Highlights from Comic Con 2014 panels: Firefly, Doctor Who, William Shatner, and Sean Astin
Photos courtesy of Steven Cohen and Stacy Schwartz
Last weekend, we camped out in panel room 100 during Comic Con 2014 to catch the best talks with some of the convention's biggest stars. Here are the highlights from Sean Astin, William Shatner, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Robert Englund's panels just for you.
See also: Seeking out Wizard World's D-List
Sean Astin -- all-around nice guy -- chats with his fans.
"So this is Minnesota. This is a weird state." Sean Astin greeted the audience and was shocked that not only are there already youngsters going to prom, but that the fishing season has started up again. He even had some parents of a fan get his autograph for their son who would rather be out casting flies than meeting the Lord of the Rings star at Comic Con.
It turns out Astin might've liked to be considered for another role in Lord of the Rings, but the filmmakers were convinced he'd be the perfect hobbit. "They're so sure I'm Samwise," he says. "I'm reading the book, and I'm like, all I see are fat hobbits!"
After playing a drug addict at 19, he says his metabolism got messed up and hasn't been the same since. He's been proactive about his health and his weight, and has run the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago marathons. However, for Lord of the Rings, Astin needed to tip the scales at 200 pounds by eating... and eating... and eating.
During his time in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings, he'd grown close with one of his makeup artists who suggested they go out for a friendly game of tennis. The next day, director Peter Jackson showed up on set with a newspaper -- Astin was splashed across the cover, racket in hand. Astin said that Jackson just shook his head. No more exercise besides carrying Frodo up that ginormous mountain. "I carried the weight of the entire franchise," he joked, referring to his heft... and his costar.
What got him back on the health track? An earthquake on the south island of New Zealand happened while he was shooting off fireworks with Elijah Wood. Right afterwards, he checked on his family, laced up his shoes, and went on a nine-mile run at 2 a.m.
Is Astin coming back for that highly anticipated Goonies sequel? He got a little hesitant and non-committal when answering the question, so it's anyone's guess. "If they make it," he said. "It will be good."
You will, however, see Astin in a few more comedies in years to come. The actor says he's growing a little weary of the dramatic roles he's known for. "I've done so many serious things, and the world is such a complicated place," he says.
He's even slated to have a couple movies showing at Cannes this year, Ribbit and The Surface. Astin unknowingly gave a huge spoiler alert for Ribbit -- which is about a poisonous tree frog who's hypnotized to think he's actually a prince trapped in an amphibious body. His daughter's in the film as a princess, and at the end of the film they kiss and she goes, "Ewwww." Astin quickly backtracked. "Oops!" he said. "Forgot I'm not in a group of friends here -- it just feels like it."
Random notebook dump:
What really struck me about Astin -- after having seen several other panels throughout the convention -- was that he is completely and wholly dedicated to his fans. Unlike most of the other celebrities, Astin made sure that everyone standing in line to ask a question actually got to speak. He's been in show business since he was a kid, and while that can turn out badly for some child actors, Astin's proven that he's got a good head on his shoulders with acting chops to match.
Also, Astin has a crazy memory for passages not only from the films he's been in (he could recite Sam Gamgee quotes perfectly 'til the cows came back to the Shire), but also Shakespeare. He's also totally down to transition into different voices -- especially when kids ask questions. From Special Agent Oso to Raphael from TMNT, he could change into character at the drop of a hat.
To wind down, he and his wife watch Friends, which he describes as "kind of like an opiate." He even watches his old Goonies costar Martha Plimpton on her current television show Raising Hope.
Astin prefers the low-key pronunciation of Smaug, not "SMAAAUUUG," as he demonstrated for the audience.
Reminder: Astin's father is John Astin, a.k.a. Gomez from the original Addams Family television show. Sean even led the audience in an awesome sing-along of the theme song and had the entire crowd snapping along.
Favorite fandoms growing up?
Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark... and Smurfs.
Favorite part from the Lord of the Rings books?
"Not Tom Bombadil." This got a huge laugh from the audience, because seriously, who likes Tom Bombadil and his never-ending songs?
Favorite scene from...
Encino Man? Giving Brendan Fraser a bath was the first scene that popped into his head, "A classic by any standard."
Goonies? "Kissing the girl... and the pirate ship."
Rudy? "There was no kissing in that one, so probably sacking the quarterback in front of thousands of screaming Fighting Irish fans."
And finally, what's Astin's favorite cocktail?
A Gibson Martini, which is his father's drink of choice. "It's more the onion than the alcohol though."
Continue onto page two for our highlights of the William Shatner, Doctor Who, and Firefly panels.
William Shatner regaled his audience with tales of the old radio drama days.
First things first: William Shatner does not look 83. Some time in the last 20 years, he stopped aging and just plateaued. Despite that, he's got enough stories to tell for 10 lifetimes.
It felt like the audience only got a few questions in, since Shatner loves telling these intricate tales, spinning yarns until you're not quite sure he even knows where he's going, and then he brings a 10-minute anecdote full-circle perfectly.
The best -- and most hilarious -- story he told was about pranking his Star Trek costar DeForest Kelley, who played Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy on the original series. At a late-night shoot, Kelley revealed to Shatner that one of his biggest fears as an actor was losing his memory. Shatner pounced on the opportunity to mess with his friend.
Each day on set, Kelley had a ritual. He would go to the craft services table and pop an English muffin into the toaster. He'd then walk over to another spot to get jam or peanut butter, and then come back and wait for the toaster.
The next day at the craft services table, Shatner put his diabolical plan into action.
After Kelley put his toast in the toaster, Shatner saw Leonard Nimoy and convinced him to go distract Kelley while Shatner stole the toast. Nimoy acquiesced and Shatner pressed the toaster button down again without any bread in there.
Kelley came back and waited for his toast, but when the toaster popped, the bread was gone. He looked around, totally confused, before getting another English muffin and repeating the process. Again, Shatner took the toast while Nimoy distracted Kelley. Finally, this happened a THIRD time, but by then, Shatner had no place to put the bread as he watched Kelley grow more and more confused about whether he'd actually forgotten to put bread in the toaster.
Shatner stuffed all the bread in his mouth. Bad idea. He ended up laughing and spitting it all out -- and Kelley finally caught onto his game. "SHATNERRRR!"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you end a panel on a high note.
What a joker, that Shatner.
Best Shatner one-liners:
A baby started crying during his story about his work with legendary radio dramatist Norman Corwin, and Shatner responded perfectly. "I know, honey!" he joked. "So BORING. It has nothing to do with Star Trek... but I'm getting to it!"
Someone joked they didn't want to get shot with a phaser. "You can't get shot by a phaser," Shatner said. "It's pretend!"
Shatner's very into a sustainable future for the world. "Why would you make something that harms Gaia for immediate profit?" he asked.
"I have a six-pack, too. Which I'll drink when I get on the plane."
"At these late-night shoots, which you have to shoot because it's late at night..." Shatner paused. "There's something wrong with that sentence."
Random notebook dump:
Shatner's Boston Legal costar James Spader had what Shatner described as a "cleanliness fetish." Naturally, Shatner would prank him by rubbing Vaseline on the glasses they'd hand to each other and totally gross Spader out.
There are always fans that ask actors to do their catchphrases, and Shatner didn't disappoint, shouting "KHAAAAAAAN!" and doing his signature Denny Crane line. He did, however, make it seem like he wasn't going to appease the crowd, weaving stories about Star Trek and Boston Legal this way and that before he'd surprise us with exactly what we'd asked for.
Continue onto page three for our highlights of the Doctor Who, and Firefly panels.
Karen Gillan looked cute with her newly shorn hair for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Doctor Who's Matt Smith and Karen Gillan
Random notebook dump:
Karen's favorite movie to watch on a rainy day? "Jumanji. Words can't describe how much I love that film."
A fan asked when Gillan realized that Smith had sparser and sparser eyebrows. "What do you mean?" Gillan said. "They were never there!"
What Karen wants from 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi's time in the TARDIS: "I want him to be really angry. I know he can't swear, but I was hoping they could bleep it out with vortex sounds." Both Gillan and Capaldi are from Scotland and she joked, "You're well-trained [in cursing] in Scotland."
"I like making grown men cry!" Gillan quipped when a fan told her about her husband crying after her last episode on the show.
Gillan's got more to her than just gallivanting around with the Doctor. "I've always harbored a secret desire to be a really cheesy pop star," she confessed.
One couple revealed that they actually named their daughter after Gillan's character Amy Pond on Doctor Who. It was up to Gillan to reveal whether or not she preferred the name Amelia or Amy as her character, and her answer would dictate how the couple would refer to their daughter. So what did Gillan choose? Amelia.
Matt Smith gives a wave to his fans before going off to sign autographs.
After Smith got asked about his favorite soccer team (Blackburn Rovers), he lightheartedly complained: "If you keep calling it soccer, I'm going to combust. It's football. And it's rubbish, not trash. Crazy Americans."
A whole new genre of fan fiction was born in room 100. "I met Draco Malfoy the other day. He's really cool. We got really drunk on a flight."
His thoughts on Gillan after pranking her so often on the set of Doctor Who? "Even now, I just go, 'God, you're ridiculous.'" (Joking, of course.) And why did he choose to wildly wave an over-sized shoehorn at Gillan? "Because it's long and sort of a funny shape," he joked again. "It reminded me of Karen."
Smith had never seen Doctor Who before he read the script for "The Eleventh Hour." The crowd was shocked. Then he added, "I've never seen all of Star Wars either." Gasp. "I've seen the good three!"
A kid in a fez asked Smith if he would burn a fez for $20. "I can't hurt a fez!" How about $2,000? "Keep your money for opening a fez sanctuary! You shouldn't be burning things at your age!"
"I love them both equally more than each other," Smith said of his two favorite 11th Doctor companions.
Smith even gave a shout out to writer Neil Gaiman, who penned the award-winning episode "The Doctor's Wife." "Neil's fantastic," said Smith. "He has these wonderful, great, bold creative ideas. Nothing but praise for the Gaiman."
And in case you had any doubts about how much Smith's fans love him, we recorded just how long the walk was from the end of the line for his panel all the way to the front door. It took over two minutes to speed-walk the hundreds-long line, so we sped up the footage for you.
Continue onto page four for our highlights of the Firefly panel with Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin.
Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin at their Firefly panel.
Firefly's Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin
"Adam said to me backstage, 'Get ready to be funny.' I said, 'That's the beauty of this thing, these people'll laugh at anything!'" The audience erupted in laughter. "See?"
That's pretty much how the Firefly panel played out, with Fillion and Baldwin riffing off each other, clearly happy to be together onstage and having a great time.
"Lemme do my best Adam Baldwin," Fillion said. His voice got higher and breathier, "Nathan, you're so awesome." Then he and Baldwin pretended they were on the phone with each other late at night, with Baldwin fan-boying over Fillion.
It's evident that Fillion and Baldwin miss their days together on the too-short-lived Joss Whedon show Firefly. Too bad that Netflix reboot was just an April Fools' Day joke.
A child stepped up to the mic and commandeered it for a few minutes, cute kid hijinks ensued, and both Fillion and Baldwin played along with him: Who's the best prankster on Castle? "Nathan Fillion," Fillion said. "Me." What's it like to work on Chuck? "Great," Baldwin said, and half-pretended to be ready for the next question. "It was the same feeling as Firefly," he continued. "It was like a family." So you guys are like family? We're sure the more older Fillion-Baldwin fans were tearing their hair out at this point, dying to ask more in-depth questions.
An audience member mentioned the healthy, trusting relationship Castle has with his daughter on the television show of the same name. She asked Fillion: What did you inherit from your parents, other than your extremely good looks?
Fillion winked and flashed his million-dollar smile; he certainly knows how to work a crowd. "We were always polite," he said. "At a restaurant, when a woman comes to the table, I stand up." He also learned a thing or two from his brother who once told him, "I treat everyone with the velvet glove. But push against the velvet glove, and you get the iron fist."
Baldwin then confessed his own life lesson: "My wife taught me it's better to be kind than to be right." The audience laughed -- truer words never spoken from a spouse.
Fillion and Baldwin are total besties.
"When kissing in real life -- and Adam, you can attest to this -- I have a lot of tongue," Fillion joked after a fan asked about what it was like kissing costars onscreen (yes, this was as awkward as it sounds). A true gentleman, Fillion doesn't kiss and tell -- but like most actors, he told the crowd he's not really kissing anyways.
Fillion also gave some great advice for any fans of famous folks: "Never, ever endeavor to find out where a celebrity lives. There's nothing you can say or send or do that doesn't say 'I'm creepy!' If you're out there thinking, 'Not me!'" Fillion paused. "You."
However, if you run into Fillion on the street, you can give him a meaningful look and solemnly say "Captain," to lament the cancellation of Firefly. If you're lucky, he'll nod and say, "As you were." Indeed.
Continue onto page five for our highlights of Robert Englund's (a.k.a. Freddy Krueger) Q&A by Jessica Armbruster.
Robert Englund (a.k.a. Freddy Krueger), a recap by Jessica Armbruster
The scene: Surprisingly, the room was filled with folks of all ages, not just the 30 and over set.
Overheard: While waiting for Englund to come out, I overheard a group of teens looking at their schedules trying to figure out who Dean Cain was. Thanks for making me feel old, kids.
The talk: Robert Englund took the stage Saturday afternoon, kicking off with a weird admission: He has a crush on Eva Green. Alright. After a brief plug for his upcoming projects -- which includes the film version of the Fear Clinic web series -- Englund opened the floor up to questions from the audience. His responses were often quite detailed, with long asides. However, he was a happy and charming rambler, which made for a fun talk. For example, when asked if he was a fan of any particular genre of cinema, he admitted that he was not a fan of romantic comedies, then went into a hilariously detailed tale of being a kid transfixed by possibility of seeing vampire nipples in a Life photography book on old horror cinema. It was a thread that would be referenced at various points of the talk, "I think I see vampire nipples!"
Englund was also asked about Jackie Earle Haley being cast in the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, and while he expressed dismay at the rapid pace that Hollywood is remaking hits ("Didn't I just see Godzilla and Texas Chainsaw Massacre?"), he seemed genuinely pleased with the casting choice, and told the crowd that he had "nothing to teach Jackie."
Notable quotes: "Get them while they're young, keep them forever!" -- Englund's Krueger response to a fan telling him that Freddy traumatized him when he was 10.
- When asked about his favorite theater productions (Englund came up in the theater world, after all), he gave shout outs to the now defunct Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and stated that he saw a fantastic production of Troilus and Cressida at the Guthrie years ago.
- After Freddy vs. Jason became a hit, there was talk of a sequel, which would also feature Ash from the Evil Dead series. The project hit a bump, which ultimately killed the collaboration, when the studio who owned the rights to Evil Dead insisted the Ash be the victorious one in the movie.
Possible scoops: When asked if Fear Clinic would be returning to the web after the movies, Englund seemed doubtful, as the project's rights are now owned by a different company.
Check out our extensive Comic Con 2014 coverage: Doctor Who stars charm at Minneapolis Comic-Con Seeking out Wizard World's D-List Geek love: Adventures in speed dating at Comic Con Top tweets from Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con Popping the question at Minneapolis Comic Con: A Star Wars love story
Don't forget to look at our Comic Con photos, too: Best Costumes at Minneapolis Comic Con 2014 Minneapolis Comic Con 2014: People & Scenes Minneapolis Comic Con 2014 Photobooth Ultimate Doctor Who Fans at Minneapolis Comic Con 2014 Star Wars Day at Minneapolis Comic Con 2014: May the 4th Be With You Stars come out to play at Minneapolis Comic Con 2014
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