Own a Piece of Comic Book Movie History
CBM's own Brent Sprecher interviews Profiles in History's Brian Chanes about the Warner Bros. collection of comic book movie costumes and props and why 007's most iconic gun isn't what it appears to be!
How cool would it be to look up from your computer and see Batman's armor standing in the corner? The actual armor worn on screen in one of your favorite movies? Or, to know that you're the only one who possesses "the most famous gun in the world," 007's long-barreled Walther LP53?
At some point, every true movie fan thinks about how cool it would be to own a costume or prop from one of their favorite movies. It used to be nearly impossible for a movie fan without some sort of Hollywood connection to get his or her hands on costumes and props used in movies, but thanks to organizations like Profiles in History, owning a piece of Hollywood history has never been easier.
Founded in 1985 by Joseph Maddalena, Profiles in History has grown to become of the premiere dealers in guaranteed-authentic movie props, historical documents, signed photographs, and other rare collectibles in the world. And, thanks to the hit Syfy show Hollywood Treasure, Maddalena has helped to note only entertain, but educate, millions of us movie lovers about how rare Hollywood collectables are found, authenticated and, ultimately, auctioned off.
In preparation for the latest Hollywood Auction [July 28 - 29, 2013], Profiles in History brought several of their exciting new pieces to the San Diego Comic-Con. Thousands of enthusiastic fans stopped by the booth to drool over newly-released hero costumes from Watchmen and The Matrix, the Dude's outfit from The Big Lebowski, a Ceti eel from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and many other items, while I got a chance to sit down with Profiles in History Acquistitions Manager and the co-star of Hollywood Treasure Brian Chanes.
BRENT: The next Profiles in History Hollywood Auction contains some extraordinary pieces from the archives of Warner Bros. How did it come about that you acquired that collection?
BRIAN CHANES: We have dealt with Warner Bros. – first of all, all of the studios are on our mailing list; we want to make sure of what’s going up on the block. We’ve had a very good working relationship with Lieth Adams, who is their head archivist there at Warner Bros. for years – decades – and so, when they decided to actually go at public auction, they happened to choose us.
BRENT: Did they simply present you with a bulk of costumes and props or how were the items chosen?
BRIAN CHANES: They ended up selecting the material. We gave them pointers, like, “If you include the cowl, you’ll get more money for the Catwoman costume.” The more complete, the more you make it whole, the better it will be. We gave them a little bit of, “Hey, this one doesn’t really look like much,” like it was a little bit too specific in a visual effects scene, “If we had something that is more signature, recognizable, that we can fit on a mannequin properly, that we can really promote and rally around, that would be better.” We worked with them and ended up getting 52 or 51 items.
BRENT: What happens after the items are chosen? You don’t really have to authenticate them because they’re from Warner Bros., but what prep work do you have to do to get the items ready for auction?
BRIAN CHANES: We picked up the material and did the photography, the descriptions, with some of their input. Certain things, like our buddy over there, “Agent Smith,” is a puppet, it’s not just a costume they used in a particular sequence. You want to be sure you know how it was used and then properly convey that. Lieth had to tell me exactly how it was used because it’s a little bit of a puzzle. In this particular case, there was a scene in the second movie, Matrix Reloaded, that there were a bunch of “Agent Smiths” flanking the street and what they did, they would get a real human like you or me dressed as “Agent Smith” and then, on each arm, each “Agent Smith” puppeteered two other flanking “Agent Smiths.”
BRENT: What is that “Agent Smith” puppet made out of? It can’t be too heavy.
BRIAN CHANES: It has a fiberglass sub-structure for the actual mannequin. It articulates with a rod behind the neck – there’ a big opening in the back between the shoulder blades. The skin is silicone. It’s not heavy, but it stands on its own, believe it or not. It is stable by standing on its feet. You can move it’s head, you can articulate it.
BRENT: I would love to have something like that, but is it almost too niche, because it’s a puppet?
BRIAN CHANES: It is niche, but Matrix is a big franchise.
BRENT: I don’t see any Batman here. Did they not release anything from the Batman franchise?
BRIAN CHANES: There’s a DC booth, so – I want to just say this diplomatically – they didn’t want to have conflicting…to make anyone at DC angry by having Superman, Batman at our booth. (But), if you look in the catalog, we’ve got plenty. I’ve got a George Clooney hero costume, I’ve got a “Batgirl,” I’ve got a “Catwoman,” I’ve got another DC property.
BRENT: Were you able to get anything from the (Christopher) Nolan trilogy?
BRIAN CHANES: No. I can always ask, but whether or not I will receive, is another question. Certainly, to have something from Nolan’s trilogy would be phenomenal. I have handled things in the past – a Christian Bale cowl, maybe a few weapons – but it’s very, very limited, at this point.
BRENT: What’s the story behind that James Bond gun?
BRIAN CHANES: That is one of the coolest things. “The most famous gun in the world,” is what we’ve coined it – and I think it is – after the first Bond movie, Dr. No, they wanted to publicize From Russia with Love, but they wanted a real strong image of (Sean Connery) with his pistol next to his face, around his chest. During the photo session in the U.K., what do they have – “Okay, everyone’s here, where’s the Walther?” The actual PPK, the firing weapon – gun control laws, people dropped the ball: they didn’t have a gun. The photographer said, “Well, for target practice, I have a Walther air pistol in my car.” So that’s the gun they used.
BRENT: Wow! I did not know that.
BRIAN CHANES: Did you ever wonder why, in all of those posters they used, he had a long-barrelled gun? ‘Cause he never used this. The photographer thought, “Well, they’ll airbrush the rest of the barrel off,” but they never did. That’s a real cool piece of popular culture history that’s a mistake. It’s a mistake. Now, it’s the most iconic Bond image. And, you know what, it looks better.
BRENT: I couldn’t help but notice the Gremlin-helmet contraption over there. It’s incredibly interesting? What was it used for?
BRIAN CHANES: That came from Rick Baker, multiple, multiple Academy Award-winner, and a lot of these guys are very innovative. “How can we do this to limit the number of puppeteers?” They only have a working budget for visual effects of X-dollars and they don’t want to exceed that. So, what they did was – they only had so many hero puppets that were fully articulated, cable-actuated – so that one, a puppeteer would wear it and he could man three (Gremlins): one on each hand and one on his head.
BRENT: Is a piece like this one as appealing to collectors as, say, a hero puppet?
BRIAN CHANES: That thing is a very quintessential, signature thing from that movie, and a great story. That’s a great piece of telling the moviemaking story. If you have a great story, that makes it more sellable. After all, a lot of people buy these items because they want to have people over and tell a story about it.
BRENT: When you come across individual pieces, do you save them, hold on to them, until you have more pieces from that movie?
BRIAN CHANES: Sometimes I might hold some things back. I might put it into a, for instance, rock ‘n’ roll sale. You sometimes have to build upon a theme. I do like to have more than one item. A suite of Star Wars items, a suite of Star Trek items. That flying sub from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, that’s so rare that if I waited for more items to turn up, I would never sell it.
BRENT: Do you ever have collectors come to you to see if you can find a specific item for them?
BRIAN CHANES: All of the time. I have thousands and thousands of people coming to me looking for little things here-and-there, but I don’t have the time to remember every little thing like that. But, I always thank them and tell them to look at our online catalog. Do a search and see if you happen to find something you’re looking for from Buckaroo Banzai or something like that. (laughs)
BRENT: Are there certain items that you know are probably never going to go to auction?
BRIAN CHANES: Here’s a good example. You know Hayden Christensen, who played “Darth Vadar” in the Star Wars movies, he got one of his lightsaber hilts. He said he would never get rid of it. He said he would not want to step on any professional toes.
BRENT: I wouldn't either. Thank you for your time, Brian, and good luck.
BRIAN CHANES: My pleasure.
For a full listing of items available during the latest auction and future auctions, be sure to check out Profiles in History.
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