For documentary filmmaker Alex Perry, there wasn’t much question that he was interested in making a film about Dormont native, Olympic gold medalist, one-time TV sports anchor and pro wrestler Kurt Angle.
“Kurt was my favorite pro wrestler growing up,” Perry said in a phone interview last week. “When I was a kid, I didn’t know about his backstory with the Olympics or anything like that. It was such a rare thing for a wrestler to have their gimmick in wrestling be based on something that happened in their real life. To find out that his gimmick was actually based on a real event and that he won a gold medal with his neck injury, I was blown away, and that made me more of a fan of his.”
Perry’s two-hour documentary film, “Angle,” debuted earlier this month on Peacock, nested under both “documentary” and “WWE,” which bought the film after Perry produced it independently between 2018 and 2019 with most of the filming done in Pittsburgh.
Perry first met Angle in 2012 when he directed the comedy short “Olympic Trials with Kurt Angle” for the website FunnyOrDie.com.
“It was an excuse for me to meet Kurt basically,” Perry recalled. “We had a blast filming it over two days, and we stayed in touch. I was texting him questions about his life over the next decade. I really thought the first half of his story was very unexplored territory. I probably spent six months trying to convince him to give me his documentary rights.”
The film traces Angle’s youth growing up in Dormont and playing football at Mt. Lebanon High School to his wrestling career winning the Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling in 1996 and then into his WWE career that spanned 1998-2006 and 2017-19.
“Kurt’s story is all about resilience to pain, whether that pain be physical through his injuries, mental through his opioid addiction or emotional through the tragedies that his family has endured,” Perry said. “He’s always had this relentlessness. There’s a line at the beginning of the movie after his dad passed away. (Kurt) says, ‘Just keep moving, just keep moving.’ And that is the theme of Kurt’s whole life.”
One aspect of Angle’s story that didn’t make the cut: His brief less-than-stellar stint as a weekend sports anchor on WPGH-TV.
“That is the scene that I am so, so sad I couldn’t get in there because I couldn’t find any of the footage,” Perry said. “I found a couple small clips but nothing would have beat those first few nights of seeing him attempt being a broadcaster. He was the worst broadcaster of all time is the way that most people put it. I’m so sad we couldn’t find that.”
“Angle” does include footage from WTAE-TV, KDKA-TV (a Jennifer Antkowiak interview) and PCNC and interviews with wrestling stars Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“These people love Kurt,” Perry said. “He was good to so many people throughout his life, and it really became this weapon that I had at my disposal. … All these people said yes (to interview requests) almost immediately, and I had very little pushback from anybody. The Rock was one of the easiest to get. He immediately said yes. He’s probably the busiest guy on the planet, so it was unbelievable that he was willing to donate any time whatsoever to talk about Kurt. That just shows how much love and respect (Kurt) has.”
The film ends with an update on Angle, who’s been sober for nine years and still resides in the Pittsburgh area where he’s raising his six children.
Perry said Angle loved the movie.
“He told me he walked into (watching it) with a notebook to take all the notes for changes he wanted (to make) in the film, but he said halfway through it he threw away the notebook and just watched the rest,” Perry said. “He told me he cried and that was a huge moment for me. Prior to the release, if that’s all I got out of making this movie, I would have been satisfied.”
Talk shows delay returns
After announcing they’d return this week, daytime talk shows starring Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Hudson along with CBS’s “The Talk” and nighttime’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO delayed their returns following online criticism from members of the Writers Guild of America that they planned to return to work during the ongoing strikes against Hollywood studios.
At its annual Gold Medal Dinner on Sept. 28 at Pittsburgh’s Omni William Penn Hotel, the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters will honor TV commercial star Edgar Snyder and Pittsburgh sports announcers Bill Hillgrove and Ray Goss and The Miracle League of Southwestern PA. … After failing to announce its Monday night fall schedule before this week’s start of the 2023-24 TV season, ABC announced it will simply simulcast ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” in prime time Monday nights this fall. … Even though it was a five-year-old rerun, the first episode of “Yellowstone” to air on CBS Sunday night still drew more than 6 million viewers, making it the top-rated entertainment program of the week on broadcast TV.
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