×

Film Review: ‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon’

Mike Myers delivers a gushing cinematic love letter to talent manager and Hollywood power player extraordinaire Shep Gordon.

With:
Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Bob Richard, Mike Myers, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Arnold, Willie Nelson, Emeril Lagasse, Sammy Hagar, Nancy Meola, Mick Fleetwood, Carolyn Pfeiffer, Anne Murray, Dean Fearing, Derek Shook, Chase Williams, Amber Williams, Don Nelson, Steven Tyler, Herb Karlitz.

Toward the end of his documentary “Supermensch,” actor-turned-filmmaker Mike Myers notes, “Shep Gordon is the nicest person I’ve ever met, hands down” — a slightly redundant declaration by that point, given the largely worshipful tenor of this cinematic love letter to a man who, though now semi-retired, remains one of the most well-liked, well-connected talent managers in the industry. A breezy celebration of the Hollywood high life somewhat jarringly bookended by moments of sobering introspection, this glibly entertaining, surface-skimming portrait draws heavily on conversations with Gordon and his starry but far-from-exclusive roster of clients and friends (Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, Emeril Lagasse, the Dalai Lama, etc.), all of whom swear that the guy’s heart is as big as his beachfront Maui mansion. It’s an affectionate, sometimes downright slobbery career salute with a soft, unexamined center — a moving experience for all involved, no doubt, but one of limited interest outside the celebrity bubble it depicts.

Myers’ choice of subject for his first feature (co-directed with producer Beth Aala) stems from a period when the actor, finding himself at a personal low point, spent two months being nursed back to health by Gordon at his Hawaii digs. It’s an experience shared by many of those interviewed here, who describe their friend in phrases such as “the most wholesome person I’ve ever known” and “a protector” — a generous, gregarious, gold-hearted, deep-pocketed soul who excels at not just managing but also taking care of those in his unusually large inner circle. Stories about Gordon’s casually star-studded dinner parties are legion; celeb after celeb testifies to his ability to bring people together and forge new relationships — particularly with the ladies, his inexhaustible libido being one of several personality traits that come in for some good-natured ribbing.

Employing a brisk mix of talking heads, zippy music, illustrative movie clips and brief, comic re-enactments altered to look as if they were shot in the ’60s, “Supermensch” begins with an acid-drenched flashback to that crazy decade, when Gordon, a Long Island-raised kid with a vague interest in becoming a probation officer, instead found himself hanging out with the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison in Los Angeles. While his early association with those ill-fated music icons helped fuel his later skepticism about the fame game, it was also during this time that he forged his most enduring relationship, with the heavy-metal artist who would later go by the solo moniker of Alice Cooper. Gordon helped turn Cooper into an international sensation, often with the aid of lubricious publicity stunts (i.e. wrapping panties around copies of his 1972 album “School’s Out”) that established the manager’s resourceful, sometimes scandal-seeking m.o.

Gordon found himself uniquely suited to shepherding (ahem) the personal and professional affairs of celebrities, a job that tapped into his deep love and knowledge of people, his eclectic taste in the arts and his eye for fresh career-making opportunities in unlikely places. Canadian songstress Anne Murray credits her success to an early photo op orchestrated by Gordon, who responded to her soulful output far more than he did to some of the other, more popular acts he was managing at the time. Filmmaker Carolyn Pfeiffer proudly singles out Gordon for making her, at one point, the only woman with the power to greenlight a Hollywood picture; under their Alive Films banner, they produced and/or released such offbeat successes as “Koyaanisqatsi,” “El Norte” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” And considerable screentime is devoted to the rise of the celebrity chef, a phenomenon that Gordon spearheaded in the pre-Food Network era, largely due to his friendships with people like Michelin three-star chef Roger Verge and Wolfgang Puck.

Everyone here has an anecdote to share about Shep Gordon, often involving some ingenious pulling of strings, as if he were some sort of benevolent Don Corleone. (Tom Arnold describes how Gordon once managed to get a paparazzo off his back in the friendliest, most mutually beneficial way imaginable.) But Gordon himself is no slouch in the storytelling department; he’s an irrepressible raconteur who barely lets a frame go by without dropping some lewd detail or letting loose his signature annoying chuckle. On a more bittersweet note, he fondly recalls his time managing Teddy Pendergrass, from their first carefree, substance-abusing days together, to the tragic 1982 car accident that left the singer paralyzed from the chest down, to his tentative career rehabilitation afterward. And while Gordon’s passionate but usually short-lived romances are glossed over (including his relationship with Sharon Stone, who introduced him to the Dalai Lama), his untold kindness to the family of his ex, Winona Williams, effectively adopting her grandchildren as his own, can’t help but strike an emotional chord.

That selfless act, more than any other, lends credence to the rare soul-searching moment when Gordon — who has known much joy and pleasure, but also seen no shortage of tragedy — announces that “fame has no intrinsic value unto itself.” It’s a critical insight that one wishes had surfaced a bit earlier and more often in a film that, with its air of self-promotion and leering, what-me-worry attitude, may well have benefited from just a bit more distance from its subject.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (TIFF Docs), Sept. 8, 2013. Running time: 85 MIN.

Production: (Documentary) A Radius-TWC release of an A&E IndieFilms presentation of a Nomoneyfunfilms production. Produced by Beth Aala. Executive producers, Molly Thompson, Robert DeBitetto, David McKillop. Co-producer, John Houlihan.

Crew: Directed by Mike Myers. Co-director, Beth Aala. Camera (color, HD), Michael Pruitt-Bruun, Andreas von Scheele; editor, Joseph Krings; music supervisors, John Houlihan, Willa Yudell; graphics/animation, Steph Ching; sound, Fiona McBain; supervising sound editor, Abby Savage; re-recording mixer, Tom Efinger; line producers, Alice Henty, Caroline Waterlow; associate producers, Ching, Kate Lingley, Anna-Karin Edelbrock Fogg.

With: Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Bob Richard, Mike Myers, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Arnold, Willie Nelson, Emeril Lagasse, Sammy Hagar, Nancy Meola, Mick Fleetwood, Carolyn Pfeiffer, Anne Murray, Dean Fearing, Derek Shook, Chase Williams, Amber Williams, Don Nelson, Steven Tyler, Herb Karlitz.

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content