Even After Prodding, the Art Retains its Mystery in Drew: The Man Behind the Poster


Despite its title, Drew: The Man Behind the Poster is not a documentary about movie poster artist Drew Struzan. Instead, Struzan’s poster art is the film’s real subject. Director Erik Sharkey uses testimonials from celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Michael J. Fox to lavish praise on Struzan’s output. But these famous fans gush only generally about Struzan’s iconic movie posters, including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Thing, and all of the Star Wars films—they never explain just what about the man’s work they find so resonant. Sharkey doesn’t, either. Struzan’s illustrations are, in fact, great because they have an aura of mystery about them. Actor Thomas Jane accidentally puts his finger on it when he describes Struzan’s artwork for schlocky ’80s sword-and-sorcery merchandise-seller Masters of the Universe: “I will probably never see the movie advertised in this poster,” he jokes. Struzan achieved this effect by abstracting whole films’ plots into climactic action poses and beatific facial expressions. Sharkey tries to do something similar by using hyperbolic testimonials to illuminate Struzan’s elusive genius. But the demure, self-effacing Struzan undermines Sharkey’s strategy by insisting his art is only the product of a mundane creative process. After Spielberg praises Struzan’s portrayal of Harrison Ford on his Temple of Doom poster, Struzan murmurs, “I just painted him the way he looks. He looks OK. He looks more than OK! Better than I’ll ever look.”