Promotional poster
Directed by Peter Stebbings
Produced by Nicholas Tabarrok
Written by Peter Stebbings
Starring Woody Harrelson
Elias Koteas
Michael Kelly
Sandra Oh
Kat Dennings
Music by John Rowley
Cinematography David Greene
Editing by Geoff Ashenhurst
Studio Darius Films
Alliance Films
Distributed by Alliance Films
Release date(s) September 12, 2009 (2009-09-12) (TIFF)
February 19, 2010 (2010-02-19) (Canada)
Running time 101 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget C$4 million

Defendor /dɨˈfɛndɔr/ is a 2009 Canadian superhero comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Stebbings, and starring Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings, Elias Koteas and Sandra Oh. The story tells of a mentally ill man who adopts the persona of a superhero named Defendor on a quest to find his arch enemy, Captain Industry. Defendor, Stebbings' feature film debut, was written in 2005 and filmed in January 2009 in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and had its North American theatrical release on February 19, 2010. It has also been released to DVD on April 13, 2010.[1]



A psychiatrist, Dr. Park (Sandra Oh), interviews Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) in a psychiatric evaluation. At first he is confused, but he slowly opens up to Dr. Park, recalling an incident in which he assaulted Mr. Debrofkowitz, the owner of a dry-cleaning service.

He starts his story one night where he is investigating shipment docks, and assaults a police officer who claims to be working undercover. Dooney (Elias Koteas) is a corrupt detective whose crack smoking, and having a prostitute in his company, leads Defendor to believe that he is under the employ of his arch nemesis, named Captain Industry. After leaving Dooney, he goes to a coffee shop while his description goes out on an APB. A nearby policeman hears it on his radio, and Poppington is arrested. The captain in charge, Fairbanks, (Clark Johnson) sparks a kinship with Poppington because both of their grandfathers had served in the war, a subject which came up upon Fairbanks recognizing the trench club that Poppington uses as a primary weapon. After releasing him, Arthur takes his weapon back and disappears.

It becomes apparent that Arthur lives alone in the government construction department that he works at during the day. His life is very solitary, but after another confrontation with Dooney, he meets Angel (Kat Dennings), the prostitute who was smoking crack with Dooney. He is brutally beaten by Dooney's friends and she helps him recover. He learns that she is aware of Captain Industry's whereabouts and he allows her to live with him because with Dooney mad at her, she has no place else to go. For $40 a day, he enlists her help in apprehending Industry.

It is also revealed that Poppington's mother Fay had left him as a child, and drug abuse and possibly prostitution killed her some years later. His grandfather said that the "Captains of Industry" killed her. As a child he misinterpreted and got the impression that one man was responsible. Angel later reveals that she had been lying about her name. Her real name is Katrina Debrofkowitz.

Arthur's boss and close friend Paul (Michael Kelly), becomes concerned that Arthur is living at the construction depot with a prostitute. Paul tries to help Arthur, and offers him the opportunity to come and live with him and his family. Arthur rejects the offer. Paul gives Arthur a cell phone in case he is ever needed. That night, Arthur ventures out to spy on "Captain Industry" and Dooney in a meeting, but accidentally makes himself known. After a short chase Arthur calls Paul's line before he is shot by one of the henchman's machine guns, Paul forces Angel to take him to where Arthur was supposed to be that night, and they call the paramedics.

While undergoing surgery, Paul orders Angel to leave Arthur alone. They are relieved when they find out that he was shot with training bullets. Before leaving, Angel visits Arthur, who is lying unconscious in recovery. She reveals that she ran away because her father was physically abusing her. After she leaves, Arthur opens his eyes, having heard everything. Angered at how Angel was treated, Arthur walks down to the mall in his hospital robes, beats up Mr. Debrofkowitz at his store, throws him through the glass window of his shop, and stuffs him into a garbage can.

After Dr. Park absorbs the story, she tells Arthur that what she admires most about him is his honesty, although she also says that there are better ways of dealing with someone like Mr. Debrofkowitz. A hearing prior to their meeting revealed that Paul came to defend Arthur after the issue at the mall, telling him about Arthur's delusions of being Defendor, and the judge mandated a psychological evaluation to determine if he can be returned to society or locked up in prison. A reporter approaches Paul and convinces him to let her run a story about Arthur as the Defendor, and he agrees in hopes of some positive approval ratings. People become inspired by Defendor's attempts to save lives and fight crime despite his personal risks and arrest. The judge orders Paul be Arthur's guide to reintroduce him to society, which is nearly ruined when news that he can never become Defendor again causes Arthur to nearly go ballistic.

Depressed about having to leave Arthur, Angel becomes desperate for a hit, and tries to get back together with Dooney. However, knowing her affiliation with Defendor, he instead holds her hostage, and sends Arthur a threat to not reveal anything he had learned to the police. Arthur decides to take the risk to save Angel and once again dons his persona. Kat manages to escape Dooney by shooting off his testicles and the pair reunite. She is devastated when he reveals he still plans to go after Captain Industry, and tells him that she lied about the identity of Captain Industry due to a personal vendetta she has with him. She orders Arthur to take a gun she stole from Dooney for safety.

He reveals his plans to the police but escapes before they can take him into custody again, leading a trail of road flares to the docks. Defendor manages to subdue Industry's henchmen, but does not defend himself against Industry who fatally shoots him. As Arthur lays dying, Angel runs to help him. She promises to stop smoking crack and to get a job outside of prostitution. In an earlier conversation Kat revealed she had always had a talent in writing, that Arthur had described as being "like Lois Lane". She promises to be like her and Arthur dies in her arms.

Later, it is revealed that Dooney and Captain Industry were arrested for their crimes. Dooney is sentenced to 26 years in prison and Industry is extradited to a prison in his home country. Arthur's legacy lives on, as a memorial is held for Defendor under a spray paint mural that was drawn in his honor. Dr. Park and her daughter attend as well, remembering the man and inspired by the hero that no one could see. The last shot of the film is of Angel sitting at her typewriter, writing stories as a wasp flies into the room.



Defendor is actor Peter Stebbings' first produced screenplay and his debut as a director.[4] He wrote the first draft of his Defendor script in 2005 when the idea came to him "in one whole piece".[4] He failed to sell the script to numerous major Hollywood studios because it did not fit into a particular genre; he said that "[The studios] didn't want to touch it, but all the actors and their agents wanted to."[7] Nicholas Tabarrok of independent production company Darius Films agreed to back the project after he "was hooked from the very first read", and agreed to fly Stebbings from Toronto to Los Angeles so that he could meet the actors.[8] Ellen Page was at one stage attached to star when production was slated to begin in 2007, but pulled out.[9] He collected financing from Canadian film fund Telefilm Canada—about one quarter of the film's C$4 million budget—and "turn[ed] over stones to find the rest". After he added all of his personal savings, the film was still $100,000 under its financial requirements.[4] Though principal photography was scheduled to take place from November 21 through December 17, 2008,[8] it was delayed until mid-January 2009 and continued through the end of January.[4][10] Filming took place in and around in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario.[8] Specific filming locations included the Hamilton City Centre,[11] Humber River Regional Hospital and a Toronto warehouse.[8]

The producers consulted with workers from Toronto's social services, including activist Wendy Babcock, to help Kat Dennings develop her character; they wanted people with experience using crack cocaine and doing sex work so she could create a more realistic character.


Defendor had its world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival in September.[12] Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group acquired the distribution rights to the film in the United States and most of Asia, Europe and South America. The Canadian rights were pre-sold to Alliance Entertainment as part of the film's financing deals.[13]

However, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group decided to not release the film in the United States theatrically, so Darius Films (which produced the film) self-released the film in the United States theatrically on February 26, 2010.[14][15][16] It has also been released to DVD on April 13, 2010.[1]


Defendor received a 65% (fresh) Rotten Tomato rating from critics, the majority praising Woody Harrelson's performance as the driving force of the film. Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star wrote writer/director Stebbings "fills Defendor with humorous bits, comic treats dropped in quickly and without fanfare", while David Germain of the Associated Press faults the film for its "inconsistent tone".[17]


  1. ^ a b "Defendor (2009)". Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Kilday, Gregg (October 6, 2008). "Dennings pals up to Harrelson for "Defendor"". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  3. ^ "Elias Koteas plays a bad cop in the superhero dramedy Defendor". Sci Fi Wire. March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Quill, Greg (January 10, 2009). "Peter Stebbings: Pushing himself to make changes". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  5. ^ Thombare, Suparna (August 25, 2009). "An enigma called Lisa Ray". DNA. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  6. ^ Gentile, Petrina (September 10, 2009). "TV star's ride is Border-line plain". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  7. ^ McCrank, John (September 12, 2009). "Woody Harrelson puts new spin on movie superhero". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  8. ^ a b c d Strauss, Marise (December 15, 2008). "Defendor takes flight at DariusDefendor takes flight at Darius". Playback. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  9. ^ "Juno Press Kit" (Press release). Fox Searchlight Pictures. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  10. ^ MacDonald, Gayle (January 30, 2009). "What made Woody trade his shorts for Sorels". The Globe and Mail. 
  11. ^ "Woody Harrelson shooting "Defendor" at the Hamilton City Center". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  12. ^ Vlessing, Etan (August 4, 2009). "'Young Victoria' closing Toronto Film Fest". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2009-08-05. [dead link]
  13. ^ Fleming, Michael; Swart, Sharon (September 16, 2009). "Sony Pictures picks up 'Defendor'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  14. ^ "'Defendor' Movie Hits Theaters Very Limited Feb 26; Comes Out On DVD, April 13". The Playlist. February 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  15. ^ Davis, Dave (February 10, 2010). "Woody Harrelson superhero satire Defendor gets a (small) release". Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  16. ^ Rohit, Parimal. "Defending 'Defendor'". 
  17. ^ Defendor on Rotten Tomatoes

External links

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