Another unique entry which comes to UK cinemas much sooner is SuperBob. By turns sweet and hilarious, it tells the story of Robert Kenner (Brett Goldstein, who also co-wrote the script alongside William Bridge and director Jon Drever), a Peckham mailman who is given powers after being struck by a meteor. Six year later, we follow Robert on his day off as he struggles to combine saving the world with finding love.
We caught up with Goldstein on his day off before SuperBob’s UK release, and during our conversation he spoke about the differences between stand-up comedy and onscreen comedy, what we have to look forward to on the DVD, and the superhero genre.
SuperBob was originally a short. Was it immediately apparent that there was enough material to make it a feature length film?
We made the short in a day; we literally had the idea in the morning and then we improvised it, filmed it, edited it and it came out nice. So I don’t know that we started it as a “let’s make this and then we can make it into a feature”, but once we had the short then it seemed like “there’s something in this”. What’s interesting is the development of the film. We spent a long time developing the script because you’re turning it into a 90 minute film, and the short is just a man talking and having a cup of tea basically. So we needed more characters and more of the world.
There were so many versions of the script. There was even one version where it was a buddy cop film. Every time we got stuck we kept going back to the short and thinking “what’s nice about the short”? And ultimately it’s about a lonely man who happens to be the world’s only superhero looking for love on his day off in Peckham. We kept returning to that and eventually we wound up with our film.
You’re a stand-up comedian as well as an actor. What are the differences and the challenges between stand-up comedy and comedy in film?
It’s very different. With stand-up it’s very pure and it’s very instant. You know how the audience is reacting and you play off the room. It exists only in that moment. But when you’re filming something, there’s a lot of consideration that needs to go into how it’s shot, how it’s edited, and lots of other things that go into making a joke work. Sometimes you can write something that’s funny and it’s funny to perform, but if you shoot it wrong or you frame it wrong or it’s too close when it should be a mid-shot then it won’t work. There’s so many other factors that go into making comedy on screen work and it’s a much longer process. You write a joke, you perform it, edit it, and then you put it out. And then it can take years to see whether it works with an audience compared to stand-up when I can write something today and perform it tonight. But stand-up is more disposable and film is forever.
It felt very improvisational, which I liked. I assume there was plenty of choice when it came to post-production…
Yes. The DVD is going to be fucking great because there’s a lot of funny stuff that’s not in the film. With the film there’s a very specific tone that’s quite a tricky tone to get right. It’s not a spoof or a parody; it’s a comedy but it’s so sincere and it’s set in the real world. In the edit, there’s quite a tricky balance to strike the balance between moving moments and funny bits. The reason the edit took a while was to get that tone correct. There’s some very funny stuff that’s too silly, and if we’d kept it in it would stop you buying into it and so when we got to the serious bits you wouldn’t be moved. Then there’s versions where it was far too serious and kind of sad and then you wouldn’t laugh at the funny stuff. So getting that balance was tricky, but it does also mean we got a lot of funny deleted scenes.
The balance between sincere and awkward in your performance makes SuperBob very endearing.
Thanks! It’s also about being as real as possible. When we started working on it we established some rules; it had to be the real world. The only difference is one man gets hit by a meteor and gets given superpowers. Other than that everything else is as it would be. We spent a lot of time thinking about that, and just because you’re suddenly strong doesn’t mean you’re suddenly confident or cocky. If you’ve got to go into a burning building even if you were invulnerable I think it would be quite fucking terrifying. And certainly the pressures of media and the PR aspect of being a superhero…you’re suddenly forced into the spotlight and all these things that a normal person might think is too much. I think that’s what makes SuperBob original. This is really what would happen if a nice bloke turned into a superhero.
Have you always been a fan of the superhero genre?
Yes, I think so. Batman Returns is one of my favourite films. It still remains in my top 10.
Wait…Are you taking Batman Returns over the Nolan trilogy?
[Laughs] Listen, it’s partly to do with the age I saw Batman Returns. It may have a lot to do with Michelle Pfeiffer [laughs]! I love the Nolan trilogy, I think they’re incredible films. But Batman Returns has Catwoman and I like Tim Burton. I have a very soft spot for those films.
What’s your take on Steven Spielberg’s recent comments that the superhero genre is going to die out in a few years?
I think everything goes in cycles and I think he’s right to some extent. In the same way that the Western died and came back again for a good decade and then died again. I think there’s certainly a danger of oversaturation, but it depends what you do with it. The superhero film is just a template. In a way our film is a romantic comedy. There are different ways of doing it, and you can do a lot within the genre. It’s like when people talk about a type of music. There’s so many versions and offshoots of a type of music. Superhero films aren’t all the same but there’s a fuckload of them.
I agree. We’ve got Deadpool coming up and we had Guardians of the Galaxy…
That’s [Guardians of the Galaxy] a wonderful film, and it doesn’t occur to me to think of that as a superhero film.
Currently SuperBob is the only British superhero film. Do you think this could lead to more in future?
We could have a British Avengers [laughs]! I’m up for that.
SuperBob is in cinemas from 16th October, and also available online from the same date with exclusive behind the scenes extras, bloopers and deleted scenes on WeAreColony.com