In previous years, I’ve written about the autograph things I’ve seen at Comic Con for the readers here. This year, I didn’t go to Comic Con. One of my artist friends did an event next to an illustrator from the Simpson’s, and he met and got an autograph from Matt Groening.
Another friend of mine hung out and partied with Danny Trejo (Machete).
Two of my friends were surprised to see at autograph booths, they could meet Sandra Bullock and Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride). They were signing lots and lots of autographs.
I did go to downtown San Diego, but that’s because I was asked to host a few showings of a great documentary called Drew: The Man Behind the Poster.
I interviewed him and the director, and did a Q&A with the audience. I thought I’d take some excerpts here that you might find interesting.
There are only a few things related to autographs, but…if you ever meet Mr. Struzan in person, he is great about signing. Same thing at Comic Con. You can also buy limited edition prints, and amazing paintings off his website.
Here’s a bit about what we discussed.
I started out by saying “I got to know your work with album covers first, because of my record collection. Since movie poster art has changed, and we know your feelings on that from the movie…what are your thoughts on album cover art? Fans used to play the record, and stare at art work by you, or artists like Roger Dean (Yes). Then in the early ‘90s, it was all put relegated to a small CD sleeve. You can barely see the art work.”
Drew Struzan: I didn’t care. I had already stopped doing album covers long before that.
Josh Board: One of the things I loved about your movie posters is that they sometimes make the actors look funnier. The way Walter Matthau looks at Jack Lemmon, or those Don Knotts eyes. Although I think you did make Marty Feldman’s eyes a lot wackier than they really were. Did he ever complain about that?”
Drew Struzan: He had died before he had a chance to complain about it.
Josh Board: It’s interesting how the actors faces can look funny, yet not be caricatures. Your Police Academy poster shows each character trait, even comedian Michael Winslow’s mouth moving, as if he’s in the middle of making a sound effect. It’s why Harrison Ford was praising you so much.
Audience member: Which movie poster is your favorite?
DS: I can’t really answer that. It’s like trying to pick which child is your favorite.
JB: Well, let’s ask director Erik Sharkey his favorite. He’s sitting right there.
ES: I really don’t have a favorite. It’s the same situation. I love them all. The Indiana Jones one might mean more to me, just because of my age and that time of my life when I saw it.
JB: Why did you decide to do a documentary on Drew?
ES: I grew up in a bad part of New York. When I’d go to the movie threatre, I’d look at all the movie posters. It was like a gallery. As I would walk by looking at them, it seemed like 8 out of 10 were his. I didn’t know anything about him, just the name Drew Struzan.
DS: Well…they do say you should try to live up to your name.
Audience member: Steve Spielberg is an art collector. Does he have any of your work?
DS: No, he doesn’t. George Lucas bought everything I had related to Star Wars. He wanted to be an illustrator and he really appreciates the art. He has it hanging all over the place. Spielberg has bought some of my stuff, but he does that to give it away. He gave one painting to John Williams.
“I was at an art gallery in Pasadena years ago, and saw this painting you did of Abraham Lincoln. It was amazing. I had never seen that type of work from you. What inspired you to do that?
DS: Well…Lincoln inspired me! You know, that same picture you’re talking about…I saw the movie Lincoln. The Academy must be crazy, because that movie deserved to win every award there was. I knew somebody that was going to lunch with Steven. I told him to give the painting to Spielberg. He saw it and started crying.
At this point, all of us in the theatre were in tears as well.
Audience member: How many movie posters have you done?
DS: I don’t know! How many hours have you worked at your job?
Audience member: Too many (crowd laughs, Drew smiles).
DS: I just never know how to answer questions like that. This was a job for me and I was always given a lot of projects to do. I was working 12 hour days, sometimes 18 hours. I just wouldn’t even know how to begin to answer that. And what about movies like Hellboy or E.T.? I did posters for those films and the studio didn’t use them. Do I count those?
Josh Board: I can sort of answer part of his question. I saw some press materials that stated Drew did over 200 movie posters.
DS: So there ya go!
JB: I know everybody asks you all these questions about your movie posters, but I’ve always loved album cover art. You did albums for people like Earth Wind & Fire, the Bee Gees, Tony Orlando & Dawn. I just wonder if when you did Sabbath Bloody Sabbath…did you put the record on afterwards and think – ‘Yikes! Ozzy does a lot of screaming.”
DS: I never did that. I’m not a musician. It’s not my job to do that. You’re the critic. It’s what other people do.
Josh Board: We often hear stories about old blues musicians or early rock bands that had the rights to their songs basically stolen from them. Since you were doing these amazing album covers, and being paid only $250 for them…now when the bands have T-shirts with those logos, or things like this (I pull out my Black Sabbath CD)…because when you got your payment back then, it was for an album cover. They never said that in the future there would be CDs. Or when you did the art, was it just signed over to them and they owned it?
DS: I don’t get anything for these. That often happens with the artists. They can be paid very little. I was just at Comic Con and signed a thousand posters. I didn’t get any kick back or anything for that. I’m thrilled that people love the work. It’s nice that my work is being seen.
JB: They mentioned in the movie that you made yourself the dying man on the cover of that Black Sabbath album. That was a brilliant idea. You should’ve taken that approach with the movie posters. Indiana Jones could be standing there with his whip, and you’d be right there behind him, looking over his shoulder. There could be a light saber fight in Star Wars, and there you’d be near a storm trooper.
DS: (as he points to me) What is with this guy?
JB: But getting back to you signing all those posters without being paid…if you ever get to a point where you need the money, you can always go to Comic Con and get a booth and charge for your autograph. There would be long lines paying the money for your signature. I mean, every year Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) is there. He charges $25 an autograph, and there are always 4 or 5 people standing there waiting. He’s just a tall guy that wore that Chewbacca suit.
Drew Struzan: Then I better get a Chewbacca suit.
If you want to read my review on the documentary, or the rest of this interview with poster artist Drew Struzan, click my link here: