Sigourney Weaver plays second fiddle to young actor Emile Hirsch in indie project Imaginary Heroes. X-Men 2 scribe Dan Harris wrote and also directs this character study of a family grieving its favourite son, but "haphazard storytelling" earned it a cool reception from critics and meagre ticket sales. It seems Harris is more at home with superheroes as he moves on to write the sequel to Superman Returns.
Looking For Heroes
"It has its own sense of humour," notes Hirsch in a brief behind-the-scenes featurette. Meanwhile Jeff Daniels describes it as "gut wrenching" and "truthful", while Harris steers clear of trying to put the film into any kind of pigeonhole. He focuses instead of the struggle of each character and it's no surprise that Sigourney Weaver was the first choice to play Sandy Travis. "I wanted a strong, powerful woman," he explains, "but who at the same time had a side that was a little quirky, a little off." There's just a quick word on the visuals with lighting and production design geared towards creating a sense of "realism".
Harris delivers optional commentary for eight deleted scenes that suggest other causes for Tims' disaffectedness. A narcoleptic teacher is one, although it's not especially convincing, and the longest scene (at two minutes) finds Tim analysing the reason he idolised his brother so much. Apparently he considered him "a real man" because of his great big throbbing...veins. The scene is a classic example of Harris slipping through the crack between comedy and drama.
Light And Dark
Trying to affect the right tone is something Harris talks about in his commentary with Hirsch. He refers to the "absurdity" of human behaviour, which follows the death of a loved one, eg the endless plates of food bestowed on the mourning family who aren't that hungry anyway. Hirsch chips in occasionally to reinforce Harris's abstract ideas about the mistaken ways we perceive people and how "the gifts that you are given can destroy you". Sounds like the pitch for the next X-Men movie...
The challenges of making a film on an ultra-low budget only come into the discussion occasionally. Harris says he shot the film in 35 days and early on mentions that the production was dogged by a spate of car theft as a result of shooting in a gang-run neighbourhood. Apparently Harris negotiated with the gang leaders to get the cars back, because as he says, "I'm down like that."
In an alternative track Sigourney Weaver offers her interpretation of the story. Not surprisingly though, her observations are tethered to the point of view of her character. For instance she talks about Sandy as the "anti-mother" for relying on her son too much for "emotional sustenance". Regarding her pot habit, she says, "I always thought that Sandy was this rock ‘n' roller who had to move to the suburbs and become a normal person and that little flame has never died out."
While the commentaries offer some interesting titbits, this DVD contains very little on the practicalities of making a film on a low budget. A behind-the-scenes photo gallery completes the bonus package, but the rest is left to your imagination.