Beware of Mr. Baker, the acclaimed 2012 documentary about volatile, virtuosic Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker, opens in select theaters across the U.S. on Friday. The movie is the first full-length feature from director Jay Bulger, who lived with Baker for several months on his horse farm in South Africa while gathering interviews for the movie.
Through those conversations, as well as interviews with former band mates and collaborators, family members and an impressive list of fellow rock luminaries, Bulger presents a captivating look at Baker. Throughout his life, the drummer carelessly burned through his money and alienated those closest to him as he pursued his passions of music and polo, while struggling with various addictions.
Speaking this week with ABC News Radio, Bulger recalls some of the frightening stories he'd been told about Baker, noting that while some of the tales were exaggerations, others held at least a grain of truth.
"People were telling me he was gonna chop my head off and kill me, and…that he murders people, he eats babies," the filmmaker declares. "[They told me] he injects heroin in his eyeballs, and when he plays the drum solos, they had him hooked up to a…methamphetamine IV…After meeting him, in reality, he is a lot of those things. I mean, he's a total maniac, but there is a mythical side to him that may or may not be true."
One thing that is true about Baker is that he's got a violent temper, as documented in the first scene of Beware of Mr. Baker, which shows the drummer breaking Bulger's nose with a cane as he prepares to leave the horse farm. While Baker's personality perhaps hasn't won him many friends, his musical prowess and innovations have garnered the admiration of many of the world's most famous musicians.
Among the film's highlights is a segment that recounts the years Baker spent in Nigeria during the 1970s playing with late Nigerian music legend and political activist Fela Kuti.
"Whereas everyone else was resting upon their laurels, he continued to pursue rhythmic perfection and [went] to the end of the world to master his instrument," Bulger says of Ginger's Nigerian excursion.
Another aspect of the movie that likely will interest rock fans is the candid conversations Bulger has with Baker's Cream band mates, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. While not known for giving many interviews, Clapton is particularly forthcoming about his relationship with the drummer.
"Maybe he realized [that] we shared an experience -- the Ginger Baker experience," Bulger suggests about why Clapton opened up to him. "He knows how important the story is, but also, I think, emotionally, he's had some experiences with Ginger…He was in the back of the car with Ginger for a long time, I lived with Ginger for a long time. We had a lot to talk about."
Bulger says that after Beware of Mr. Baker's new theatrical run, the documentary will makes its way to on-demand TV outlets sometime in February. However, he recommends people check it out on the big screen.
"Definitely if people have a chance to see it in a theater, it would be such a shame not to, 'cause it's musical experience," he declares. "You really need to be in a theater to hear the music."
The filmmaker reports that a DVD of Beware of Mr. Baker is also in the works. He adds that the disc likely will include hours of extra footage that didn't make it onto the theatrical version of the flick. Check out one outtake from Bulger's interview with Clapton exclusively now at EW.com.
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