Morgan Spurlock explores the world of male grooming: beards, batwings, metrosexuals, nose hairs, and more. Bonus: What do Jason Bateman and Will Arnett talk about during their Spa Day? After a successful debut at TFF 2012, Mansome opens in theaters on May 18.
Note: This interview originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. Mansome opens in theaters on Friday, May 18. Find tickets.
Tribeca: How do you describeMansome in your own words?
Morgan Spurlock: Mansome is a film that looks at the magical world of manscaping through the eyes of me, Will Arnett, and Jason Bateman. We asked that question: Do we live in a time when we've lost sight of what it truly means to be a man?
Tribeca: Where did the inspiration come from?
Morgan Spurlock: My producing partner Jeremy Chilnick and I had a conversation with Will and Jason, where we talked about this whole world of grooming and what it has become—and then about doing a film around it. It's very ripe for comedy and for commentary, and I just thought it would be a really fun project to work on.
Tribeca: What made you think about Will and Jason? Their interstitials are awesome.
Morgan Spurlock: Their interstitials are awesome. I was paired up with them by my friend, Ben Silverman, with whom I've worked before—on 30 Days. He suggested we get together, and I'm glad we did. It was great.
Tribeca: How did you find the other subjects?
Morgan Spurlock: We started searching around for people who fulfilled different roles of groom-tastic beings—who had to have this be a part of their lives. So through the casting process, we found a professional wrestler who has to shave literally everyday, as a part of his job—to go out and look like that big, shiny Adonis that you see in the ring—and we found the World Beard Champion, the one and only Jack Passion, who literally has a beard down below his waistline.
Tribeca: He's fantastic.
Morgan Spurlock: He's a riot. He will be at the premiere.
Tribeca: You feature a product in the movie with a very funny name: Fresh Balls. My husband and I watched this together, and he had never heard of "batwings" before, but now it's our new favorite phrase.
Morgan Spurlock: Batwings. You gotta make sure you clear up your batwings.
Tribeca: How did you find this guy?
Morgan Spurlock: [Laughs.] That's a great question. I have no idea. It was one of those things where we just started working on the film and thinking, "What should we cover?" I think our producer, Meri Haitkin, stumbled upon Fresh Balls and said, "You have to look at this." And as soon as I went on the website and saw some stuff—there was a video online, with somebody talking about it—and I just thought, "We have to shoot with this guy."
Tribeca: Side note—isn’t there a woman's version too? I think I saw it in one of the shots...
Morgan Spurlock: It's called Fresh Boobs. It comes in a pink bottle, as opposed to the manly, gray ball version.
[Editor's note: do not Google Fresh Boobs, looking for a link, at work.]
Tribeca: So where do you think you fall on the metrosexual scale?
Morgan Spurlock: I'd say I fall very far to the not-quite-metrosexual end of the spectrum. For me, getting up, getting dressed, and leaving the house is 20 minutes. I am up and out very quickly. There are days when I don't even shave, but I do still shave around this mustache on my face. So I feel like I am still in the man grooming territory, because I have literally shaved around this ridiculous mustache for eight years.
Tribeca: In the movie, you shaved off your mustache for charity, which made your son decidedly unhappy. So it’s back now?
Morgan Spurlock: The mustache is back. My kid is not scarred anymore. [Laughs.] It's much better. I remember when I was a kid and my dad had a beard and he shaved it off, and I freaked out when I saw him.
Tribeca: I remember that with one of my best friends in high school—her dad had a beard forever and then it was gone, and it really was the weirdest thing.
Morgan Spurlock: It was creepy, it was like: Who’s this man in the house? [Mimicking a child's voice:] “You're not Daddy!”
Tribeca: So what do you want audiences to take away from the film?
Morgan Spurlock: I think one of the underlying messages is that you can still be a man even in the midst of lotions and moisturizers and all of these things. And, ultimately, that there is someone for everyone. While you may not like that groomed, Barbie guy, there's probably some girl who loves that guy. Or you may be like the girl at the end of the movie who wants a guy who can put up a shelf in her apartment. I think that there is someone for everyone. I think that's the underlying message of this movie.
Tribeca: How did you cast the women who talk about what they want in a man?
Morgan Spurlock: Through multiple places. Either friends of ours who work at [my] office, or folks who knew people that we thought would be great to bring in and talk to us. We put out casting calls for people to come in and tell us about their thoughts on men who they thought were over- or under-groomed. And we literally struck gold with some of these people that came in to talk to us.
Tribeca: You did. I mean, Ricky, the metrosexual guy...
Morgan Spurlock: Amazing.
Tribeca: I mean, he blowdries his underarms.
Morgan Spurlock: He takes, like, an hour+ to get ready—sometimes two hours—before he leaves the house. As Adam Carolla says, "You've got to love you some YOU to take that long to get out of the house."
Tribeca: I get after my husband about his nose hairs, but that's about it. That's the one thing that drives me crazy.
Morgan Spurlock: You have to take care of the nose and the ear hairs. Because now I'm 40, and my ear has turned into my grandfather's ear. I don't know when that happened, but somewhere, suddenly, my ear turned into a turnip patch. You have to trim those things down. So you do, and then a week later you have something sticking out like a weed. So I do pay attention to that.
Tribeca: Was there a crazy thing or a lightning strikes moment that happened during production?
Morgan Spurlock: The day that we found out about Mantyhose, I was kind of blown away. You've heard of guyliner, but now that there's Mantyhose, which is pantyhose for men… I think we need to draw the line somewhere.
Tribeca: Women don't even really wear them anymore.
Morgan Spurlock: Exactly. Neither should men.
Tribeca: Do you have any advice for aspiring documentarians? And is there one particular thing you learned on Mansome that you didn't know from your other films?
Morgan Spurlock: Well, I also didn't know what a batwing was… [laughs]
The message I give to filmmakers all the time is: don't put off making a movie. It doesn't take a ton of money; it takes more sweat equity than anything else. You don't have a camera? Find someone with a camera. You don't know how to edit? You can find someone who will edit. But just dive in and start telling your story. Make your movie.
I know so many people who continue to build these obstacles around them, and most of them are mental more than anything else. And just don't give up, because I went to film school with amazingly talented people—infinitely more talented than me—who are now great and talented bankers, or accountants, or real estate brokers. Who somewhere along the way said, “This business is too hard for me,” and bailed out.
Tribeca: What are you most looking forward to about Tribeca?
Morgan Spurlock: It's my hometown Festival, so for me, it's always exciting to be here. I love when it happens. I love that we have that great cornerstone film festival that's happening. I love why it came to be and that it's continuing to prosper. I think it's fantastic.
Tribeca: Switching gears, if you could have dinner with any filmmaker alive or dead, whom would you choose?
Morgan Spurlock: I actually just had this conversation with someone! Oh, alive or dead, that's more difficult. If it's alive, I have yet to meet Steven Spielberg, so if it's someone who's alive, I would love to meet Steven Spielberg. I just met Tim Burton in London, and I was beyond excited; I was giddy like a little 8-year-old. That was very, very exciting for me.
But if it was a filmmaker who was dead, my favorite movie of all time is A Face in Crowd, by Elia Kazan. I think I would love to have dinner with Elia Kazan.
Morgan Spurlock: It's probably going to be the funniest documentary you're going to see at Tribeca. I think that's the biggest reason. And just to hear some of the things that come out of Zach Galifianakis' mouth is worth the price of admission. There were so many things in his interview that didn't even make it into the film. There are things when I watch the movie, like his Adrien Brody quote… [You have to watch the movie!]
Tribeca: It's funny though, as a woman—there's something about him that's oddly attractive.
Morgan Spurlock: He's very lovable; I think that's the thing. Yeah, he's very handsome, and as he says, he's “a strong 2.” [Laughs.]
Tribeca: What would your biopic be called if we were to make a movie of your life? Either now or in 50 years when they're writing the story of your life?
Morgan Spurlock: Still Mansome. Still Mansome After All These Years.
Morgan Spurlock became a household name after the runaway success of 2004's Super Size Me, which won best doc director at Sundance and was nominated for an Oscar. His credits include Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a segment of Freakonomics (TFF 2010), and the FX series 30 Days.