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The Eagles talk about their film at Sundance premiere

There can be a case made for only bringing celebrities to their seats right before the lights die down. Instead, the four members of The Eagles made their way to their seats about 15 minutes before the debut of the documentary "History of the Eagles Part 1" Saturday night, and the Eccles Theater turned into a mad house as normally respectful patrons snapped photos from every corner of the theater. It's not that I feel bad for Don Henley or Glenn Frey or Joe Walsh, but sitting in their seats getting bright flashes from cameras from every angle must be disconcerting.

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After the film ended, The Eagles and director Alison Ellwood and producer Alex Gibney sat on directors' chairs for an extended Q-and-A session that ended well after midnight. (The film screened at 9:30 p.m., and was two hours long.) Of course, most of the questions from the audience (and from moderator John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival) were directed at one of the quartet.

Earlier in the day at a separate press conference, Henley admitted he would be seeing the final cut of the film at the premiere, but he and the other band members seemed pleased at how they were portrayed.

Frey spoke the most and appeared to be the leader of the band as far as the filming went. He said he wasn't impressed with most music documentaries he had seen, so once the decision was made to approach a filmmaker to do the project, he watched a bunch of films that had been nominated or won Academy Awards for documentaries. When Frey saw Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side" and "ENRON: The Smartest People in the Room," Frey said, "Alex's reel just jumped off the screen."

Cooper told the crowd that in the early part of selecting films and scheduling times for this year's Festival, he was told that there was a request from someone that a documentary should be the main event on one of the most prestigious nights of the Festival, and the most prestigious venue at the Festival. He was skeptical, with the common sentiment that the theater should show a dramatic film in that prime time slot. But then he was told that is was for a film he hadn't yet known about that focused on The Eagles, and he was sold.

Questions from the audience ranged from one woman who admitted she had never heard of The Eagles until that night and wondered what they had done between the band's break-up in 1980 and 1994 reunion, to another who wanted to know why Walsh had a habit of destroying hotel rooms. "Keith Moon taught me," Walsh replied, mentioning the late drummer for The Who. "I don't do it anymore, but I know how to do it."

Interestingly, Walsh, whose latest album is called "Analog Man," talked about the distressing lack of "the human element" in modern music as musicians utilize more and more computers and digital recording. It was the same sentiment that director Dave Grohl has made at the Festival so far, and is the basis for Grohl's documentary "Sound City."

Another question focused on the three former members of the band, who were all interviewed and shown in the film. Frey said he still liked Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, but then stopped. Apparently he still doesn't like Don Felder. Henley added that he hasn't talked to Felder -- only Felder's lawyer. (In 2001, Don Felder was fired from the Eagles and filed two lawsuits against them alleging wrongful termination, breach of implied-in-fact contract, and breach of fiduciary duty, reportedly seeking $50 million in damages. In 2007, the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.)

Henley said that seeing some of the band's boys-will-be-boys behavior featured in the film was a little unsettling. "I have three teenagers, and I don't know how I am going to discipline them after they see this," he said.

Henley, who once wrote the scathing anti-media song "Dirty Laundry," made another swipe at the media. He said every time he saw himself written about in the press, he was identified as the "former drummer of the Eagles," even though the band has been active since 1994. "But that's the press," he said.

Frey told the crowd that the band was "looking about going on the road soon," although they "hadn't made any specific plans." He was asked if Park City would be included on the tour, and he replied, "It's hard enough to sing at sea level."

— David Burger



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