Mr. Gast couldn’t even get ahold of the 300,000 toes of footage he had shot. The London-based firm that Mr. King mentioned would bankroll the challenge turned out to be a canopy for a shell firm primarily based within the Cayman Islands and owned by Stephen Tolbert, the Liberian minister of finance. Mr. Gast flew to Liberia to rearrange for more cash, however earlier than they may make a deal, Mr. Tolbert died in a plane crash.
Mr. Gast’s lawyer, David Sonenberg, sued in a British courtroom, and after a yr Mr. Gast had his movie, plus hours and hours of audio, piled up within the bedrooms and hallways of his condo on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
What he didn’t have was cash, and so he took on a sequence of aspect initiatives. At one level the Hells Angels employed him to make a movie that will counter their fame as violent criminals — although they undercut their very own case when a number of of them beat up Mr. Gast (with out critically injuring him) for refusing to offer them editorial management. (The movie, “Hells Angels Forever,” was broadly panned.)
Not all of Mr. Gast’s moneymaking efforts had been film-related, or authorized. One night in June 1979 he and not less than 4 different males had been ready by an airport close to Charleston, W.Va., for a aircraft carrying some 10 tons of marijuana, which they had been smuggling from Colombia. But the plane crashed on touchdown, spilling its contents down a hillside. Mr. Gast was arrested, pleaded responsible and acquired a $10,000 advantageous and 5 years’ probation.
In 1989, after years of struggling, Mr. Gast reconnected with Mr. Sonenberg, who had since grow to be a profitable music supervisor. Mr. Gast persuaded him to underwrite the remainder of the manufacturing course of, and even to let him use a room in his Manhattan townhouse as a studio.
Mr. Gast was nonetheless intent on centering the movie on the pageant. But sooner or later one among Mr. Sonenberg’s shoppers, the hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, was within the studio when Mr. Gast was enhancing a clip of Ali. Mr. Jean was enraptured, and requested to see increasingly more of the footage.