It’s about time someone made a documentary about Comic-Con, and that’s exactly what Morgan Spurlock — the Academy Award-nominated director of Super Size Me — has done. Spurlock’s new documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, was filmed during last year’s convention. The filmmaker followed seven die-hard Comic-Con fans as they wandered the colorful, crowded, and malodorous halls of the San Diego Convention Center.
The film, which is being produced by Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull, and Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles, is due in theaters this fall. But if you’d like a sneak peek, check out the film’s recently released companion book, also called Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. The coffee-table book features hundreds of photographs that show off every facet of Comic-Con — from Preview Night to the convention’s own dismantlement. Also included are dozens of interviews with celebrities (such as Kevin Smith, Todd McFarlane, Guillermo del Toro, Ellen Page, Seth Rogen, Nathan Fillion, Olivia Wilde, and Frank Miller) and attendees alike.
EW recently chatted with Spurlock about the film and its companion book, why there hasn’t been a Comic-Con documentary until now, and what he’s most looking forward to at this year’s convention:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope come about?
MORGAN SPURLOCK: It came out of a conversation I had with Stan Lee two years ago at Comic-Con. I met Stan at a party, and I went over to thank the guy. I said, “As a kid, reading your comic books gave me so much courage to want to write and be creative.” And Stan goes, “Morgan, I love your movies. We should make a movie together. We can make a documentary about Comic-Con!”
It’s such a Hollywood story. My agent was standing right behind me. I said, “Stan and I want to make a movie about Comic-Con,” and my agent goes, “You should meet my other client.” Cut to the next day, and I’m having breakfast with Joss Whedon. By the end of the weekend both Stan and Joss had agreed to produce the film. And Comic-Con said yes. For 25 years people had pitched to them the idea of making a film about Comic-Con, and they always said no.
Any idea why Comic-Con had never allowed a crew to shoot there until now?
They were afraid. It’s a very precious thing to them and to all of us geeks who love it. They didn’t want to have a film where they were made fun of — they didn’t want to make Trekkies. The fact that Stan was on board and Joss was behind the film, as well as [Legendary Pictures CEO] Thomas Tull and Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News — there was suddenly a level of geek prominence in this little dream team. I think that’s what swayed Comic-Con [to say yes].
Tell me about the film. I know it follows several different fans at Comic-Con…
The idea of it was we were going to find different people who represented Comic-Con — an artist, a writer, a comic-book shop owner, a collector, someone who is competing in the masquerade. The guts of the film is us following these people and telling the story of Comic-Con through their experiences. We also did a ton of interviews. We filmed interviews with all the people you see in the book. At any point, we had anywhere from 15 to 26 cameras rolling and 10 photographers. We got about 650 hours of footage.
Was your intention to introduce Comic-Con to a wider audience, while perhaps breaking some people’s preconceptions about it?
The film does show the fantastic spectacle of geekdom that goes on there, but I think it also shatters a lot of stereotypes. When you read through the book and see some of the quotes from people, you realize there are some eloquent people there. There are thought-provoking things happening. It’s not just people walking around in Boba Fett costumes.
Who did you particularly enjoy talking to?
Kenneth Branagh, probably the last guy you’d ever expect to be at Comic-Con, was there because he was directing Thor, and he gave one of the greatest interviews. He was talking about why Shakespeare would have loved Comic-Con. How it represents all the spectacle that Shakespeare created around his shows back at the Globe Theatre. If you went outside, there was a tremendous amount of pomp and circumstance and people in costumes. So Kenneth said, “If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d definitely be at Comic-Con.”
Are you looking forward to returning this year?
I’m taking my little boy, who is four and a half, to his first Comic-Con. I’m so stoked about it. I was showing him the book and said, “Look, this is the book that Daddy made, and this is where we’re going!” He was looking at the pictures, and he sees Batman and goes, “I could dress up as Batman!” I said, “Yes, you could!” And he goes, “No, no, you could dress up as Batman, and I could be Batboy!” So at Comic-Con, there will be a fantastic handlebar-mustached man in a Batman costume. Although I’m probably going to be one of many. I’ll be Handlebar-Mustached Batman #7.