Taglines: “A Generation Began In His Backyard.”
Working as an interior designer in Greenwich Village, Elliot (Demetri Martin) feels empowered by the gay rights movement. But he is also still staked to the family business – a dumpy Catskills motel called the El Monaco that is being run into the ground by his overbearing parents, Jake and Sonia Teichberg (Henry Goodman and Imelda Staunton). In the summer of 1969, Elliot has to move back upstate to the El Monaco in order to help save the motel from being taken over by the bank.
Upon hearing that a planned music and arts festival has lost its permit from the neighboring town of Wallkill, NY, Elliot calls producer Michael Lang at Woodstock Ventures to offer his family’s motel to the promoters and generate some much-needed business. Elliot also introduces Lang to his neighbor Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), who operates a 600-acre dairy farm down the road. Soon the Woodstock staff is moving into the El Monaco – and half a million people are on their way to Yasgur’s farm for “3 days of Peace & Music in White Lake.”
With a little help from his friends, including theater troupe leader Devon (Dan Fogler), recently returned Vietnam veteran Billy (Emile Hirsch), and cross-dressing ex-Marine Vilma (Liev Schreiber) – and with a little opposition from townspeople, including Billy’s brother Dan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – Elliot finds himself swept up in a generation-defining experience that would change his life – and popular culture – forever.
Taking Woodstock is a 2009 American comedy-drama film about the Woodstock Festival of 1969, directed by Ang Lee. The screenplay by James Schamus is based on the memoir Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life by Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte. The film premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and opened in New York and Los Angeles on August 26, 2009, before its wide theatrical release two days later.
Taking Woodstock grossed $3,457,760 during its opening weekend, opening at #9. After five and a half weeks in theaters, on October 1, 2009, the film’s total domestic box office gross was $7,460,204 with an overseas take of $2,515,533. The film grossed $9,975,737 worldwide.
About the Production
Remember Woodstock? Well, if you do, as the saying goes, then – you probably weren’t there.
While Woodstock itself is a great subject, it’s one not readily able to be captured in a film – and, furthermore, it’s been done definitively; Michael Wadleigh’s threehour 1970 documentary feature Woodstock won an Academy Award. Taking Woodstock producer James Schamus, who adapted the film’s script from Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, A Concert, and A Life, written by Elliot Tiber with Tom Monte, explains, “What we’re doing is telling a tiny piece of that story, from a little corner of unexpected joy that happened almost by accident and which helped this incredible event take place.”
It was almost by accident that Tiber’s tale happened to come to Schamus’ longtime filmmaking partner, Academy Award-winning director/producer Ang Lee. In October 2007, Lee was booked on a San Francisco talk show to discuss their film Lust, Caution, which was about to open locally. Tiber was booked on the same show to discuss his book, which had been published. While waiting to go on, Tiber struck up a conversation with Lee, and gave Lee a copy of his memoirs. Lee remembers, “A few days later, an old friend from film school, Pat Cupo, called. He told me he had heard that Elliot had given me the book, and encouraged me to read it.”
Tiber enthuses, “Getting the `yes’ from Ang Lee was truly the ultimate trip. I have found in my life that whether you find the action, or the action finds you, the crucial thing is to act – and always now.”
Lee saw Taking Woodstock as following naturally from his previous work. If his 1973-set movie The Ice Storm was, as he says, “the hangover of 1969, then Taking Woodstock is the beautiful night before and the last moments of innocence. “After making several tragic movies in a row, I was looking to do a comedy – and one without cynicism. It’s also a story of liberation, honesty, and tolerance – and of a `naïve spirit’ that we cannot and must not lose.”
Schamus also cottoned to the project immediately, and saw bringing the film to audiences as an opportunity for “a new generation to go back and visit Woodstock and get a feel for what it must’ve been like when you could have hope, and really move some mountains and enjoy it.
“Because we embraced that ethos, Ang actually enjoyed the hard work on this film. This is Ang’s and my eleventh film together; he keeps raising the stakes for himself and meeting new challenges.”
Continue Reading and View the Theatrical Trailer
Taking Woodstock (2009)
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Demtri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, Imelda Staunton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Henry Goodman, Eugene Levy, Christina Kirk, Emile Hirsch, Adam LeFevre, Sondra James
Screenplay by: James Schamus
Production Design by: David Gropman
Cinematography by: Eric Gautier
Film Editing by: Tim Squyres
Costume Design by: Joseph G. Aulisi
Set Decoration by: Ellen Christiansen
Art Direction by: Peter Rogness
Music by: Danny Elfman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language, comic violence.
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release Date: August 26, 2009