Colin Hanks of CBS’ “Life in Pieces” seems a good guy. How good? He starred in a TV series specifically titled “The Good Guys.” He played a priest on “Mad Men,” a gentle single-dad cop on “Fargo,” and even when he starred in a season of “Dexter” as a serial killer, he played a nice serial killer who only killed because of delusions.
There are worse fates than playing good guys. And in directing his second documentary feature, following 2015’s “All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records,” the 39-year-old faced the aftermath of some very bad guys — those who killed 89 people and wounded hundreds at Paris’ Bataclan concert hall in November 2015, as part of a coordinated terrorist attack. Hanks happens to be friends with Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme, the principals of Eagles of Death Metal, the band playing that night. And as the devastated group prepared to resume their tour and face Paris again three months later, they wanted their friend to document it. The result is “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis” (Our Friends),” which airs Feb. 13 on HBO. (It is also being released theatrically on Feb. 10.)
Hanks, one of four children of film star Tom Hanks, spoke with Newsday contributor Frank Lovece about the film and about his friends.
I guess the first thing to address is that despite the name, Eagles of Death Metal is not a death-metal band.
They’re a rock-and-roll band, the kind you dance to that are singing about good times and breakups and everything that I think rock and roll used to be about.
And yet they sound nothing like Huey Lewis and the News.
[Laughs] No, they don’t. They definitely don’t sound like Huey Lewis and the News, that’s for sure!
So you were a fan, and over the years became friends with Joshua and Jesse . . .
Yeah. They let me use a song of theirs for my Tower Records documentary, they played our premiere party at the old Tower Records on Sunset [Boulevard] . . . So I’d been dealing with them quite a bit when the attacks happened. I spoke with Jesse a couple of days before, and obviously I was devastated.
The attacks were horrific and I think a lot of people’s first instinct was, “I wish there were something I could do to help.” Was that the impetus for making a documentary?
Trust me, that was not my first thought. The day everything happened I was at my day job on “Life in Pieces,” which is a funny family comedy where normally I just make a fool of myself. Obviously I’m worried — Jesse is in Paris, and Joshua [whose wife was due to deliver a baby] is in Los Angeles, and I know how difficult it is for him [not being in Paris with his friend and band-mates]. And we’re all just trying to make it through the day. . . . It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before they were going to resume the tour that my producing partner Sean was having lunch with one of their managers and said, “Is anyone going with you to sort of document you guys going back to Paris?”
And so Sean came back to me and my first instinct was no, I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to be the guy to stick a camera in my friends’ faces while they’re about to go do arguably the most difficult thing they’ve ever done, never mind the logistics of it. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “Well, maybe this is my way to be able to help my friends put an end to this chapter of their lives. I can put something together so that they don’t have to answer these questions anymore.
And they and several audience survivors opened up to you. It’s a moving film and it doesn’t gloss over Jesse’s eccentricities and his and Joshua’s oddly codependent relationship. I notice it’s dedicated to “Nick.” Who is Nick?
Really, the film is dedicated to the victims of that night . . .
I understand and I applaud you for that, but “Nick” is the actual name on the screen.
That is a personal thing for me. I dedicated my first film to someone that was very important to me and this one is dedicated to someone else who’s important to me.
And so I guess they don’t mind getting just half a shout-out?
No, they don’t. [Laughs] I mean, I dedicated the film to them, and if they do feel like that, then I don’t know what to tell them! [Laughs]