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Auto Focus in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Auto Focus

Greg Kinnear • Willem Dafoe • Maria Bello
DIRECTOR: Paul Schrader

Willem Dafoe as John Carpenter THE CONCEPT:
Tells the strange story of actor Bob Crane, star of TV’s Hogan’s Heroes, who was murdered in an Arizona motel room in 1978, where police discovered pornographic movies he participated in.

U.S. RELEASE: 18 October, 2002 • Rated: R


“I love these people that live contradictory lives. They say they’re one thing but behave in another way. I’ve been writing about this character from day one, from Taxi Driver on. Here I had a very interesting variation of that, which was this glib, clueless cat that didn’t get it. This guy never did get it. You hear him trying to explain himself and it doesn’t jibe with what you’re seeing. On top of which, I had this male-male romance, not unlike Prick up your Ears, which is a movie I’ve always liked. On top of that, I had a fascinating social handle bouncing around; the birth of porn, being a celebrity, shifting male identity during the era of women’s liberation. It was a bouillabaisse of fascinating twists, themes and turns.”

“I didn’t want to do an impersonation. I couldn’t do an impersonation, I don’t think Bob is impersonate-able, but I wanted to watch a lot of Hogan’s Heroes, and listen to his old broadcasts, and try to get something that felt like it was kind of in the pocket. It’s not like we were doing Ali or Nixon, where people know who this person is, the only recollection anybody really has of Bob is through Hogan’s Heroes. So the important thing was just for the little bits that we were doing of Hogan’s to at least be in the ballpark, so they wouldn’t be distracting.”

WILLEM DAFOE (John Carpenter):
“There was a lot of biographical information on John Carpenter when he was tried [for Crane’s murder]. Also, I met some people who had been with him around the trial, trying to sway public opinion or lobbying people for his innocence. They made videotapes available to me, and letters and photographs. Do I think he did it? I kind of hate to say. What I think isn’t really important.”

MARIA BELLO (Patricia Crane):
“I didn’t get to meet [Patty], she didn’t want to be part of the process. But the day after I got the script, my agent was up late watching the Game Show Network, and there’s Bob Crane and Patty Olsen on The Dating Game, and I saw how they interacted. So a lot of the way I have my character and Bob Crane interact, I took from The Dating Game.”

WILLEM DAFOE on whether he thinks Carpenter was in love with Crane:
“He was falling in love with his situation. He was finding his identity. He was finding his usefulness. He was finding his place in this world they had created together. What I did want to cultivate was a closeness and an intimacy and a desire to please.”

“I had to go to the rating’s board five times. I had a subject matter you couldn’t run away from. If you’re doing a movie about the birth of pornography and a sex addict, you have to acknowledge it to some degree.”

“I’m not going to be the first actor to sit here and say, ‘You know what? Those sex scenes were really great. I didn’t have any problem with them.’ They are awkward, and they are strange and there’s not a great deal you can do about it, you just have to deal with it.”

“I think that Bob Crane was woefully unaware of what his behavior was doing to his life. It’s not a moral judgment; it’s not about sex. It’s more about a portrait of a man who is unaware that the thing that he’s drawn to is the thing that’s going to destroy him.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Auto Focus site
Images above © Sony Pictures Classics
Feature © 2002 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #624, November 2002 cover

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