Originally published on Premiere.com, March 14, 2007. Since this wonderful doc about superhero impersonators on Hollywood Boulevard is currently available on Hulu, we've provided it above and suggest it for a lazy Friday before reading the Q &A with its director below.
If you walk down Hollywood Boulevard, you’re bound to see everyone from Captain Jack Sparrow to Spider-Man in that alternate universe known as Hollywood. So when first time feature director Matt Ogens spotted a cadre of superheroes that owned the street, taking pictures with tourists in exchange for tips, he felt he had his own blockbuster on his hands. Ogens was right. Confessions of a Superhero is a stylish, often funny look at the Clark Kent side of the boardwalk’s Superman (Christopher Dennis), Wonder Woman (Jennifer Gehrt), the Hulk (Joe McQueen) and Batman (Max Allen). In the moments when the superheroes shed their costumes, the film captures the naked pursuit of a career in show business from four people who will do anything for a movie career. As Ogens discusses below, the sacrifices are great, but the superheroes’ stories are nothing short of courageous.
How did you get the idea for the film?
This is my first feature. But I was directing a commercial on Hollywood Boulevard in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater and Charlie Gruet, my DP and one of the producers on this, we just couldn’t keep our eyes off these characters. I was so fascinated and I started talking to Christopher Dennis, who plays Superman on Hollywood Boulevard, and right away, I knew there was something here. And I kept talking to Chris Dennis during breaks from filming the commercial and within a week, I was over there taking photographs of them, checking out his apartment, which is like a shrine to Superman. He was sort of our entrée into this world, this subculture. He introduced us to other characters. And one by one, we recruited other characters to be part of it. We were shooting pretty much within a couple weeks and two years later, we’re here. SXSW. We literally finished the film three days ago.
What were the biggest surprises to you while you were filming?
The biggest surprises is finding out different things like the Hulk being homeless, which I didn’t know. Superman alleges that his mom is Sandy Dennis, [who is] no longer alive, but was a famous actress who was in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Out of Towners. Batman has major anger problems and claims that he has a very dark past. I’ll leave it at that. I want you to see the movie. Wonder Woman is your clichéd prom queen, small town, from the South, shows up in L.A. trying to make it. Meets a guy, two weeks later, they’re married, you know? So there’s a lot of stereotypes, but in a positive way because it’s real. It’s not written.
The film has a very evocative style using portraits of the superheroes to compliment the footage of the superheroes real lives. How did you develop that style for the film?
I’ve done other documentaries for television and I always think these portraits, as far as video portraits or even the still photographs, were a really good way to show emotion. Also, there’s a lot of great documentaries out there with great content that don’t look good. And I wanted this film to look like a film, not look like I just grabbed a camera.
Did any of the superheroes feel you were too invasive? Did you have to cut anything out?
I put everything in. I think that I’m doing a disservice to the film and to myself if I played it safe. Certainly a lot of great stuff got cut out, stuff I loved. But as far as revealing things about characters, when Batman talked about his dark past, named a few names and he asked me not to name names and I didn’t do that, but that didn’t take away from the story he was telling.
Did you shoot footage of the superheroes during the entire two-year production time?
We shot the bulk of it for the first year, then we started editing, but we kept shooting during editing. Chris Dennis – Superman - would call me up and say, ‘hey Matt, this is going on. You should come out here and film it.” What was great was living in Los Angeles and and Los Angeles is not just a setting but a character in the film. We knew our editor could say ‘Matt, it would be great to get this or even a shot of this’ and I could go out and shoot it the next day.
The film is full of strange situations. Is there one that sticks out in your mind?
That’s hard to say. I’d say that shower scene where there were record temperatures in Los Angeles and Superman and Wonder Woman are taking a shower with their outfits on was pretty odd.
It was funny when a subtitle on the screen says that Superman’s wife is sleeping in the bedroom.
Yeah, Bonnie’s sleeping in the other room. I think that for me though, a lot of Batman’s stories were very intriguing. Whether you believe them or not, it makes him a great character. He’s the bad guy in the film in a way.
Even though you knew you had a good idea, at what point did you say this was actually a full-length feature?
I felt like it was going to work before I even started shooting it. I really did. But the more you shoot it, certain things happened. I think when Max (Batman) started talking about his past and Superman started talking about his mother, Sandy Dennis, I knew Ok, we got something here.
A lot of people will talk about the Sandy Dennis connection to Christopher and there’s a great reveal in the film. What was your reaction to finding out that Superman might not be telling the truth?
You believe [him] at first. So did we. You take it at face value. He says ‘my mom’s Sandy Dennis.’ Ok, your mom’s Sandy Dennis. I found out by accident that that may be in question. That was not something that I planned, so when you see us talking about that, I still thought Ok, that’s his mom. And as it being a factual film, a documentary film, I had to follow up on certain things. And in fact checking certain things, not that I had a doubt, I couldn’t find any evidence. I’m not saying that his mom’s not Sandy Dennis. I’m saying I don’t know and in some ways, I’m glad I don’t know. You as the audience, you figure it out. I hope some people believe him and some people don’t. I hope some people believe in Batman’s past and some people don’t. I don’t want to be the judge of that because I don’t want to give my opinion. You decide. You don’t have to agree.