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Metallica's Hetfield and Hammett get conceptual 

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It was a chaotic scene at San Francisco's swank Fairmont Hotel. Fresh from the previous night's premiere of their new 3D/Imax film Metallica: Through the Never, band members had commandeered several conference rooms for an official press day, as journalists from all over the world milled around, waiting for their round of one-on-one interviews. A writer from Germany compared questions with the Finnish scribe. One female reporter longed to snap a quick cellphone shot of the musicians as they were shuttled between suites, but she was informed that unauthorized photos were expressly forbidden.

Meanwhile, Dane DeHaan of Chronicle renown leans against a balcony railing, virtually unrecognized as he scrolls through his emails. The actor stars as a Metallica roadie named Trip, who's sent on a dangerous quest in the strange narrative that's interwoven with concert footage.

DeHaan says he loved working with Metallica and chuckles over the surreal scene where — to save himself from rioting masked marauders — his character inexplicably sets himself on fire, one of the movie's occasional didn't-think-that-one-through moments.

Also watching the proceedings from a wallflower distance is director Nimrod Antal, who was called in to oversee the project. "I met with Lars first, and he explained the concept — the idea of marrying a narrative to a concert — and it felt so weird and out there that I said yes." Does he have any idea what's happening to Trip after he pops a pill, crashes a tour van, and begins battling a figure of death on horseback? "I do have an idea," he responds. "But your idea may be much more fascinating than my idea."

Less inexplicable are the scenes of Metallica prowling an aircraft-carrier-sized stage, dodging pyrotechnics, electric chairs, suspended coffins, even a crumbling "And Justice For All" statue, as they power through speed-metal classics like "Fuel," "Battery," "Master of Puppets," and "Ride the Lightning."

When frontman James Hetfield and guitarist Kirk Hammett finally sit down to discuss the film, they seem jubilant, proud of what Antal captured. "For us, that boundary between stage and audience has always been a problem," says Hammett. "Ever since the beginning, we've always tried to break down that barrier in whatever way — creatively, musically, personally. We've gone out of our way to interact with our audience during our shows. But this movie definitely updates that whole concept. And when you add the Imax and 3D to it, it definitely brings the viewer onstage with us."

Hetfield enjoyed having the camera perched over his shoulder as fans shout along with him. "It's just great," he enthuses. "Anywhere, anytime, if you're a Metallica fan and you show up, you've gotta know the words. And you're singing along in case I screw it up, and most of the time, I do.'"

The frontman also takes a shot at explaining why DeHaan self-combusts in the script: "He made a weapon of himself, I guess. I dunno. Like 'No one will fight me!' right? And they did anyway. It also looks really cool, by the way."

"If it was me," says Hammett, Metallica's voice of reason, "I would've instantly looked down and looked for rocks. That's what I was taught when I was a kid — you don't have a weapon? Look for rocks!"

scene@csindy.com

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