This weekend the celebrity guests of Wizard World's Minneaolis Comic Con were in fine form. Over two days City Pages sat in on chats with the likes of Gillian Anderson, Karl Urban, Finn Wittrock, and the Oliver and James Phelps, a.k.a. the Harry Potter twins. Old fans geeked out, young fans squee'd, and stars charmed audiences as they answered their questions.
In this post, we've recapped some of the biggest highlights, including weird gifts the Phelpses have received, what shocked Gillian Anderson about the internet, and who Brent Spiner thinks should play him if there's ever a Star Trek: Next Generation reboot.
When Gillian Anderson arrived at Comic Con Saturday afternoon, she seemed shocked to find that she was the big draw for the festival. But it's no surprise that the room was full, as Anderson has starred in a variety of hit TV shows, including the conspiracy theory/monster madness epic X-Files, the serial-killer showdown The Fall, and the origin horror story Hannibal (Anderson recommends that you wait until you're 25 to watch, it's scary stuff). Here's what we learned after spending an hour with her:
-- Anderson was shocked to hear that X-Files blooper reels are online. ("What?! Noooo!)
-- She has no memory of speaking German for X-Files. But she did, in episode four of season four, titled "Unruhe."
-- Her London production of A Streetcar Named Desire, where she played Blanche DeBois, might be coming to New York City this year with the help of a Kickstarter. "I knew I wanted to play her since age 16. The whole thing was a gift and everything I wished. Blanche is a strong character in her vulnerabilities and fears and paranoia. What we consider flaws are her strengths."
-- She doesn't actively seek out so-called strong female characters, but she naturally responds the most to strong, unique, and unpredictable women.
-- She was named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1997, but it's an honor she's not particularly proud of or enthusiastic about: "Who gives a fuck? There are beautiful people everywhere."
-- She's also not in a rush to land a date: "I think I scare the hell out of most men to be honest...and I'm cool with that."
-- On whether she thinks the world was weirder back when the X-Files was filming... or now: "We probably wouldn't have been able to get away with much if we ran during the Bush Administration."
Nowadays, Karl Urban is known for his deadpan lines as Bones in the new Star Trek movies ("Are you out of your Vulcan mind?!"), but he started acting in New Zealand as a child and eventually caught the eye of Peter Jackson, who brought him onboard as Eomer of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
-- If Urban had to choose to live in one of the worlds he's filmed in for the rest of his life, he'd choose the Star Trek universe. (Much to the chagrin of the Lord of the Rings fans in the audience.)
-- Which Marvel character would he want to play? "Something in lycra."
-- When he first auditioned for the part of Bones in Star Trek with J.J. Abrams, he thought it went horribly. A month later, he came in to read again and heard J.J. laughing during the audition -- which he realized wasn't because he was bad, he was funny... 45 minutes later, they called: He had the part.
-- "When I first told my dad I wanted to become an actor he said, 'No, you pronounced it wrong... doctor," Urban joked. "Well, I'm one now!" (A reference to his Star Trek character.
-- One of Urban's most embarrassing moments as an actor came on the set of Xena. He was supposed to be watching Lucy Lawless crawl seductively across a bed, but his eyes were open so long, they got dry and his contact popped out.
-- The best moment of the panel came when someone asked what's going on in the next Star Trek movie (which starts shooting in July). He started speaking into the mic: "Well, they're out in space doing..." and then he'd stop speaking but keep moving his lips as if the mic cut out, "and they have to [silence] in order to save the [silence] because otherwise [silence] will happen. And that's all I know!"
Even if you don't know his name, you probably have seen him in something. Over the years, Lance Riddick has appeared on a string of critically acclaimed showed, including The Wire, Fringe, Lost, Oz, and American Horror Story: Coven.
-- He's no stranger to Minnesota. He met his wife, Stephanie, in 1999 at the Guthrie. She was working at the theater, and he was onstage as Marc Antony in a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
-- He's a bit of a comic-book fan, and is concerned about where the Wonder Woman project is going.
-- There was a lot of role shuffling before Riddick was officially cast on The Wire. He originally went in to test for the part of Bunk, was almost cast as Bubbles, then went on to play Lieutenant Cedric Daniels.
-- Speaking of: When asked what his favorite season of the show was, he stated that season one was his favorite to film, while season four is his favorite to watch.
-- On how The Wire speaks to current turmoil in Baltimore, where the show took place (and where he is originally from):
"The Wire showed a microcosm of the Drug War. The militarization by the police have turned poor neighborhoods into occupied war zones. [The Wire] is still relevant today -- maybe more so."
With a career spanning over 30 years, Kristy Swanson has starred in cinematic cult classics such as Dude, Where's My Car?, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Mannequin Two: On the Move, the original Flowers in the Attic, and she was the original Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
-- She still knows her line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off by heart, and will perform it for fans. ("Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.")
-- Training for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fast and furious: "I literally trained for 10 hours. Two hours a day for five days."
-- Before they filmed their kissing scene for Dude, Where's My Car?, Ashton Kutcher revealed that Swanson had been one of his crushes during high school. "It made me feel like a 'cougar,'" she joked.
-- While she has acted alongside Charlie Sheen in three movies (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Chase, Hot Shots!), she says she is closer to his brother Emilio Estevez.
Brent Spiner was in fine form at the convention. The prolific actor, perhaps best known for his role as Data on Star Trek: Next Generation or as the wacky scientist in Independence Day, worked the crowd like a pro, proposing to people asking questions, sweetly joking with a mom who was trying to calm her crying baby, and charming the hell out of everyone. He had more than a few memorable quotes.
-- "It's like swimming in a rainbow with thousands of naked babies," he responded when asked what it was like working with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
-- Star Trek was a show with lots of complicated words, many of which had no official pronunciation. According to Spiner, the cast and crew had a simple policy: "Whoever said it first? That was how it was to be pronounced."
-- When asked about who he would cast if there ever was a reboot of Star Trek: Next Generation, Spiner gleefully offered the following:
"Tilda Swinton would make a great Data. William Riker would be Wil Wheaton. The ubiquitous Samuel Jackson would play Geordi... also, Worf. Mila Kunis could be Deanna Troi, and Ashton Kutcher would be Wesley Crusher."
What about the captain? "I'd play Jean-Luc Picard."
-- Apparently his enthusiastic scientist character will be back for the Independence Day sequel, despite the movie leaving the impression that he died the first go-around. While he looked pretty dead, a line where a character pronounced him dead was cut.
-- He actually wrote the "Life Forms," and like most actors, he hates working with animals. "Some of the worst actors I have ever worked with were cats."
Oliver and James Phelps
The turnout was crazy for the Harry Potter Weasley twins, with crowds spanning generations. The kids mostly took over the Q&A session with plenty of fun queries.
-- Neither reads fan fiction or checks out fan art. Thank god.
-- Oliver believes his petronus would be a sloth, while James thinks his would be a hedgehog.
-- Their favorite spell or magical object? James would like a portkey. Oliver would like to use levicorpus so that he wouldn't have to carry luggage when traveling.
-- While they didn't use the phrase "Minnesota Nice," they more or less agreed that we're notable for our friendliness.
-- The last time Oliver was in Minnesota, he was stuck at the airport during a delayed layover in a snowstorm. He wondered how bad the weather actually was... and then he heard the Metrodome roof collapsed that day.
-- Their weirdest gift from a fan? A watermelon. Someone sent them one in a box, asking them to sign and return it. They ate it instead.
-- Their favorite lines? James always liked "Mischief managed." Oliver only had one word: "Morning." In fact, Oliver was even approached by a fan at a bar who was the third wheel with friends (who were making out), the fan convinced Oliver to come up to the two and say "Evening," like he did in Deathly Hallows to get them to stop. It didn't work.
-- The cast of Oliver's ear (as George) is hanging on his wall at home.
Finn Wittrock honed his acting chops for a couple years on All My Children before his breakout role came this past year when he played Dandy, a psychopathic mama's boy with a penchant for clowns and murder on American Horror Story: Freak Show.
-- On whether the creators and actors on American Horror Story feel weird about new people joining the show each season: "They're eager for new blood."
-- When Wittrock read new scripts, he said he felt like an audience member because he wouldn't know what was going to happen to Dandy, and he'd be like, "Who am I gonna kill today?"
-- Wittrock starred alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield in Death of a Salesman. He said Hoffman was "really intense... the kind of actor that wouldn't be able to leave it onstage."
-- He lost 35-40 pounds (in less than two months!) to play a soldier lost at sea in Angelina Jolie's film Unbroken, and then he went straight from that to playing a dying character in Ryan Murphy's The Normal Heart.
-- During Wittrock's shoot on The Normal Heart was when Murphy asked Wittrock to be a part of the cast: "I have a crazy idea for a character. Do you wanna do it?"
-- Frances Conroy, who played Dandy's mother this season, is obsessive about rehearsing and her costumes -- especially her shoes.
-- Wittrock doesn't really know anything about next season except that... they're actively writing it and he said he "might check into the hotel" and "maybe I'll play a nice person!"
-- He'd like to see the next season be "a murder mystery -- like Clue, but not funny... more contained and claustrophobic than the other sprawling AHS seasons."
-- Wittrock just talked to Lena Dunham from Girls... but will we see a guest spot? He wouldn't confirm.
Fans of The Hobbit will know Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown, and Whovians will recognize him as the Seventh Doctor (clad in question marks galore), but he's been in the entertainment industry since the '60s, with dozens of credits to his name and even more stories to tell.
-- McCoy takes a hands-on approach to his Q&As. Instead of sitting on stage, he walks around the audience and talks to fans directly. You can't always tell where he is, but it makes for a more intimate fan experience.
-- He blessed a couple who just got married (at their request) and when someone said, "I was the best man!" McCoy quipped, "Really? But I'm here now!"
-- McCoy is really good at playing... spoons? In fact, he even brought a little pouch of spoons to the set of The Hobbit just in case he could sneak a little spoon playing into Radagast's scenes. Peter Jackson saw the spoons, loved them, and insisted on putting that into the movie... and then he totally forgot.
-- Someone walked into the panel late (and on the phone, no less!) while McCoy was pacing around the audience. "Hold on! Who are you talking to? Can I see that?" he asked. Then he joked with this girl's mom for a minute: "Do you realize that your daughter is late? I assume you will take the appropriate actions!"