The 1986 Beastie Boys’ debut “Licensed to Ill” resonates across multiple generations; for some, those early days represent pop-culture nostalgia. For the two surviving members of the group, it’s a lot more complicated. In the new Apple TV+ documentary “Beastie Boys Story,” Spike Jonze adapts the live show he directed last year into a two-hour storytelling session, as Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Mike “Mike D” Diamond recall their early rise from raucous punk rockers to rap stars (Adam “MCA” Yauch died of cancer in 2012). That project coincides with a newly published book, “Beastie Boys,” collecting Jonze’s photography of the band from its early days along with memories of their crazed first decade.
Beyond the performative energy of Horovitz and Diamond, “Beastie Boys Story” contains a confluence of creative forces. It’s the latest collaboration between the Beastie Boys and Jonze, whose relationship goes back to the group’s earliest days, including their famed “Sabotage” music video. It also features an executive producer credit for Jonah Hill, the actor-turned-filmmaker and avowed Beastie Boys fan, who helped develop the show. When Hill, Jonze, and Diamond all hopped on a Zoom call to discuss the collaboration, the rambling conversation mirrored the documentary’s prankish energy and sincere curiosity about the creative process.
After an awkward start — and a last-minute cancellation by Horovitz — Jonze, Diamond, and Hill launched into a lively conversation about their various histories, their relationship to success and failure, and what they’ve been watching in quarantine.