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HBO Debuts Cameron Crowe's Elton John and Leon Russell Doc 'The Union' on February 2

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood January 19, 2012 at 4:54PM

Cameron Crowe's "The Union," which premiered at Tribeca 2011, will have its television debut exclusively on HBO February 2. The film follows the recent musical collaboration of Leon Russell and Elton John. Crowe began shooting in 2009, following John's writing and recording of his collaborative album with Russell, the man who was his idol early in his career. Their collaboration was prompted when John was listening to Russell's Greatest Hits album while on safari. He was distraught that the musician had fallen into obscurity and made it his mission to collaborate with him. T-Bone Burnett produced the film.
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The Union

Cameron Crowe's "The Union," which premiered at Tribeca 2011, will have its television debut exclusively on HBO February 2. The film follows the recent musical collaboration of Leon Russell and Elton John. Crowe began shooting in 2009, following John's writing and recording of his collaborative album with Russell, the man who was his idol early in his career. Their collaboration was prompted when John was listening to Russell's Greatest Hits album while on safari. He was distraught that the musician had fallen into obscurity and made it his mission to collaborate with him. T-Bone Burnett produced the film.

Crowe stepped into The Village studio in Los Angeles to capture intimate moments with the two artists as they work on nine songs in three days, including the first-ever filming of John composing music to lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, his longtime collaborator. He along with Neil Young, Brian Wilson, organist Booker T. Jones, steel guitarist Robert Randolph and a ten-piece gospel choir contribute to the album. One of the songs, “If It Wasn’t For Bad,” earned a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. “The Union” went to #1 on Amazon, entered the Billboard 200 at #3 and was named #3 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest 30 Albums of 2010.

The film adds vintage concert footage of John and Russell throughout their careers, including John’s first U.S. appearance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, attended by Russell. All these years later, the two perform "The Union" on stage at the Beacon on Oct. 19, 2010.

Starting out as a rock journalist for Rolling Stone, Crowe makes docs such as “Pearl Jam Twenty" as well as fiction films, among them “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Jerry Maguire," “Almost Famous”  and “We Bought a Zoo."

This article is related to: Musical, Documentaries, HBO, TV, News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.