‘Mope,’ Film About Porn Actor Machete Murder, Gets Sundance Debut

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‘Mope,’ Film About Porn Actor Machete Murder, Gets Sundance Debut

A new film from first-time feature director Lucas Heyne, exploring the events that led to the tragic and bizarre machete murder of porn performer Herbert Wong (aka Tom Dong) by his closest friend and fellow performer Stephen Hill in 2010, will see its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, next month. Titled Mope, the film is a fictionalized account of the incidents, but Heyne says the authenticity of the movie’s depiction of the porn industry was “my main goal,” and to achieve it, he filmed scenes in the actual locations where events took place.

“The first thing I did was obviously observe real shoots so I could see what it was like. And then I hired quite a bit of talent from the adult film industry, so they could give me guidance,” Heynes  said in an interview with AVN.com. “The opening sequence, for instance, is a recreation of a bukake shoot. We shot it at Jim Powers’ stage, and Jim plays a version of himself. And almost everyone there is real male talent that has shot those scenes before. And quite a few of them knew Steve and Tom. And that’s why, when you see it in the movie, it seems so real. We’re shooting at the exact place, with the exact people who would do it.”

The grisly murder was chronicled in a 2011 L.A. Weekly article  by Michael Albo, though Heynes himself wrote the screenplay, with the title taken from the term used for what Albo’s article described as “fringe actors, hangers-on who mope around the studios hoping for a bit role,” or who Powers in the Weekly piece called, “worthless, D-list load-droppers.”

But Heyne said that he doesn’t see his characters that way. Instead, he said that his intention in the film was “to give these guys a dignity beyond a punchline. I wanted to show who these guys were. And once you start seeing the real people, you care about them.”

Hill apparently committed suicide by plunging from a cliff after a 12-hour standoff with police after the murder—though the director also believes that Hill may not have jumped from the cliff but fallen after being shot by a police taser—and Heyne says that he drew inspiration from an 11-page note left behind by Hill.

But Heyne says that despite the gruesome and horrifying circumstances of the murder-suicide, Mope is really concerned with the current state of affairs in the United States.

“I think a lot of people buy into a toxic form of the American dream,” he said. “There’s an entitlement people feel about what they’re owed from society, because things are built up throughout their lives. Stephen felt that he was owed certain things, and that if he was just willing to work hard, he would get everything he wanted. That’s what really was his end, because it wasn’t something he could ever succeed in, no matter how hard he tried. Then rather than accept that it wasn’t going to happen, he had a very negative reaction, and killed his best friend.”

In addition to Powers, who Heyne called “one of the best actors in the film,” Mope features roles for a long list of current adult industry performers, including Annie Cruz, Summer Day, Amber Ivy, Alice Frost and others. 

The movie will get four screenings at Sundance, with the first screening at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre at 11:45 p.m. on Sunday, January 27.

Photo Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

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