Defendor is a Canadian comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Stebbings, and starring Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings and Sandra Oh. The story tells of a regular man who adopts the persona of a superhero named Defendor on a quest to find his arch enemy. Defendor, Stebbings' feature film debut, was written in 2005 and filmed in January 2009 in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and is slated for North American theatrical release in February 2010.
Arthur Poppington is a regular but delusional man who believes that he is a superhero named Defendor. He combs the city streets at night in search of his arch enemy, Captain Industry, befriending a young prostitute in his quest.
Defendor is actor Peter Stebbings' first produced screenplay and his debut as a director. He wrote the first draft of his Defendor script in 2005 when the idea came to him "in one whole piece". He failed to sell the script to numerous major Hollywood studios because it did not fit into a particular genre; he said that "[The studios] didn't want to touch it, but all the actors and their agents wanted to." Nicholas Tabarrok of independent production company Darius Films agreed to back the project after he "was hooked from the very first read", and agreed to fly Stebbings from Toronto to Los Angeles so that he could meet the actors. Ellen Page was at one stage attached to star when production was slated to begin in 2007, but pulled out. He collected financing from Canadian film fund Telefilm Canada—about one quarter of the film's C$4 million budget—and "turn[ed] over stones to find the rest". After he added all of his personal savings, the film was still $100,000 under its financial requirements. Though principal photography was scheduled to take place from November 21 through December 17, 2008, it was delayed until mid-January 2009 and continued through the end of January. Filming took place in and around in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. Specific filming locations included the Hamilton City Centre, Humber River Regional Hospital and a Toronto warehouse.
Defendor had its world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival in September. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group acquired the distribution rights to the film in the United States and most of Asia, Europe and South America. The Canadian rights were pre-sold to Alliance Entertainment as part of the film's financing deals.
However, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group decided to not release the film in the United States theatrically, so Darius Films (which produced the film) will self-release the film in the United States theatrically on Feburary 26, 2010.
Paul Carter: Do you remember when you saved Jack's life? I'll never forget what you did that day. You were just a regular guy doing something remarkable. You don't need a costume. Ordinary people, they do extraordinary things all the time. You're always going to be that hero, Arthur, just by being yourself.
Arthur Poppington: There are at least eight ways to break out of this dump. I'm taking the front door.
Constable Mike: Captain, this guy is pretty funny. He says he wants to call a truce.
Captain Fairbanks: A vigilante?
Constable Mike: No. No, he's a superhero. He calls him Defendor. And that's with an O-R, Captain. It's not an E-R. Defendor. And he flips out if you get that wrong. It's very bizarre.
Harrelson shines, particularly in framing scenes with Sandra Oh as a tactful court psychiatrist. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey of Variety.
For all its aspirations, the film never meshes into something cohesive or substantial. Its naive earnestness has its charms, but like its title character, Defendor never takes flight. Reviewed by: Glenn Whipp of The Los Angeles Times.
Like his protagonist, writer-director Peter Stebbings uses his limited resources wisely. This Canadian film teems with originality, even though its entire budget probably wouldn’t cover the catering costs of Batman Begins. Defendor is hard to categorize – the smart script delivers a poignant character study of an ostracized man-child, a meditation on the nature of heroism and several hilarious digs at comic-book clichés. Reviewed by: Greig Dymond of CBC News.