Monday, July 3, 2023

Deliberate Deceit: How 'Auto Focus' Fails in Its Miserable Attempt at Portraying Bob Crane

It should come as no surprise that I don't like the film Auto Focus. Neither do my coauthors, Linda Groundwater and Dee Young. And most notably, neither did the vast majority of the people who talked with us about Bob Crane for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography.

Having gotten to know Bob through hundreds of his closest family members, friends, and associates, we were privileged to learn who he was, what made him tick, and how he lived his life. We take our work seriously. This is, after all, a man's life. Neither his addiction nor his murder are joking matters. We are professional. We are thorough. We are factual.

The same cannot be said for Auto Focus director Paul Schrader. As writer David Edelstein proclaimed in his 2002 article, Video Killed the TV Star, "Almost every time I see a film by Paul Schrader, I think about what a sensational subject he has gotten hold of and how I wish that someone else had stepped in to bring it to life."

We have quoted Mr. Schrader before with regard to how he felt about Auto Focus. In the September 29, 2002, edition of The New York Times, Mr. Schrader stated, "My intent with Auto Focus is not to be true or definitive. People's actual lives are not really that interesting. And with Crane, I wanted to get at something meaty. Otherwise, who cares?" Among other things, he also admitted that "[John] Carpenter was not as important in Crane's life as he is in the film. It is a distortion."

In the same article, Bob's younger son Scott Crane rebukes Mr. Schrader's take on his father. "The movie is 'Auto Fiction!' he says. "Schrader's idea is to make my dad dark. 'Let's make him seedy' ... He's portraying a fiction as fact. Schrader has destroyed my father's reputation in the world."

Scott is 100% correct. We stand in solidarity with Scott and all those who see the film for what it is: Celluloid garbage.

This New York Times article, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. After combing through several resources about Auto Focus, it is clear as day that Mr. Schrader was not simply lazy in his research about Bob Crane for Auto Focus, he was intentionally wrong with conviction. It is unprofessional and unforgivable.

In our latest episode of Flipside: The True Story of Bob Crane, Linda and I delve into the motivation behind Auto Focus. We examine published quotes by Mr. Schrader and actor Greg Kinnear, and discuss how they and others affiliated with the film felt not just about making the so-called biopic about Bob Crane, but their opinions regarding the Hogan's Heroes star himself.

Access the articles mentioned in this episode: 

Transcript of the episode coming soon.