Peacock’s ‘Angelyne‘ is an addictive biographical drama series that explores the intriguing life of the eponymous billboard queen of Los Angeles, who became a famous media icon in the 80s. Created by Nancy Oliver, the limited series further delves into her equations with various men who have impacted her personal and professional paths over the past decades.
Very few in Angelyne’s life know about her true self and origins, but the one who dares to venture into her past is Max Allen, a young filmmaker who wishes to make a documentary on her. So, is he too based on a real person like the other characters, and is there a documentary on the diva by him? If you are highly curious to find out more, let’s dive in!
Is Max Allen Based on a Real Person?
In ‘Angelyne,’ Lukas Gage plays Max Allen, a young film school graduate who sets out to make a documentary on the iconic Los Angeles celebrity, only to get entangled in a legal mess with her. The character is allegedly based on Jesse Small, a University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts graduate, who started making a documentary on Angelyne in 2012. After The Hollywood Reporter journalist Gary Baum published an elaborate investigative piece on her background in 2017, he also interviewed the aspiring filmmaker.
According to Jesse, he worked for five years on the documentary and was the first one to uncover Angelyne’s history from before she became a billboard model. When he graduated from film school in 2012, he zeroed down on her as the subject, as he had grown up seeing her billboards around the city and also went to the same school she had attended earlier. Thus, he pitched his idea to Angelyne and asked her to share whatever material she wanted with him. He paid for her life rights and worked with her for more than six months in 2012.
Jesse added that Angelyne insisted on controlling her image and didn’t wish to be portrayed in a bad way visually. He further elaborated on why she chose to work with him and told The Hollywood Reporter, “I think she liked me because I was young. She told me she likes working with unestablished people because she can control them better. I was fine with that. At the time I really didn’t have an interest in looking into the things that she was uncomfortable with. Honestly, I really didn’t have a clear vision.” Moreover, Jesse realized that the public persona she had created was indeed the real her.
However, Jesse soon discovered that Angelyne was rather elusive about her past and made him interview several random people, such as her dentist. She even accused him of being a stalker once when he found a clip from her old movie ‘Can I Do It…‘Til I Need Glasses?’ online. As per Jesse, Angelyne outrightly denied being a part of that movie but refused to get the clip taken down from the internet. “That’s when she called me a stalker. I think that’s how she tries to negatively describe people whom she doesn’t want to deal with,” he said.
Apart from this, the filmmaker also claimed that Angelyne asked him to gift her expensive perfumes and other items, saying, “She’d ask for bottles of pink champagne, Bulgari Jasmine Noir perfume, Chanel bubble bath. Oftentimes it was not even gifts. She would simply have me fill up her gas tank, and if I refused she would threaten to stop working with me…She does kind of realize that it may be unreasonable. She gets this feeling that if someone is bending over backward, doing all these things for her, then she can trust them, she can bring them closer to her.”
Eventually, Jesse noticed that Angelyne and her assistant Scott Hennig were not giving him any substantial material for the documentary, and the documents he had gathered also showed inconsistent data like “multiple social security numbers on different public records involving civil suits and creditors.” Hence, he decided to change his methods and spoke to about 15 people from Angelyne’s early years. Jesse first interviewed Hugo Maisnik, her financial partner on the billboards, and subsequently spoke to her sister Annette’s daughter Cheyenne, her step-sister Norma, and her former husband, Michael Strauss.
In addition, Jesse traveled to Europe to research the Holocaust archives for information on Angelyne’s parents. Upon being asked why he stopped working with her, Jesse disclosed, “It was just psychologically incredibly draining. It was difficult to be spending a lot of time with her…Also, it became very difficult not because of her concealing her identity or anything like that but just on a financial level. Every time I saw her she wanted a gift.”
What Happened to Jesse Small’s Documentary?
Jesse Small presently lives in Playa del Rey, California. In 2017, he was handling his family’s real estate investments. About his documentary, he told Gary, “It’s all shot. It’s all researched. I have a cut of it, which is 58 minutes, and I’m looking for a new editor right now. In the right hands, it’s like a six-week job to finish it. But to find the right hands has just been an incredibly difficult process. I’ve never made a movie before.” He further stated that he would try to ask Angelyne for another interview but was skeptical if she would agree, given his meticulous research.
Though Jesse’s documentary seems to have been completed, it is unclear whether he released it or not after Gary’s interview. But actor Lukas Gage shared in an interview that Jesse had shown him the documentary. Regardless, the filmmaker described his work’s intent to Gary and said, “On a very personal level, that she went through these circumstances, these events, and there’s no reason to hide it. People love you for who you really are — even if you don’t know who you really are. Everything that you’ve done is even more amazing because of it. There’s a complete person there, and I really want to show that.”