AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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American Splendor
Director: Robert Pulcini (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Aug 2003
Premiere Information:   Sundance Film Festival: 20 Jan 2003; Cleveland, OH opening: 20 Mar 2003; Cannes Film Festival: 16 May 2003; NY opening: 15 Aug 2003
Production Date:   18 Nov--Dec 2001 in Cleveland, OH
Duration (in mins):   100, 102 or 105
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Cast: In order of appearance Chris Ambrose (Superman)  
    Joey Krajcar (Batman)  
    Josh Hutcherson (Robin)  
    Cameron Carter (Green Lantern)  
    Daniel Tay (Young Harvey)  
    Mary Faktor (Housewife)  
    Paul Giamatti (Harvey Pekar)  
    Harvey Pekar (Real Harvey)  
    Shari Springer Berman (Interviewer)  
    Larry John Myers (Throat doctor)  
    Vivienne Benesch (Lana)  
    Barbara Brown (Nurse)  
    Earl Billings (Mr. Boats)  
    Danny Hoch (Marty)  
    James Urbaniak (Robert Crumb)  
    Eli Ganias (Pahls)  
    Sylvia Kauders (Old Jewish lady)  
    Rebecca Borger (Cashier)  
    Nick Baxter (Mattress guy #1)  
    Allen Branstein (Mattress guy #2)  
    Dick Prochaska (WWII patient)  
    Charles Eduardos (Doctor)  
    Judah Friedlander (Toby Radloff)  
    Robert Pulcini (Bob the director)  
    Toby Radloff (Real Toby)  
    Bianca Santos (Counter girl)  
    Maggie Moore (Alice Quinn)  
    Hope Davis (Joyce Brabner)  
    Mike Rad (Rand)  
    Amy K. Harmon (Cheery waitress)  
    Joyce Brabner (Real Joyce)  
    Donal Logue (Stage actor Harvey)  
    Molly Shannon (Stage actor Joyce)  
    Eytan Mirsky (Guitarist)  
    Rob Grader (Stage manager)  
    Terrence Sullivan (Letterman regular)  
    Ebon Moss-Bachrach (MTV director)  
    Patrick Lafferty (Yuppie)  
    Jesse Perez (Miguel)  
    Jeff Peters (Talk show host)  
    Ola Creston (PA #1)  
    Robert J. Williams (Cancer doctor)  
    James McCaffrey (Fred)  
    Madylin Sweeten (Danielle)  
    Danielle Batone (Real Danielle)  
    Jason Stevens (Letterman regular voice)  
    Todd Cummings (Talk show host voice)  

Summary: In 1975, Harvey Pekar, a disgruntled, highly intelligent yet largely self-educated man, works as a file clerk at a Cleveland Veterans’ Administration Hospital. Depressed by his lackluster existence, Harvey is also burdened with ill health and the imminent failure of his second marriage. When his wife, who obtained her doctoral degree with Harvey’s support, prepares to leave him, Harvey tries to beg her to stay, but a nodule on his vocal chords prevents him from speaking in more than a raspy whisper. Harvey, who suffers from an obsessive desire to collect things, has a huge assortment of comic books and jazz records. Attempting to assuage the pain of his divorce, Harvey scours thrift stores and garage sales for rare records, and remembers how, in 1962, he met artist Robert Crumb at a garage sale. The men’s mutual love of comics and jazz cemented their friendship, and Harvey, impressed by Crumb’s irreverent view of life, urged him to publish a comic book he had drawn. Crumb eventually moved to San Francisco and became one of the leaders of the “underground comics” movement, which sought to present adult themes in a more realistic manner than traditional comics. Crumb still visits Cleveland and Harvey, and during one visit, Harvey wishes that he could trade the growth that comes from bad experiences for a little happiness. When Crumb complains that he is tired of the comics “scene,” Harvey chides him, reminding him that he is making a living doing something he loves, as opposed to being stuck in a meaningless job. One day at work, Harvey reads the file of a deceased veteran who lived his entire life in Cleveland and worked as a clerk. Determined to make more of himself, Harvey goes home to create a comic of his own, but, unable to draw, must resort to illustrating his work with stick figures. The frustrated Harvey gives up and goes to the grocery store, but there is inspired by his irritation about standing in line and stays up all night completing his manuscript. Harvey shows his work to Crumb, explaining that he believes comics can be a true art form, and that he wants to write about everyday life, because “ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” Delighted with Harvey’s deeply felt, sometimes eccentric and anti-Yuppie observations, Crumb offers to illustrate his manuscript, which thrills Harvey so much that he suddenly regains the full strength of his voice. When Harvey’s first comic, entitled American Splendor , is published, he shows it to his co-workers, including Mr. Boats and Toby Radloff, who are pleased for him. Over the next seven issues and into the 1980s, Harvey continues to write about his daily life and includes his friends in his stories, which are illustrated by Crumb and other artists. Harvey receives recognition and praise from critics throughout the country, but is still financially dependent upon his VA job. One weekend, Harvey runs into Alice Quinn, an old school friend, and despite her delighted statement that he is famous, Harvey grumbles about his loneliness and pain. Harvey spends the rest of the weekend wallowing in his loneliness, but also contemplating how sweet life is. Meanwhile at the Cosmic Comics shop in Wilmington, Delaware, owner Joyce Brabner upbraids her partner, Rand, for selling her personal issue of American Splendor before she could read it. The intellectual but somewhat eccentric Joyce writes to Harvey to request a copy of the comic, and soon the two begin a correspondence. Their letters turn into phone calls, and eventually, Harvey asks Joyce to come to Cleveland for a face-to-face meeting. Joyce expresses her hesitation, as each artist who draws Harvey for his comic portrays him differently, but Harvey promises that he will try to be anyone she wants him to be. Despite her concern that she is a “notorious reformer,” Joyce agrees, and after an awkward first date, goes to Harvey’s apartment with him. Although their first kiss is immediately followed by Joyce throwing up, she realizes that they have much in common and tells Harvey that they should “skip the whole courtship thing” and get married. Surprised but pleased, Harvey agrees, and Joyce moves to Cleveland. Their marriage is rocky, however, with Joyce becoming frustrated over Harvey’s obsessive collecting and cluttered apartment, while Harvey is upset because Joyce does not seek work. Their life appears to take an upturn when a Los Angeles producer stages a play based on Harvey’s comic, which now includes Joyce as a regular character. Upon their return to Cleveland, however, Joyce expresses her desire to start a family, to which Harvey, who informed Joyce at their first meeting that he had had a vasectomy, is vehemently opposed. Their relationship worsens, as Joyce grows so depressed that she refuses to get out of bed. Joyce finally arises, however, when word comes that Harvey is wanted for an appearance on David Letterman’s television talk show. While Letterman is baffled by Harvey’s abrasive manner, Joyce is disgusted, feeling that Harvey is compromising his counterculture edge by pandering to the talk show host. Letterman’s audience loves Harvey, however, and he returns for several more appearances on the show. Although he enjoys the money from his appearances, Harvey feels that the show does little for the sale of his work, and that he is being used “for laughs.” A year passes, until one day, Harvey decides that he has had enough, especially when the publicity surrounding his comics results in Toby getting a job endorsing MTV, which, in reality, ridicules him. While Harvey is growing increasingly cynical, Joyce has begun seeking deeper meaning in her life and decides to travel to Jerusalem to write about children living in war-torn areas. During Joyce’s absence, Harvey discovers a lump in his groin, and his resulting anxiety, as well as his loneliness, causes him to lash out so harshly during one of his Letterman appearances that he is banned from the show. Upon Joyce’s return, she is pleased that Harvey is through with the show, but soon learns about his tumor. When the couple visits the doctor, he confirms that Harvey has cancer. Although Harvey declares that he wants to give up and die, Joyce insists that he should distance himself from the experience by writing a comic about it and documenting every detail of his treatment. Joyce hires artist Fred to illustrate the story, on which she collaborates with Harvey, who has agreed to the project. Due to his divorce, Fred is forced to bring his young daughter Danielle to his meetings with Joyce and Harvey, but Harvey is pleased to see how well Joyce and Danielle get along. During Harvey’s long, painful chemotherapy, he continues to document his progress, although he begins to wonder who he really is. A year later, Harvey and Joyce attend a book signing of their graphic novel, Our Cancer Year , which wins several book awards. They are relieved to learn soon after that Harvey is completely cancer-free, and Harvey muses on the fact that his cancer brought them Danielle, who moved in with them after Fred decided that they could care for her better than he. Although Harvey was nervous about being a father, he quickly adapts to and enjoys his new role. Time continues to pass, and Harvey ponders his life with Joyce, which is fruitful but still fraught with arguments, and the joy brought to them by Danielle, tempered by the problems caused by her Attention Deficit Disorder. Harvey finally retires from his job, and at the celebratory party, while Harvey receives a hug from Danielle and Joyce, the newest issue of American Splendor , entitled Our Movie Year , sits on his desk. 

Production Company: Good Machine  
Production Text: A Film by Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Distribution Company: HBO Films  
  Fine Line Features (AOL Time Warner)
Director: Robert Pulcini (Dir)
  Shari Springer Berman (Dir)
  Chip Signore (1st asst dir)
  Meryl Stavitz (2d asst dir)
  Eric Lasko (2d 2d asst dir)
  Matt G. Sheets (Addl 2d asst dir)
Producer: Ted Hope (Prod)
  Julia King (Assoc prod)
  Christine Kunewa Walker (Line prod)
  Declan Baldwin (New York unit line prod)
Writer: Robert Pulcini (Wrt)
  Shari Springer Berman (Wrt)
Photography: Terry Stacey (Dir of photog)
  Steven Drellich (Cam op)
  Oliver Cary (1st asst cam)
  Alex Esber (2d asst cam/B cam op)
  W. Kiely Cronin (2d asst cam/B cam op)
  Ian L. Axilrod (Cam loader)
  Ian Carmody (Cam intern)
  Alex Mangen (Cam intern)
  John Clifford (Stills photog)
  Steven Ramsey (Gaffer)
  Russell O. Wulff (Best boy elec)
  Julie Ann 'Doc' Lindstrom (Company elec)
  Lester Parker (Company elec)
  Chuck Cocita (Addl elec)
  George McDougall (Addl elec)
  Frank McKeon (Addl elec)
  Christy Taddeo (Addl elec)
  John Turk (Addl elec)
  Ronald Zabarsky (Addl elec)
  Dan Jarrell (Key grip)
  Matthew E. Jennings (Best boy grip)
  Joe Cassano (Dolly grip)
  Keith Nickoson (Company grip)
  Jack Yager (Company grip)
  Joseph L. McDermott (Addl grip)
  Jonathan Meyer (Addl grip)
  Michael F. Taylor (Addl grip)
  Adam White (Addl grip)
  Panavision (Cam, grip & elec equipment)
  DeLuxe Toronto (Prod dailies)
  Pat Meehan (24 frame playback)
Art Direction: Thérèse DePrez (Prod des)
  Tema Levine (Asst to prod des)
  Deborah Marsh (Art dept coord)
  Matthew T. (Art dept PA)
  Beth O'Brien (Art dept intern)
  Matt Hausmann (Art dept intern)
  Todd Heckeler (Art dept intern)
  Dustin Lucien (Art dept intern)
  Shaina Malkin (Art dept intern)
  Mike O'Neill (Art dept intern)
  Doug Allen (Orig artwork provided by)
  Greg Budgett (Orig artwork provided by)
  R. Crumb (Orig artwork provided by)
  Gary Dumm (Orig artwork provided by)
  Jason Gerstein (Orig artwork provided by)
  Dean Haspiel (Orig artwork provided by)
  Joe Sacco (Orig artwork provided by)
  Gerry Shamray (Orig artwork provided by)
  Frank Stack (Orig artwork provided by)
  Joe Zabel (Orig artwork provided by)
  Mark Zingarelli ("Our Movie Year" artwork by)
Film Editor: Robert Pulcini (Ed)
  Tim Streeto (Addl ed)
  Julia King (Post prod supv)
  Catherine Rankin (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Robert Desue (Set dec)
  Kenneth Kellers (Leadman)
  Diana Stoughton (On set dresser)
  Donald J. Liegl (Swing gang)
  David W. Mooney (Swing gang)
  Erika Rice (Swing gang)
  John Champion (Swing gang)
  Jack Gardner (Swing gang)
  James E. Todd (Swing gang)
  Mindy Harris (Prop master)
  Lynn Kramer (Props asst)
  Dean Macur (Props asst)
Costumes: Michael Wilkinson (Cost des)
  Murshel C. Lewis (Cost supv)
  Robin K. Fields (Key cost)
  Kimberlee Andrews (Cost asst)
  Sarah Silver (Ward intern)
Music: Linda Cohen (Mus supv)
  Mark Suozzo (Mus/Mus cond, orch and prod)
  Josh Rosenblum (Addl cond)
  Dave Douglas (Trumpet)
  Bob Malach (Tenor sax)
  Dale Stuckenbruck (Mus saw)
  Sanford Allen (Violin solos/Concertmaster)
  Derek Smith (Piano, organ, celeste)
  John Beal (Bass)
  Ronnie Zito (Drums)
  Ted Spencer (Mus rec and mixed by)
  Clinton Recording Studios (Rec at)
  Butch Jones at Back Pocket Recording (Addl rec)
  TRS Recording (Mixed at)
  Evyen Klean (Mus consultant)
Sound: Whit Norris (Sd mixer)
  Michael B. Davies (Boom op)
  C 5 Inc. (Sd ed)
  Sound One/C 5 Inc. (Mix facility)
  Ron Bochar (Re-rec mixer)
  Nicholas Renbeck (Supv sd ed)
  Allan Zaleski (Sd FX ed)
  Albert Gasser (Dial ed)
  Anne Pope (Dial ed)
  Jeff Stern (ADR ed)
  George A. Lara (Foley supv)
  Jay Peck (Foley artist)
  Chris Fiedler (Transfer asst)
  Alexa Zimmerman (1st asst)
  Ruth Hernandez (1st asst)
  Elisabeth Giglio (C 5 office mgr)
  Pivotal Post (Avid provided by)
  Janell Fletcher (Avid facility mgr)
Special Effects: Ian Carmody (Credit seq stills)
  Heavy Light Digital (Opticals & digital to film transfer)
  DuArt Digital (End crawl)
Make Up: Luisa Abel (Makeup dept head)
  R. Deanna (Hair dept head)
  Kathy Madison (Addl hair and makeup)
  Deborah R. Lilly (Hair and makeup swing)
Production Misc: Ann Goulder (Casting)
  Liz Baird (Principals casting asst)
  Marcy Ronen (Cleveland extras casting)
  Kendall Embrescia (Extras casting asst)
  Andy Wheeler (Prod supv)
  Melinka Thompson-Godoy (Good Machine prod exec)
  Chip Signore (New York unit prod mgr)
  Michael M. Rochford (Loc mgr)
  Jeremy Bailey (Asst loc mgr)
  Joe Cortese (Loc PA)
  Becky Woodward (Addl loc PA)
  Michael Taylor (Scr supv)
  Andy Bethke (Set prod asst)
  Chad Bronson (Set prod asst)
  Ryan J. Polack (Set prod asst)
  Elizabeth Rohrbaugh (Set prod asst)
  Devon Zeigler (Set prod asst)
  Amanda L. Preputnik (Addl set PA)
  David Lemoyne Jones (Addl set PA)
  Eric Muss-Barnes (Prod asst to cast)
  Chris Petro II (Prod asst to cast)
  Jason Gerstein (Office PA)
  Jason Cooper Hall (Asst to Christine Walker)
  Lamia Guellati (Asst to Ted Hope)
  Brian Cantaldi (Bookkeeper)
  Epstein, Levinson, Bodine, Hurwitz & Weinstein LLP (Legal counsel)
  Alison Cohen ([Attorney])
  Robert Fegen (Prod admin supv)
  Lesley Ward-Zickefoose (Prod secy)
  Jen O'Neal (Addl prod secy)
  Derrick Kardos (Clearance asst)
  Billy Lalor (Clearance asst)
  Thomas Titus McCue (Transportation coord)
  Wayne Conway (Transportation capt)
  Cheryl Dennis (Driver)
  Russ A. Minerd (Driver)
  Larry Spencer (Addl driver)
  Roman A. Wlaszyn (Picture car wrangler)
  Virginia M. Herdman (Craft service)
  Sara Lieberth (Craft service)
  Paula D. Collins (Craft service asst)
  William Ball (Addl craft asst)
  Tenable Security (Security)
  Premiere Caterers (Caterer)
  Michael Santeramo (Chef)
  Robert Langhorst (Asst chef)
  AON/Albert G. Ruben (Insurance)
  Entertainment Partners (Payroll services)
  Haddad's (Prod vehicles)
  Jennifer Freed (Post accountant)
  Trevanna Post, Inc. (Post accountant)
  Janet Eckholm (LA post prod supv)
  Linus Hume (Post prod coord)
  Mitchell Gutman (Post prod intern)
Animation: Twinkle (Anim, title seq & visual eff created by)
  Gary Leib (Des and anim)
  John Kuramoto (Anim and compositing)
Color Personnel: Alfredo Frasson (Col timer)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: “Paniots Nine,” written by Peter Dolger, performed by Joe Maneri, courtesy of Avant Records; “Chasin’ Rainbows,” written by Dallas String Band, performed by R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders, courtesy of Shanachie Entertainment Corp.; “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” written by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, performed by Lester Young & The Oscar Peterson Trio, courtesy of the Verve Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises; “Blue Devil's Jump,” written by Paul Quinichette, performed by Jay McShann, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products; “Taint Nobody’s Bizness (If I Do),” written by Everett Robbins and Porter Grainger, performed by Jay McShann, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products; “Stardust,” written by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish, performed by Dizzy Gillespie, courtesy of Savoy Records and June St. Entertainment; “Hula Medley,” traditional, performed by R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders, courtesy of Shanachie Entertainment Corp.; “Lady Be Good,” written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Dizzy Gillespie, courtesy of Savoy Records and June St. Entertainment; "All Black and White," written by Clair Marlo and Alexander 'Ace' Baker, performed by Studio Musicians, courtesy of FirstCom Music, Inc.; “My Favorite Things,” written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, performed by John Coltrane, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products.
Songs: "Soul Power," written by Captain, performed by Captain, courtesy of Killer Tracks; “Ain’t That Peculiar,” written by Robert Rogers, William Robinson, Jr., Marvin Tarplin and Warren Moore, performed by Marvin Gaye, courtesy of Motown Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises, and performed by Chocolate Genius, courtesy of V2 Records, Inc.; “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time,” written by Neville Fleeson and Albert Von Tilzer, performed by The Andrews Sisters, courtesy of MCA Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises; “Know Your Rights,” written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, performed by The Clash, courtesy of Epic Records/Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd., by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing; “Escape (The Pina Colada Song),” written by Rupert Holmes, performed by Rupert Holmes, courtesy of MCA Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises; “American Splendor,” written by Eytan Mirsky, performed by Eytan Mirsky; "Silent Morning," written by Noel Pagan, performed by Noel, courtesy of the Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises; "Big Ed," written by Mark Cherrie, performed by Mark Cherrie, courtesy of Opus One; “My City Was Gone,” written by Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders, courtesy of Warner Music U.K. Ltd, by arrangement with Warner Special Products.
Composer: Alexander 'Ace' Baker
  Captain
  Hoagy Carmichael
  Mark Cherrie
  Dallas String Band
  Peter Dolger
  Dorothy Fields
  Neville Flesson
  George Gershwin
  Ira Gershwin
  Porter Grainger
  Oscar Hammerstein II
  Rupert Holmes
  Chrissie Hynde
  Mick Jones
  Clair Marlo
  Jimmy McHugh
  Eytan Mirsky
  Warren Moore
  Noel Pagan
  Mitchell Parish
  Paul Quinichette
  Everett Robbins
  William Robinson Jr.
  Richard Rodgers
  Robert Rogers
  Joe Strummer
  Marvin Tarplin
  Albert Von Tilzer
Source Text: Based on the comic book series American Splendor by Harvey Pekar (Cleveland, 1976--) and the comic book Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner, illustrated by Frank Stack (New York, 1994).
Authors: Harvey Pekar
  Joyce Brabner
  Frank Stack

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Home Box Office, Inc. 24/7/2003 dd/mm/yyyy PA0001270415

PCA NO: 39761
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Digital in selected theatres
  col: DeLuxe Toronto
  Lenses/Prints: Panavision
  with anim seq:

 
Genre: Biography
 
Subjects (Major): Authors
  Joyce Brabner
  Comic books
  Cynics
  Fame
  Marriage
  Harvey Pekar
 
Subjects (Minor): Ambition
  Artists
  Cancer
  Cats
  Clerks
  Cleveland (OH)
  Collectors and collecting
  Depression, Mental
  Divorce
  Foster children
  Friendship
  Hospitals
  Jazz music
  Jellybeans
  Late Night with David Letterman (Television program)
  Loneliness
  Plays
  Retirement
  Spendthrifts
  Tea
  Television commercials
  Television programs
  Veterans' hospitals

Note: In the opening credits, just after title cards bearing the names of actors Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, a title card reads "From off the streets of Cleveland comes," followed by another card reading " American Splendor ." The phrase “From off the streets of Cleveland comes” appears on the cover of Pekar’s comics. Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman's credit reads "written and directed by." A number of individuals and organizations are given thanks in the end credits, including NBC Studios for providing footage of Late Night with David Letterman . An acknowledgment is also given to The Independent Eye, producer of the first live theatrical production based on the comic book American Splendor . The film's end credits state "Dave Douglas appears courtesy of RCA Victor Group."
       The film was inspired by the life of underground comic writer Harvey Pekar and his wife, Joyce Brabner, as recounted in Pekar's black-and-white comic book series, American Splendor , and the 1994 comic co-written by Pekar and Brabner, Our Cancer Year .
       The highly stylized film variously combines elements of a traditional narrative about Pekar with 2D comics from the American Splendor series and scenes of the real Pekar, who is shown both in archival footage and sequences shot especially for the film. At various points within the film, the real Pekar narrates the action, offering his thoughts and comments on situations within his life, the film and people he knows. Periodically, he is seen being interviewed in a starkly furnished setting by Springer Berman, who acted as the offscreen questioner. In a few places in the film, Pekar is shown wearing the same clothes and re-enacting a scene that has just been shown with Giamatti as Pekar. In one sequence, while working at the hospital, Giamatti and Judah Friedlander, who plays “Toby Radloff,” discuss Lent, religion and gourmet jellybeans. Giamatti and Friedlander then step off the hospital set onto the adjoining “documentary set,” where they listen as the real Pekar and Radloff sample more jellybeans and talk about their methods of coping with loneliness.
       Brabner is also interviewed in the film, at one point commenting that her husband is occasionally too hard on her, while Pekar listens, then says he is not. At the end of the story, the real Pekar and Brabner, along with their foster daughter Danielle, are shown at Pekar's 2001 retirement party at the Cleveland VA Hospital, with his actual co-workers gathered around him.
       The film's credits appear as comics, and throughout the film sketches drawn by R. [Robert] Crumb, Doug Allen and other artists turn into live action and vice-versa. At one point, near the end of the film, Giamatti walks into a completely white setting, and as he walks, a line, simulating the black ink lines in the comics, follows his footsteps, in effect creating a floor. Giamatti, as Pekar, then delivers a soliloquy centering on his unusual name and his feelings at discovering other "Harvey Pekars" in the Cleveland telephone directory. The soliloquy was taken from the first few pages of Pekar's initial American Splendor comic, published in 1976. The animation and titles were created by Gary Leib and John Kuramoto of Twinkle, a New York-based company.
       Pekar self-published the comics, on an average of one a year, until the early 1990s, when Dark Horse took over their publication. As shown in the film, Pekar himself was a writer, not an artist, and the comics were variously illustrated by noted underground comics artists Crumb, Allen, Greg Budgett and Gary Dumm.
       Actual clips from Pekar's 1986--1988 appearances on Late Night with David Letterman are shown; however, the eighth and final Letterman appearance in 1988 was re-created, with Giamatti as Pekar, and Todd Cummings as the "talk show host voice," as listed in the film's credits. During the final 1988 appearance, Pekar denounced General Electric, parent company of NBC, the network on which Letterman's show was then broadcast, as criminals. Although it is not mentioned in the film, Pekar appeared twice more on Letterman's show, in the early 1990s.
       In addition to being a writer of comics and a file clerk at the Cleveland VA Hospital, Pekar is a well-known jazz lover and published jazz critic. Many of the songs on the film's soundtrack were meaningful in his own life, according to the film's pressbook. In interviews, Pekar has been quoted as stating that the Marvin Gaye song "Ain't That Peculiar," which is featured prominently in the film, is "the soundtrack of my life."
       According to the pressbook, attempts had been made to adapt the American Splendor comics into a film since 1980. In the short comic "My Movie Year," written by Pekar for the film's DVD release, Pekar relate that director Jonathan Demme was the first person to contact him about the rights, but Demme could not raise funds for the project. Pekar also noted that, in the mid-1990s, comedian Rob Schneider was interested in starring in the film version. According to the pressbook, in 1998, when rights to the comics were again available, cartoonist and animator Dean Haspiel, who was a friend and colleague of Pekar as well as producer Ted Hope, facilitated a deal that eventually led to the 2003 film. The film was shot entirely on location in Cleveland, with its documentary portions shot in a Cleveland studio. According to a 16 Nov 2001 DV news item, the film was budgeted at under $2,000,000.
       American Splendor was the first narrative feature film of married filmmakers Springer Berman and Pulcini, who had previously made documentaries. It was also the first theatrical release of HBO Films. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 20 Jan 2003, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. In May 2003 the film was also shown in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival, where Pekar and Brabner celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary. American Splendor was also the closing night film at the Aug 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival.
       Throughout the promotion of the film, numerous articles have appeared on Pekar, prompting additional sales of his comics. He contributed a two-page comic entitled "Comics Are My Thing" to NYT in Aug 2003, which discussed his relationship to the film. The strip was drawn by artist Dumm, with color provided by Laura Dumm. In addition to being selected as one of the top ten films of the year by AFI, American Splendor was listed on over eighty top ten film lists, according to Pekar's website. Other accolades for the film include the following: Best Picture and Best Screenplay citations from the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; Special Achievement in Filmmaking and Breakthrough Performance Award for Giamatti from the National Board of Review; a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe nomination for Davis as well as the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Actress; and several Independent Spirit Award nominations, including Best Feature for producer Hope, Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations for Springer Berman & Pulcini, Best Male Lead for Giamatti and Best Supporting Male performance for Friedlander. Springer Berman and Pulcini also received WGA and Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   16 Nov 2001.   
Daily Variety   22 Jan 2003   p. 7, 23.
Daily Variety   23 Jan 2003   p. 13, 32.
Esquire   Sep 2003   pp. 116-18.
Hollywood Reporter   24-26 Jan 2003   p. 10, 47.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Feb 2003   p. 3, 25.
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 2003.   
Hollywood Reporter   25-27 Jul 2003   p. 1, 42.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Sep 2003.   
LA Weekly   28 Feb-6 Mar 2003   pp. 42-43.
Los Angeles Times   15 Aug 2003   Calendar, p. 1, 20.
The Nation   1-8 Sep 2003.   
New York Times   10 Aug 2003   The Arts, p. 9.
New York Times   15 Aug 2003   The Arts, p. 1, 23.
New York Times   1 Sep 2003.   
New Yorker   18 Aug 2003.   
Newsweek   11 Aug 2003.   
Rolling Stone   4 Sep 2003.   
Screen International   5 Sep 2003.   
Time   25 Aug 2003   p. 56.
Variety   27 Jan 2003   p. 24.
Village Voice   6 Aug 2003.   

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