Mark Monroe interview: ‘Bee Gees’ documentary writer
When Mark Monroe, the writer of the recent Bee Gees documentary, first started hearing the band when “Saturday Night Fever” came out, he resorted to questionable methods to try and hear some of their earlier music. “I remember I had an older brother who had some Bee Gees albums and I remember trying to pilfer them in the night and listen to them,” he tells us during our recent webchat (watch the video above). But in helping to put this documentary together, Monroe found a lot of areas about the band that he wasn’t as familiar with. “I was not so familiar with the story of their many careers. They have several highs and they kind of transform themselves a couple of times and I was not as familiar with that.”
“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” which is available to stream on HBO Max, examines the history of the band that was made up of three brothers from Australia: Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb and Robin Gibb. The film showcases the band scoring their first hits in mid-1960s England to becoming undisputed pop culture icons with their contributions to the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack to their later success as songwriters. Monroe scored an Emmy nomination in the Best Nonfiction Writing category. It’s his third career Emmy nod after getting nominated in the same category for “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” in 2017 and “Icarus” in 2018.
Monroe’s role as the film’s writer really came down to collaborating with both the director Frank Marshall and the two editors, Derek Boonstra and Robert Martinez. Working with Marshall entailed “giving him the possibilities, promoting ideas that makes sense in terms of a three-act structure and giving him options. That was my role.” When it came to how he worked with Boonstra and Martinez, he likened his role to being a third wheel that’s managing things from a higher perspective. “My job is to try to keep track of the overall picture, right? Where does that moment fit and how do we service it? How do we make it pop by what comes before it and where do we go to next?”
The Emmy ceremony isn’t the only place that Monroe has had his work recognized. Two of the documentaries he’s written have won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature: “The Cove” in 2009 and “Icarus” in 2017. He even got to attend the ceremony for both of those victories. “I got to go to the shows in both cases just by the skin of my teeth. I got my wife into the shows, which is very difficult to do.” Even after all this recognition, Monroe’s Emmy nomination this year was still a big shock. “I think we’ve all kind of tamped down our expectations these last couple of years in COVID. I was busy with my family and trying to make sure everyone was staying safe and doing the right thing to try to not get sick or keep my loved ones safe. And so it caught me by surprise, to be honest.”