Woody Harrelson puts new spin on movie superhero

Sat Sep 12, 2009 1:05pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - It may be hard to imagine actor Woody Harrelson, known for his work to legalize marijuana among other causes, as Hollywood's next superhero, so don't.

Harrelson outfits himself in a skintight crime-fighting suit for his new movie "Defendor," which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, but for the low-budget film he is far less Superman and far more Don Quixote.

Quixote, the literary character who battled windmills and learned of the world in romance books, is not too different from "Defendor" Arthur Poppington, who dons a homemade costume adorned in duct tape and sets out nightly to battle crime and search for his long-time nemesis, Captain Industry.

"The world is his windmill," Harrelson told Reuters.

"Defendor" is part drama, part comedy, and it borrows from superhero films. But writer/director Peter Stebbings insists he is not spoofing big-budget Hollywood flicks like the Batman or Spider-Man movies. He said he is using elements of fantasy to explore real issues of social justice and mental health.

Stebbings said major studio executives could not fit "Defendor" in a specific genre, which made the script a hard sell in Hollywood, but the story's power eventually won out and he found financing in the low-budget, independent film arena.

"They (the studios) didn't want to touch it, but all the actors and their agents wanted to," he said.

"Defendor" attracted "Grey's Anatomy" star Sandra Oh and Kat Dennings ("Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist"), and Harrelson said the character Arthur was too compelling to pass up.   Continued...

<p>Actor Woody Harrelson poses during a photocall to promote the movie 'The Messenger' at the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin, in this February 9, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Files</p>