Til I Found “Serenity”

A (slightly) abbreviated version of this is available over on the new nerd culture blog God Hates Geeks for whom I technically did this write up, but I just couldn’t resist sharing my informal, unadulterated, probably containing many more grammatical errors take on the Q&A with the handsome, talented, and delightfully delightful Nathan Fillion.

Obviously, I am a huge “Firefly” fan, as I am sure EVERYONE else in theatre five of Regal Cinemas LA Live was, at Sunday night’s screening of Serenity.  My love of Joss Whedon’s work began in middle school when my mom insisted I start watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  Yes, that is correct, my mom forced me to watch the same shows as her so we could have something to talk about.  However, much as I enjoy a good vampire butt kicking, I prefer smugglers in space – I was reared on Star Wars and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, so it’s only natural.

Actor Nathan Fillion arrived to, no surprise, thunderous applause.  When Geoff Boucher, super cool dude and The LA Times resident geek, told Fillion it was nice to see him, he simply agreed.  Yes, it was nice to see him.  And with ABC’s “Castle” currently on hiatus and already renewed for a fifth season, the actor was looking radiant from his well-deserved weeks of rest. (Side note: the mere mention of the word “Castle” elicited squeals and applause from the audience…multiple times)

Fillion, who got his start in New York playing Joey Buchanan on the ABC Soap “One Life to Live”, talked about the writers’ ability incorporate references to other projects of his into “Castle.”  “At one point there was a bit where my mother, Susan Sullivan, says to me ‘you’ve never heard of Serenity?’ And I was hoping I could just look right into the camera for just a second [and say] ‘never heard of it’.”  The director vetoed that idea in favor of maintaining the illusion of the fourth wall.

Though Fillion mentioned texting with him earlier, Serenity creator Joss Whedon, sadly, did not make a surprise appearance.  (I apologize to anyone I was bragging to on Saturday night–after Rick Baker and Simon Pegg’s appearances I was really convinced Joss was gonna show up too)

On the topic of filming Serenity, which occurred two years after “Firefly” was cancelled, Fillion said that he came to realize that he actually missed the characters, not the actors themselves, with whom he kept in close contact.  “From everything I do, I always pull one friend.  From “Firefly” I got 20 to 25 really good friends … I realized when we started filming Serenity and … we all went to our trailers and came out in our outfits, I realized, oh my God!  I missed these guys.  I missed the crew and the ship.”

Fillion said he knew right away that Captain Mal Reynolds, his now iconic role on “Firefly” was a killer part.  While he likes to think he brought something to the role, he did comment on how Joss’s particular style of writing had a heavy hand in the casting process.  “ … I saw how Joss picked his cast and he picked people that these characters, these words really could sing through.  It was a very particular kind of speech, they called it ‘Joss Speak’ at the time.  It was very particular, it had a twang, it had a rhythm, it had a music and he picked people who nailed it.”

Ah, good old “Joss Speak”.  And now we have Marvel superheroes, on the big screen, spouting witticisms amidst generalized Manhattan-based destruction (spoilers, I guess, if you’re one of the three people on the planet who hasn’t seen The Avengers).

Fillion went on to describe his first meeting with Whedon regarding “Firefly”.  He recalls that, at the time, since the script existed only in treatment (more or less, fancy word for extremely detailed outline) form, he had a lot of questions.  Whedon had a lot of answers.  After “Firefly” was cancelled, Fillion was called in for another sci-fi show.  “I was there with the writer/creator [of that show] and I said, ‘Okay, what about this?  How’s this gonna happen?  And, if they can solve this very easily, what’s the challenge?’ and [the writer] says, ‘Yeah, I dunno!’”  Whedon, on the other hand, would have had everything worked out down to the the lighting.  His meticulous attention to detail, according to Fillion, takes Whedon’s imaginative concepts from “a children’s coloring book, to a very realistic trompe-l’oeil painting.”

Yes I had to Google “tromploi” to learn that it was actually the french “trompe-l’oeil” (meaning trick of the eye).  I’m sure Peter Weller would be very disappointed.

Of course the theatre nerd in me was thrilled to learn that Joss Whedon, who directed a film version of Much Ado About Nothing, now in post-production, holds occasional Shakespeare brunches at his house.  Prior to filming Much Ado, said occasions were Fillion’s only experience with Shakespeare.  Doubtful though he was of his own abilities, Fillion said the language eventually clicked and he had a great time.

Which is not in the least bit surprising.  It is Joss after all.  Said Fillion, “I dunno if any of you guys have one of these friends who every time your friend brings a group with them they’re always cool?  That person is the center at like the hub of which everyone around them is amazing? … I got two of those guys.  One’s name is Tuck, and one’s name is Joss.”

Yeah, we know Joss is magic.  Now, who’s Tuck?

A Clockwork Super, or Day 2 Part 2 of the L.A. Times Hero Complex Film Fest

A “highlights only” version of this is available over on the newly created nerd culture blog God Hates Geeks, so, if you’re looking only for relevant points of discussion and aren’t in the market for tangents about dinner parties with Peter Sellers, go check it out there.

Recently revisiting films from your past seemed to be a theme amongst Saturday’s guests, as it had not been long since actor Malcolm McDowell returned from a screening of A Clockwork Orange at the Cannes Film Festival.  “It was an amazing even really, I mean twelve hundred of the sophistos of Canne at this movie, Kubrick turning in his grave.”  Kubrick would never go see any films that he made, let alone attend them at huge festival.

The film, which was quite controversial when it was released in 1971, is a gruesome work of social commentary, something Malcolm has only come to appreciate later in life.  He said he thinks he’d be much more honored being cast in the role today than he was in his twenties, when he was it was just another job in his burgeoning career.

Of course, when he was was cast in Kubrick’s adaptation, and realized that it was in fact Stanley Kubrick he would be working with not Stanley Kramer, he immediately went out to the Cinerama in Soho and sat mesmerized, just like everybody else at 2001: A Space Odyssey.  While he agreed that Kubrick seems to have not known quite how to end the film, he praised its influence on contemporary science fiction film and television, and even some big screen comic book adaptations.  “I must say that Kubrick’s work in that film … just the millennium leap that Kubrick took science fiction, [without 2001] we would not be watching these movies today…I took my kids to see all the superheroes, The Avengers and I’m sitting there thinking, my god, they do owe Kubrick something.  God knows what.”

Off the topic of Kubrick and Clockwork, McDowell relayed a story about attending a dinner party with Peter Sellers, who was, like McDowell, represented by ICM.  All the A-List clients were in attendance with girlfriends and wives in tow.  Sellers, a manic-depressive, would sit more or less comatose not speaking to anyone for long periods of time but would suddenly perk up and act as though nothing were wrong.  In the middle of dinner, one the girls leapt up and exclaimed that has lost her diamond stud.  Suddenly Seller’s came to and did twenty five minutes of stand-up Cluedo (or Clue, as the game is called in the U.S.). “It was like watching Charlie Chaplin.  One of the greatest things I ever saw.”

As to people’s reactions to his role in 1994’s Star Trek Generations, wherein he played the villain who killed Captain Kirk, McDowell says “People are generally very respectful.  And they know basically that you’re playing a character, it’s not you, per se.  And so … the “Trekkies” ya know, they get a bit freaked out, but I think they’ve come to realize I actually did them a favor.”  He argued that Kirk’s death paved the way for J.J. Abrams to go on and make some “actually good movies”.

A final highlight from McDowell’s interview concerns his first trip to Hollywood upon the release of A Clockwork Orange.  He was invited to attend a party at an apartment in Beverly Hills and was told by one of his attendants that there would be lots of movie stars there.  Naturally, McDowell who hailed from modest roots in Liverpool, chose to attend.  As luck would have it, Gene Kelly, the original voice behind “Singin’ in the Rain”, a song that appears in Clockwork, was there.  McDowell was taken over to be introduced to the star, who turned, looked at him, turned around again and walked straight away.  McDowell’s attendant apologized profusely, but the actor was nonplussed.  After all, he was the one who turned Kelly’s great moment of musical cinema into a sick accompaniment to an act of violence that is “one of the funniest fucking things” he’ll ever do.

Not long ago, after McDowell relayed this same story at the Academy he was approached Kelly’s widow, who assured him that Kelly wasn’t mad at him, but at Kubrick.  Because he wasn’t paid.

The final screening of the evening was Super directed by James Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead screened at the festival the previous night, and starring Rainn Wilson as self-made superhero “The Crimson Bolt”.

Gunn explained it was long process from the time he wrote the script in 2002 to it’s release in 2010.  He managed to get financing for it in 2004-05, right before he made Slither but the people who were financing it couldn’t agree upon a lead actor.  “I really needed somebody who could do the acting part, could do the comedic part, who was a big enough goof that you could think he’d get picked on by the cook at the diner, but who’s also a big enough guy who you could imagine him kicking ass at the end of the movie.”  At the time, John C. Riley was his only choice, but he was not yet considered a big enough star to offer him the role.

A fews years later, Gunn’s ex-wife, Jenna Fischer, called him up and asked him what he was doing with Super, her favorite screenplay of his.  He told her that, in addition to it being a weird, not very commercial script, he couldn’t think of anybody to play the lead role.  Fischer suggested Rainn Wilson, her costar on NBC’s “The Office”, whom Gunn had known for years.  He emailed him the script right then.  Wilson read it in his trailer that day and, 27 pages in, texted Gunn and told him he loved it.

Well, until a certain character died.  Though Wilson was kidding, the film did receive a lot of flack for killing off someone who was clearly set up to be an audience favorite.  To this Gunn said: “The way I see it, I’m doing a favor to every movie in the future because now, when you see a movie you’re a little bit more tense knowing that that character you love in a movie might die.”

Both Wilson and Gunn agree that some of the reason the film had trouble finding an audience was due to American’s limiting definitions of genre.  “So many people say ‘oh I saw the trailer, I thought it was a comedy,’” Wilson says, “It is comedy.  It’s also an action movie, and it’s also a drama, and it’s also a really fucked up kind of genre cult type of film.  It’s all those things at one time.”  Gunn says he thinks the closest things to the tone of Super are found in Asian cinema, because they don’t have the same sense of genre boundaries that we do in the U.S.

When asked about what he found particularly challenging about the role of Frank/The Crimson Bolt, Wilson replied: “The haircut.”  He took particular caution to make sure that the character, though extreme and controlled, was not at all like Dwight, Wilson’s character on “The Office”.

As for the inspiration for the film, well it was mostly rooted in Gunn’s love of comics, particularly Allan Moore’s Watchman which was essentially a deconstruction of superheroes.  “The fact that Frank is a superhero is really very secondary in the movie, it’s really much more about the fact that he’s this guy and I think the story could be told without him putting on the suit.”

Fun fact, the comic book store featured in the film, ComicSmash, is located in Studio City on Ventura Blvd. and is James Gunn’s goto spot for comic purchases.


Cutest damn earrings ever!

I want these.  Someone buy them for me?  I could buy them for myself but would rather receive them as an unexpected gift from a friend, family member, or secret admirer.

Yesterday, I saw a photo of a fantasy fully integrated Los Angeles subway map.
Today, I saw this.
To both I say “why does this not exist?”

Yesterday, I saw a photo of a fantasy fully integrated Los Angeles subway map.

Today, I saw this.

To both I say “why does this not exist?”


Ned Stark Cake Pops (based on season 2 teaser poster)

So wrong.  And yet, they will probably get made.  Good thing there is a groupon for cake pop trays.


Ned Stark Cake Pops (based on season 2 teaser poster)

So wrong.  And yet, they will probably get made.  Good thing there is a groupon for cake pop trays.


shortformblog:The Beatles’ sons are considering forming a band, according to Paul’s son James McCartney. (ht popculturebrain on this one) Here are the photos of the sons, done up “Let It Be”-style. Can you see it? 

Um.  What?

I have mixed emotions about this.  Mostly because Sean Lennon and Dhani Harrison look frighteningly like their predecessors fathers. It would certainly be interesting though.  Of course, the offspring all have the disadvantage of having grown up privileged, unlike their working class sires.  Everyone knows good material for art evolves out of unpleasant life experiences.

Then there’s also the small matter of them constantly being compared to their dads.  But since the four of them are contemplating forming a band together, well, they’ve clearly already accepted that.  None of them were experiencing enough solo success, so why not join forces and give it a go?  After all, none of the Beatles had particularly successful solo careers until after the band.

I dunno.  I might be into this particular royal succession of musicians.  I doubt there are many Beatles fans (and, I might be wrong but, I’m pretty sure there are a lot them) who wouldn’t at least give them a listen on Youtube out of sheer curiosity.