Rolling Stones documentary that Mick Jagger said must not be released

Director tells Edinburgh television festival he is still bitter after his run-in with the singer

The award-winning director behind the 7 Up series has spoken for the first time of his disappointment and bitterness that a dispute with Mick Jagger prevented the release of a potentially landmark Rolling Stones documentary he shot a decade ago.

Michael Apted revealed that he occasionally screens a rough cut of a feature-length documentary, which includes footage of rehearsals and the opening dates of the Rolling Stones' record breaking 40th anniversary Licks tour, for friends. However, the film, shot in 2002, has never been released.

Apted said that Jagger told him during a meeting in Las Vegas that the film he had delivered as a rough cut would not do the band any good, adding that the Rolling Stones frontman had brought "his hitman in to deal with it".

Apted added that the project, on which he worked for several months, was then shelved indefinitely after he and Jagger failed to agree on cuts.

"I did the film and showed them a very rough cut and Mick said 'fine, finish it'. So I finished it and then I took it – I'll never forget it – to Las Vegas to show him and he said: 'We can't have this, this is not doing the band any good.' And he hired his hitman in to deal with it," Apted said during an interview at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday. He added that Jagger asked him to take 20 minutes out of the rough cut, which was 105 minutes long.

"I said 'all right'. So I did it and thought it was horrible. And I sent it back to him and there was silence," Apted recalled in Edinburgh. "Then eventually he came back and said 'take another 20 minutes out of it'. And I said 'fuck off'."

Apted, 71, helped choose the child interviewees for 7 Up in 1964 and has directed every series of the landmark documentary since then as it has followed the 14 subjects at seven-year intervals. He said he was asked to do the Stones project after working on the 2001 movie Enigma, which Jagger produced.

He spent time with the band in Paris, filmed them during six weeks of rehearsals in Toronto and covered the opening three dates of the Licks tour in Boston in September 2002. The mammoth show was on the road for more than a year and was then the second-biggest grossing tour of all time, seen by more than 3.4 million people and bringing in $300m.

Apted said Jagger later apologised and thanked him for his work on the documentary. But he said as far as he was aware the film had never been released in its full form, though he thought some of the footage appeared on the tour DVD. Asked about the project in Edinburgh by Mark Lawson, the broadcaster and journalist, Apted admitted: "Yes, that was bitter."

He added: "I've still got it. I don't think they've ever released it ... I occasionally show it to people. It was never dubbed or anything so it's a bit of a mess. That was a real disappointment."

"There are lots of other directors who've done the same things [with the Rolling Stones] and only the blandest films have ever made it through, like the [Martin] Scorsese thing."

Scorsese directed Shine a Light, the 2008 documentary which mixed archive material with footage of the Stones filmed in 2006.

"Mine was good because it was very emotional," Apted said. "They gave me a lot of contact, Charlie [Watts] and all of them. It was about their lives. What was great about it in a way was you could see they loved playing together. They were amazing. I remember they had this huge arena in New England they were playing and they came on, they were doing a soundcheck. And they started making up this blues song – it was beautiful. And I filmed it.

"Because their rap is they come out of retirement, make a big tax killing, make a ton of money. But they were really wonderful playing with each other. And I'd never seen a film about that."

A representative for Jagger said that he was travelling and unavailable for comment.


Jason Deans

The GuardianTramp

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