New Film Puts GREATEST AMERICAN HERO Back in World of Tights


Turning comic books into movies isn't a new thing, but one comic creator went about it in a very backward way.

He started as a TV superhero and then wrote a comic book movie.

But for William Katt, going backward is something his fans would expect. After all, the clumsy caped crusader he played on The Greatest American Hero fought crime in an unconventional and even haphazard way.


Now, Katt has just finished filming an indie movie called Sparks that evolved from a comic he co-wrote with Christopher Folino. Based in a dark, noir world that resembles the 1940's, Sparks establishes a whole universe of heroes, villains and wise guys, played by beloved genre actors like Clint Howard, Clancy Brown and Jake Busey — along with a new genre actor named Chase Williamson.

"I've always been a comic book aficionado, so this was my kind of story," Katt told Newsarama about the idea behind Sparks. "After we wrote the comic a few years ago, we made the motion comic, but we really wanted to go ahead and make a movie out of it, but it didn't come together until the last half of last year. All of the sudden, it was like, hey, we've got the financing, let's go ahead and do it! So we changed the story a little for film, and now it's done."

"We had gained so much experience making toy commercials and [we] worked with such an amazing crew over the last two years that we invested in our people," Folino said, "and we were like, 'Let's do this.'"

Katt as Mantanza

Katt was cast in the film as Mantanza, the steampunk-inspired villain of the movie. He and Folino also attracted Busey and Brown with the script. "And I've worked in three films with Clint Howard," Katt said. "He's a great friend of mine."

But the real challenge came when Katt and Folino started looking for an actor to play main character Ian Sparks. They landed on a new face in Hollywood, Chase Williamson, who got a lot of positive buzz at the recent Sundance Film Festival for his role next to Paul Giamatti in the comedy-horror flick John Dies At The End.

Chase Williamson Riley Rose Critchlow & Chase Williamson

"I read the script [for Sparks] and I loved it immediately," Williamson told Newsarama of the role. "I think it's a really cool twist on the whole superhero genre"

The character of Sparks "grows up wanting to be a superhero after a tragedy, and he moves out to the big city to make it happen," Williamson said. "And then everything falls apart, and he turns his back on it. Then he finds himself being drawn back into it.

Ashley Bell and Williamson

"I thought it was a really interesting and human approach to how someone might actually handle wanting to be a vigilante crimefighter, and not being able to fulfill those goals," he said. "And how it might affect you psychologically. And I thought it was really well observed and really interesting, and fun to explore."

In the film, Sparks ends up meeting the feisty superheroine Lady Heavenly, played by Ashley Bell. "In the Sparks world, there are superheroes who have powers and superheroes that don't, and villains and thugs that exist within the world," Bell explained. "My character is a crimefighter, and she has no powers, but she's a straight-up fighter. She's been a crusader in this city, maintaining control, until she meets her match with Sparks. And they team up.

Clancy Brown

Bell is best known to horror fans as the star of The Last Exorcism — and its upcoming sequel — and she's a fan of Katt because of his roles in horror movies like Carrie and House. But it was the chance to play Lady Heavenly that attracted Bell to Sparks.

"It's a strong female role," she said. "When you find those, as an actress — to be able to find a strong character who is very sensual, but at the same time can kick serious ass — you just grab onto roles like that."

To get ready for the movie, Bell trained in Muay Thai fighting.

Jake Busey

"Half of my appearances in the film are me fighting, and Lady Heavenly speaks through her fighting and action and ass-kicking, for lack of better word," Bell laughed. "I'm only 5'3" and my first time out, I kick four guys. I pulverize them. So I thought, what would be the most realistic? And Chris sent me to Muay Thai fighting for all of pre-production. It was so much fun."

Folino, who co-directed the movie with Todd Burrows, said the film was shot over two weeks with a top-notch crew and facilities. "It wasn't a small production," Folino said. "We have stunts, explosions, classic cars and great acting. And it looks amazing."

Clint Howard

The filmmakers are done filming, and they're now editing the movie. But they haven't made a distribution deal yet. "We know we can get distribution with the cast alone," Folino said. "The aim is theatrical. We feel the movie is that special and strong. I know a great deal of indie films have illusions of grandeur however.

"We self-financed the movie, so we don't have to rush it and we can be very selective," Folino said. "It's an awesome feeling to walk into the edit bay and see Sparks being created on screen. From creating the comic book to the motion comic book, and now seeing it on film, it's where the characters and story belong."

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