Exclusive Horrornews Interview – Sherman Wilmott
Executive Producer of Memphis Heat – The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’
Why did you decide to make Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis
My company, Shangri-la Projects, published the great Sputnik, Masked Men, & Midgets: The Early Days of Memphis Wrestling book by Ron Hall, who I have collaborated with on many book projects based around Memphis garage rock music history in fall, 2009. Ron and I wanted to make a film that helped promote the book and tell the incredible Memphis wrestling story for both fans who grew up with the territory and others who have just heard how great it was. We brought in director Chad Schaffler, who made excellent interviews and pieced the film together with editor Prichard Smith. Everyone who worked on the film grew up on Memphis wrestling over 4 decades so there is a lot of fond memories of the genre encompassed in the film!
Is there any wrestler who you approached that didn’t want to be a part of
All wrestlers were really receptive, were super helpful, and gave great interviews. Every wrestler in this film could have his own documentary just about himself–that’s how interesting these characters are. We would have loved to interview Tojo Yamamoto and Plowboy Frazier as well, but unfortunately they were no longer alive.
The documentary ends after Jimmy Hart goes to the WWF. Why did you
decide to end the documentary there?
The book ended in the late ’70s. We took the film a bit further down the timeline to include the rise of Jimmy Hart and Andy Kaufman feud etc. When Jimmy Hart (& Lance Russell as well) left for cable pastures, that was kind of the beginning of the end of that era–both in Memphis and nationally. Wrestling changed quite a bit with the introduction of cable tv.
Did you give any consideration on mentioning the classic Jerry Lawler /
Eddie Gilbert feud?
The hardest part of this film was telling all of almost 40 years history in 90 minutes. So much great stuff and so many great stories were left on the cutting floor. We did try to bring in more great stories on the dvd extras that were really fun stories but did not fit into the 90 minute format.
Did you get any trouble from the WWE getting Jerry Lawler to be part of
None at all. Jerry Lawler was great help and got us in touch with many of the other wrestlers in the film. Lawler is the hardest working man in show biz (truly!) and works quite a bit outside of WWE.
When did you first become of fan of Memphis wrestling?
1974, when I moved to Memphis and got hooked on the Saturday morning show. Everyone in Memphis watched it. Highly addictive and there every Saturday. 1st match I remember is George Barnes/Bill Dundee vs. Tojo & Jerry Jarrett or Fargo. I had never seen anything like that show before or since! Good times.
There’s some great storytelling by the legends of Memphis wrestling. Is
there one story that really shocked you?
I guess the realization that Joe LeDuc’s cutting of his arm with an axe on live tv was neither a put-on nor was it approved or scripted. Crazy stuff!
Do you think Jerry Jarrett could be a creative force in today’s wrestling?
Absolutely. Jerry Jarrett thinks way outside the box and could be a creative force in any business, but he knows wrestling better than anyone alive.
Memphis Heat definitely leaves you wanting more. Could there be a Memphis
Heat part 2 ?
Always a possibility, but right now we are trying to take Memphis Heat part 1 to the ends of the Earth!
Interview: Sherman Wilmott (Memphis Heat)