In an eight-year stretch that spanned most of the 1970s, Hal Ashby directed “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail, “Shampoo,” “Bound For Glory,” “Coming Home,” and “Being There.” It’s a run of cinematic greatness virtually unmatched in recent history- yet today, Ashby is far from a household name outside of circles of cinephiles of a certain age.
There are a few reasons for this: Ashby’s 1980s output was considerably less acclaimed, he never made the transition to blockbusters that many of his contemporaries did and he died in 1988, of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 59. The book “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (1998),” Peter Biskind’s classic appreciation of the great films and gossip of ’70s Hollywood, depicted Ashby as an under-appreciated, tragic figure.
Now, there’s a new effort to recognize Ashby’s tremendous legacy. A crowdfunding effort has launched on Indiegogo called “Once I Was: The Hal Ashby Story,” in order to produce “THE official documentary film celebrating the life and work of the beloved, but unsung director Hal Ashby.” Director Amy Scott- who, like Ashby himself, got her start as a film editor- and producer Christine Beebe are behind the project, which is the first project to gain permission from Ashby’s estate to use his archives.
Here’s the trailer, with endorsements by the likes of John C. Reilly, Roseanna Arquette and Jane Fonda and, of course, Cat Stevens’ songs from “Harold and Maude”:
As of Wednesday the project, which launched two days ago, had raised $16,726 out of a $50,000 goal. The top perk, appropriately, is titled “The Chauncey Gardiner”: $10,000 buys an executive producer credit and more.
The campaign runs through June 19.