Occasionally, a great nugget of Sci-Fi and Comic Book Hero goodness falls onto our plate. ‘Liberator’ the movie, has the potential to be a tasty morsel that we can sink our teeth into! ‘Liberator’ is a dark, superhero action, short film pilot that was shot in Los Angeles,CA this past June. Festival screenings will begin in early 2012.
Al Migliocetti, the Liberator, becomes public enemy number one after having to take the wrap for a botched US black ops job. He winds up being sent to Federal prison despite all the good he’s done for his country. Once considered an American icon, his status is quickly obliterated, and after he gets out of prison has to face today’s times with everyone in America hating him – including his own family who turned on him as well. Out of desperation to clear his name and win the love of his daughter back, he does what many disgruntled Americans with a story to tell do – write a tell all book. Just when he starts putting back the pieces of his life, an evil enemy resurfaces forcing him to don the uniform and once again become the Liberator.
Executive producer Jim Cirile is very excited about this project, and that excitement shines through when you talk to him. With a cast like this, how could you not be excited? Lou Ferrigno, whom I saw for the first time in 1977 as The Incredible Hulk, plays the former super soldier Al Migliocetti/Liberator. I have caught Lou in tv and film throughout the years. His starring role as Hercules in the early 80’s was a very prominent memory of mine. I have to say I was thrilled to see him make a cameo appearance in the 2008 reboot of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ with Edward Norton and think he’s a great choice for this role.
Another thrill for me, is to see the return of Michael Dorn. ‘Star Trek’ fans know him as Lt. Worf from ‘The Next Generation’ as well as ‘Deep Space Nine’. Many are not familiar with the fact that Michael has had a great career, with an associate producer role on ‘The Deep Below’ with Marina Sirtis, and five director titles under his belt as well.
The first time I’d ever seen Peta Wilson was the in 1997 TV series, ‘La Femme Nikita’ and I remember thinking what a unique beauty she possessed to go along with her sultry, secret agent role. I loved her as Mina in ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ and I’m looking forward to seeing her again.
We would be remiss not to mention an acting great taking his post as President Whitlock in this action Hero film, Edward Asner who boasts well over 250 acting roles in his amazing career.
‘Liberator’ also stars Don “The Dragon” Wilson as Sidewinder, Tara Cardinal as Gaia the new government superhero recruit, and Jessica Jade Andres as the Liberator’s estranged teen daughter.
Hero films have always excited me – I grew up reading Marvel and DC comics in the seventies and eighties and a film like this, well, I’d have been elated!
SF: Is this one of your first directing gigs, or do you have others under your belt?
Aaron Pope: I directed a feature called TAPHEPHOBIA, starring Danny Trejo and Estella Warren, but the majority of my experience comes as a writer. I have 12 produced film credits as a writer, five as a producer, and now two as a director. This was a particularly exciting project to direct because Jim and I made a conscious decision early on to be ambitious. This is a big project in many ways, with special effects, big fight sequences, a ton of locations and big-name actors, and a lot of people balk at trying to pull something like that off on an indie budget. But Jim and I were certain we could do something amazing so we surrounded ourselves with people of a similar mind and it paid off, big-time.
SF: Where did the idea for Liberator come from initially?
Aaron: Jim mentioned the idea to me about two years ago and I thought, wow, that sounds amazing. No way anything on the page could live up to my expectations at that point. But then, Jim emailed me the first script for it and I was absolutely blown away. Over the next two years, we developed and shaped the material, making sure it was absolutely bulletproof before moving forward on it. The idea was always to do a superhero story that didn’t take place in a fantasy world but in the here and now, with a real man, a father, dealing with the pitfalls of parenthood while also navigating the politics of right now. We knew the story needed stakes and size, which is why it has the high action and vfx level but we also new that the human element was what would really set it apart. It needed heart. That’s why we integrated a storyline with the main character’s estranged daughter that really gives us a look not just at his superhero persona but at his humanity.
SF: How did you, or Jim, get in touch with actors like Lou Ferrigno, Michael Dorn, Peta Wilson and Ed Asnor?
Aaron: Jim reached out to Lou, and he was hooked from the outset. Even as we developed the material, we knew we had him on-board because he connected with the character. We wrote a role specifically for Ed Asner and he was amazingly accomodating. We went through their reps to get to Peta and Michael but in every case, they responded strongly to the script and to the roles and I gotta say, when they got to set, they all really brought it.
There are some absolutely amazing performances in this movie and it’s all because these actors were so willing to let themselves go raw and open up completely. We went directly to Don “the Dragon” Wilson, Darwin Harris, and Tara Cardinal, all of whom really responded to the roles and jumped on-board with amazing enthusiasm. The only role we cast through auditions was Sonya, Al’s daughter, played by Jessica Jade Andres in what I can only describe as a breakout performance. Like I said, we knew we needed heart in this story and the dynamic between Lou and Jessica delivers it in ways even more amazing than I ever envisioned.
We also spoke to Jim Cirile, Executive Producer/Co-Writer for ‘Liberator’, and here is what he had to say:
SF: Are you enjoying your role as producer?
Jim Cirile: Actually I’m the Executive Producer/Co-Writer :) Steven L. Austin is our producer. And HELLS YEAH! This is the movie I have dreamed of making for four decades. I always wanted to do a superhero movie, and specifically one that has a realistic approach to it. Lou Ferrigno is a friend of the family, and I always knew we had access to an internationally known icon – so I had to find a role for him. I got to thinking, what would life be like for a Superman or Cap America type if they really existed through the last decade of the US permanent war agenda? So Aaron and I came up with a little personal story set against a great big backdrop. We have a guy who is a former icon, a true American hero, who has been used and abused for his patriotism and thrown under the bus. Now he’s branded a traitor, a pariah; he’s got nothing left, and even his own kid won’t even talk to him. This is a role that speaks to me on many levels, and so yeah, enjoying my role of producer? If you can call a dream come true ‘enjoying,’ then I’d say yep! Seriously, we have Lou Ferrigno, Peta Wilson, Michael Dorn and Ed Asner in our movie. Need I say more?
SF: I don’t suppose Stan Lee will make a cameo, will he? haha
Jim: With all due respect to the great Stan the Man, LIBERATOR is an original character created by Aaron and I. Nothing to do with Stan or Marvel. And BTW, Stan, if you’re reading this, bring back Who Wants to Be a Superhero? That show was fun as heck. Seriously though, launching an original superhero character these days is almost impossible. That’s why we knew there was only one person who could play the Liberator — Lou Ferrigno, because he already is a superhero. In Lou we already have superhero cred and branding. Add to that the amazing art of Darren Auck, former Marvel Comics Art Director, who is doing our comic art prologue, and we have a solid launch for a new hero that we believe, unlike many comic superhero icons, is incredibly relevant to our time and what’s going on in the world right now.
SF: Are you thinking about any other projects right now?
Jim: Yes, we’re thinking about finishing the movie (please visit our Kickstarter page to help, and see footage from the movie, interviews with the cast and more!) and then expanding it into a feature. We have some connex for people to take it to and some interest as well. After LIBERATOR, Aaron and I have some script assignments we need to write and then next year we hope to shoot FALLOUT, our airliner trapped in a nuclear maelstrom thriller. We are big Sci-Fi geeks and will always honor the icons (I hired George Takei for my last movie.) LIBERATOR is by fans, for fans–and everyone else too, but specifically, this is my way of giving back to all you guys and me too!
Lou Ferrigno had this to say in an interview with ‘Muscle Ink’: “Jim [Cirile] knows a lot about me, being the Hulk, being the hero and being a bodybuilding champion. He wrote the script with me in mind because he knew it would be a great vehicle for me. When I read the script, I knew he got it right.”
‘Liberator’ needs funding and die hard science fiction fans like us can help them by donating at Kickstarter.com like we did. There are only 4 days left to help them meet their goal. They are offering awesome incentives for donating including, but not limited to things such as autographed memorabilia, your name in the credits, digital downloads, art and so much more.
I leave you with one last thought from their Kickstarter page:
“The truly unique thing about Liberator is that, unlike other superhero flicks out there, it’s based very much in the politics of now. This is a real person in the real world. He’s a superhero, yes, but he’s also a man and a father, dealing with the things that affect us all as humans. It’s this personal, emotional element that really sets this character, and this project, apart. Our goal is to use this short to launch a new franchise, in whatever form that takes — TV series, feature, web series, you name it. Since every one of our cast has starred in hit TV shows and movies, we feel pretty psyched, and we hope you are, too! As comics and sci-fi fans, we assembled the cast that WE would want to see in a movie.”