As the stage sequel to The Man Who Fell to Earth is streamed, theatre producer Robert Fox remembers his friend’s creative genius and generosity
Lazarus was recorded during its run at King’s Cross theatre in London. Was the film ever intended to be shown publicly?
Initially it was for archive but we did it with seven or eight cameras like they do NT Live. When we saw the finished article it turned out to be very powerful, quite a different experience. Rather than just bang it out at the time, I talked with David’s management and we felt the right thing to do would be to wait until five years had passed since his death. With the wave of lockdown streaming – something David would have been up for and interested in – it felt like the right time. And it’s his birthday on 8 January.
Lazarus continues the story of Thomas Newton, who Bowie played in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. What was it about Newton that inspired him?
The character must have had a big effect on him to want to make a musical based on him all that time afterwards. David had a sense of being “other”. The character’s isolation and fame are probably an aspect of it and he probably identified with the fact that Newton was a huge drinker – David had been in his time and then got clean and sober. Playing Newton had a profound effect. He was obsessed by the character and took an option out on the novel of The Man Who Fell to Earth a long time before he came to me with the idea of turning it into a musical.