Illustration by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
There are any number of ways to imagine a movie based on the life and (many, many) loves of Toronto’s crackpot Casanova Dimitri the Lover. You could make it a contemporary Frankenstein fable where a bolt of lightning animates a crusty splooge stain into some slimy T-1000 sexual predator. You could cast Gerard Butler in the lead and have our loathsome lothario get a harsh lesson in romance by some obstinate Sandra Bullock type. Hell, you could throw Jay Baruchel or Michael Cera in there and have the D-Man teach them how to wheedle their way into the prom queen’s panties.
Or you could get Brad Goodman, the producer behind Sacha Baron Cohen’s mock-docs Borat and Brüno, on board to help give Dimitri—né James Sears—the docutainment treatment he deserves.
That’s right, gang: Dimitri the Lover is getting the Hollywood treatment! And considering all the digital breadcrumbs of misogyny, harassment, and greaseball inanity that he’s left since we all caught a whiff of his Aqua Velva–scented stench, there’s no dearth of material for a feature-length film on Dimitri’s pervy sexcapades.
While Goodman (who also worked on Bill Maher’s snarky 2008 doc Religulous) teased the movie a while ago on a YouTube channel he set up to promote the project, he was kind enough to correspond with Torontoist via e-mail to talk about the film in detail.
Though details at this point are scant—no word on a release date or distributor—it seems as if Goodman and filmmaker Rob Bryton are poised to capture the sleazy charisma of the Hogtown pickup artist we all love to hate. It should be enough to slate the thirst of salivating Dimitri fans, at least until the movie itself (or his still yet-to-be-released book, appallingly titled Mein Kock) sees release.
Torontoist: How did you hear about Dimitri? What made him such a compelling subject for this documentary?
Brad Goodman: Director Rob Bryton started filming the Dimitri The Lover documentary in June–July 2008 while I was in post on Religulous and Brüno. Rob is also a musician and his team was working with me on some music cues for Religulous. He mentioned the Dimitri film to me, and it piqued my curiosity. I did a little research about Dimitri, including his controversial past and his current role in the Toronto seduction community. I also discovered that Dimitri had tried to pick up my friend’s wife (she said he was very charming) and he had left a business card version of his seduction poster on some of my friends’ cars in Toronto. Then, after viewing some of the raw footage it was clear he would make a good subject, so I asked Rob if I could be involved in producing it with him.
I do find it interesting when people have a “following.” And whether the person is a politician, priest, rock star, or even a demented cult leader, I am fascinated with people who have that kind of charisma.
How did you approach him about the project? Was he at all suspicious? He seems very guarded about how he wants to be presented in the media.
Actually, that part of project was underway before I officially jumped on board. Rob and Dimitri spoke about doing an impartial movie about Dimitri’s story and Dimitri agreed. Dimitri is guarded with reporters because he doesn’t trust the media, especially in Toronto, and wanted someone other than the press to help tell his story in an unbiased and unfiltered way.
Considering your work on films like Borat and Brüno, how did you approach this real-deal social provocateur? Is the same sense of humour required to “get” Dimitri?
I have to say that at first I thought “Dimitri The Lover” was a hoax, a persona invented by a very clever guy with a warped sense of humour. It was quite obvious that Dimitri was very clever, but I ruled out that it was a hoax months ago, blaming my doubts on my proximity to [Borat and Brüno director] Larry Charles for most of the past few years. But beyond that, there really isn’t a huge connection between those films and the Dimitri project. The only exceptions are his voice mails to Olga. I’m on the fence about whether those are real or not.
Some of the things Dimitri says and does are humorous, but we didn’t set out to make a comedy. Dimitri is naturally funny, and Rob captured that aspect of him. None of it is forced or staged for humour for other reasons. Dimitri feels that he can help men meet women, and given his past it makes for interesting conversation about how he (or anyone else) is qualified to give relationship advice.
So how does the film present Dimitri? Certainly, it’s easy to laugh off what he’s doing, but there’s a good deal of social irresponsibility in his “work” (like his suggestion that HIV doesn’t affect heterosexual men) that seems less easy to take lightly. How do you handle that?
The film presents Dimitri in a balanced light. Dimitri is actually extremely intelligent, charming, and funny, and on the surface it is difficult to believe this guy has such a nefarious past. We have interviewed both his detractors and many people that think highly of him. Dimitri’s opinions are his, and he will continue to influence men that he coaches. As filmmakers we are just telling this story.
His position on HIV could be wrong and have serious consequences for some people, but the same could be said about the global warming debate, or even evolution vs. creation. For years science told us smoking cigarettes was a “healthy” thing to do. Each of those sides have some “credible” people defending their positions, even though only one of the sides seems logical to many of us. And I can assure you that many, many men agree with Dimitri about HIV. They rightly or wrongly think that as long as you are the pitcher and not the catcher you are safe.
One thing I can say about Dimitri is that he is honest and up-front about his positions. He doesn’t pretend to be one person (like Tiger Woods) only to discover he’s been feeding us bullshit all these years. Tiger’s affairs and alleged lack of use of condoms during his escapades should concern your readers as much as what Dimitri does. At least Dimitri doesn’t hide it, and from what I have researched he doesn’t cheat on a girlfriend if he is in a relationship, let alone a wife.
Dimitri seems representative of the current climate of pick-up artistry, as marked by the popularity of books like The Game and the general interest in the “seduction community.” How does he fit into this trend?
Dimitri The Lover claims he represents the ANTI-pua movement. He loathes much of what books like The Game represent. It’s not a game to him. He believes very strongly that naive shy men are being financially taken advantage of by all of these seduction books and courses. Instead, Dimitri claims he is teaching men to change their way of THINKING regarding seduction, i.e. to act at all times like what his definition of a MAN is. He clearly states meeting women is not a game, but a hunt.
What was it like working with Dimitri? What do you make of his “followers”?
We all found Dimitri to be honest, straightforward, decent, and fair. He let us make the film we wanted to make. I personally am not a follower of others so it intrigues me, especially coming off a film that questions both followers and leaders like in Bill Maher’s Religulous. I kind of feel sad for his followers. I find it sad these men cannot easily find a loving, sexual, or whatever kind of relationship they are looking for. His followers all seem like very nice people, and I do believe men (and dare I say women) can walk away from him having learned some positive things.
That’s not to say I agree with all of his philosophies. For example, he believes people should only be married if they procreate, and as someone who is both married and childless I personally have a problem with this rule. He also thinks that white men who are exclusively attracted to Asian women are probably closeted pedophiles (because Asian women tend to have boy-like body frames), and I think many of my friends in Los Angeles would take exception to that conclusion. But we live in free countries so he is entitled to his opinion.
But let me be clear…I found no evidence that any of Dimitri’s offensive opinions are based on hate or misogyny. Rather, his belief system has been constructed from combining life experience and scientific research.