Gossip, discussion, and critique of specific personalities. Includes the "Fade to Black" subcategory.
Archive for the 'Celebrities' Category
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; leave a comment.
Every year's weekend before Thanksgiving is host to the Super Megafest, an annual convention of sci-fi, comics, wrestling, and nostalgia. I have recently returned from my sixth consecutive attendance at the event — but what about the fifth?
I report on every Super Megafest for Showbits, but the past few years I've taken procrastination to new heights. Before I can in good conscience relate my experiences at the 2012 convention, here I must finally reflect on the 2011 show.
The headliners of 2011 were two stars well-known to science fiction and fantasy fans: Sean Astin and Sir Patrick Stewart. I had the opportunity and pleasure to first visit their tables, where I paid handsomely for their autographs, then attend their free Q&A sessions. In that former one-on-one encounter, the two actors could not have been more different in their receptions.
Astin had a table in the common area, where no one minded the queue moving slowly, as it was the product of the actor taking his time to recognize each fan as an individual. He'd shake their hands, listen to their comments, and respond with stories. In my case, I told him how, in my sporadic career as an educator, I had a high school student who wrote a paper about his family movie starring Sean Astin. Goonies? Rudy? Lord of the Rings? Nope — Slipstream, a 2005 science fiction time-travel movie that got panned by critics. When I told Astin about this paper, his eyebrows shot up to accompany a disbelieving "Really??" He then quickly harrumphed and, trying to take more pride in his work, offered a casual, interested "Really!" Astin then suggested that Slipstream was the basis for Jake Gyllenhaal's more successful Source Code, though I consider the connection between the two films tenuous at best.
By contrast, Sir Stewart gave me almost nothing to relate here. Rather than wait three hours in line for his autograph, I paid for a pricey "speed pass" that got me to the head of the queue. When I was finally face-to-face with Captain Picard himself, I held out my hand, as I did with every other actor I'd met that weekend. Stewart seemed intent on putting his John Hancock on my purchased 8×10" glossy, so thinking he hadn't noticed my gesture, I asked, "May I shake your hand?" "No, sorry," he replied. Fair enough; many stars are concerned about being introduced to too many fans and their germs. I offered as an alternative: "How about a fist bump?". "No, sorry." I persisted: "Elbow bump?" At this point, his handler stepped in: "Sir Patrick has arthritis." Both gentlemen then looked to the side at the next person in line, making it clear that my time had expired. It was an impersonal experience and a real letdown: The Next Generation was my first exposure to Star Trek and defined me and my life. I never even got to say "Thank you".
Despite the discrepancy in personal encounters, both actors proved entertaining in their Q&A sessions, in which neither had to deal with fans on an individual basis. With this being Stewart's first New England convention, he reflected on the first such con he ever attended after gaining fame as Jean-Luc Picard. He said that when he stepped on the stage and the crowd went wild, "In that moment, I knew what it felt like to be Sting." Stewart has rarely turned that fame to the silver screen, though, commenting that his movie career had been limited to Robin Hood: Men In Tights (a slight exaggeration) — but that he'd recently asked his agent to actively solicit movie options. Why not just retire completely? Because in 71 years of life, 54 of them spent acting, Stewart has found that "Actors are some of the most inspiring, respectful, generous people I know." Stewart went on to talk about his gardening — he'd recently produced 24 dozen cases of apple juice, a dozen cases of pear juice, and 16 pounds of damson jam — and about taking risks, The Inner Light, William Shatner, his workout routine, and more. (He also mentioned handing out diplomas at a college and shaking 800 hands… but he couldn't shake mine?)
Sean Astin, better known to some as Samwise Gamgee, was equally entertaining, sharing the stage with Sala Baker, who played Sauron in Lord of the Rings. The two recounted how the trilogy's cast were joined in a real-life fellowship through the art of tattoo. He laughed when the film's star found the experience painful: "I'm ten years older than Elijah [Woods]; he's a punk kid." As it turned out, Astin didn't have so easy a time with it, either.
In a turn of events, Astin even took a photo of ME! You can see me in the right rear in the red sweater.
— Sean Astin (@SeanAstin) November 20, 2011
I told Astin how unusual it is to have a career that spans so many decades and genres. Demonstrating the humility of any great man, Astin seemed even more amazed than I did. As many Hollywood veterans will tell you, nepotism is alive and well, and Astin couldn't help but be recognized during auditions due to his lineage, mother Patty Duke and adoptive father John Astin. A father of three daughters of his own (with the oldest playing his on-screen daughter in The Return of the King), Astin is glad to have a filmography in which each of them can find something to relate to, especially as they near the ages at which he began his career.
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; 2 comments.
For the past several years, I've made an annual tradition of attending the Super Megafest, a sci-fi and nostalgia convention held in Framingham, Massachusetts. It's not a massive affair, but for its size and location, it's still fairly enjoyable, with several aspects to entertain the showgoer: vendors of various geek goods; celebrities on-hand for personal autographs (not free or even cheap!); Q&A sessions with said celebrities; and more.
But I found 2010 to be mildly disappointing, due to a variety of logistical decisions. The Q&A sessions are scheduled for specific times and days, but the event coordinator chooses not to publicize those schedules ahead of time, such as on the Super Megafest Web site; my email requesting this data confirmed that it is not available in advance. Although I realize celebrities' schedules often cannot be determined until the last minute, it's frustrating for me to not know if I should be at the conference on Saturday at 10 AM or 5 PM, or on Sunday. Without the Q&A, I need only an hour or two to absorb the event in its entirety; it's unreasonable to block out an entire two-day weekend for whenever the Q&As might be.
The comfort of the celebrities is of course the organizers' priority, so rather than have the stars stand for an hour during Q&A, they're allowed to sit. But the session is held in a conference room large enough that folks in the back can't see someone seated at the front. A simple riser that would elevate the celebrity would be a simple fix.
Last year, I calculated the cost of admission plus that of Christopher Lloyd's autograph and decided it was worth getting the "VIP speed pass", which included admission and autographs by Lloyd and Lea Thompson. The "speed" aspect allowed me to bypass the line for this celebrity, which would otherwise take hours to traverse. But there was no fine print indicating that this privilege was valid only from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM! The Web site informed me only that I was paying for "a beat-the-line speed pass". Such vague terminology bordered on the deceptive.
Despite all that, I was still glad for the opportunity to meet the stars. Few people had paid for the speed pass, which also granted exclusive access to Lloyd's Q&A session, which made for an intimate setting. Everyone got to ask a question, with mine being: "Does an actor of your renown still have to audition for parts, or are they written for or handed to you?" Lloyd said that sometimes, the writers say to themselves, "Oh, this script calls for a drunk? Let's get Lloyd." But more often, he still needs to audition, as it's not always clear whether he or someone else will be right for a part. Lea Thompson never showed up, so my pass got me two Lloyd autographs instead.
I also met Marina Sirtis, better known as Deanna Troi from Star Trek: TNG. She was very friendly and fun, laughing and smiling and calling everyone "hon". When I saw the various 8"x10" glossies she had available to autograph, I chose an off-camera shot from First Contact, commenting, "You were so funny in that film!" She responded, "I was more myself in that Star Trek movie than in any other."
I had some time to kill between sessions, so I sat in on a Q&A by Kristin Bauer, who plays Pam De Beaufort on True Blood. I'd never seen this show so wasn't very interested, but she redeemed herself with the credit of playing Lt. Laneth on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.
I ended the show by getting Peter Mayhew's autograph. The taciturn Wookie didn't have much to say and didn't offer to personalize his signature, though he did do so after I handed it back with the request.
The headliners for this year's Super Megafest are Patrick Stewart and Sean Astin. After a month of waffling, and with just a week to spare, I coughed up the dough for another VIP speed pass. I'm a bit disenchanted with Super Megafest, though, and would not have been roped in for another expensive pass for anyone other than Captain Picard.
Filed under Celebrities; leave a comment.
As my friend Andy put it: that which is seen cannot be unseen.
William Shatner, who launched his musical career in 1968, has not let his lack of talent deter him from staying the couse. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is part of a twenty-track album that Shatner released last week:
Captain Kirk lives! With an eclectic set of songs about space, William Shatner continues his hilarious, touching, inspired, and insane approach to music. Since he isn’t really a singer, he surrounds himself with folks like Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, and Lyle Lovett to help with the heavy lifting.
Seeking Major Tom is currently available for $11.99 from Apple iTunes, $7.99 from Amazon, or $13.99 as a physical CD. Though before making an investment, you may want to consider how far Shatner's musical abilities haven't come:
(Hat tip to Roddenberry.com)
Filed under Fade to Black; leave a comment.
British actor Pete Postlethwaite died Sunday at the age of 64 from cancer.
Mr. Postlethwaite was the sort of actor whose name you might not know, but you'd recognize him in a heartbeat. Perhaps best known for his appearance in The Usual Suspects, he appeared alongside Kevin Spacey again in the comedy The Shipping News as a hard-nosed reporter who bore a grudge. In one of my favorite fantasy films, Dragonheart, he provided comical relief as Brother Gilbert, a wandering friar and would-be minstrel who became troubled when faced with the moral conflict of doing evil for a greater good. He also had roles in movies such as Amistad and Inception, and he earned an Oscar nomination for In the Name of the Father. In these roles and others, he garnered a reputation for his devious, diverse, and nuanced characters.
If you still don't recognize Mr. Postlethwaite's face, you might have heard his voice: "Truth is I thought it mattered, I thought that music mattered. But does it bollocks! Not compared to how people matter." It was he who spoke these opening lines to the song "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba.
Mr. Postlethwaite was born in 1946 in Cheshire, England; became a drama teacher, then a full-time stage actor; broke into television in the late 1980s and Hollywood in the early 1990s; and had two children. He will be missed.
Filed under Fade to Black; 3 comments.
Leslie Nielsen, star of Police Squad, Naked Gun, and Airplane!, died Sunday at the age of 84.
Mr. Nielsen was much loved and fondly remembered for the many laughs the above films brought to generations of American theatergoers, but his legacy is older and more eclectic than many fans may realize. His acting career began with a television appearance 1948, from which he built a diverse portfolio as a talented, serious actor. But it was his turn as Dr. Rumack in the 1980 comedy Airplane! that introduced him to the comedic genre upon which he would establish three decades of celebrity status. The film, itself a parody of Zero Hour!, cast stars who would essentially be playing parodies of the dramatic characters for which they were previously known.
Mr. Nielsen's small but important role in that movie produced what the American Film Institute deemed the 79th top quotation in American cinematic history:
Two years later, Mr. Nielsen cemented his transition to the genre and his status as a comedic powerhouse when he landed the leading role in Police Squad!. In this short-lived television series, he maintained his ability to deliver one-liners with a timing and tone that packed as much punch as any buildup:
Though the show lasted only six episodes, it spun off three feature-length films, something accomplished by not even the likes of Get Smart! or Firefly. Mr. Nielsen went on to play the lead in further spoofs such as Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Spy Hard, and Wrongfully Accused, and appearing in other comedies including Scary Movie 4 and Superhero Movie.
It was just this past Thanksgiving Eve that my girlfriend and I finished watching the complete Police Squad! on DVD. As it aired before she was born, she'd never heard of the show but immediately cottoned to it, riveted to catch every rapid-fire joke and subtle gag. It didn't take us long to decide that we had to give this set as a Christmas gift to introduce even more people to this brief, overlooked, yet valuable contribution Mr. Nielsen made to comedic history. We never expected that he would so soon be a part of history himself, making it especially poignant to discover there will be no more adventures of Frank Drebin.
As the optimistic Wil Wheaton: Leslie Nielsen's in a better place. "A better place? What is it?" A construct to help cope with grief, but that's not important right now.
Filed under Celebrities; leave a comment.
A brief post this Halloween night to share Star Trek alumnus John De Lancie reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" — a production of QMx Online:
(Hat tip to Charlie Jane Anders)
Filed under Fade to Black; leave a comment.
Barbara Billingsley, whose fame was founded by playing mom June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver but who also enjoyed popularity as a jive-speaking passenger on Airplane! and as Nanny on Muppet Babies, passed away on Saturday at the age of 94, CNN reports.
Although I never saw Ms. Billingsley in her original black-and-white role, I've seen how surprised people are when they realize that the three parts listed above were played by the same person. It's a mark of a talented and open-minded artist that they can and will move so fluidly among a variety of performances. But I wonder if she wasn't the least bit frustrated that she achieved so much fame from such a minor part?
If she did, she graciously never let it show, instead focusing on gratitude for the opportunities it presented, as demonstrated in this interview:
She was a classy lady of a bygone era.
Filed under Celebrities, Star Trek; leave a comment.
When Star Trek: First Contact premiered, the Boston Herald published a rather incendiary review by James Verniere. Though he was judging the film from the perspective of a non-Trekkie, many of his comments were baseless, such as the utter confusion he experienced over Picard's history with the Borg. Did the film not feature a monologue addressing that very point?
One of Mr. Verniere's more interesting comments was that Star Trek had to stop recruiting from within its own ranks (the film's director was Jonathan Frakes). Why not have Antonio Banderas as an ensign on the Enterprise, he suggested? I presume the critic was trying to expand the franchise's appeal by giving non-Trekkies a point of familiarity by which to be introduced to the series. Though it would be jarring for an established cast to suddenly be joined by an actor known for non-sci-fi work, Mr. Verniere's suggestion proved correct in the appropriate context: the presence of Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, Zachary Quinto, and others didn't detract from but added to last year's reboot of Star Trek: TOS, which provided an entirely new slate on which these actors could gel as a team.
What other celebrities might Star Trek benefit from introducing? We still don't know what's to come in the sequel, slated for release on June 29, 2012 — but we can imagine what it might look like if Nicolas Cage, Summer Glau, and David Tennant joined the ranks of Starfleet, courtesy the Photoshop machinations of Rabittooth.
Several of the stars in this small sampling would surely be scene-stealers; Kevin Spacey warrants nothing less than prime antagonist, for example. But Brandon Routh, whose one leading role as Superman was fleeting enough to allow him to turn in a stellar yet innocuous performance in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, could be a subtle yet effective addition to any bridge crew.
This isn't the first time non-Trek actors have been inserted into Gene Roddenberry's universe. Alex Luko transposed one show's entire cast onto the Enterprise with a result that left geeks salivating:
I had likened Serenity's crew to the Enterprise's myself so can totally see such a shift of universes as successful.
Who would you like to see in the next Star Trek movie, and why?