Lots of questions have come up about Hero so I thought I’d try and answer some of those I have come across. Thank you for all your comments and I’m pleased the show struck a chord.
You don’t say ‘no actors or stooges are used in this show’ – Was Matt an actor?
I didn’t give that old disclaimer because the show’s chock-full of actors, and quite openly so. I haven’t said that whenever actors are openly used: it wouldn’t make any sense and to qualify it would be convoluted and verbose. So instead we explain who Matt is and that he has no idea these things are going on or that he’s being filmed etc. These things cannot be lies, as aside from the repugnance of using ‘fake’ participants and how on earth you’d secure the silence of those who knew them in real life, it is a huge legal no-no. Every word of voice-over script and picture is analysed by the C4 lawyer to make sure there is no misleading the viewer. A magic trick is different: there is licence to deceive, and a sense of theatre, but even that nowadays is tricky. Its a moot point if you can even say ‘This is an ordinary pack of cards’ any more on UK TV if it isn’t. But in something like this, which is not presented as a trick, to pretend Matt was real, or ignorant of the process when he wasn’t, is simply not an option. Even if I wanted it to be, which I don’t. I have NEVER used a ‘stooge’ (someone playing along and pretending to be fooled etc) in 10 years of TV work, despite the protestations of people who are convinced there’s no other method to be employed.
Adam: On another note, how did Matt get away with not paying for taxi, and just a handshake?
A few people have asked this: I thought it was clear that we had sent the cab. And his life is being changed – some things like this didn’t seem worth spending a lot of time explaining through in detail. The cabbie played it to Matt as if he had just been booked, pre-paid and didn’t ask for any money at the end. Matt, with the idea in his head of breaking into a policeman’s house, took the bait of a free ride and went with it.
Graham: My Gf, a big non believer (but yet believes random psychics and mediums) found it hard to believe the sleeping but walking around stages – and stormed out. Could that be explained ? was it part hypnosis?
Ah, now if she had seen Enigma she’d have seen me do this every night on stage. It depends on how you define hypnosis, but yes, you can call it that. It’s really not a big deal if you understand the process and can be creative with it. As I said in the show, one feature of Matt’s personality one – an important one for me – is that he is suggestible. He wakes up, confused and responsive, hearing my voice in his room telling him he’s dreaming and still asleep. As long as the person is suggestible and already responsive to me (a fan, or an audience member at a stage show), it’s a very easy way of doing it. If he had come down more awake I would have shifted his state in the garden. I didn’t know for sure how he would react that first night, but we spoke to Liv the next morning and he had had no memory of the event. The second night was then even easier as he had learnt from the first night.
Chris: why in the ‘croc’ sequence was it raining your side and not Matt’s? Also, when his phone was stolen, and seeing he works in insurance, would he not have had to contact the real police to get a reference number for an insurance claim? And, really, he wore GStar pretty much every day for a month!
The brief, light shower that happened that night was a bit of a pain but ultimately looked so odd that we liked it for this dreamy sequence. It’s raining on both of us but I’m backlit and he’s not, so it’s much harder to see the rain on Matt. Rather than edit it out, or re-film anything, we thought it looked weird in a good way and left it. Matt’s phone was handed back to him after the petrol station sequence as if it had been found – obviously we couldn’t leave him without it or have him going to the real police. We were going to include this to answer precisely that question but when you’re trying to fit so much in you have to leave out what doesn’t directly tell the story. Equally, the ‘inspiring’ talk with the van driver was much longer – maybe 10 minutes or so – but that’s not something you can sit through on TV. Things get edited down. As for his clothing, yes, he wore what he wore. It was amusing to us too. He dresses much cooler than me so I can’t comment.
Ben: There was one moment when I thought you had gone a little senile, when you laid him across the train track,
Needless to say, this was all very controlled, unbeknownst to Matt, so there was no way he would have been hurt. What was important is that the fear was real to him.
Matt: i dont care what anyone says if you see smoke coming under a door you would not just sit there, you would at least try and get the attention of others in the room
Nope, this is a classic experiment. Have a Google for Bystander Experiment. The more people there, the less likely you are to take action. The research was triggered by a famous – (if now misrepresented case) – where lots of witnesses saw a woman raped and murdered in several stages and did nothing. Awful.
Penny: I watch all of your stuff on tv as i think your a total genius and would love to be involved so i sent off for an application form to take part in future shows and the reply back is just a trailer for Hero – help?
There has been a fake Facebook page posing as mine asking people to apply for future shows, but it has nothing to do with us. As with Hero, I make announcements here or on the Blog. (Or sometimes they’re done in papers without my name on and you don’t know you’re applying for my show…)
Andrew: just 2 things don’t quite add up. 1. If he was a bystander that never put himself forward for anything, why would he apply for a game show? and 2. Flight simulator graphics are not very good, it would be impossible to not notice your not flying a real plane…
Bystander behaviour is to do with how we behave in emergencies. Most people fall into the same pattern, regardless of what we do in the rest of life. As for the flight simulator, you’re wrong in this case. This is the latest in professional training sims and utterly convincing (particularly at the dusk setting which is why we timed the flight at dusk). They’re based at Southampton and if you want to pay about 20k an hour you should have a go. Don’t confuse them with noisy fairground sims.
Brett: He got on the plane it was bright sunshine…he landed it in pitch dark even though it was a short flight. Surely he would have thought that was a little strange?
It wasn’t as dark through the sim ‘window’ as it looked on TV. It was all around dusk, and the plane was in the air for quite a while before he would have entered the cockpit. You’ll see when we get off the plane with Matt in a wheelchair that it’s getting dark.
Ian: I was particularly struck by two movie references. When you talked to Matt in his garden and gave him the countdown, he goes to a golf course the next day…this is very similar to a scene from ‘Donnie Darko’ except that the main character actually wakes up on a golf course after being given his countdown while in a dream-like state. The second was of course ‘Fight Club’ in which Tyler Durden pretends to hold up a convenience store employee in order to shock him into pursuing what he really wants to do with his life. Were those parts of ‘Hero’ inspired by these movies?
And then some. The Game, even Watchmen were in there. All big inspirations – especially Fight Club and (for one core speech) Watchmen. Iain and I who devised the show were all very chuffed when Matt came into the garden in a hoodie… pure Donnie.
B: I’m an Airline Pilot for a living and can say the timing between landing that aircraft and getting to the simulator hall where those simulators are base is a long stretch. The cabin crew in the shots had time to change clothes, as did Derron. The sim cued up etc. I just can’t buy into it…would require the guy to be tranqualised no hypnotised due to the length of journey and disruption… other irregularities. A lot of them in the simulator.
Not sure what you mean. That wasn’t live – plenty of time elapsed between the two, with Matt soundly asleep. We were waiting for quite a while in fact for the sim to be fully ready, following problems that day. As for how long he can be hypnotised, the longest I’ve kept someone under was 13 hours on and off a plane to Marrakech for a previous show. Perfectly doable. Matt was looked after in shifts by me, Iain and a paremedic who stayed with us at all times. Both Matt and the Marrakech guy were taken off to the loo at one point, and woke up just a little and for long enough to do that, and then straight back to sleep with no awareness of having done that. They key is to get someone who sleeps deeply at night. Once in the sim he was talked down authentically by a real air traffic controller, and gained in confidence as he went along, although it all took a lot longer than the few minutes that section was shrunk down to in the show. So you’re seeing an edited version in the sim, so yes, it doesn’t reflect real time.
Claire: I wasnt conviced a guy like ‘Matt’ would actually enter the police officer’s ‘home’ … and not wonder about an alarm system.
He may have done, I don’t know. But at some level his unconscious would have felt it was the ‘right’ thing to do, as you’ll remember I had laid it all in during the night with the crocodile. So I was counting on it feeling somehow right to him. This was about the level of influence that I could have: always leaving it to him to make the decisions, but planting the idea to nudge him in that direction or making an idea appealing. If people don’t understand why he did these things, then they have missed that point.
Jon: the way Matt found himself getting into the ‘situations’ and how he got out of them was very contrived and controlled. And because we didn’t get to see them, we naturally doubt them.
Sure. Of course, a large part of what I do is magic tricks, so some people are going to be suspicious. In my mind there’s a huge difference between performing a trick and doing something like Hero, but that might just be me. A trick is supposed to be a trick, and something like Hero has to be real or else it’s pointless. The situations are of course set up, as openly described in the show, and secretly filmed, but Matt had no idea and could make what choices he liked. I was able to steer him in a loose direction and massage his thinking towards certain ideas, but that was all: they had to be his decisions. The amount of work in securing his well-being without him knowing (the constant checks with work and home and foreseeing every eventuality) would have made a documentary in itself. The lengths we went to to preserve Matt’s experience and make it totally genuine for him were massive. At another level, the technical side was fantastic: the tiny cameras hidden in buttons and so on we needed to film and cover everything the aeroplane, for example, were numerous and extraordinary, as was the airport’s involvement in making the check-in normal for everyone, even though the plane wasn’t really flying to Jersey as it said on the departure board. It was far more involved than, say, the Heist, and some people thought that was all fake too. There’s only so much we can explain without the show slowing down: it’s supposed after all to be entertainment. We could have explained more detail in places, but ultimately you have to find a balance that most people are happy with in the crammed time you have. Again though, it’s simply not an option to have him play along or use an actor, fake the show and then mislead UK TV viewers into thinking it was real.
Mark: You gotta dig deep to understand this and most of Derren’s work. He makes it happen, but ‘how?’ is what you keep asking until you understand how… and without thinking ‘it was setup’ or ‘the person was a stooge’ as thinking any of those two things is wrong. Well you could say ‘setup’ is partially correct if you think in terms of Derren made it all happen (which means there was a setup behind it but not that kind of setup that says Derren just told him what to do.)
Yes, I’d say that was about right and nicely put. Matt’s journey had to be absolutely real, but obviously I’m tinkering in all areas where he isn’t aware to make sure it happens to plan as much as is possible. That’s very different from it being a big hoax or fake. Some can’t or won’t see that, and it’s fine.
How is Matt now?
Excellent. He’s sorting a mortgage and looking at career options. And I’m sure he’d tell you he’s a changed man – certainly in the time I’ve known him he’s transformed and those around him have very movingly attested to this. He was understandably disappointed to have some people simply, joylessly, refuse to believe any of such a powerful personal journey, but the response has been so overwhelmingly positive, and obviously his work colleagues and everyone around him are very excited and he’s buzzing.
As you may know, this has been my favourite show to work on – most ambitious, most involved, most demanding and by far the most joyful. I consider it my fondest and best, and it was a privilege to be part of it and to get to know Matt.
I hope this answers enough questions. I’m sure not all of them, but thank you for posting.
best – dx