Exclusive: Producer Nicholas Tabarrok Talks ‘Defendor’

While most comic fans are getting ready for this Friday’s release of Kick-Ass in theaters, they can get into the average-guy-superhero today, as the indie super hero flick Defendor hits DVD stores everywhere.

The film stars Woody Harrelson as a regular guy-turned night crusader. Also starring is Kat Dennings, Elias Koteas, and Sandra Oh. It’s got a great message, some funny moments, and a tone that’s very reminiscent of classic Batman stories.

We recently got a chance to sit down with Nicholas Tabarrok, producer of the film, and he shed some light on Defendor, as well as where he and writer/director Peter Stebbings plan on taking the character from here.

The Flickcast: For those who aren’t aware already, what can you tell us about your new film, Defendor?

Nicholas Tabarrok: It’s about a regular guy (Harrelson) who read comic books as a kid. Kind of a slow guy who lives in a bit of a fantasy world, and he thinks that he’s a super hero. So he’s got a homemade costume and homemade weapons, and at night he goes out there and patrols the streets looking for bad guys. All he wants to do is help people and do some good.

On one of his escapades, he helps a young girl (Dennings) out of a bad situation and they form this kind of friendship. Through her, he ends up infiltrating a serious bad guy, and brings him down to do some real good. The other thing to note is that this isn’t that sort of slapstick, banana-peel style comedy. It’s a drama, with some funny moments for sure, but it really is a drama to it’s core.

TF: You and director Peter Stebbings shot this film in 20 days. Were there many constraints shooting a super hero film in such a short window?

NT: There were a ton of constraints. In fact, shooting a film in 20 days is kind of forcing a round peg into a square hole, trying to make it fit for our budget. We really couldn’t do it, to be honest. While it was 20 calendar days, we shot overtime almost every day, and these were long 14, 15, sometimes 16 hour days.

So probably, doing 25 days would’ve been the smart thing to do. But we’ve got these tough budget constraints, you try to get in in 20 days, so you take the hours that it takes.

TF: In working with Stebbings many times before, how much input did you have on the creative process for Defendor?

NT: Peter gave me a fully finished script, so I wasn’t involved in any part of the conjuring of the idea or getting it to a script stage. There were some developmental changes that we made to the script, but not a ton, there are usually more. What he brought me, I was pretty damned happy with. I’d say about 80% of what he brought me ended up being the final shooting script, probably with my input and my head of development changing about 20%.

Generally I really enjoy the creative process, and that’s kind of what I got into this for. I had quite a hand in the casting process, even down to wardrobe. A lot of time as the composer. Peter and I were the composer, and we really worked together for most of it. Luckily, Peter and I really met eye-to-eye on just about everything in the project, which was great to have.

TF: Many different super hero films come from a comic, but this film skipped that process. Is there any plan to dip into the world of comics with the Defendor character?

NT: Absolutely, there is. We would love to do that, and we have had some exploratory talks and talked to some people about doing a comic. So you’re absolutely right, we do want to pursue that.

TF: Without giving too much away, the way that the ending comes together, there isn’t much room to follow with a sequel. Was there ever a plan to change the ending in order to accommodate a franchise?

NT: It’s funny you would ask. The answer is yes and no. Peter and I do have a sequel idea in mind, but the idea is that somebody new picks up the helm of Defendor. So somebody who saw this and watched what happened, who became influenced decides to take up the mantel and continue on. So we do have a sequel idea in mind that we’re tossing around, but never so much that the ending of this film would be changed.

TF: Being a producer for some time, are there any other projects coming up that you’re looking forward to?

NT: Sure. I have two films that are editing right now. A film called The Beginner’s Guide to Endings, which is a really fun dark comedy, very Cohen Brothers-esque, about three brothers who find out that they only have a few days to live. They then set about to reverse their entire lifetimes of mistakes in the space of a couple of days. It’s really funny.

We’ve got a great cast, including Harvey Keitel, J.K. Simmons, and the three sons are Scott Caan, Paulo Costanzo, and Jason Jones. We’re currently editing that, which should be ready by the summer.

And another project is Welcome Back Satan, which is a very irreverent comedy. It’s going to be quite a controversial story about what would happen if Satan was invited to a cocktail party in Heaven. After 6,000 years, Satan is given a one-day pass to go to this cocktail party in heaven, so of course he wreaks havoc and causes a lot of trouble. That’s also currently in post production, and should be ready this Fall.

Defendor hits DVD stores everywhere today.

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