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Green Day doc 'Heart Like a Hand Grenade' premieres tonight; new album slated for May 15

March 25, 2009 |  5:15 pm

Greenday350 “I want it to be like ‘Day of the Locust.’ I want to be trampled to death,” says John Roecker about tonight’s premiere of “Heart Like a Hand Grenade,” a new movie following Green Day through the creation, recording and debut of 2004’s blockbuster album “American Idiot.”

For eight months, Roecker was granted unfettered access to every facet of Green Day’s creative process as Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt recorded the album that would transform them from punk pop princes to certified rock gods. The film will premiere tonight at 7 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and it is just the first salvo in the build-up to the May 15 release of the band’s much-anticipated new opus, “21st Century Breakdown.” The album's first single, "Know Your Enemy," will be available digitally next month.

Being trampled to death may seem a bizarre wish for a documentary filmmaker to express, but Roecker is no ordinary filmmaker. His previous credits include “Live Freaky! Die Freaky!,” a stop-action animated musical-comedy about the Manson Family, which featured the voices of Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool, old friends from Roecker’s Bay Area punk rock days.

In fact, it was Armstrong who called Roecker in 2003 and invited him to film the Oakland trio’s creative process. “Billie wanted me to show how these three artists connected and related to one another,” Roecker said. “It was just at the time that reality TV was taking hold and [Metallica’s] ‘Some Kind of Monster’ came out, with all its psychological and emotional meltdowns. I said, ‘Billie, we don’t have any of that drama and yelling,’ and he told me that our film would be more like watching the Beatles,” when they recorded “Let It Be.”

Roecker said that no one connected with Green Day at the time knew what to expect from “American Idiot,” but that after a Henry Fonda Theatre show in 2004, where the outfit debuted the album in its entirety right before it was released, Roecker remembers thinking, “This is gold, it’s pure gold.”

-- Pamela Wilson

"Heart Like a Hand Grenade" premieres tonight at 7 at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 461-2020. It's free, but space is extremely limited.