“A WTF story on so many levels that you really need to see this for yourself.”
— Steve Kopian, Unseen Films
Native New Yorker Steve Talt was a bodyguard to Her Imperial Majesty Farah Pahlavi, the wife of the Shah of Iran. Although Steve is now in his seventies, he remains a very loyal servant.
Steve is on a mission – to find 32 valuable paintings belonging to Pahlavi, which were apparently stolen in a 1980 Mafia heist of a Manhattan warehouse. Steve enlists the help of retired mobsters and his 90-year-old neighbour to pursue the cold case.
What starts out as a true-crime story, the “largest unreported art heist in the history of the United States” according to Steve, becomes less about solving the crime and more about the character of the relentless searcher. This is a quixotic tale of loyalty, ethics and, above all, persistence. The only problem with it all is that the Queen never asked Steve for his help.
Filmmakers Daniel Claridge and Andrew Coffman knew Steve before deciding to make The Queen’s Man. Daniel had known him since childhood.
Daniel and Andrew noted, “We knew how unusually persistent Steve could be in the face of ever increasing obstacles.”
It’s an understatement rivalling the magnitude of the theft Steve is investigating.
“Inevitably, as we began to shoot,” the filmmakers say, “we quickly tumbled down the rabbit hole with Steve, whose unyielding enthusiasm and imagination was contagious.”
Fellow Doc Edge 2020 title The Ringmaster shares a similar theme of the filmmakers becoming part of the story. The Queen’s Man is as much about an obsessive subject as obsessive filmmakers. It bears comparison with Terry Gilliam’s attempts to make an adaptation of Don Quixote, depicted in Lost in La Mancha; and the production of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, covered in Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams.
The Queen’s Man also references other films. Some of the former FBI investigators met and interviewed during the film worked on cases adapted for well-known films – including American Hustle and Donnie Brasco.
This is not a story about the ending, it’s very much about the storytellers and the journey. As Unseen Films’ Steve Kopian puts it, “This is one tale you need to hear from the guy who lived it.”