- Netflix’s movie “Velvet Buzzsaw” features an animatronic art exhibit called “Hoboman.”
- The movie’s director, Dan Gilroy, told Business Insider that the character represents his attempt to bring Superman to the screen while writing the screenplay for the failed “Superman Lives” movie to be directed by Tim Burton and starring Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel.
- “I wanted to draw a connection, do a piece that has to do with a superhero,” Gilroy said.
Superman is one of the most beloved comic-book characters ever, and that might be why Hollywood has had so much trouble getting him right on the big screen.
Since the Man of Steel’s first big movie release in 1978 with Christopher Reeve in the lead role (which led to three sequels), the character has found more success in TV and animation, as the latest movie reboot of the character with Henry Cavill playing the role left audiences very mixed.
But before Cavill, Nicolas Cage was prepared to take a crack at Superman with Tim Burton directing.
“Superman Lives” was to be based on the 1992 comic “The Death of Superman,” but ended up becoming one of the biggest behind-the-scenes fiascos in movie history as production was canceled three weeks before filming was to begin in April of 1998. (If you want the details, seek out the documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”).
Dan Gilroy was one of the screenwriters on the project, brought on at the end of its life when he was enlisted to rewrite a version that could get the budget down. Gilroy was in total shock when the movie was scrapped. Finding a way to cope with the experience, a few years ago he wrote the script for “Velvet Buzzsaw” (available now on Netflix), in which artworks kill those who attempt to profit from them.
And one character in it was inspired by Superman himself.
“Hoboman” – an animatronic figure that is featured in one of the exhibits Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, art critic Morf Vandewalt, comes across (later in the movie the two have a much darker interaction) – may not look like Superman, but Gilroy said that’s the point.
Gilroy told Business Insider he wanted the character to represent the aftermath of his Superman after the games played by Hollywood in trying to make “Superman Lives.”
“I was there for all the visual tests and the design of so many elements of it,” Gilroy said of the preproduction of “Superman Lives,” which in the early days of the internet became a viral sensation when photos of Cage dressed in a Superman costume were leaked online. “So I wanted to draw a connection, do a piece that has to do with a superhero.”
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Gilroy mixed that with a real animatronic exhibit he came across, Jordan Woldson’s “Female Figure.”
Gilroy said at first he was planning to create an animatronic character, but with the cost somewhere in the range of $800,000 to make it, even the deep pockets at Netflix wouldn’t go for it. So Hoboman is a real person under the costume with CGI used to make it look like the character is animatronic.
Gilroy believes it works perfectly for a movie that is as much a commentary on art versus commerce as it is his therapeutic attempt at getting over the experience of “Superman Lives.”
“The movie is set in the world of pop art,” he said, “and pop art takes contemporary iconography and challenges traditions, so I couldn’t think of a more contemporary icon than a superhero, particularly one that was broken down.”