Ira Wohl on Best Man

“In 1997, twenty years after I made Best Boy, wherever I went, people still asked me about Philly. They wanted to know if he was still alive. They wanted to know how he was doing. The idea of making a sequel to Best Boy had been suggested to me many times, but I never felt there was a reason to do one. Also, I had left the film business; I received my Master’s degree in social work and had begun practicing psychotherapy in Los Angeles. I considered my career as a filmmaker essentially over.

“A trip back to New York in 1996, after a long absence, gave me a chance to view Philly from a new perspective. I was able to see the enormity of the changes that had taken place in his life. It made me realize that perhaps there was another story to tell about Philly, about his twenty years of growth.

“Philly had not merely managed to survive; he had flourished. It was as if both his literal and metaphorical peripheral vision had increased a thousand-fold. He was now much better able to identify what it was he wanted from his environment and was much more adept at getting it. Yet he had somehow managed to remain the same sweet soul as always.

“If Best Boy told the story of what Philly accomplished and how he went about it, then Best Man is a more deeply realized exploration of who Philly is as a person. Although these two films only span a 20-year period of time, they seem to represent a lifetime's worth of significant changes. I believe these changes show just how much the human spirit is capable of achieving, despite all obstacles placed before it. This is the central message of Best Man.

“As I look back, it seems to me that the difference for me between Best Boy and Best Man is my 20 years’ worth of life experience. I recognize that Best Boy was not only about Philly leaving home and becoming independent, but about my own struggles to do the same. Best Man is about coming back to family, and it too is a reflection of issues I had been dealing with over that period of time.

“Particularly painful was my awareness that, as an only child, those I most cared about in my life were slowly disappearing from it. Perhaps that's why the tag line I dreamt up for the film was ‘Not a film about family values, but a film about the value of family.’

“In retrospect, while Best Boy tells an important story, it seems to me that Best Man offers the opportunity to go deeper into who Philly is as a human being. Ostensibly, he's mentally retarded and not capable of doing many things. Yet, for those who experience him, he offers something that somehow enriches them.”

--Ira Wohl