If the crowd in Hall H at Comic-Con International in San Diego had never heard of "Super" before, they could be forgiven. Sure, the movie stars such actors as Rainn Wilson ("The Office"); Ellen Page ("Juno"); and Liv Tyler ("Armageddon") and is written by James Gunn ("Slither"). Yet, nary a screen shot of the movie had been made public...until Comic-Con.
Fans were treated to an extended trailer of "Super," which is currently in post-production with no official release date. In the trailer, a young Rainn Wilson is seen falling in love with, and marrying, Liv Tyler. Eventually, things go sour, as Tyler becomes addicted to drugs and falls into a rough crowd that includes actors Kevin Bacon and Michael Rooker ("Tombstone"). Wilson loses Tyler along with a bit of his mind. He decides to don a homemade red superhero suit and go by the moniker of "The Crimson Bolt," yet his methods and his morals are questionable at best.
In one scene, Wilson is seen buying concert tickets and then waiting in line. A middle-aged man cuts in front of him. Wilson asks the man to not cut, but is coarsely shot down multiple times. Wilson marches to his car and awkwardly changes into his Crimson Bolt costume. When he returns to the line, he unceremoniously bashes both the man, and his girlfriend, in the face with the wrench before running away.
"My character, Frank, his life falls apart," Wilson says of the movie. "He has a vision where he's touched by the finger of God and he's sent on a mission. It's absurd and profound at the same time...like most religions."
Gunn wrote the script and had funding for the movie eight years ago, but then he got busy with "Slither" and other projects, and the movie fell by the wayside.
"(Gunn) used to be married to Jenna Fisher ("Pam" from "The Office"). So I was at (the set of) "The Office," I was talking to Jenna...she says, 'I have a funny story for you.'" Wilson recalled of how he first saw the script for "Super." Fisher suggested that Gunn take on his script for "Super" next and cast Wilson as his lead. "So I go out to my computer, and he had emailed me the script. I was 27 pages into the script, and I called James and I said 'We have to do this movie.'"
"Your exact words were 'My hands are shaking, I have to do this movie!'" Gunn recalled.
Producer Ted Hope ("21 Grams"), meanwhile, found out about the movie on Twitter.
"Rainn tweeted that he and James Gunn were going to go out with a low-rent, fucked up 'Watchmen,'" Hope told the audience. "I had wanted to do a movie in that vein."
Wilson joked that Hope constantly bugged Wilson and Gunn about the project, so they decided he'd be less of a nuisance if they just hired him on.
Ellen Page and Liv Tyler, meanwhile, were pie-in-the-sky casting choices that both just happened to come through.
"I told James, 'We need a Liv Tyler-type, and we need an Ellen Page-type...how do we do this?'" Wilson laughed.
Page said she was thrilled to land the role of Libby/Boltie, the sidekick of the Crimson Bolt. In one scene, she's seen asking Frank to be Crimson Bolt's sidekick, so she shows off her moves. She falls on the floor a couple times and tries, and fails, to make an athletic jump back up to her feet. In another scene, she throws a small, flaming object at an enemy...the villain is then blown to bits, replete with the bad guy's scalp falling with a thump to the ground.
"I'm so humbled, I mean that from the bottom of my heart," Page said. "I worked with Rainn briefly in 'Juno.' We got along; every time I saw him, there was a bit of a connection. He sent me the ['Super'] script one day to read, by email. I read it and completely fell in love with it. I feel lucky to be a part of this film."
Tyler said she hadn't taken a role since "The Incredible Hulk," and felt like this was the role to get her back into acting.
"I've made other small movies, low-budget movies, but nothing like this," Tyler said. "I think I shot half my part in the first day. I was definitely shocked with the rapid shots. We'd do everything in one or two shots. James is so prepared - he knows exactly what he wants. I cried when I got home, because I just wasn't used to [the rapidity]. There was so many things I wanted to do.
"[The film is] dark, it's grotesque, like you can expect from James Gunn. The scenes I did were very quirky," Tyler continued. "I saw a screening of it and I cried. I had no idea how intensely dramatic, as well as zany and quirky [the story is]. It was a ride. [I went from] really happy, to going home, really proud of being in this film."
Gunn said that they did shoot the movie quickly, up to as much as five times as many scenes in a day as a typical movie.
"It became the spirit of the film, the speed we shot it in," he said.
Michael Rooker, who plays Abe, one of Kevin Bacon's henchmen in the film, was first commended by Wilson for having such a cool voice. Then they asked him to talk about how he got involved in the film.
"I worked on 'Slither' with James. The first thing I asked James was, 'Do I kill anyone in the movie?' And he said no, I don't get to kill anyone...so I went home and I cried," Rooker said with a laugh.
Page talked about the mental problems of her character, saying she had a blast playing such a twisted character.
"She's a lunatic, she's definitely a psychopath. If she sees something wrong in the world...Libby wants to kill someone because her car got keyed," Page said. "It was a wonderfully physical role."
Wilson told Page that she can easily make him laugh. He then told the crowd about an uncomfortable scene the two had in the film.
"We had a special scene where we're quite intimate, against my will," Wilson said to some laughs. "Let's just say her character, Libby, has her way with my character, Frank. It's kind of awesome, and it's kind of icky."
Gunn was asked by a fan if the premise of "Super" was based on the current trend of people trying to be real superheroes. Gunn said that though he likes reading about these people, he wrote this script eight years ago, before he had ever heard of that movement.
Tyler was asked why she decided that this role was the one that would bring her back to acting.
"I read the script and I couldn't put it down. There's an incredible innocence and passion in this story. [My] character is very complicated, very real. I enjoyed playing that person, someone who is going through something and trying to rebuild their life again," she responded. "Except ,I was really out of it the whole time. Half the time I'm high [in the movie], so I'd hang out in my trailer spinning in circles and sipping whiskey...so I was dizzy the whole time."
Nathan Fillion, probably best known as Nick Castle from the hit ABC series "Castle," was asked by a woman in a Xena costume if his character would be a suitable mate for Xena.
"In this movie, I play The Holy Avenger. I've been looking for a superhero to play in a movies, now I got him," Fillion said. "Any powers? He's got the power of charisma. It's not charisma, it's ch-arisma, it's that 'I really want him' power, but mixed in with the church. Ch-arisma. So I think the power would make him a suitable mate for any warrior princess, especially you."
A fan asked Page if she did much training for her role as Boltie.
"I know what you saw was pretty amazing," Page said sarcastically, "So you'd think it was months of training, but actually, believe it or not...improv. So, you're welcome."
Another fan, possibly not happy with all the "What's it like acting alongside [actor]?" questions, threw a deeper question at the panel: how do they deal with failure and how do they turn failure into success?
Wilson joked, "You're referring to 'The Rocker,' aren't you?" while Gunn gave a more serious answer.
"I think that being a filmmaker is a combination of getting what the world is feeding back to you," he said. "If you really are a gifted filmmaker, you have to hear the world. I don't believe in following your dreams at all costs. I believe you have to find your gifts and put all your effort into that. Failures make you stronger. I think at the end of the day, to really truly make the movie, for me, for myself...this is the first movie I've ever made that's truly for me. I was fortunate to have people around me that feel the same way about their roles."
Hope told the fan that it was critical to always put yourself in a position where you're willing to fail and to take risks. "It's those things that you learn from."
Wilson then gave a serious answer, discussing how long he had struggled before making it as a successful actor.
"I almost moved to Portland, Oregon, running up my credit cards. I ran a moving company, 'A Man with a Van.' It sounds mystical, but you have to listen to the universe," Wilson said. "I started getting positive momentum. I've been acting for 20 years, but didn't become known until the last 5 or 6 years."
The panel ended with Hope telling the audience to go to thecrimsonbolt.com to add their names to the email mailing list for the movie.