Home Video Hovel: Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Chances are you can close your eyes and visualize the movie posters for Back to the Future, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Big Trouble in Little China. What you might not realize is that these posters were illustrated by the same man: Drew Struzan. In Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, director Erik Sharkey covers Struzan’s life and artwork at a rapid clip. Sharkey also pauses to focus the shift from illustrated to contemporary movie poster design. It’s a compelling look at the man behind the posters that likely decorated your bedroom walls.
Drew: The Man Behind the Poster chronicles Struzan’s transition from a student at the Art Center College of Design to a working professional a little too quickly. His rise from drawing album covers to movie posters is fascinating, but the majority of the documentary focuses on his massive oeuvre of illustrated movie posters. Film directors (Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, George Lucas) and actors (Thomas Jane, Michael J. Fox, Sam Witwer) often chime in with their perspective on his iconic posters.
Not surprisingly, a lot of time is spent on Drew Struzan’s most famous posters for the Indiana Jones quadrilogy and the Special Edition re-releases of the original Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas amusingly describes Struzan’s typical movie poster design as a “mountain of people.” One of the better sequences features Lucas and Struzan analyzing framed pieces of his artwork for various Star Wars novels. The level of detail in his illustration brought warmth and life to iconic characters both flesh and felt; he illustrated the posters for all the Muppet movies up through Muppet Treasure Island. One of the more surprising admissions made by Struzan is that his poster for Police Academy 3: Back in Training is one of his favorites!
The transition of the modern movie poster from Drew Struzan’s illustrated style to modern Photoshop collages is touched on, but this could frankly be a documentary all on its own. Guillermo del Toro reveals that he spent his own money for Struzan to draw a movie poster for Pan’s Labyrinth when the studio wouldn’t pitch in, only to have them refuse to use his evocative poster for the official marketing materials. Steven Spielberg compares Struzan’s loyalty to hand-drawn illustration to his own fealty to shooting and editing his movies on 35 mm film. The increasing influence of business and studio politics on movie poster design causes Struzan to retire, although he still paints everyday. He still paints the occasional piece of artwork for a film or TV show, most recently for first season of The Walking Dead.
The DVD release of Drew: The Man Behind the Poster from Kino Lorber features some decent extras. The meatiest extra is a 21-minute excerpt from a 2013 San Diego Comic-Con panel featuring Drew Struzan along with actors Thomas Jane and Sam Witwer. There is also trio of extended interviews with Michael J. Fox, Guillermo del Toro, and Frank Darabont and theatrical trailers for Drew: The Man Behind the Poster and Sexina: Popstar P.I. (a live-action film also directed by Erik Sharkey with a poster by Struzan). A fascinating documentary about a fantastic artist, Drew: The Man Behind the Poster is pure bliss.
Sounds like my cup of tea, it’s now on the ol’ watchlist.
All the artwork on display in the documentary is really fun. It inspired me to check out a few books of Drew Struzan artwork from the library.