Welcome to Marwen: Steve Carell's New Movie Draws From an Emotional True Story

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Over the course of his career, Steve Carell has taken on a gamut of different roles, from Dunder Mifflin's offbeat salesman Michael Scott to a cartoon supervillain turned curmudgeonly dad. In his upcoming biopic, Welcome to Marwen, the actor inhabits the role of Mark Hogancamp, a man who builds a miniature town of dolls after nearly dying from a violent attack. And yes, Hogancamp's real story is just as heartbreaking and full of resilience as one would imagine.

On April 8, 2000, five men beat Hogancamp outside of a bar in Kingston, NY, after he told them that he was a cross-dresser. The attack resulted in Hogancamp spending nine days in a coma and 40 days in the hospital. Along with post-traumatic stress disorder, he suffered brain damage that left him with little recall of his past life, which includes his experiences with homelessness, struggles with alcoholism, and past relationships. His last memory was of being in Ibiza in 1984 while serving in the Navy. Upon waking up, he needed to learn how to walk and talk again.

Marwencol became Hogancamp's alternative to therapy, which he could not afford. Located at the side of his trailer home, it's a 1/6th scale World War 2 town named after himself and two women that he had crushes on — Wendy and Colleen. Built from plywood and populated with Barbies and World War II action figures, the town blossomed into his own world. The stories that he creates focus on an American pilot that he fashioned after himself who's rescued and protected by the town's all-female population. He started using his Pentax to capture his stories, which detail sagas of violence, fear, and camaraderie.

One day, Hogancamp's neighbor David Naugle, a magazine photographer, felt curious about the project and asked to see the images. Astonished upon seeing the work, Naugle sent in the pictures to the art publication Esopus, which eventually covered Hogancamp's story. Photographs of Marwencol would grow popular over the years, landing in other art magazines, as well as galleries. Filmmaker Jeff Malmberg made Hogancamp's story the subject of his directorial debut, Marwencol, which took over four years to complete and garnered critical acclaim.

Headed by a cast of amazing actresses (including Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, and Janelle Monáe) and anchored by a story full of hope, Welcome to Marwen is a timely film for the chaos of 2018. It'll come out just in time for the holidays on Dec. 21. Bring tissues, just in case.