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Premiering this month at the Second Annual Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, BOY WONDER is yet another gritty, real-world superhero story in the vein of KICK-ASS and James Gunn’s upcoming SUPER. First-time director Michael Morrissey (who provided a couple of exclusive photos you can see below) helmed this “psychological thriller” about Sean, a young Brooklyn kid who witnesses the brutal murder of his mother and grows up obsessed with finding her killer.
TRUE BLOOD’s Caleb Steinmeyer stars as Sean, a quiet student by day and self-appointed hero by night. As Sean’s boundaries between what is right and wrong blur, his dual life wears on his psyche, his two worlds careen dangerously close to colliding and BOY WONDER challenges morality in regards to costumed vigilantism. For Morrissey, the inspiration behind BOY WONDER stemmed from his love of comic books.
“I grew up reading comics,” he tells Fango. “I still make my trip to Forbidden Planet every Wednesday to pick up my books, and I wanted to make a movie that embodied what I love about them. I’ve always enjoyed stories that are more about the heroes’ human nature: Tony Stark’s battle with addiction in “Demon in a Bottle,” Frank Miller’s take on Daredevil, etc. I liked the small stories more than the flash-bang of big battle scenes. I also thought it would be really interesting to see what events would create a ‘hero’ in the real world. I think someone who goes out at night to punish bad people has to be a pretty screwed-up person. I wanted to make my vision of a superhero come to life.”
In addition to directing BOY WONDER, which also stars S. DARKO’s Zulay Henao, AMERICAN PSYCHO’s Bill Sage, DARK WOODS’ James Russo and WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE’s Tracy Middendorf, Morrissey penned the script as well. “I have written a few different scripts and have even sold a few, but this one is my baby,” he says. “I always wanted to direct this and never even considered anyone else helming it. Also, I’m a control freak of the highest order. It’s a curse.”
BOY WONDER is not your your typical “hero” flick by any means—so don’t expect its protagonist to resemble those of KICK-ASS or SUPER. Notes Morrissey, “Some people might see this and say, ‘Hey, where’s his cape?’ or ‘He doesn’t wear a mask.’ Some people will say, ‘This is a psychological thriller, not a superhero movie.’ And I’m cool with that. I read comics because they’re great stories, not because some guy puts on a costume. BOY WONDER is definitely a more serious take on the genre. We never mention the term ‘superhero’; we never talk about his costume. And you don’t have to like comic books to get into this movie.”
BOY WONDER does, however, pack a punch—literally—with its intense violence. “Caleb trained for two months in kickboxing and ju-jitsu just to be able to come across as credible,” Morrissey recalls. “He had done some wresting before, which was a great platform to build on, and he really excelled in his training. We shot the fight scenes last for the simple reason that if Caleb got hurt, we could finish the film with stunt doubles. And he was hurt, but not seriously. We threw him through a car window, he got bottles smashed over his head…he ended up doing all the fights, but when we wrapped, he was a mess!
“There is this scene when Sean confronts a drug dealer and gets his ass kicked,” Morrissey continues. “In the fight, one of the bad guys breaks a beer bottle over Sean’s head; of course, it was supposed to be a breakaway bottle that wouldn’t hurt that much. I yelled ‘Action,’ and the actors started fighting; the bottle got whacked over Sean’s head, but didn’t break. It was a real bottle. Everyone stopped, but I forgot to call cut. The actor holding the bottle swung a second time as hard as he could and smashed it over Sean’s head; he had no idea it was coming and went down like a ton of bricks. I screamed ‘Cut!!!’ and was like, ‘Oh, shit, he’s knocked out!’ I ran over to him and he had this blank look, he was just out of it. We had two more days to shoot, and I thought, ‘I just blew it. This kid is going to sue me and quit right here.’ Eventually, he came around like the trouper he was and worked the rest of the night. After that, I always called ‘Cut’ as loud possible.”
Injured actors weren’t the only problem when it came to filming these confrontations. “There’s a big fight scene on a New York subway car, and that was definitely the most challenging,” Morrissey says. “All we could afford was six hours filming there. It was crazy and it was July, so it was 100-plus degrees on the platform. It was awful! We ended up going back guerrilla-style and stealing establishing shots at 3 a.m. a few days later, because we didn’t have time to get them on the shoot day.”
In addition to the heat, Morrissey had to face a limited budget and tight shooting schedule. “We had a little over $500,000,” he reveals. “That may sound like a lot of money, but if you’re shooting in New York City, it’s nothing. We had 28 days to shoot, and it was really intense. That many days for this much action and scenes was really ambitious. Not to mention this was my first film and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a great crew who made it all possible, and I hope someday they will forgive me for working them like slaves.”
Perhaps they’ll work on one of his planned future films, which include a thriller called MOTHER. “It’s about a female serial killer who kidnaps little girls and murders them…and the one girl who gets away,” he says. “A nice family film.”
BOY WONDER’s premiere takes place Saturday, March 19 at 5:30 p.m. in Room #476 at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. Morrissey and his stars will attend the screening and do a Q&A, as well as sign autographs on the show floor (booth #621) March 18-19.
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