What killed Michael Hutchence? A head injury, says Helena Christensen

New film about INXS frontman disputes Paula Yates’s autoerotic asphyxiation theory

Michael Hutchence: friends say he was never the same after a fall in 1992. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty

Michael Hutchence: friends say he was never the same after a fall in 1992. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty

 

What killed Michael Hutchence? Mystify: Michael Hutchence brings new information to light. According to the model Helena Christensen, his girlfriend at the time, the INXS frontman got into an altercation with a taxi driver in 1992 that led to him falling and hitting his head. She remembers him lying unconscious in the street with blood coming out of his mouth and ear.

Hutchence woke up in hospital angry and confused, and refused to be treated. After that, friends say, he was never quite the same: he became aggressive, erratic and “seemed to crave more danger”. His death, five years later, was ruled to be suicide, but, Mystify reveals, the autopsy showed large areas of brain damage.

Michael Hutchence: the singer with Helena Christensen in 1992. Photograph: Arnal/Gamma-Rapho via Getty
Michael Hutchence: the singer with Helena Christensen in 1992. Photograph: Arnal/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Perhaps the desire to come up with such a revelation is particularly understandable in the case of Hutchence, whose death was alleged by his then partner, Paula Yates, to be the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. The theory has been widely contested, but, once established, such associations are very hard to overwrite. Mystify, directed by the long-time INXS collaborator Richard Lowenstein, could be seen as an attempt to do that.

This is not the first music documentary to juice up a familiar story with some apparently new piece of the puzzle. Too many of them follow the predictable trajectory of rise, fall and subdued middle-aged comeback. Often – as with the Oscar-winning Amy – when the subject has died young, the examination of probable causes threatens to overshadow the music.

Adding in an investigative element is one way to give a music doc the feel of a proper documentary rather than of a feature-length hagiography. Nick Broomfield’s Biggie and Tupac, for example, and his recent Whitney: Can I Be Me?, the latter of which suggested Whitney Houston’s bisexuality and racial displacement as missing pieces of the puzzle. Recent, controversial docs such as Surviving R Kelly or Leaving Neverland (which aired allegations of childhood abuse by Michael Jackson) upped the stakes considerably.

Michael Hutchence: the singer with Paula Yates and their baby, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, in 1996. Photograph: Jeff Darmanin/Reuters
Michael Hutchence: the singer with Paula Yates and their baby, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, in 1996. Photograph: Jeff Darmanin/Reuters

Hutchence would seem an ideal candidate for the investigative treatment. The head injury might well have been a factor, but you feel there is a bigger story here. Other factors are hinted at: a bizarre childhood separation from his brother, copious drug use, Hutchence’s embroilment in the Paula Yates-Bob Geldof custody saga. In one interview (not in the movie) Yates said she couldn’t believe Hutchence would ever end his life. When presented with the coroner’s verdict of suicide, she replied: “The coroner didn’t know him.” Nor did we, but ironically, given its title, Mystify seems set on closing down the mystery rather than embracing it. – Guardian

Mystify: Michael Hutchence is released on October 18th

You can call Samaritans on 116123, which is free from any phone, or email jo@samaritans.ie; you can also call Pieta House on its free helpline, 1800-247247, or text HELP to 51444

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