The life and sordid, untimely death of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane are explored by director Paul Schrader in this biopic, which marks one of the few times the filmmaker has not scripted his own film. Auto Focus chronologically traces the meteoric rise of Crane's show business career, beginning with his early success as a jokey deejay on Los Angeles morning radio in the early '60s. A devout family man, Crane lives in Southern Californian comfort with his wife Anne (Rita Wilson) and their young children, relishing the modicum of celebrity his job provides him. His life begins to change, however, when his agent Lenny (Ron Leibman) proposes that he take a breakthrough role on the CBS POW-camp sitcom Hogan's Heroes. Initially reluctant to take the job, Crane signs on with the production and, to his and everyone else's surprise, the show becomes a smash hit. With celebrity comes a new set of friends, and Crane falls in with audio-visual guru John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), a Sony sales rep who spends his days setting up home entertainment systems for the Hollywood elite, and his nights cruising strip clubs for anonymous sexual encounters. Already a pornography buff, Crane starts using his fame to secure him and Carpenter an endless parade of affairs, which they videotape and then obsessively review. It isn't long before Anne demands a divorce, and Crane marries his Hogan's co-star Patti Olsen (aka Sigrid Valdis, here played by Maria Bello), who's more accepting of his escapades. When the sitcom is canceled, however, Crane has trouble securing acting jobs, and recedes further and further into his life of amateur porn with Carpenter. Auto Focus premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before its art-house run in the fall of 2002.
by Michael Hastings synopsis