About the movie...

It was Providence, it was the 80s, and filmmaker Jim Wolpaw had some wild ideas...

Terrorists, political conspiracy, drugs and bad music. Just another night at the Heartbreak hotel.

Filmed on location at the original Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, this cult classic captures the wild nightlife of late 80s Providence, featuring Stanley Matis, Rudy Cheeks in the Young Adults, Roomful of Blues, NRBQ, Capt. Lou Albano and Daniel von Bargen.

Original Poster
The original movie poster...

Q&A: James Wolpaw
Director of It's a Complex World

Published: Thursday, April 02, 1992 in the Harvard Crimson

Q: What is the background of Complex World? Is the Heartbreak Hotel based on a real bar?

A: Experiences in [producer Rich] Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel provided some of the background for the film. He was my roommate at Brown. We had talked for a long period of time about making a film about the bar. We finally got around to it about a year before the building was torn down.

The idea was to use it [Lupo's Bar] as a basis for the movie. The whole way this premise was hatched was I was wondering what if a bomb was planted in a bar--no one would pay any attention.

Q: How long did it take to produce the film?

A: We shot it in about two-and-a-half months. It took about two years to make a film out of that. I shot it like a documentary so it was shot with a lot of possibilities.

Q: How did you find the money?

A: Rich Lupo was going to put up the money, but it ended up costing more than we thought. We brought in investors, but they were people we knew--not people who wanted to make money.

Q: Did that change the nature of the film?

A: We had complete control.

Q: Complex World is a lot different than the films that come out of Hollywood. Even when I saw the trailer, I knew it wasn't an ordinary movie.

A: It has to do with the fact that it was put together on the run. It was over two years that we worked on it--it seemed longer.

The scenes were not exactly written to be placed somewhere. We wrote some scenes that were moved 20 or 30 minutes.

Q: How did you cast the film? How did you get Captain Lou Albano?

A: NRBQ played at Lupo's a lot and they're associated with him. A lot of the actors are Trinity Square people from Providence. Stanley, the guitar player, is someone I knew for a long time. I wrote the part for him. The Black preacher was a guy in Providence who did just what he does in the movie.

Q: Do you think Complex World will ever see a general release?

A: We're hoping so. It's done pretty well in Boston and it's opening in New York in a month. Anytime it has been played for an audience it gets a good reaction.

Q: What is it like being an independent director?

A: It's real rough getting a film distributed. We've been lucky. When you're an independent you have no power and you're at the mercy of everyone.

Hollywood's not interested in good movies. If the distributor can't figure out a market [for the film], they won't buy it.

But once you do something, make some money, everything turns around. People want to do things for you.

Q: What are you working on currently?

A: A film about Emily Dickinson. I did a documentary on a Keats poem, and I learned how to use poetry in film.


The buzz in Providence during the production...

Scott Duhamel covered the excitement in Providence during production,
for the Providence NewPaper (now the Phoenix):

Complex film
August 26, 1987
The rumors were flying when Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel became the setting for the filming of Complex World. Scott Duhamel got the lowdown.

What is it? What the hell are they doing down there at Lupo's? What's it all about?

Everybody's talkin', everybody's walkin', and every hipster and flipster in the downtown scene knows at least a few of the facts. (1) They're making some kinda magic movie in and around Lupo's. (2) The Young Adults got back together to make some big-time bucks and appear (prominently) in said movie. (3) Longtime Lupo buddy and filmmaker Jim Wolpaw is behind the whole buzz.

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- but what's it all about?

Wolpaw tongue-in-cheekily labels his movie a "rock and roll terrorist comedy." Set on a hot 4th of July night in a club called the Heartbreak Hotel, with the Young Adults on stage throughout the evening, the movie comically intercuts between two separate groups who plan to do harm to the venerable rock and roll club. One group contains your garden variety terrorists, led by psycho folksinger Stanley Matis; the other is a batch of big, bad bikers led by Captain Lou Albano and hired by the unnamed setting's mayor (played by Rich Lupo). Add to this a hilariously whacked-out phone conversation between members of a band known as the Beat Legends (a Beatles clone band) and the all-knowing spirits of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Big Elvis Presley, occurring in the club's subterranean basement, plus the ongoing filming of a rather inept in-club documentary (the 16-millimeter footage from this ostensible documentary will show up intermittently during the film), as well as the funky and familiar behavior of various bar patrons. Put it all together and you've got the real thing -- a 90-minute feature called Complex World.