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The heartbreaking true story behind Welcome to Marwen

When Mark Hogancamp woke up in an unfamiliar room, his body had terrible pain, he did not know much.

All he knew was that it was 1985, he was in the Navy, and the room he was in had to be on the island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean off the southeast coast of Spain. The rest? A puzzle.

And even more mysterious? The answer, as he told the man standing over his bed, in which year he believed it was.

"No," said the man. "It's 2000. Five men have nearly knocked you to death, you've been in a coma for nine days."

In every respect, Mark Hogancamp died on April 8, 2000, the victim of a terrible robbery on the hands of five men outside a bar in Kingston, NY. Nine days later he got up again. And what he did next, well, it's the kind of thing that movies about Steve Carell do about you.

The events of this fateful April night are still a mystery to Hogancamp. "My brain protects me by not allowing me to remember it," he said The Guardian in 201

5. But while the trial was being held, what he knows goes something like this , In the midst of alcoholism, he'd gone to a local bar in the Anchorage for one night, talking to five men in his teens and early twenties. According to witnesses, they got along well, had fun and cracked Nazi jokes. (Hogancamp and one of the men had German ancestors.) After drinking a bit too much, Hogancamp decided to keep his new friends in a secret.

"I received the ultimate truth serum, alcohol, and I think I thought people could handle it," he said. "But apparently not."

His secret? He was a crossdresser who liked to wear nylons and heels. "I did not wear it in public," he added. "I kept it very secret."

When Hogancamp finally left the bar, long after the quintet did, they found it outside. "And what I hear, I talked to them a bit, then I turned around and went home, and they attacked me from behind," he said in the publication. Welcome to Marwen "data-width =" 1024 "data-height =" 759 "/>

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The attack lasted a full minute, with all five men repeatedly kicking Hogancamp's head with both feet. When he was found and rolled to the side, blood streamed from his nose and mouth. "The doctors had to take my eyeball out, put it on my cheek, clean the bone fragments and push my eye back in," he said. When he woke up, which was a miracle in and of itself, his memory was wiped out. He had suffered extensive brain damage and eventually had to learn how to walk, speak, eat and behave.

The first thing he said when he heard about the attack for the first time?

"I forgive them."

His friend Tom, the man who stood over his bed when he awoke from the coma, replied, "You would not forgive them if you knew what they did to you."

He spent 40 days in hospital until his insurance no longer covered him. Then the physiotherapy as well as the anger began, but it worked slowly. He had learned to walk again and his hands were shaking less. But after a year, his insurance company hit again. "The guy said," You have to expect $ 157 a month, "Hogancamp explained." I said, "I can not afford that." The asshole on the other end said, "Well, I think you're out of therapy " And he hung up. "

" When my therapy was interrupted, I hated every man on earth, "he added," I felt like I was kicked out of the tribe of humans on planet Earth. But after a month in which I hated everything, I thought, "I have to do something, otherwise this hatred and anger will build me up and kill me." I had to do something. "

He had a choice , By that time he had begun to assemble the life he had lived before, which had been knocked out of his head by drawings and diary entries from 1984, as well as what others had told him. He had been married and divorced for five years, though he does not remember his wife at all. (Sometimes he looks at his wedding videos at night and thinks, "Wow, she's hot," he said.) After five years, he was honorably discharged from the Navy and eventually became into alcoholism, designing retail showrooms for a lighting company suffered homelessness, followed by rehabilitation attempts. He loved drawing and drank vodka half gallon at the time of the attack.

"I needed help from God," he said. "And so he sent five riders."

Although his injuries made him the ability to draw, he was also taken by the idea of ​​what alcohol tastes like. With his love of wearing women's shoes he returned like a kind of muscle memory. When he came home from the hospital, he saw his shoes everywhere, and after being gently reminded that they belonged to him, out of curiosity he tried a couple. "And that was all," he told The Guardian . "A pair of shoes and I was & # 39; oh wow! & # 39; – He never allowed himself a drop of alcohol. "That scares me of alcohol," Hogancamp explained. "One sip, and I'm back half a gallon every day."

Feeling as if the world had turned against him, he began to found his own, a small company he called Marwencol. Named after herself and two women he had a crush on, Wendy and Colleen, and made of plywood and other recovered materials, Marwencol began to grow beside his trailer in the yard. Populated with Barbies and World War II action figures, Hogancamp began creating tales of American fighter pilot Captain Hogie, who was rescued by the all-female population of the fictional city while targeting Nazis. "I'm building a women's army," he told The New York Times in 2011. "Women dominate the world, we're only here to keep them company."

He built a bar, the Ruined Stocking Catfight Club – "the only one in Belgium" – a town hall, a bank, an ice fountain, a cemetery, a gas station. And for three years, he kept Marwencol to himself, capturing his little vignettes with an old Pentax camera taken from the perspective of the characters he created. Almost every day, Hogancamp would capture hogie or, most likely, the women of the city who killed the SS men. "The only species on earth that did not attack me are women," he told The Guardian . "And when they heard that I had over 300 pairs of high heels, they said," We take you into our tribe. "

After taking the physiotherapy, Marwencol was the relief he needed to suppress the bubbling rage inside." Marwencol was fictitious enough to kill the five men, "he explained," I had none Possibility to do it in real life. I played it in my head. I was caught. I would go to jail. I would get the chair. The first time I killed all five, I felt a little better. The violent hatred and anger subsided. "When he spoke to the British branch in 2015, he admitted he had" killed "these" hateful men "over and over again, killing them in every way for 12 years now, killing them in a way that killed them Satan did not do it myself. I did not even think about it. "

And as for his assailants in real life, they got away a bit easier than their Marwencol counterparts. All five were convicted of their heinous crime; Only three ever saw the inside of a prison cell.

Although Hogancamp never intended to use Marwencol for himself, a tool for his ongoing recovery, the world finally found out and what he had created anyway. After three years, a neighbor named spotted David Naugle pacing the side of the road as he pulled a model-model military jeep. After asking him what he was doing, Naugle, a local photographer, asked if he had any photos he could have shared. Hogancamp said yes, and the next time he went out he put something in Naugle's mailbox.

"And when he saw her, he freaked out," recalls Hogancamp.

Naugle sent the photos to the publisher of New York Art Magazine Esopus which was distributed in 2005. From there there were gallery shows. The following year, the well-known art critic Jerry Saltz wrote about Hogancamp's work in the Village Voice: "Mr. Hogancamp has an uncanny sense of body language, psychology and directing." Finally, the documentary filmmaker documented Jeff Malmberg of the four years of Hogancamp's life after the Esopus circulated for the 2010 film Marwencol .

The film opened in South by Southwest, making Hogancamp more popular, yet life was a challenge for him. Until 2011, he was still living in a disability test, so he was unable to do a regular job because of his injuries. He told the NYT this year that he only ate a meal a day to save money. He had to get a new, unlisted phone number and deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder when a new movie screening called him out of his Marwencol cocoon. And though they reassured him, the stocking and heels were another, another fear, because, as he said to the newspaper, "this has beaten me to death."

Over the next four years, he stayed nearby with Malmberg, whose wife Chris Shellen co-authored the book of 2015 Welcome to Marwencol in the 600th of Hogencamp's photos. "There's only so much that we could fit into an 82-minute movie, but there's an incredible wealth of information to share," she said Wired . "We had 100 pages of interview logs and Mark archived everything – magazines, photos, plans for the buildings, and with the book we wanted to look more closely at his process, so we collected all this different material and arranged his stories into a sort of Marwencol encyclopedia . "

And at that time he volunteered to move more out of the city limits of Marwencol, visiting gallery openings that were not his own, with growing confidence in his cross-dressing. "He has become a bit more sociable," says Shellen. "If you think about what happened to Mark and see how he managed to bring order and peace to the chaos inside, I think it's kind of inspiring."

"Things have gotten better, they've become as good as she said to NYT in 2015." Except for my imagination, that's getting bigger. "

Until then, he had already caught the attention of Robert received Zemeckis whose interpretation of Hogancamp's story, starring Carell in the lead role, this December found its way into the theater. "I was in 2010 in Channel Surfing," the director said earlier this year The Telegraph "and I came across the documentation in our public broadcaster. It already took 10 minutes. I was instantly excited And when it was over, I quickly realized the potential to turn it into a feature film and actually tell the story beyond what the documentary was capable of. The next morning, I called Donna Langley, head of Universal Pictures, and asked her to get the rights. "Co-starring Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae and Diane Kruger and others uses Zemeckis & # 39; film's motion-capture performances to bring Marwencol to life next to Carell's Hogancamp. [19659033] And although the subject has not yet talked publicly about the finished product, as Zemeckis has emphasized that this is more interpretation than exact recovery, Hogancamp was kept informed about the production at all times and was further developing updates on Marwencol to the director.

Speaking about the movie in 2015, which was still in development, he told the New York Times that the idea of ​​it was "scary," even though he had already begun paying homage to Zemeckis by making a puppet version The director tinkered and pointed to a key moment from Forrest Gump in one of his stills, and although the attention was perhaps a bit more al at least he had the feeling that he was doing something good. "I did not know that my fight to get my thoughts back would benefit other brain-injured," he told the newspaper. "Now they know that they can create their own world that only they understand."

And as for the man who brings him to life? He had only one thing to this day: "I hope Steve Carell has nice legs."

Welcome to Marwen is now in theaters.

(E! And Universal Pictures are both of the NBCUniversal family.)

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