THE DIRECTOR’S TAKE
It took no time at all for Paul Vachon to pin me down, figuratively speaking, even if I’m not a wrestling fan. There was no turning back for me after our first interview, which would eventually metamorphosize into a five-year-long adventure. I thought I would be pointing my lens toward the past, but I found myself thrust into the present, in a story that Paul continued to write day after day. He forged ahead, as if he were still at the wheel of his Lincoln Continental, with a half-chugged bottle of beer nestled between his massive thighs. The once-imposing Butcher is now a much more approachable peddler of trinkets, although loyal fans aplenty are still thrilled to bask in his glory. All I could do while filming him was hop in and enjoy the ride… and say, “Coming!” every time he called out, “Ready?” Not only because I felt he might not have much time left, but also because he had me in the equivalent of a storytelling headlock. My gape-jawed fascination with Paul was no more and no less than that of a little boy at a sideshow. Everyone working on the film felt the same way. It was this sense of awe and wonder that we felt compelled to bring to an audience. So we consciously decided to take everything our larger-than-life protagonist told us at face value. We became the enraptured crowd cheering on the main event. We bought into the kayfabe, willingly and happily suspending our disbelief.
Carnivals, clowns, parades and merry-go-rounds. At 80, Paul spends most of his time at fairs and bazaars, where he sells memorabilia and other merchandise with his wife Deanna. For this raconteur extraordinaire, these environments are the perfect backdrop for sharing his stories with whoever wants to hear them.
This circus-like look and feel became a strong inspiration for the film. From the carefully curated soundtrack all the way to the muted color palette, every detail was thought out to enhance the vintage texture, which aptly reflects our main character’s mindset and lifestyle.
Given the epic proportions of the life of this mountain of a man, it seemed only fitting to use the structure and beautifully crafted illustrations of a storybook to frame the film and immerse the audience into a “once upon a time” world, populated by wrestlers of mythical strength and stamina. The contents of the storybook are inspired by some of Paul’s own writing. A narrator, whose melodious yet knowing tone of voice matches Paul’s, reads key excerpts to provide a sense of consistency and continuity throughout the film. The two voices intertwine seamlessly, blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, and creating a smooth-flowing narrative that stirs the emotions and evokes a powerful sense of nostalgia.