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This is an amazing experience of history for me

June 6th, 2024

Pharrell Williams and director Morgan Neville have spoken to NME about the former’s upcoming LEGO animation biopic, Piece By Piece. Check out our interview below along with the trailer.

This October, a new movie based on Williams’ career will be released in cinemas. The film will follow the rise of the prolific creative polymath and recreate monumental moments in his life, such as his time in the producer group The Neptunes with Chad Hugo, working with Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani and more.

Today, a trailer for the project has been released. The clip starts with LEGO versions of Williams and Neville doing a sit-down interview before cutting to scenes from the movie. You can hear the ‘Beautiful’ star narrate his career highlights, as well as see cameos from Williams’ famous past collaborators.

Piece By Piece has been directed by the acclaimed Morgan Neville – the mastermind behind award-winning documentaries such as 20 Feet From Stardom (2013) and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018). Williams also served as an executive producer, with production company i am OTHER co-producing the movie.

Williams told NME that he has “always been very self-conscious”.

“I thought that I was responsible for every song and record I sold [because] a lot of the songs were my ideas,” the ‘Happy’ singer said. “Chad and I working together: I would always beat my chest and say, ‘It was us. We’re the best.’ Then I turned 40 and I had a series of songs that I was asked to do but the idea of them was not mine.”

Pharrell and Daft Punk. Credit: Michael Kovac/WireImage

The Virginia native said that he was “humbled” by the success of his 2013 singles, ‘Happy’ (from the soundtrack for the box-office hit Despicable Me 2) and the global smash ‘Get Lucky’ with Daft Punk. The two songs made him realise that “in every situation, it’s not about you,” as he explained.

“You’re one part of the sentence and you’re lucky to be a period in the sentence. You’re lucky to be an apostrophe in the sentence,” he revealed, admitting that this awakening led him to his now trademark pose of hands in prayer, because: “Man, I’m grateful now. I understand I’m lucky to be doing what I’m doing.”

At the time he had this revelation, his agent told him he should make a documentary, especially as they were becoming more and more in vogue.

“That’s the main thing that you don’t tell me, because if everyone else is doing it, I don’t want to do it,” he admitted. “But he said to me something that resonated with me: ‘You can just do it your own way.’”

That’s Williams asked Neville to come on board. “I was like, ‘I want to do it in Lego’, and [his agent] was like, ‘Come on.’ I was like, ‘Yes, we can! He can always say no.’ We had the talk with Morgan and he said, ‘Actually. That’s a great idea. Let’s go!’”

He continued: “This is an amazing experience of history for me. I can’t tell you how humbled I am to have this masterful storyteller really make sense of my life. It has always been all over the place and made sense to me but not to most. He was able to do it in colour, vividly – brick by brick, piece by piece.”

Morgan Neville. Photo credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
Morgan Neville. Photo credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Through his work, Neville has captured the legacies of Steve Martin, Mickey Mouse and more. When asked what his approach is to documentary-making, he said: “The main thing is [it’s] less [about] their career and more just trying to understand them and what makes them unique.

“If you look at Pharrell‘s career on paper, he’s done so many different things in so many different ways that it doesn’t make that much sense from the outside. But once you understand how he thinks and the journey he’s been on since his childhood, suddenly everything starts to make sense. I think a lot of people are going to identify with his story watching this.”

Neville commented on what it was like getting Williams’ celebrity friends in the movie. “They are all a part of Pharrell’s story, but they’re not acting,” he said – adding “There was not a single person who, when we asked them to participate, even hesitated”.

“[Piece By Piece]’s a documentary, and a biopic, and an animated movie, and a musical – it’s all these things,” he continued. “So, everything in the film is real. It’s what somebody said, or remembered, or said somebody said.”

Pharrell spoke fondly of Neville’s job on Piece By Piece, saying the director “really knows how to paint with emotion and with vulnerability”.

“I cringe a little bit just listening to myself sitting there philosophising,” Williams told NME. “You hear yourself trying to be cool and shit like, we produce these versions of ourselves: the way we talk, the way we stand, the way we eat, the way we dress. When you’re given that opportunity to see what that looks like outside from a third point of view, you’re like, ‘Urgh’.”

He added: “For me, a lot of it was tough but Morgan made it easier to take all of that produced, practised, exercised, polished armour off and just be – as in a human being. Being: that word is a noun and a verb, and it’s not often that everybody is doing the verb part. Most people are just being the noun and he allowed me to be.”

Neville also said he thinks Piece By Piece is more than a display of Williams’ life story, but a tale many can relate to.

“[Williams] has so many unique, incredible talents, but I think the story is one with a lot of lessons in it,” said Neville. “It’s not just about the hits he had or what accomplishments he did in fashion or anything else. It’s really a story about trying to figure out how to find your voice, keep your voice and ultimately share your voice.”

Williams had some assistance picking the right moments to document in Piece By Piece, admitting that he’s “not really good at the history part”. He said his producing partner Mimi Valdés “was very instrumental” in the storyline and “all the folks within our company had opinions about what was important as well”.

Neville added that it “was really cool” to see the Grammy Award-winner was very hands-on with how his fashion was represented in the different eras and how that translates into animation.

What Williams hopes people take away from Piece By Piece is that “it’s a study of the methodical mindset to juggling your inspirations and aspirations”.

“Some of them are as big as bowling balls and if you drop it, you’re done,” he ended. “Some of them are light. It’s about recognising what you don’t need to be juggling, not based on the weight and the volume of them but on the pertinence.

“This movie and storytelling make a lot of sense of why I was interested in certain things and why I was drawn to them and the comprehensive choreography that will only work with juggling.”

Piece By Piece will hit cinemas on October 11 this year.

Williams is also working on a coming-of-age musical comedy with Missy Elliott, Brian Tyree Scott, Halle Bailey, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Oscar-winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph. It will be directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) and is inspired by Williams’ childhood neighbourhood in 1977.

Back in April, Williams surprised fans by releasing his third solo studio album, ‘Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1: City of Limitless Access’. The record is not on streaming platforms and is only available to listen to here.

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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