Outkast member Andre 3000 spent large chunks of each day woodshedding on his guitar as a lefty in order to portray Jimi Hendrix in the biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side, which will be screened at South by Southwest this week in advance of its June theatrical release. The film’s producer Danny Bramson told Billboard, “I found a really patient teacher and put together a regimen for Andre when he came out to Los Angeles. He sat in a small studio, six hours a day, putting in dedication [to play left-handed].”
As for why it was so important for Andre to work so hard at the instrument, the producer said, “His guitarmanship had to carry the idea of grace and fluidity. John [Ridley, director and writer] and I declared that we didn’t want to have the camera cropped on his face and not the guitar. He kept working in a rehearsal room throughout the production.”
The producer said that Andre was the movie’s “one and only choice” to play the guitar icon. Getting anyone to portray Hendrix – let alone someone who is right-handed – was one of the “greatest challenges” of the film, which, he says, was why it was necessary for Andre to work as hard as he did.
Bramson said another challenge was recording new and original music that sounded like something Hendrix would have played during 1966 and 1967, when the film takes place. For this, he turned to famed session man Waddy Wachtel, who has played Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, Warren Zevon and others. “I needed a guitarist with the skill and dexterity, but also that X factor of malleability where you can transcend your ego and personal styles and licks and let the musicology of Hendrix shine,” he said. “I felt Waddy Wachtel was it for me.”
Part of what makes the movie unique in terms of Hendrix’s guitar playing, however, is that it does not use any of Hendrix’s music. Instead, its soundtrack features music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy and others. The producer said that securing the rights to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” for a scene in All Is by My Side, in which Hendrix played the song in the presence of Paul McCartney and George Harrison at London’s Saville Theatre just days after the Beatles’ album came out, was not as hard as it may sound. But that’s also because of who he knows. “I had the great fortune of working with Paul [to secure] two instrumentals in Jerry Maguire and convincing him during the editing of Vanilla Sky to [compose a new song],” Bramson said. “I had said we wanted to re-create [Hendrix’s] Saville show and without sending a page, within 72 hours it was approved.”
Now that filming is done, Andre 3000 has busied his schedule with Outkast performances. The hip-hop duo has promised to play 40 festivals in 2014, beginning with Coachella on April 11th. So far, it has announced a little over half of its planned dates.