An Interview with Stephen Walker, Director of "Young at Heart"

Who ever thought that a group of New England senior citizens like Young At Heart could belt out songs like "Schizophrenia" by Sonic Youth with even more precision and clarity than even Thurston Moore could ever muster? And as the Young At Heart crew continues to delight audiences worldwide with their heartfelt renditions of punk, rock and R&B classics, take a moment to check out the inspiring documentary about the band directed by Stephen Walker.

But before you run out to your local theater, read an excerpt from my interview with Stephen Walker.

Who in the Young At Heart Chorus is still alive that was featured in the film?
They're all alive--obviously Eileen died when we were finishing the film off in post-production. But apart from Eileen, everyone is still alive. I know that the group has brought some new blood in but it wasn't to replace anyone that had died...everyone is still there. Actually, we had a wonderful screening in Northhampton [Massachusetts] last Friday with a packed audience. It was just a great, great screening and all the chorus were there and they got this standing ovation at the end of the movie that went on and on. It was just lovely to watch, really.

What were favorite performances in Young At Heart?

In the music videos, I really like the performance of 'I Wanna Be Sedated' by The Ramones--I think that's just really fun. And what I like about it also is that they sing it like punks. It's actually a protest song about what it's like to be in a nursing home and they sing it with real edge. I really like the way they sing that--it's like you can still be punk at 80 as well as being punk at 18, so I think that was really nice.

I also really loved when Dora and Stan sang "I Feel Good" because I think that they kind of crashed through that and there's something just wonderful in how they do that. Actually, watching that with audiences gets an amazing response and people tend to spontaneously start applauding when they see that happening because it's just such a kind of car crash but they get through it with a great kind of energy and joy and I think that just sums them up in many ways.

What message do you want people to take away with them after seeing Young At Heart?

I think that people should take away what they want to take away. I never set out to make a message film. But what people tend to take from the movie that it's an inspirational experience to watch these people at the end of lives, living those lives to the minute--absolutely to the hilt. That getting old is not a hopeless condition and that these people have so much to offer society--that they can live with the right attitude and that they can still be full of the joy and celebration of life and that there's still so much that they can achieve. I mean, [the Young At Heart members'] energy level is extraordinary and their willingness to pick up new challenges and to try new things---music that they don't even know---to perform on stage, to travel across Europe many times on tour and even to be involved with a movie like this, which is obviously really exciting for them too, is a really special experience.