Morgan Spurlock has gorged himself on fast food (Super Size Me), locked himself in jail (30 Days), and searched for terrorists (Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?) — but in his latest documentary, he’s not only avoiding the clink, hijackers, and extra carbs, he’s nowhere to be found. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is not an exposé, but a love letter to and from the people who go to Comic-Con, whether it be to buy or sell a particular book, create a costume, or find their soul mate. (He trails one couple as the boyfriend struggles to pop the question in the most geek-worthy way possible.) With the help of producers Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, and Harry Knowles, Spurlock peeks into the nooks and crannies of the Con that most attendees never see, while eliciting testimonials from fans in costume as well as Kevin Smith, Guillermo del Toro, Olivia Wilde, Seth Green, Frank Miller, Kenneth Branagh, and Eli Roth. Since he’s not in the movie, Spurlock gave Vulture his own testimonial and let his geek flag fly.
You’re used to being in your own films. You’re not in this one. Joss Whedon is, which is not a typical Joss move.
From the beginning, I said, “I’m not going to be in one frame of this movie.” If I were coming here every year and this were my life, that would be something else. I’m a fan, I’m a super-passionate fan, an Über-geek about things, but that’s not the story I want to tell. Joss is at Comic-Con every year. Stan Lee is at Comic-Con every year. It makes sense, because they’re representative of what Comic-Con is.
What would you do at Comic-Con if and when you weren’t shooting?
I would love to go sit on a bunch of panels. I mean, I’m a fan. I love genre movies. I love hearing about the process. I can listen to directors’ commentaries on what it was like to make a movie for hours and hours. The director’s cut of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King came out five, six years ago, and I sat on the couch for fourteen hours and watched the movie three times, first with Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh, and then with Richard Taylor and the production design team, and then with the cast. By the end, my girlfriend was like, “Get out of the house! What is wrong with you?” The movie’s over three hours each time, and I would watch it straight through — get up in between, go to the bathroom, get some food — and then watch it again. She was like, “You are so pathetic.” But it’s who I am. I love that.
Your girlfriend shouldn’t be calling you pathetic, though — she should be watching it with you! As Chuck Rozanski says in the film, “When a woman tells you to grow up, it’s God’s way of telling you to find another woman.”
I love Chuck. [Laughs.] She did watch it for a little bit. And then we got divorced. [Laughs.]
When you were looking for couples, you asked for male applicants who wanted to propose “with the one ring to rule them all.” And then you got James Darling, who actually proposed with a Lord of the Rings ring.
Which is amazing. I wanted to find a couple who were in love, or fell in love because of Comic-Con, who were there because of their shared geek passion. I love couples that bond over their geekiness and they fall in love over geeky things. And he arranged the whole proposal at the panel on his own. Getting the ring, doing the proposal, getting her to say yes. And she had no clue. One of my favorite lines in the film is when she runs up to him with a “backup question” for him to ask Kevin Smith: “Ask him if he’ll marry me!” I was like, “I can’t believe she said that.” And when [her boyfriend proposes], she’s bawling, crying, screaming. I’ve seen it, I don’t know, 100 times at this point, and I still get chills during that scene. It’s beautiful. There is geek love happening at the Con! [Laughs.] Seth Green met and fell in love with his wife at Comic-Con!
Considering your last movie [Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold] was about product placement, marketing, and advertising, did you learn anything that you applied to this film? For instance, you could have released this at Comic-Con.
The thing I learned from Greatest Movie is that I wasn’t going to release a movie like Greatest Movie again. When that was coming out, I was on Colbert, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, all of those in like ten days, so I had all this national exposure, and then the film opened on like eighteen screens, so 90 percent of America couldn’t even see the film. What we’re doing with Comic-Con, which is incredibly smart, and the best way to go with docs, we’ll open in select markets, but at the same time, we’ll be everywhere: on demand, on iTunes, on your XBox, every digital platform you can imagine, in 100 million homes. Everybody will be able to put on their Spock ears and Hobbit feet, put on their Captain America T-shirt, grab a light saber, and watch the movie in their own home.
Do you still read comics?
I’m really into Irredeemable, the Mark Waid series. Oh, and DMZ is great. I still have my original Fangoria No. 10 with the head exploding on the cover. That made me want to make movies, that scene from Scanners. I’d go run screaming to my mom with a gash on my face — “Agh!” — and she’d go, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” “Oh, nothing. It’s fake.” Once I learned that you could go to film school and learn how to do that, I was blown away. That’s what put me on my whole path.
You have Mansome at the Tribeca Film Festival with Jason Bateman and Will Arnett.
I love those guys, and we got so many fun people in that: Zach Galifianakis, Paul Rudd, and Judd Apatow. It’s all about male grooming, and how men are manly and handsome and mansome. How do we get mansome? You’ll see as we deal with the things that are thrust upon us that are silly and ridiculous. I think there are all sorts of societal expectations, like how men are supposed to look, or how a man should be, how thin a man should be. Things that used to be strictly female-based have started to migrate.
Is there a lot of pressure to be mansome?
[Strokes mustache.] Not for some of us.