I went, ‘Yeah, David Bowie, you’re a complete c*nt'... and that was the start of a 13-year relationship.” Film director Tim Pope on working with Bowie

David Bowie in 1997
(Image credit: Patti Ouderkirk/WireImage)

Film director Tim Pope is most well-known musically for his long relationship with The Cure, having been behind the lens for over 20 of Robert Smith & co.’s promo clips throughout the 80s and 90s. But whilst Pope was making videos for the goth-pop superstars, he also had a long-running relationship with David Bowie that culminated in him directing the broadcast for Bowie’s star-studded 50th birthday gig in New York, 1997. Speaking to this writer as part of an anniversary piece for the show a few years ago, Pope explained how they first met.

"I got introduced to David by Iggy Pop,” Pope said. “I met him one night in a restaurant in uptown New York. I didn’t know I was going to meet him – Iggy took me to a gig and he said, ‘I’ve got a couple of mates turning up who turned out to be Bowie and Jagger. They all went to a restaurant and Iggy said to me, ‘Do you want to come up?’.”

Pope and Bowie’s relationship got off to an auspicious start, though, the director explained, with Bowie ignoring him for the first 15-20 minutes. And then David “broke the ice”, in a manner of speaking. “I was sat next to Iggy and then Iggy went off and Bowie, who’d never spoken to, turns to me and went, ‘Tim Pope, you’re a funny little arsehole, aren’t you?’. And I went, ‘Yeah, David Bowie, you’re a complete cunt,’ those were my opening words. And that was the start of a 13-year relationship culminating in the live show.”

Pope went on to film a few music videos for Bowie including the 1987 singles I Can’t Read and Time Will Crawl and two clips for Bowie’s rock side-project Tin Machine, plus a variety of live shows over the years. Pope thinks that Bowie liked the director’s punk approach to directing. “As I always said eloquently to him, ‘Shall I piss down the screwdrivers?’,” Pope remembered. “I wanted to capture a documentary feel, I wanted it to look real like what it was rather than being slick, craning shots and all that shit that people throw at concerts. I wanted it to feel edgy.” He certainly did that, Pope’s direction lending an arena featuring guest spots from stars including Foo Fighters, Billy Corgan, Black Francis, Kim Gordon and more a small club intensity. Watch the full concert below:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.