‘Although it barely touches on music, The Man Who Fell To Earth has a strong claim to being the greatest “rock movie” of all time. It certainly contains David Bowie’s finest acting performance. In Earthbound, we finally have the full true story of that magical collaboration between the glam star and his visionary director Nicolas Roeg. Susan Compo delves deep into every aspect of the film’s making, from its Walter Tevis source novel, through the location shoot in New Mexico, to its stunning costumes and the circumstances surrounding Bowie’s rejected and never-finished soundtrack. Detailed and vivid, Earthbound is a riveting read for Bowie fans, Roeg fiends, and anybody interested in seventies cinema.’
Simon Reynolds, author of Shock And Awe: Glam Rock And Its Legacy
‘Susan Compo has done a marvelous job of laying bare the intricacies, disappointments, and triumphs Nic Roeg faced in bringing The Man Who Fell To Earth to the screen. Every movie has its tale, its cast of behind-the-scene characters, the liaisons, the fights, the backroom deals, and Susan seems to have found her way to all of them. She deftly exposes the movie within the movie without pulling any punches. Even though I was personally involved in production for almost a year, I found myself engrossed in story after story, detail after detail, that I had known nothing about or had just plain forgotten. Her exhaustive research and the sheer number of people she interviewed is impressive. There have been many books written about movies and celebrities, but this one stands out. You are about to be taken on a fascinating ride.’
Graeme Clifford, editor of The Man Who Fell To Earth
‘Before there was Star Wars … before there was Close Encounters … there was The Man Who Fell To Earth.’
Earthbound is the first book-length exploration of a true classic of twentieth-century science-fiction cinema, shot under the heavy, ethereal skies of New Mexico by the legendary British director Nicolas Roeg, and starring David Bowie in a role he seemed born for as an extraterrestrial named Thomas Newton who comes to Earth in search of water. Based on a novel by the highly regarded American writer Walter Tevis, this dreamy, distressing, and visionary film resonates even more strongly in the twenty-first century than it did on its original release during the year of the US Bicentennial.
Drawing on extensive research and numerous first-hand interviews with members of the cast and crew, Earthbound begins with a look at Tevis’s 1963 novel before moving into a detailed analysis of a film described by its director as ‘a sci-fi film without a lot of sci-fi tools’ and starring a group of actors – Bowie, Buck Henry, Candy Clark, Rip Torn – later described by one of them, Henry, as ‘not a cast but a dinner party.’
It also seeks to uncover the mysteries surrounding Bowie’s rejected soundtrack to the film (elements of which later ended up on his groundbreaking 1977 album Low) and closes with a look at his return to the themes and characters of The Man Who Fell To Earth in one of his final works, the stage musical Lazarus.
Susan Compo is the author of Warren Oates: A Wild Life, as well as three works of fiction plus some music and sports journalism. A fanzine she did during punk’s heyday is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She lives within running distance of Los Angeles.