Last week we spotlighted a documentary about a man mistaken for Elvis. Now we have one about a man who pretended to be Elvis. Melanie Addington’s feature debut, I Didn’t Do It, presents the story of Paul Kevin Curtis, a celebrity impersonator from Tupelo, Mississippi, who was arrested by the feds for sending ricin to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker last April. But as the title surely has you guessing, he was an innocent man.
The documentary is currently in the rough cut stage and raising finishing costs via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Given that I was immediately gripped by this crazy story of a mock-Elvis patsy, who it turns out was framed by his arch-nemesis, and because I’m now quite excited to see the film, I reached out to the director for a bit of backstory on the project.
“This is a story of being in the right place at the right time,” Addington told me, via email. “I was working for a newspaper at the time and the story broke about Curtis being arrested. It just so happened that his arraignment was across the street from my work and the story fell into my lap. I attended the arraignment and immediately saw a guy that did not appear to be a crazed terrorist. In fact, he wasn’t. He was a musician, family man and strong willed seeker of ‘truth’ that happened to piss off a karate instructor/musician/politician who decided to frame him.
“The story was unbelievable, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I happened to have a producer friend in town — Hudson Hickman (MacGyver, Love Boat and more), and we had a planned lunch for that day. All I could talk about was how amazing a film this guy’s story would be until Hudson finally said that we should be the ones filming this story. We went from joking and laughing about how truth is stranger than fiction to shaking hands and agreeing to get this film made. Within minutes I had reached out to Kevin’s attorneys, and that afternoon we begin the initial formation of a deal.
“But first we had to convince Kevin and his family that we were the ones for the job. After driving 2 hours to meet him and his ex-wife and kids at a Ryan’s buffet, myself and director of cinematography Daniel Lee Perea listened to hours of conspiracy theories about the government, body parts in the local hospital and the many issues Kevin has faced over the years. We knew then this would not be an easy story to tell.
“But what we also saw was a man broken by government and media interference in his life and a family torn apart by the headlines. We empathized with Kevin and his family and agreed that as Mississippians, we could tell his story fairly.
“Since that time we have worked for a year talking with Kevin, his family, attorneys, legal specialists, reporters and more to get to the bottom of how someone could be framed and almost convicted so easily.”
Clearly this is a sort of innocent man documentary unlike any seen before. There’s the common case of someone being easily arrested and likely easily convicted for a crime he didn’t do, but it’s not usual that we meet such a victim of the law, media and judicial system on such a grand level as in the attempted assassination of the president. Plus the relationship between the impersonator and instructor is especially interesting, while the family drama that evolves from the situation sounds devastating. Hopefully it turns out as great as its promise.
In her email, Addington included the following statement that makes me think it will be: “As we’ve worked on this, we’ve learned so much about documentary work being a labor of love,” she wrote. “I’ve done documentary shorts and several have gone on to play the festival circuit and win awards, but this is my first feature documentary. It has changed the way I look at filmmaking and changed the way I look at working in the media. We have poured everything into this film and will continue to do so.”
If you want to pour anything into it yourself, see the Indiegogo campaign, the video for which can be watched right here: