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The Police's Andy Summers on Turning His Memoir Into a Documentary

Guitarist's 'Can't Stand Losing You' premieres this week at film festival in New York

November 8, 2012 1:00 PM ET
Andy Summers
Andy Summers
Brian To/FilmMagic

When Police guitarist Andy Summers first thought about turning his memoir into a movie, he faced a dilemma familiar to anyone adapting a screenplay: deciding what to leave out and what to include.

"You can't get it all in; it's impossible," Summers tells Rolling Stone. "There was an attempt to do that early on, and it was just getting heavy-handed."

After years of winnowing, the resulting movie, Can't Stand Losing You, premieres on Friday as part of the DOCNYC documentary festival in New York, where Summers will host a Q&A immediately after the 6:30 p.m. screening. "It's been a long saga, to the point where I don't know if I'm attached to it emotionally anymore or not," the guitarist says, laughing. "I sort of need to get it out there in front of people to see their reaction before I work myself into a frenzy over it."

Summers started thinking about a film adaptation after the 2006 publication of his memoir, One Train Later, and when he saw Brett Morgen's 2002 movie The Kid Stays in the Picture. The film, based on a book by Hollywood producer Robert Evans, mostly comprised shots of postcards and black-and-white photos – an intriguing idea for Summers, who is also a photographer. A friend put him in touch with Morgen, who responded with enthusiasm.

The following year, the Police reunited for a massive world tour, which offered the opportunity to pair archival material with new footage of the band on the road. "It makes for a pretty good mix," Summers says.

Next came sorting through the wealth of footage and photos, a task made more daunting by Summers' acute realization that he and his collaborators weren't just adapting a book – they were adapting his book, about his own life. "With this material, you could have made a lot of different films; this is the one we've got," he says. 

Although Summers says they put together an entertaining movie, it's not one in which he necessarily recognizes himself. "There's parts of it where I go, yeah, that's me," he says. "And then there's other parts of it where I can't help but go back to the book and think of all the other stuff I tried to get in that's just not in the film, waxing on about this thing or that thing and making a much broader context of how I play guitar, where I came from, what we were doing in the band. You don't really get that in the film, because the film – by necessity, being a rock biopic type of film – had to be a much more visceral experience."

One of the recurring themes of One Train Later was Summers' regret that the Police called it quits in the Eighties when they still had so much unrealized potential. While the guitarist hasn't changed his mind about that, he says the trio's 2007-08 tour was redemptive. "I thought we went out and totally proved that we were as great as we always were – possibly, we played better than we'd ever played," he says. "Clearly that tour was amazingly successful beyond our wildest dreams. That was a more satisfying place to leave it, in a way, that we went out for a couple years and just creamed everything in sight." 

While Summers doesn't rule out a future collaboration with his Police bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland, he says it's highly unlikely. As it is, he's busy with other projects, having just returned from touring Brazil with the singer Fernanda Takai, with whom he wrote and recorded the album Fundamental. Summers also has a new band with Rob Giles of the Los Angeles rock group the Rescues. Calling themselves Circa Zero, Summers says the pair has written and recorded enough songs for an album.

"The whole world is different in terms of releasing records, so I think we'll start off with a single and see what kind of action we get off it," says Summers, who describes the music as strong rock-pop. "I'm really quite excited about it."

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