The Zombies’ Rod Argent on Why He Didn’t Think Robert Schwartzman’s Career-Spanning Documentary Would Happen

When acclaimed actor, musician, and producer Robert Schwartzman reached out to the members of The Zombies about creating a documentary about their career, frontman Rod Argent was skeptical. The band’s 1968 album Odessey and Oracle wasn’t a major commercial success at the time but is now often cited as one of the most influential rock and roll albums of the era.

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Although the group found success with their now-classic hits “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There,” The Zombies disbanded shortly after the release of Odessey and Oracle. They would reunite decades later, sparking a new era for the band, which continues to this day. Still, when it came time to reflect on the band’s long journey together, Argent didn’t see how it could translate on the big screen.

“We had a Zoom call with everybody, and I said, ‘Robert, I don’t think you’re going to be able to make a documentary,'” he tells American Songwriter. “I don’t really feel happy about this at all.’

“Because we were managed so badly in the early days, there is no video footage that I can think of that is around at all,” Argent explains. “I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ [Schwartzman] said, ‘No, believe me. There is a way of doing this. I’m passionate about the band and the stuff you’ve done. Growing up, it was a huge thing in my life.'”

Encouraged by Schwartzman’s passion and determination, they gave their blessing for the project to move forward. Still, Argent couldn’t shake his nerves over the prospect. 

“I remember saying to [bandmate] Colin [Blunstone], ‘I’m really dreading seeing the first draft of the movie.'” When the first version of the film arrived, Argent was too nervous about the finished product to press play. 

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Not long after, Argent came home from a day in the studio to find his wife watching the movie without him. Although she had only made it 20 minutes in, she had nothing but good things to say about Schwartzman’s work.

“The next day, [my wife] caught me surreptitiously looking at the first movie,” Argent admits. “I thought, ‘Actually, this is much better than I could imagine. And then I watched the whole thing. Honestly, it’s a beautifully paced film. Very fast moving in places, fascinating in places, and extremely moving in places as well.”

Schwartzman’s determination led him to dig up archival footage that the band didn’t even realize existed.

“He’s found footage I just couldn’t believe was there,” Argent notes, going on to describe a clip of the band performing at an acquaintance’s 21st birthday party shortly after their formation.

“In my own head, I vaguely remembered this from all those years ago, and my image of myself in my mind was of someone really cool being up on stage and looking great. I watched this and thought, ‘I was a complete crazy muppet,'” he explains with a laugh. “They found footage of my dad playing at some swing dance band things. I thought, ‘My God, I didn’t know anything like this existed.'”

Earlier this year, Schwartzman and The Zombies debuted the finished film Hung Up on a Dream at South By Southwest Festival 2023. Now that his creative vision has come to life, Argent says he couldn’t have asked for a better result.

“I won’t give things away because there have been several people with quite a lot of stature that have seen the movie and cried at the end of it,” he notes. “They were really moved and fascinated by it and thought it was a great movie. So it’s beyond my expectations.”

Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and Rick Krim signed on as executive producers for the project, which makes its debut at the U.K. Doc’n Roll Film Festival this weekend. Argent hopes the high-caliber team of creatives will help the film earn placement on a global streaming platform like Netflix. 

“That means that many people, if they want to, can just see it rather than just at film festivals, where it has already gone down beautifully,” he explains excitedly. “I’m just really hoping that everything goes through properly. It would be wonderful.”‘

Watch the official trailer for Hung Up on a Dream below:

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Stagecoach

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