Wham Documentary


Netflix’sNFLX new documentary about the band Wham!, titled simply and appropriately, Wham!, tells the story of the power pop duo, from formation to superstardom to their split. But at its core, the movie is really about something much more interesting and much more relatable. It’s about two friends chasing their dream.

“I never thought I would be presented with the opportunity to make a movie about something as simple as friendship and that I would like it,” said Wham! director Chris Smith. It’s this focus that makes the doc feel different from so many others. It’s this insistence on putting friendship first that buoys the movie and makes it a happy affair and an enjoyable watch through and through.

The idea for the documentary came about years ago, and it was actually from Wham! member Andrew Ridgeley himself. He was planning on publishing his memoir, Wham! George & Me, which arrived in 2019, and at the time, he reached out to his friend Simon Halfon about creating something simple for TV to help push the book. But Halfon, an executive producer on this movie, knew the story warranted more. “I said, this is more than a short TV documentary. This deserves some kind of feature-length treatment,” explained Halfon during a recent Zoom interview. And that’s exactly what it received.

Wham! follows Ridgeley and George Michael (who is introduced via his real name, Georgios Panayiotou, or simply “Yorg” to Ridgeley) as they meet, become friends and decide to make music together. Despite a rocky start, the band’s success seems almost immediate. The movie shows how they took over first the U.K. and then the world with their string of hits, like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Everything She Wants,” "Careless Whisper” and the seasonal "Last Christmas"–some of which are still favorites of many today. It’s incredible to watch as this duo does truly things, like tour in China and break the American charts, which eventually launched Michael to later solo superstardom.

While Halfon was involved from the beginning, director Smith signed on after Netflix had already become involved and suggested him. “I was aware of Wham! I was aware of the music, I was aware of the videos, but I didn't really know much about the band itself or the people involved,” he admitted during the same interview. If he didn't have a real attachment to the members or the music, like Halfon, why become involved in a years-long process? “I always feel like if I don't know, there'll be other people that don't know and that they might be interested to hear it.”

Throughout the film, viewers are constantly guided through the band’s journey not just by interviews and archival footage, but by scrapbooks. These scrapbooks were not an invention of the producers or the director. Ridgeley’s mother began creating them the moment her son formed a band, not knowing how extensive the collection would become. “I thought, oh, he's gonna have two or three scrapbooks,” Halfon admitted when Ridgeley told him about his mother’s hobby. “They were like 50 or more of them, and they were meticulous in detail.”

These scrapbooks became a valuable device aiding both the audience and the documentary team. “It was kind of like this Rosetta Stone of the story,” Smith shared. “Anytime that you were trying to figure out chronology or exactly what happened at what time, you could always refer back to these.” The filmmakers decided that viewers could do the same, and the well-preserved scrapbooks required minimal preparation to be screen-ready, ensuring their authenticity and enhancing the overall storytelling.

Interestingly, the documentary takes a unique approach by featuring neither Michael nor Ridgeley on screen, apart from archival footage. It makes sense for Michael, as he passed away in 2016, but then why not Ridgeley? “The idea was [since] George wasn't going to be on camera, we felt like it'd be nice if they both existed in the same space,” explained Smith.

Instead, recordings of various interviews are used, played over footage and photos from Wham!’s time together. One interview, in particular, provided the filmmakers with much of what they needed. Michael had sat down for a three-hour chat with a journalist that covered every aspect of his life, from childhood to his massive commercial success, diving deep into every aspect. Halfon expressed his thoughts on the recording, saying, “It was almost like we presented George with the questions the day before that we needed for this film.”

While Ridgeley doesn't appear on screen, he was actively involved in the filming. He participated in numerous interviews throughout the creation process, matching what Michael had recorded in his lifetime. As new footage or interviews were discovered and inserted into the documentary, Ridgeley would return to provide fresh commentary on what Michael had said years ago, creating a narrative that felt intimate and authentic. Halfon emphasized their desire for the documentary to feel like "the two boys telling their story as it happened," and it’s mission accomplished on that front.

By the end of the film, audiences can't help but feel a deep connection to the two friends, Michael and Ridgeley. Their journey, as portrayed in the documentary, resonates on a personal level, even if their success and fame was otherworldly.

Smith expressed his emotional attachment to the project, stating, “I was really sad when the production ended because it was such a great world to live in for the two years that we were in production.” Halfon, who had been true friends with both musicians and shared meals with both members of Wham! for years after their split, found the interviews emotionally impactful. “It felt like we were having lunch with him again,” he revealed, and it’s clear through both this conversation and the documentary how much both men meant to him, and this project serves as a loving tribute and its own kind of scrapbook.

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