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Bruce Weber and Chet Baker: Both Cooler Than You

Chet Baker, hubba-hubba.Photo: Courtesy of Film Forum

Let’s Get Lost, photographer Bruce Weber’s relentlessly cool ode to square-jawed trumpet player Chet Baker, is either the perfect date film or the worst imaginable. Either Baker’s slicked-back, laid-back cool will rub off on you — or your date will take one look at Chet polishing his horn and dump you on the spot. Logan Hill spoke to Weber about filming one of the only date-movie docs. The film opens this Friday, June 8, at Film Forum.

Was it tough, even for you, hanging around someone who is so cool?
You know, everybody says, “Chet, you’re so cool” — all these actors want to play him. He was an extraordinary romantic. When I first saw him, he was sitting in a convertible in a snowstorm in front of Tiffany & Company, all covered with snow. And I didn’t look at him and say, “Wow, that’s weird.” I said, “Wow, that’s romantic.”

Chet’s amazingly vague when he talks about his music — is that why the film’s as much about his lifestyle and image?
I think he made music the way he lived — and as a photographer and a filmmaker, I really appreciated that. I asked him, “Are there any other musicians I should interview for this film?” He said, “No, I don’t think so.” His idea of talking about music was talking about driving fast cars, or about what it was like to sail a boat. His favorite sport was deep-sea diving.

Everyone seems to fall for him.
At film festivals, all these people would say, “Man, you and your whole crew must have been really high with Chet during the filming.” Well, no. We were getting high, just being alongside him. There were weird things: At film festivals, women would come up to us, saying, “I was in love with Chet Baker. I had an affair with him for six months. He was a babysitter for my children.”

Babysitter?
Yeah, somebody said that. Chet was a wonderful child himself. He was probably a great babysitter. He was really fun to be with.

Did making a movie change the way you see photography?
Definitely. Now I’m more open to things and not so worried that everything has to be so perfect. After the film, I became able to do portraits and pictures in the street, in a much closer-to-myself kind of way.

Chet died while you were working on the film. How’d you handle that?
When Chet died, we weren’t sure we’d be able to emotionally finish the film, so we did something kind of strange: We all laid down on the floor, really quiet, the editors and the line producer and I, and we just laid down and went quiet and then said, “Let’s talk to each other in two weeks.” We thought about things, and in two weeks we said, “Let’s do this again.” We felt his call, if you know what I mean. Now I feel he is here looking down on us and having a good time, since his film is showing again, watching people fall in love — or at least get a date — through his music.

Not many docs are great date movies.
Oh, yeah: At one of our first screenings, in Santa Monica, this couple came in, then started necking, then fell asleep, then watched the film for a while and started necking again. A friend of mine said, “How could they do that while Chet was giving this great performance on the screen?” I said, “No, that’s how Chet would have liked it.”

Let's Get Lost opens June 8. [Film Forum]