Inspired by television shows such as the 1960s "Batman" and films like the original "Star Wars," "Back to the Future" and the Indiana Jones movies, writer/director Ray Grigg decided to make his feature film directorial debut, "Super Capers," a tribute to the pop-culture programming that shaped his childhood.
The film, a family comedy that opens in limited release across the country on March 20, is about Ed Gruberman, a powerless superhero who is forced to join a group of misfit adventurers in order to stop a mysterious villain. The film boasts an impressive cast of actors from sci-fi and comic book genre movies and TV, including Doug Jones ("Hellboy II: The Golden Army," "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer"), Tommy "Tiny" Lister ("The Dark Knight," "The Fifth Element"), June Lockhart ("Lost in Space"), Justin Whalin ("Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman") and TV icon Adam West in a brief cameo as a cab driver named "Man-Bat," whose taxi looks a lot like the Batmobile from his '60s TV show.
"Super Capers" also features actors better known for their dramatic work, such as Tom Sizemore ("Heat," "Saving Private Ryan"), Michael Rooker ("JFK," "Tombstone"), Jon Polito ("Miller's Crossing," "American Gangster") and Clint Howard ("Apollo 13," "Frost/Nixon").
CBR News spoke with Griggs about his new film, his cast, his inspiration and what it was like to work with his childhood hero, Adam West.
CBR: Tell us about the beginnings of the "Super Capers" project.
Ray Griggs: Basically, it was paying homage to why I originally wanted to be a filmmaker. Paying homage to films and TV shows from the '70s and '80s that I saw as a kid. I was a fan of "Batman," "Adventures of Superman" and then from the sci-fi world, everything from "Star Wars" to "Back to the Future."
Recently, the trend in Hollywood has been to make serious, dark superhero movies such as "Watchmen" or "The Dark Knight." Your film, "Super Capers," is the complete opposite. What does it offer to a contemporary audience?
Well, those films are for a certain audience out there and they're very good, you know. But being limited, knowing I was making an independent film, I couldn't compete against those other movies. If you're trying to do something independent and you think you're going to make the next "X-Men," you're not, so forget it. That's just because of what you're limited to with superheroes, powers and budget. So I wanted to do something a little different, where I pay homage to those films that came out in the '70s/'80s that were a little more campier.
Realistically, I needed to do it on an independent budget and I wanted to make it for kids. Because when I was a kid, I watched some of those shows and I wanted to make a film that little kids could go and see today. Young kids couldn't go and see "Watchmen" or " The Dark Knight" so I wanted to do something that kids could grow up watching and then they can eventually move on to bigger adult superhero films.
Spoofs like "Superhero Movie" are widely derided. As a filmmaker, what was your plan to avoid creating such a film?
I didn't want to do a silly, over-the-top comedy about superheroes. I wanted, somewhat, to have belief in the world that they live in but at the same time I did want to make it lighthearted; where you can laugh and enjoy the film. So I was really trying to stay in that fine line of, "How crazy do we go with it and how serious do we make it?" So it was a balancing act in doing that.
Your cast is a who's-who of actors from sci-fi and comic book movies and TV shows. Tell us about some of the actors in the project and how you were able to get them involved in "Super Capers?"
It started with the script. When I created the script, I went after people who were in the great TV shows and things of the past. I wanted to try to get people who were in superhero films to make cameos and help support the genre we were doing. The beautiful thing that I had when approaching these actors through my casting director was they really liked the script because of the simple fact that they could take their kids or grandkids to it. They liked that concept of being able to do that because they felt there really wasn't anything out there for them that falls in that genre. So a lot of them jumped on for that simple reason.
We had some great talent from Adam West to June Lockhart from "Lost in Space." Even Doug Jones, who plays in "Hellboy," came on because we said, "Hey, why don' t you play yourself without the make-up and just be you." He's a really great actor to work with. We got Tiny Lister, who was in "The Dark Knight," and Jon Polito who was in "The Rocketeer." We have Michael Rooker, who's done tremendous, great things. We even got Tom Sizemore.
Justin Whalin, who plays the main character, Ed Gruberman, was Jimmy Olson on "Lois & Clark." The beauty with him was I needed a character actor to be the leading man. He really did a wonderful job when he read for that. He really proved himself to be able to pull that off. So it was a really wonderful cast and I'm really pleased with them.
Why was it so important for you to cast recognizable genre actors in "Super Capers?"
To give it that authenticity and to make you feel and remember these great things that we grew up with. That's the whole point of the film, with the different sci-fi genre tributes, superheroes, montages and the actors themselves in it. It carries through even to the posters that Drew Struzan did for us. Drew is known for all the "Star Wars," "Back to the Future" and Indiana Jones posters he did. The "Super Capers" poster was actually his last poster. He retired right after doing "Super Capers." It was great to have that tie-in to all those other things. So for the animated open, I wanted that '80s feel. Usually, these types of movies come from comic books and here we're going the other way around because I made a comic book based on the film. In the animated opening of the film, I wanted that same '80s genre feel so I got an artist from Mad Magazine to do the opening and he also did the art in my comic book.
Tell us more about the comic book.
It's a promotional item that came out after the film. It's a prequel/sequel to the movie so it takes place a little bit before the movie and takes place a little bit after the movie. It's not really in stores, it's just a free comic book we give out at promotional events. We gave out 10,000 at WonderCon, we're giving out a bunch of them at Comic-Con and then we have people going around to various cities and handing them out.
In addition to the genre actors who appear in "Super Capers," you also have some actors who are best known for their intense work in serious dramatic films. Were they nervous at all about appearing in a superhero comedy?
No. Actually, just the opposite. We had a lot of fun and that was kind of the way we approached them saying, "You do the studio route all the time, this is an independent film. Lets go from a different approach, just show up to work and have fun." That's what they did. We literally had fun. As an actor, you always want something that is challenging and Michael Rooker was able to do something a little different than he normally does. He ended up saying that he would like to do a sequel, so we'll see what happens with that.
As a fan, what was it like for you working with Adam West?
Adam's great, he went to WonderCon with me this year. He was the neat one, where as a filmmaker, when you have dreams and you start achieving levels of getting these dreams, it brings tears to your eyes. He was the one person for me that was really neat seeing on my set for the simple fact that I grew up watching the "Batman" show. Paying homage to that, getting him to be in this film, having the Batmobile on the set and having him there in person, it was really neat as a filmmaker. Not only that but he really enjoyed working with me. He said that he'd like to do a sequel too. All these guys keep asking me, when's the sequel coming out?
Do you already have an idea for a possible sequel to "Super Capers?"
I actually do have a script that I wrote for a sequel. I like to stay busy so I did write a sequel but it really comes back to what the fans think, what the studios think and how well it does.
Are you pleased with how "Super Capers" turned out? Does it live up to what you had imagined when you wrote it?
I don't know if I'd say that any director would ever say that. It's kind of like an oil painting, you always want to keep on going in there, you always want to change it and do stuff to it. At some point you have to say, "I'm going to walk away from this." I wouldn't say it's complete, there's always more I want to do to it but maybe that should be left for the sequel. I fell in love with the story so much in my head that seeing it come to the screen like your talking about, I see all these other adventures, places that they can go and all these things that they can do. It's kind of sad to see it come to an end. I want it to continue.
"Super Capers" is now playing in limited release. For more information, check out the official website.