Behind the scenes with The Libertines

A film about the indie rockers' riotous reunion paints a fresh picture of the band. Carl Barât tells Geoffrey Macnab about it

Carl Barât answers questions about his friend and former bandmate Pete Doherty with surprisingly good grace.

It's not as if he hasn't been asked them before. "It's something I have to live with," he states stoically. Later this month, Roger Sargent's film The Libertines – There Are No Innocent Bystanders, about the 2010 Reading Festival reunion of the band Barât and Doherty fronted, premieres at the East End Film Festival.

Drinking half a pint of shandy in the garden of an upmarket hotel near Old Street tube station, the 32-year-old Barât admits that he has only just seen the documentary himself. "It's quite a candid look at the characters involved, the relationships and that sort of dynamic," he reflects. "It's a lot more personal than anything that has ever been done before on the band."

The story of the friendship and songwriting partnership between Barât and Doherty is familiar enough. After being introduced by Doherty's sister at Brunel University in the late 1990s, they formed The Libertines and lived up gingerly to the stereotypes of self-destructive young British rock stars, writing some stirring music and being feted by the critics. Then Doherty's addictions and bad-boy behaviour kicked in. By 2004, after their second album, the band imploded – its full potential perhaps unfulfilled.

According to Barât, the film isn't some corny, magazine-style account of the band's rise and fall. "It definitely isn't that... it's more considered, more beautiful – and looks at things that are often overlooked." Like what? "Love's vicissitudes..." he suggests a little plaintively.

Doherty may have burgled his bandmate's apartment, forged his signature on cheques and missed practice but Barât's affection for him is evident. At a time when his fellow students were listening to dance compilations and taking ecstasy, Barât regarded Doherty as "the one person who saw the world in the antiquated and romantic way I did."

It is clear that Barât has reflected at length on his time as a Libertine. He has even written a book about it, Threepenny Memoir. "It didn't feel like an autobiography. It's not my life. I am not David Niven and I am not Jade Goody," he says of the book, published last year. "But at the time, I felt as if I was drowning in some Stygian fug of other people's negative and ghoulish accounts of what I was supposed to be."

Doherty is currently busy with his acting, playing the young hero in Sylvie Verheyde's Napoleonic-era film, Confession of a Child of the Century. Barât, who is midway through a solo music tour, also has acting ambitions. Last year, he appeared on stage at the Riverside Studios in Sam Shepard's Fool for Love opposite Sadie Frost. The critics weren't especially kind. One reviewer called him "the victim of his theatrical rawness" and accused him of "swallowing the ends of sentences." His own verdict is that he "just about got away with it." He is sanguine about the reviews. "The production was open to panning because of what we were taking on and who we were," he reflects.

As for his Libertine past, Barât freely acknowledges that, like Doherty, he embraced the cult of the self-destructive young artist a la Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain. "I did embrace it, but when you're past 27, it's futile really."

Eventually, Barât (who recently became a father) decided that he couldn't "take any more drugs or stay up any more days or scream and bleed down the microphone to any more purpose. Obviously, I am not going to die. I am still here."

Twenty-seven is the age at which self-respecting rock stars are supposed to burn themselves out and die. "On the morning of your 28th birthday, you wake up and realise that you're not in that club and never will be... then a whole new dawn of possibility opens up beyond having died to inspire other miserable people."

The East End Film Festival will open on 27 April with the world premiere gala screening of the documentary 'The Libertines – There Are No Innocent Bystanders' ( www.eastendfilmfestival.com)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions