More than 100 hours: That's how much time Tom DiCillo says he spent watching Doors archival footage in order to make the documentary "When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors."
DiCillo was watching DVD copies of the jumbled footage from The Doors' archives when suddenly he saw a bearded Jim Morrison walking through a desert. It was a scene filmed for "HWY," a movie Morrison made with some of his friends outside of the band.
"I said, 'That's a great shot. I'm going to use that somewhere,'" DiCillo recalls. "There was something so beautiful and haunted about that footage that I [felt as though] it's almost like it's the spirit of Jim, and that gave me the idea to use that as a motif throughout ['Strange']."
DiCillo adds, "I never knew that Jim made that movie, and the instant I saw that footage, I never questioned that it was Jim Morrison."
But some people have questioned whether it's really Morrison, and it's easy to see why. For one thing, the "HWY" outtakes DiCillo included in "Strange" are very crisp. And if you consider that, and the recent tendency for some music documentaries to include re-enactments, then one could think that the bearded drifter in "HWY" is an actor and not Morrison.
DiCillo doesn't exactly buy into that theory.
"If that was the case," he says, "I guess I would ask, 'Would I be that blatant in putting close-ups of this actor?' Then you come to the scene where Morrison comes across the dead coyote. What did we do? Did we run over a coyote just to put it in the movie? I guess I understand [the re-enactment theory]. I wish there had been a little more curiosity instead of dismissal."
One of the reasons why the "HWY" outtakes look so good, DiCillo says, is that he had access to the original negative.
"People said to me, 'It's too clean. Maybe you need to muck it up and make it look like some of the other parts of the film.' And I just said, 'We have this incredible, historical stuff here. This is the way Morrison shot it; this is the way we should use it.'"