Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
Those who were around for wild televised stunt performances in the ’70s, or who have studied the annals of weird human behavior, may remember The Human Fly. The Fly was a masked stuntman who claimed to be the greatest daredevil who ever lived. Under his mask, the Fly was reportedly a man who survived a car crash only by having 60% of his body re-made out of steel. Hist most famous stunt was surfing atop a commercial jet at 5,000 feet, at speeds of more than 250mph.
Marvel Comics published a comic book series called The Human Fly from ’77 to ’79, where the stuntman was turned into a ‘real-life superhero.’ A film about the Human Fly has been in development for years, and today there was an announcement that it is moving forward once again. And while The Human Fly was a Marvel Comics character at one point, this is not a Marvel movie.
I spoke with director Steven Goldmann (Trailer Park of Terror, and director of many music videos) about what he’s trying to do with the project, and he described his intent to create a period piece that focuses both on the Human Fly and the man who “created” and promoted him. Goldmann wants to make a movie that incorporates real footage as it exaggerates some of the weirder aspects of the story, for a film that could have echoes of Catch Me if You Can and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Deadline reported that Alan Brewer and Steven Goldmann picked up the rights to The Human Fly, and that they’re working with Eisenberg-Fisher productions, based on the Paramount lot, to make an indie based on the story, with Goldmann directing. In fact, while the association with Eisenberg-Fisher is relatively new, Goldmann, Brewer, and screenwriter Tony Babinski have been working on the project for some time. (They’re all listed on the film’s website.)
I was happy to hear Goldmann mention Confessions of a Dangerous Mind when we talked, because that was something I had in my head every time I learned more details about the Human Fly. There’s also a dual personal angle to the project, in that Goldmann is from Montreal, the city that spawned the Fly. And like Joe Ramacieri, the man who represented and promoted the daredevil, Goldmann was born into a family business that he wasn’t interested in, and sought an entertainment career as an alternate path.
Some background: the Fly was reportedly a guy named Rick Rojatt, who claimed to be a former movie stuntman who survived the crash that killed his family, but there are no records of Rojatt working in Hollywood, and the Fly’s true story has never been revealed. There’s reason to suspect that the true man behind the mask has an even weirder story than anyone has reported, but I’ll leave that for the film.
The stuntman was the product of would-be impresario Ramacieri, a sausage maker, who was one of a small group of people who pushed the Fly as a pre-fab star. As the short video documentary embedded below says, “He’s the core of a five-year marketing plan which is supposed to have him cross the English Channel clinging to the side of a rocket, and then diving from the top of Toronto’s CN Tower into twenty feet of water.” That documentary material, by the way, was created by Goldmann some time ago, before the current plans for the feature took shape.
(And here’s a weird tidbit that was reported to the web via an article comment, but which Goldmann seemed to verify for me today: at one point Ramacieri employed a young woman who would deliver contracts and pick up checks related to the whole Fly enterprise. Her name was Cyndi Lauper. Yeah, that Cyndi Lauper.)
The Fly tried and failed to best Evel Knievel’s record of jumping a motorcycle over 13 buses, after which he disappeared. (Read a great account of that attempt here.) Most of the plans for the Fly never materialized, thanks to the failed attempt to best Kneivel’s record. But the Fly endures as a mysterious daredevil who isn’t quite lost to history. There was a brief moment where it looked like he was going to attempt a singing career, but the Fly fell out of the public eye soon after.
Goldmann touched on the “con man angle” that was inherent in the way that Ramacieri ran the Human Fly business (check out Ramacieri’s comment in the footage below, about how the Fly dying might not be bad for biz), and said that the movie is, in part, “a pretty crazy comedy” with reference to The Hangover. He wants to keep the film really tied to and inspired by the real events and stunts, as evidenced by the ambition to incorporate real footage. He summarized,
The Human Fly is about – Joe says it in the documentary footage and the movie kinda ends this way — a lot of people shoot off their mouth and never do the stuff they say they’re going to do. These guys, especially Joe, really did it.
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