Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe Presents R-Rated Mr. Rogers Origin Story 'A War Hero'

Producer Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe has arguably helped spark all kinds of creative [...]

Producer Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe has arguably helped spark all kinds of creative resurgences; after his Punisher "Dirty Laundry" short, we got a violent new Punisher Netflix series; and his Power Rangers short is generally more loved than the actual Power Rangers reboot film that came a few years afterwards. Now Shankar is back with a piece that seeks to honor a late American icon: "Mr." Fred Rogers!

Titled A War Hero, this live-action short imagines a fictional backstory for Fred Rogers, in which he was a Vietnam War hero, before returning home to states to start his world-famous show, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. As you can see above, Shankar's concept for the short definitely goes there, imagining a Hard-R war film that just so happens to feature one of the friendliest and most noble figures in the annals of entertainment.

A War Hero is not-so-coincidentally dropping today, March 20, 2018, which would've been Fred Rogers' 90th birthday. As Shankar describes, this entry in the Bootleg Universe was especially near and dear to his heart:

"When I was young my heroes had megazords, adamantium claws, and vampire slaying whips. They were spectacular and unlocked my imagination. But after the events of the past few years my heroes have changed, and now anyone who selflessly enriches a child's life is a hero to me. This entry is a love letter to a man who showed us what being a good neighbor looks like."

Speaking to, Shankar elaborated one just how deep his Mr. Rogers fandom really is. As a kid from Kolkata, India, Shankar observed that "the fact that he reached me, on the other side of the globe, is crazy," noting just what an open and forward-thinking agenda Rogers had, "he wasn't worried about the now, he was worried about the future."

Mr. Rogers Chopper

While the Vietnam backstory for A War Hero is totally fabricated, Shankar sees the fictionalization of the real-life icon to be a nonetheless informative opportunity. As he stated to us:

"Biopics distill lessons of a figure's life to pass on to a new generation. Most biopics or moives based on a true story are 40% fabricated. If you're going to change something, change all of it! Tell a tall tale that honors the subject... and brings them into a format a new generation can discover."

No doubt, after watching the violent events of A War Hero, Mr. Rogers will once again be a topic of mush discussion. Shankar explained that he hopes this latest Bootleg Universe short will indeed inspire a wave of fan nostalgia, saying, "I sincerely hope so - he [Mr. Rogers] deserves it. Go get a time machine, grab him, bring him back, and make him president."

If only we could...

The film was directed by Kenlon Clark, whose screenplay for the short won the 2016 ScreenCraft Bootleg Universe Short Screenplay Competition. That win set Clark up with a $20,000 budget, which he clearly put to good use, here.

Happy 90th birthday to Fred Rogers. May he rest in peace.

Did you enjoy this latest Bootleg Universe short? Let us know in the comments! And for more Bootleg Universe, check these shorts for The Punisher, Venom, and The Power Rangers. Meanwhile, Shankar continues his work on the Castlevania Netflix series and upcoming Assassin's Creed series.