David Bowie: Lazarus director says musician only discovered he was dying during last three months

BBC 2 premiered a new documentary, 'David Bowie: The Last Five Years', ahead of the anniversary of his death

Clarisse Loughrey
Sunday 08 January 2017 10:01
Comments

With the first anniversary of David Bowie's death on the horizon, the past year has seen something of a cultural consensus that his last output, Blackstar, was intended to be a very poignant farewell from the musician to his fans.

Or perhaps not, with BBC 2's new documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years, which aired 7 January, revealing the legendary musician only discovered his cancer was terminal three months before his death.

Indeed, Bowie only discovered his treatment was to be stopped during the filming of the music video for his final single, 'Lazarus'; with the video's concept, seeing Bowie sing lines such as 'Look up here, I’m in heaven' from a hospital bed, actually conceived by the video's director Johan Renck.

Renck told The Guardian: “David said: ‘I just want to make it a simple performance video'. I immediately said, 'the song is called 'Lazarus', you should be in the bed.' To me it had to do with the biblical aspect of it... it had nothing to do with him being ill. I found out later that, the week we were shooting, it was when he was told it was over, they were ending treatments and that his illness had won.”

Even then, Bowie hadn't given up hope of recovery and was still keen to create new music, with the director of Bowie's musical Lazarus, Ivo Van Hoe, revealing: “I really am convinced that he was fighting death and he wanted to continue and continue. Afterwards we were sitting behind stage and he said ‘let’s start a second one now, the sequel to Lazarus.”

David Bowie: The Last Five Years was directed by Francis Whately, acting as a continuation of his previous 2013 documentary David Bowie: Five Years, which focused on five of the most creatively significant years in the musician's life between 1971 and 1983.


“I still don’t know if he started making Blackstar before he knew he was ill, or after,” Whately said. ”People are so desperate for Blackstar to be this parting gift that Bowie made for the world when he knew he was dying but I think it’s simplistic to think that. There is more ambiguity there than people want to acknowledge. I don’t think he knew he was going to die.”

“However, he must have known there was a chance he wasn’t going to recover, so, to do an album with a certain amount of ambiguity in it, is Bowie playing the cat and mouse game that he always played.”

Celebrity deaths in 2016: from David Bowie to Debbie Reynolds

David Bowie died on 10 January, 2016; two days after his 69th birthday and the coinciding release of Blackstar.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in