heathcote said and laughed. “It’s nice to know that this character that has been built up around that place is not necessarily real.”