If you live in or have ever visited Los Angeles, California, then you are no doubt aware of what goes on outside the historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre (sometimes called Mann's Chinese) on Hollywood Boulevard. For years now, a loosely organized "troupe" of "actors" has occupied the sidewalks outside and around the famous landmark, with each dressing in sometimes remarkably accurate costumes of iconic film characters like Freddy Krueger, Captain Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader; and many of them superheroes. On site for hours and hours at a time, these street performers pose for pictures with tourists, fans and variously intoxicated neighborhood partygoers, and they do so only for tips.
After a limited run in cinemas, "Confessions Of A Superhero" is on sale now on DVD. The film takes a close look at the "actors" who dress up as superheroes, including Superman (Christopher Dennis), Batman (Maxwell Allen), Wonder Woman (Jennifer Gehrt) and The Hulk (Joe McQueen). CBR News talked to director Matt Ogens and producer Charlie Gruet about their new film, casting their characters, what superhero was left out, and other controveries that arose during the production of "Confessions Of A Superhero."
Thanks for joining us today. To begin with, what gave you the idea to make this documentary?
MATT OGENS: Charlie and I were working on a commercial in front of Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. I was directing it and Charlie was the cinematographer. We both noticed the characters and we both thought they were fascinating. In between and while Charlie was lighting, I just kept going and talking to Chris (Superman) Dennis. I knew right away that there was something there and I said, Charlie, we got to do something here.
A week later I went and hung out with Chris for a couple of hours and saw his apartment. I took some photos of him and I'd say a week later we were shooting. Now did we know where the story was going to go? Not exactly, at first we were like anyone that walks by them. We judge a book by its cover. We thought we were going to make a documentary about these crazy freaks. As we shot, more of the story came to us and instead of doing the easy way which is let's go make fun of these characters, we wanted to tell a story where we weren't making fun of them. We tried to be empathetic the whole time.
How did you choose the other characters/actors you wanted to cover in the film?
OGENS: I knew right away that I wanted to make them all superheroes. There are people out there that dress like movie characters and Bart Simpson but I thought superheroes are the most iconic. With comic books and movies, every generation knows who Superman is. Every generation doesn't know who Spongebob Square Pants is and I want people to see this movie in twenty years and there is still going to be a Superman and a Batman. I also liked that they were all the same type of character, meaning they were all super heroes. So they were all the same genre. They were just iconic characters.
Superman (Chris Dennis) was our guide into that world. He could have introduced us to anyone. He introduced us to Batman first. I just said introduce us to different people and tell us their stories. The first person we met after Chris was Batman and then Wonder Woman. We also had a Spider-Man. The Hulk didn't come in until later. We had a Spider-Man that we shot but we didn't feel like we were getting the access we needed. We didn't get the access we needed from him to make a full, well-rounded story. Then I met the Hulk, I liked his story and I just ran with it.
In the film, Batman (Maxwell Allen) comes off a bit like a crazy person, and implies that he once worked for the Mob. Were you ever scared working with him and do you think it was an act or was he being truthful?
OGENS: It's a good question, is he crazy? I don't necessarily believe his stories but I think he's crazy in that whether he's good at martial arts or not, he's not afraid of going and picking a fight. So in other words, I don't think that he's afraid of anyone is the problem. Now I have had personal issues with him off camera, him threatening me. I have threatening e-mails of him telling me that the mafia was going to come after me, that he is going to come after me.
What's his problem? Do you think he's delusional?
OGENS: It's interesting with him. A lot of what this film is about is wanting to succeed. What does wanting to succeed mean? Wanting to matter. Doesn't everyone want to matter? I do, you do, so does he. I think from what ever happened to him as a kid, he felt like he didn't matter. I believe he created a story to make him something, somebody. There are people out there, serial killers for one who want to be famous any way they can. And if they can't do it positively then they'll do it negatively. I'm not comparing him to a serial killer. I'm just saying that there are negative ways to make your self bigger then you are and I think that's in a way what he's doing. He's saying I'm somebody, I did this, I did that. I can't be sure what's true, what's not. I don't know what's true, that's for the audience to decide.
Superman (Chris Dennis) has a similarly hard-to-believe story. In your movie, he claims to be the son of Sandy Dennis, the Oscar-winning actress from "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf." However, when you interviewed her family, although they did contradict his claim, they did not completely deny it. What was your take on it and on Chris in general?
OGENS: I don't know. I just took him at face value. He tells me it's his Mom so I decided I wanted to interview family members -- not to "get him." I assumed Sandy Dennis was his Mom. So I called The Sandy Dennis Foundation and they said that they had heard about him before but had no record of her ever having a kid. I don't know the answer. I think there are obviously holes [in Chris' story], but at the same time she was an eccentric woman, a private woman and if you noticed when we interviewed the family members they didn't sound like they were exactly up in arms saying, "no way it didn't happen." They weren't freaking out but they were definitely skeptical. So I don't know the answer. If I were Chris, I would just show [skeptics] my birth certificate, something that he has never done.
Was it difficult to keep the documentary objective?
OGENS: It was difficult, of course it is. You make definite opinions about these people because you're talking to them. They become part of your life on camera but off, too. So of course you're going to have opinions about them as people. So yeah, it's difficult to be objective.
GRUET: It was difficult and with some more than others. With Wonder Woman (Jennifer Gehrt), we knew right away that her relationship was on the rocks. But what can you do? Turn off the camera, jump in and say hey guys let's talk about your relationship. You can't do that. You have to pull back and let it unfold.
You have interviews with several comic book and movie celebrities in your documentary. How did they react when you told them what you were making a movie about?
OGENS: They were cool. Everyone we talked to was pretty aware of the characters on the boulevard. ["Superman: The Movie's" Lois Lane] Margot Kidder had met Chris at previous events, so she was aware. Stan Lee's comment in the film wasn't really about those characters per se, as it was about superheroes in general, but everyone was very accommodating.
Finally, after your experience making this film, do you have any advice to someone wanting to become an actor?
GRUET: Don't give up, but don't jump into things to quickly. What was shown in the film is that it's very easy to say, "Oh, I'm an actor." Think about things before you jump into them. Don't just think, "Oh, this is my opportunity?" Is it really your opportunity and is it really worth you doing?
OGENS: If you want to be an actor, act because you have a love for acting not because you want to be famous. If your goal is just to be rich and famous then I don't think you should become an actor.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, guys.
"Confessions Of A Superhero" is available on DVD for sale at local retailers or for rent on Netflix. For more information, images and the trailer, visit the film's official site.
CBR Staff Writer Andy Khouri contributed to this article.
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