The Music Never Stopped (2011) movie
The Music Never Stopped poster

STORY

“The Music Never Stopped,” based on the case study “The Last Hippie” by Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D. (“Awakenings”), chronicles the journey of a father and son adjusting to cerebral trauma and a lifetime of missed opportunities. Through the music that embodied the generation gap of the 1960s, the film weaves the heartwarming progress of Henry and Gabriel’s relationship.

In 1967, after his father Henry Sawyer (J.K. Simmons) forbids him to see a Grateful Dead concert, prodigal son Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci) runs away from home. Nearly twenty years later, Henry, a straight-laced engineer and lover of big band music, is shocked to learn that his estranged son requires major surgery to remove a previously neglected brain tumor.

After the operation, the extent of Gabriel’s condition is made clear: the tumor damaged the part of his brain that facilitates the creation of new memories. For Gabriel, past, present, and future become indistinguishable, and he lives fixed in the era of Vietnam, acid trips, and psychedelic music. Determined not to let their son slip away from them again, Henry and wife Helen (Cara Seymour) vow to connect with Gabriel, who is barely able to communicate effectively. Unhappy with Gabriel’s lack of progress, Henry does his own research on brain injuries, which leads him to Dr. Dianne Daly (Julia Ormond). She is a music therapist who has used her methods to make significant progress with victims of brain tumors.

As Diane works with Gabriel, she realizes that he is most responsive to the music of the Rock and Roll era – The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and particularly the Grateful Dead. Even though he is unaware that the era of his music has long passed, the effect is remarkable, and he begins to be able to have conversations and express himself. Although Henry loathes rock and roll, he is determined to forge new memories and salvage his relationship with his son. While his own health fails, Henry begins his own pilgrimage through the bands of the sixties. As he learns the songs that animate his son’s soul, he indeed begins to form an unusual but emotionally vibrant bond with the child he thought he had lost.

THE OFFICIAL TRAILER

CREW

JIM KOHLBERG

(Director/Producer)

As an independent producer, Kohlberg’s credits include award-winning films “Two Family House” with Michael Rispoli, Tim McCann’s “Runaway” with Melissa Leo and Robin Tunney, “Forever Fabulous” with Jean Smart, and the acclaimed documentary “Trumbo,” about the life of blacklisted screenwriting legend Dalton Trumbo, which received the National Board of Review’s Freedom of Expression Award. Currently Kohlberg is in development with Diana Gabaldon’s novel “Outlander,” plus eight other development projects with Essential Pictures slated. Prior to directing and producing, Kohlberg’s published writing credits include Catching Me, Ernest Hemingway Meets the Devil and The Hike. In 2008 he directed Arthur Miller’s All My Sons for the Mountain View Center for The Performing Arts. Mr. Kohlberg is the Chairman of Essential Entertainment, a film finance and foreign sales company, and Essential Pictures, a film production company.

GWYN LURIE

(Screenplay)

Gwyn Lurie is a screen writer who has written such projects as: the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The BFG”, the adaptation of Laura Dave’s novel “The Divorce Party” written for Jennifer Aniston, “London is the Best City in America” written for Reese Witherspoon, and the adaptation of Ben Sherwood’s novel “The Man Who Ate A 747.” Gwyn also worked as a journalist at ABC News in New York, and has been a producer on documentary films such as “Voices From the Attic.” Gwyn has served on the Board of Directors for many non profit organizations including her current membership on the Board of the Alliance for Children’s Rights. Ms. Lurie is currently a candidate for the Montecito Union School Board. Lurie is married to television and film writer/producer Les Firestein, and they live in Montecito California with their two daughters.

GARY MARKS

(Screenplay)

Gary Marks has worked as an actor, writer, director and producer. As a writer/producer, he has he has created and produced projects in almost every genre and format, including features, scripted and unscripted television, comedy, and drama. His credits as a producer/creator include AMC’s “Shootout,” NBC’s “Treasure Hunters,” GSN’s “High Stakes Poker,” and VH1’s “My Generation.” He has written numerous television series and pilots, including the current Bravo pilot “Room Service.” As an actor, he played Eddie Naiman in the WB series “Jack & Jill” (with Amanda Peet and Justin Kirk). In addition, he has directed numerous episodes of AMC’s “Shootout.”  He thanks his parents for most everything.

JULIE W. NOLL

(Producer)

Julie Noll has worked on feature films, television, music videos, and commercials since 1995, and is credited as a Line Producer, Production Manager and 1st Assistant Director prior to producing “The Music Never Stopped”.

Ms. Noll worked with Miramax Films, MTV, HBO, Showtime Networks, and The History Channel on both coasts in the United States and Canada, and has also worked in theatre as a Stage Manager and Producer for regional theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area.Her films credits include “54” with Mike Myers, Selma Hayek, Ryan Phillippe, and Neve Campbell, “Strays ” with Vin Diesel, “2X4,” “My Father’s Gun,” “Poster Boy,” “Fall,” and “Childhood’s End” among other independent film projects.

She is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, received a post-graduate diploma in Art History in London, and has completed post-graduate studies in Film production at NYU. She presently resides in New York City.

PETER NEWMAN

(Producer)

Peter Newman has established himself as one of the motion picture industry’s leading producers of theatrical films. New York-based Peter Newman Productions has worked with some of the world’s most important filmmakers, including Robert Altman, Paul Auster, Jonathan Demme, Nancy Savoca, John Sayles, and Wayne Wang among its 30 films. Peter Newman Productions have received a total of 21 nominations for the Spirit Awards – the leading honor in American Independent Film. Most recently he produced Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale,” which won the Best Writing and Directing Awards at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

A former sportscaster, Newman began his road toward producing when he serviced as executive producer and host of the PBS special, “Muhammed Ali: One More Miracle.” He went on to produce documentary profiles of ballet dancer Gelsey Kirkland and Natalia Makarova before turning to feature filmmaking in 1982 with Robert Altman’s “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.” Newman then moved into features full-time, serving either as producer or executive producer on numerous films including two-time Academy Award-winner Horton Foot’s “1918” and “On Valentine’s Day,” Jonathan Demme’s film of Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia,” Harry Hook’s re-make of “Lord of the Flies,” Altman’s “O.C. & Stiggs,” Jay Russell’s “End of the Line,” Anthony Drazan’s Zebrahead,” the Sundance Filmmakers Trophy winner which he co-executive produced with Oliver Stone, and John Sayle’s “The Secret of Roan Inish.” In 1989, Newman produced Nancy Savoca’s “Dogfight,” and Savoca’s “Household Saints,” before collaborating with her again on “The 24 Hour Woman.”

With future partner Greg Johnson, Newman produced Wayne Wang’s film of Paul Auster’s “Smoke,” starring Harvey Keitel and William Hurt. “Smoke” was the winner of three major awards at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival and was voted best film at the 1995 Locarno International Film Festival. Newman and Johnson also collaborated on Wang and Auster’s “Blue in the Face,” the extemporaneously created companion piece to “Smoke” as well as the independent sci-fi comedy “Space Truckers.” Among Newman’s other producing credits are Sara Kernochan’s “All I Wanna Do,” and Paul Auster’s directorial debut “Lulu on the Bridge,” which premiered at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Newman also produced on Wayne Wang’s digital video theatrical feature, “The Center of the World” for Artisan, as well as Bob Gale’s (“Back to the Future”) “Interstate 60.” He was executive producer of Alfredo de Villa’s “Washington Heights,” which won the audience prize at the 2002 Los Angeles Film Festival. In conjunction with Crusader Entertainment, he produced “The Game of their Lives” directed by David Anspaugh.

Mr. Newman has been a featured speaker at the Sundance Institute’s Producers Conference in 1991 and 2005, as well as appearing on numerous film festival panels including Cannes and New York. Additionally, he has lectured on the movie business at Yale, Columbia, and New York University. He is presently a professor at New York University in the Graduate Film program at Tisch, and the Graduate MBA program at Stern. In August of 2008, Mr. Newman was appointed the Head of the joint MFA/MBA Graduate program at NYU. It is the first program of its kind in the nation.

Peter Newman Productions, Inc. presently has over twelve feature film projects in active development. He is currently preparing films based on the lives of Janis Joplin, Bill Veeck, and Strom Thurmond. Mr. Newman is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Producer’s Guild of America, as well as the British Academy of Television and Video Arts. Newman lives in New York City with his wife, Antonia and their three children. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

GREG JOHNSON

(Producer)

Greg Johnson has had an eclectic business career that has ranged from investment banking and corporate finance to international film distribution, independent production, teaching and public service.

Between 1997 and 2000, he was a partner in New York-based independent production company Redeemable Features. Redeemable completed seven motion pictures including Lulu on the Bridge, starring Harvey Keitel, which opened the Certain Regard section of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

Johnson returned to Cannes in 2001 with the premiere of The Center of the World, his third motion picture with director Wayne Wang.

From 1984 until 1991, he served in various capacities at Vestron Inc., the largest independent video distributor at that time where his roles included corporate development, film financing and international distribution. At Vestron, he arranged financing for such projects as Dirty Dancing, one of the most profitable independent releases of all time, as well as Katherine Bigelow’s Blue Steel.

After Vestron, he began a partnership with producer Peter Newman. Their first productions together were Wayne Wang’s Smoke, the highly-acclaimed winner of the Silver Bear at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival and its improvised sequel Blue in the Face.

In 2005, he returned to Smoke’s Brooklyn neighborhood to produce Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale. The film was a commercial and critical success, garnering top honors at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and later on, three Golden Globe nominations and an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay.

A graduate of Bowdoin College and Yale School of Management, Johnson also worked at the investment bank Bear Stearns. He developed and currently teaches the popular undergraduate seminar, “Media And Money” in Film Studies at Yale University. He was formerly a Commissioner to the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

GEORGE PAASWELL

(Co-Producer/UPM)

George Paaswell is a constantly-working member of the Independent film community, having been a part of the producer’s team on more than a dozen feature films. Among the films he has Co- or Executive Produced include seven that have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Among such films are Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “Jack Goes Boating,” Chris Kentis’ and Laura Lau’s “Silent House,” and George Ratliff’s first feature, “Joshua.” He also co- produced Fox Searchlight’s “Notorious,” which broke opening weekend box office records for that studio. He currently lives in New York City with his wife Elizabeth and his two children, Maisy and Clara.

KEITH REAMER

(Editor)

Keith Reamer’s numerous film credits as editor include Cherien Dabis’ Cannes prize-winner, “Amreeka;” “The Ballad of Little Jo,” starring Suzy Amis and Ian McKellen, the award winning, appalachian musical-drama, “Songcatcher” starring Aidan Quinn and Janet McTeer, and the upcoming, “The Art of Love,” all for director Maggie Greenwald; “Ten Benny” and “Restaurant” both starring Adrien Brody, and directed by Eric Bross; Mary Harron’s award-winning indie breakthrough, “I Shot Andy Warhol,” starring Lili Taylor; three-time Sundance award-winner, “Three Seasons,” starring Harvey Keitel, directed by Tony Bui; Hilary Brougher’s festival favorite, “Stephanie Daley,” starring Tilda Swinton, Melissa Leo and Timothy Hutton; Alan Cumming’s “Ghost Writer;” Morgan J. Freeman’s thriller “Homecoming” starring Mischa Barton; and the upcoming “Choose” with Katheryn Winnick. He has also edited a number of documentaries for film and television, including “David Blaine: Magic Man” for ABC, and the notorious swingers-documentary “American Swing,” for directors Matthew Kaufman and Jon Hart, released by Magnolia Pictures. His made-for-television movie credits include three projects with Maggie Greenwald, “What Makes a Family,” “Get a Clue,” and “Comfort and Joy,” and the CBS biopic “Martin and Lewis” with Sean Hayes and Jeremy Northam.

JENNIFER DEHGHAN

(Production Designer)

Jennifer’s first notable project was art directing Academy Award Nominated THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, a role which her work on THE LOST CAUSE by Oscar Winning writer Jim Taylor had secured. After “A Crime” with Harvey Keitel and Davis Guggenheim’s “Gracie,” she went on to design numerous films whose highlights include Michael Keaton’s THE MERRY GENTLEMAN and DARE with Emmy Rossum and Allen Cumming.

STEPHEN KAZMIEIRSKI

(Director of Photography)

Stephen Kazmierski is a New York based cameraman working in both dramatic and documentary formats. His early feature credits include “Grind” with Billy Crudup and “The Myth of Fingerprints” with Julianne Moore. Later, he was the director of photography for Kenneth Lonergan’s acclaimed “You Can Count on Me” with Laura Linney; the Dick Wolf-produced TV series “Crime and Punishment”; “A Hole in One” with Michelle Williams; “Transamerica” with Felicity Huffman; “Two Weeks” with Sally Field and Ben Chaplin; “Beautiful Ohio” directed by Chad Lowe and Justin Theroux’s “Dedication”. Documentary credits include “Nanking”, “Soundtrack to a Revolution”, “Listen Up – The Lives of Quincy Jones” and PBS’ “NOVA” and “American Experience”.

CAST

J.K. SIMMONS

(Henry Sawyer)

J.K. Simmons has appeared in diverse projects spanning motion pictures, television and stage performances on and off Broadway. He played J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s “Spider Man” trilogy. His motion picture credits include “Hidalgo”, “The Ladykillers”, “The Mexican”, “Off The Map”, “For Love of the Game”, “The Gift”, “Thank You for Smoking”, “Rendition”, “Burn After Reading” and, memorably, his portrayal of the off-beat but not deadbeat father, Mac McGuff, in the hit comedy “Juno”. Other, recent films include “Jennifer’s Body”, “Extract”, “The Vicious Kind”, “I Love You Man”, “Beginner’s Guide to Endings”, and the Oscar-nominated “Up in the Air”.

On the small screen, Simmons plays LAPD Assistant Chief Will Pope in TNT’s hit series “The Closer”. He also played Vern Schillinger on HBO’s acclaimed drama “Oz”, while playing a recurring role as Dr. Emil Skoda on NBC’s “Law and Order”. Simmons has appeared on the Broadway stage in performances of “Guys and Dolls”, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”, “A Change In The Heir”, “Peter Pan” and “A Few Good Men”.

LOU TAYLOR PUCCI

(Gabriel Sawyer)

Lou Taylor Pucci emerged as one of the most promising actors of his generation when Mike Mills’ “Thumbsucker” premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For his performance as Justin Cobb, a compulsive 17 year-old thumbsucker, Pucci received both a Sundance Special Jury Prize for acting and the Best Actor Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

Pucci most recently co-starred in three well received independent features. In “The Answer Man”, he plays a troubled young man who forever alters the life of a reclusive author (Jeff Daniels). Lauren Graham, Kat Dennings and Olivia Thirlby also star in the Magnolia Pictures release. David and Alex Pastor’s “Carriers” (Paramount), a thriller that follows four people (Pucci, Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, Emily VanCamp) as they try to make their way to a utopian beach in order to survive an apocalyptic disease, follows. In Will Canon’s upcoming “Brotherhood”, Pucci plays a fallen fraternity brother. The film won Best Narrative Feature at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Pucci made his feature film debut as Kevin, the badly beaten young hitchhiker encountered by Fairuza Balk’s character in Rebecca Miller’s “Personal Velocity” (2002). His credits also include Fred Schepisi’s “Empire Falls” with Paul Newman and Ed Harris; Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation”; Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales”; “The Go-Getter”; “The Chumbscrubber”; and “Explicit Ills”. On television, Pucci appeared in “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”, with “Thumbsucker” co-star Vincent D’Onofrio and Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia” video for director Samuel Bayer.

Pucci grew up in central New Jersey and had little interest in acting until his aunt bribed him to try out for community theater at age 10. Two years later, he appeared on Broadway as Friedrich in “The Sound of Music”.

CARA SEYMOUR

(Helen Sawyer)

After establishing herself on the stage in both England and the United States, British-born actress Cara Seymour has been seen in a number of recent notable American films, including “The Savages” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney and “Hotel Rwanda” with Don Cheadle. Audiences will recognize her most recently from the acclaimed film “An Education” with Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard and Alfred Molina.

Seymour’s other notable credits include Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York”, Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation” opposite Nicolas Cage, “Birth” with Nicole Kidman and Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” with Bjork. She also appared in Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail”, Mary Harron’s “American Psycho” and “The Notorious Bettie Page”.

Seymour’s theater work includes the London production of Now And At The Hour Of Our Death, which received a Time Out award. In New York, Seymour received the Obie Award for her work in Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, and a Drama Desk nomination for her role Goose Pimples. Other Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include Present Laughter,The Skriker, The Monogamist, and Gibraltar.

JULIA ORMOND

(Dr. Dianne Daly)

Born in Epsom, Surrey, British actress, Julia Ormond, found her calling with theatre in school plays and studied drama at London’s Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts. Following graduation, she acted in a series of plays until she had her breakthrough as Caroline in the UK Telveision series Traffick. Major roles in London theatre then led to the ‘Catherine the Great’ biography, “Young Catherine”. For TNT. Julia was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2001 (2000 season) for Best Actress for her performance in My Zinc Bed at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

With several solid years of stage work to her credit and European films like Baby of Macon by Peter Greenaway, Ormond went on to the HBO biopic “Stalin” as Stalin’s wife with Robert Duvall playing Stalin. It was this role that led director, Edward Zwick, to cast her as the heroin Susannah in “Legends of the Fall”. Ormond was next seen in “Captives” opposite Tim Roth, and then ‘Guinevere’ opposite Sean Connery’s ‘King Arthur’ and Richard Gere’s ‘Lancelot’ in the film, “First Knight”. After the title role of Sydney Pollack’s remake of “Sabrina”, she starred opposite Gabriel Byrne and Richard Harris in “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”, and starred in “Sibirskij Tsiryulnik” (The Barber of Siberia.).

Ormond has recently been seen in David Lynch’s film “Inland Empire” as well as the features “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” with Abigail Breslin, the David Fincher film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” opposite Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, Steven Soderbergh’s “Guerrilla” with Benicio Del Toro and “Surveillance” alongside Bill Pullman. She recently completed HBO’s “Temple Grandin” for which she won and Emmy, opposite Claire Danes and the Gale Ann Hurd produced telefilm “The Wronged Man” for Lifetime.

Julia has an Emmy for being Executive Producer on the documentary “Calling The Ghosts”, and numerous awards for her activism. Her main focus as a social activist is against Slavery and trafficking, she is a former UN Goodwill Ambassador on issue and Founder and President of The Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET), which recently passed The Transparency in Supply Chains Act, SB657. She is the Co-Founding Chair of FilmAid, and has worked on issues related to HIV/AIDS, refugees, and poverty alleviation. For more information on ASSET, please go to www.assetcampaign.org.

Ormond is managed by Artists Independent Management. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

OLIVER SACKS, M.D.

“I am thrilled that this new film, with the music of so many seminal musicians of the 1960s, tells Gabriel’s story in a new way.”

Oliver Sacks is perhaps the best-known neurologist in the world, thanks to his many best-selling books of case histories, including Musicophilia, Awakenings, and The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. Born in London and educated at Oxford, Dr. Sacks came to California for his medical residency, and since 1965 he has lived in New York City, where he is a practicing neurologist and professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. He was recently designated the first Columbia University Artist, acknowledging his unique work in bridging the sciences and the humanities.

The New York Times has referred to Dr. Sacks as “the poet laureate of medicine,” and his compassionate explorations of the far borderlands of neurological experience have deeply influenced our understanding of the human mind and brain. His investigations into conditions like Tourette’s syndrome, autism, parkinsonism, dementia, and musical hallucinations have inspired artists, psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and philosophers around the world.

Dr. Sacks’s work has given rise to many dramatic adaptations, by artists ranging from Peter Brook to Brian Friel. Awakenings (1973) was the inspiration for Harold Pinter’s play “A Kind of Alaska” and the 1990 Oscar-nominated feature film “Awakenings”; with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. In 2010, the Rambert Dance Company debuted a ballet based on Awakenings by composer Tobias Picker and choreographer Aletta Collins.

REVIEW

“The Music Never Stopped” is a family story about intergenerational relationships and the reestablishment of a father-son bond. The film is based on true events described by neurologist Oliver Sachs in his memoirs about a man suffering from a rare form of amnesia whose memory returned thanks to music.

Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci) returns to his family in 1986 after leaving home after an argument with his father. But his return makes his family both happy and sad – Gabriel has been diagnosed with a benign tumor and now can’t remember anything from five minutes ago. Gabriel has forgotten everything, even the scandal of twenty years ago.

As his parents struggle to communicate with Gabriel, the depths of the cracks in the family become apparent. Gabriel’s father, Henry Sawyer (D. K. Simmons), is an engineer who has been fired in order to do something to support his lost son. Old-fashioned and stubborn, he rarely speaks to his son, afraid that Gabriel will suddenly remember their argument and leave again.

The film shows not only the relationship between the generations, but also how they perceive the world around them, the politics of their native country, the love of music. Henry is a fan of light rock and roll, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Gabriel is a fan of hippie performers such as the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, etc. You could say that “The Music Never Stopped” is an anthem to those singers whose songs reflected the reality and politics of the country, not just bass, beats and showbiz. And the way they brought Gabriel’s memory back to life.

Dr. Diane Delay (Julia Ormond) discovers that when Gabby listens to his familiar and beloved songs, his memory is partially returned, Gabriel becomes normal, as if the tumor never existed. And now Henry wants not only to cure his son, but to make it seem as if the old discord never existed…

I thought it was strange why there was no wide distribution of this film. I didn’t notice any posters, any information about this wonderful film, even though the film was released only recently, in 2011. This movie really makes you take a break from today’s songs (all kinds of pop, dance songs) and immerses us in the times when music really changed lives. And brought us back to life.

I can’t say that the acting wowed me, or that the directing surprised me. The movie goes slowly, like Grateful Dead songs, and that’s the highlight of it: the movie itself is one big sad song. And the grand concert at the end of the film – for the sake of that scene, it’s really worth watching the film and making sure that there’s only one boundary between father and son – age.

Few people may have heard of “The Music Never Stopped”, but the film deserves a place among the best melodramas – the world has never seen such touching stories.