respect the classics

How Tom Petty’s Posthumous ‘Something Could Happen’ Video Became a Fairy Tale

So many Easter eggs. Photo: Warner Records/Vimeo

While 2020 has been a historically shit year for everyone on Earth, the legacy of Tom Petty, who tragically died three years ago, has never been stronger. His long-gestating dream project, Wildflowers & All the Rest, was finally released in October thanks to the dedication of his family and bandmates, while his 70th-birthday livestream pretty much doubled as the hottest music-industry event of the season. Some new music videos were peppered in there, too, which now culminates in this beauty: The Wildflowers track “Something Could Happen,” directed by the prolific video whiz Warren Fu.

For this latest one, starring The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan (a Petty lover, of course), Fu played around with “dreamy tribute” ideas before being looped in with Petty’s estate and daughter Adria, who informed him of her dad’s wicked sense of humor. “I was forwarded an email from Adria that said, ‘I want to make sure we reflect that,’” Fu tells Vulture. “It was good to have that little nugget from [someone] who knows him the best. That inspired me to free up the concept. It doesn’t have to be this tribute to all of his past work and his life. Let’s just make a creative story that’s an addition to the Tom Petty library.” For further inspiration, Fu did a “deep dive” into Petty’s extensive solo and Heartbreakers videography, appreciating the “wacky and weird” visuals that would often accompany the songs (see “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More”). “Tom was a very groundbreaking music-video artist in the rock genre because rockers were kind of shunning music videos,” Fu notes. “Tom was one of the few rock artists that actually embraced them and had fun with them.”

One video in particular planted the seed for the “Something Could Happen” concept: 1991’s “Into the Great Wide Open,” which starred Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway as a rising young rocker and his manager, respectively. “It was this very cool and stylized modern fairy tale. I loved how it had a storybook opening,” Fu says. “I thought, What if we were to do another storybook chapter in the Tom Petty video library and even open our video with a storybook in the same way? That was the inspiration: Let’s do another fairy tale. It’s almost as if we’re continuing the legacy and adding to his storytelling library.”

Fu was also loosely inspired by Marie Kondo’s belief in sparking joy with household items, reflected in Cohan’s character trying to declutter her life, beginning with a crystal heart. “Marie blessed every item that she threw away. I thought, What if you’re blessing these items and thanking them for their service, but those items weren’t ready to say good-bye to you?” he explains. “That was the fairy-tale magic dust of this story. She had this heart that obviously meant something to her and had an emotional resonance for her and her past. She finally decides to throw it away with all of her other stuff, and that heart kicks off the magical journey of her possessions reforming.”

One by one, these possessions begin to gain sentience and form a familiar human shape, and it enjoys an evening of dinner and dancing with Cohan’s character. Fu views the figure as less of a representation of Petty but rather a bunch of “Easter-egg nods to his iconic imagery.” (Have fun hunting them all down. There are 12 in total! Spoiler: Take a closer look at the bookshelf.) “This creature that’s trying to come back into her life is part of her and her memories that have reassembled,” he adds. “All of her old possessions remind her that all she needs is right in front of her. It’s a self-love and appreciation that’s running through her head.” Fu also hopes that fans will appreciate the video’s “cozy familiarity” built onto Petty’s legacy. We sure do.

How Tom Petty’s Posthumous Music Video Became a Fairy Tale