Not too often do opportunities to catch your old favorite TV series on the big screen hit. Well, if you give “Firefly” some Serenity that is. As a huge fan of the ’02-03 sci-fi/western and follower of Joss Whedon’s work since middle-school – thanks for “Buffy,” ever-insistent mom! – there was no shame in gathering excitment for a Q&A featuring the delightfully handsome, talented and hilarious Nathan Fillion.
After the Regal Cinema’s unsurprisingly thunderous applause, Geoff Boucher, super cool dude and Los Angeles Times resident geek, mentioned the recent renewal of the star’s “Castle” for a fifth season. Cue audience squeals near any mention of the ABC crime comedy.
Fillion, who got his start in New York playing Joey Buchanan on the soap “One Life to Live,” spoke about the “Castle” writers’ ability to incorporate references to his other projects into the show. “At one point there was a bit where my mother, [played by] 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 referred to some earlier texting with Whedon about a possible festival appearance, the pop culture icon sadly could not show. (Hey, after seeing the unbilled Rick Baker and @SimonPegg earlier in the weekend, I’m as stunned as you are! Sorruh..)
Thankfully, Fill was just enough. And as much as we may have missed Joss, Fillion realized that it was not just the actors he missed, but Whedon’s sea-smuggling characters. “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 [that] I realized, ‘Oh my God! I missed these guys. I missed the crew and the ship.”
Fillion knew right away that Captain Mal Reynolds, his now iconic role on “Firefly” and its sister film Serenity, was a killer part, and had no problem admitting how Joss’s signature style of writing had a heavy hand in the casting process. “I saw how Joss picked his cast. 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 suddenly 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 had an interesting introduction to “Joss Speak” when the initial script of “Firefly” existed only in treatment form. Fill had a lot of questions. Whedon had a lot of answers. When “Firefly” was cancelled (a true sin!), he was called in for another Sy-Fy show. “I was there with this writer/creator and 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 down-pact. His meticulous attention to detail takes his creative concepts from a “children’s coloring book to a very realistic trompe-l’oeil painting.”
Oh, yes, Google “tromploi” to learn that it actually refers to the French “trompe-l’oeil,” or trick of the eye. I’m sure Peter Weller would be very disappointed.
More highlights from Emma’s grand ol’ time at the Hero Complex Film Festival:
• A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell made reference to the fact that Stanley Kubrick would never go see any of the films he made himself, and that he believes superhero movies, including The Avengers, perhaps owe the legendary director a little something. Though I’m sure it’s not money since the homie isn’t quite around to receive it.
• Singing in the Rain star Gene Kelly turned away from meeting McDowell at a Beverly Hills party following the release of A Clockwork Orange, for it was McDowell who turned Kelly’s great moment of musical cinema into a sick accompaniment to an act of violence. “One of the funniest fucking things [I’ve ever done],” McDowell recalls.
• As for Trekkies’ reactions to McDowell’s role in 1994’s Star Trek Generations, wherein he played the villain who killed Captain Kirk, the actor chimed, “People are generally very respectful. And they know basically that you’re playing a character, [though] they do get a bit freaked out. But I think they’ve come to realize I actually did them a favor.” If nothing else, Kirk’s death paved the way for J.J. Abrams to actually make Star Trek interesting again.
• It took a while for Super’s director James Gunn to get the film off the ground because he “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.” John C. Riley was his only choice, until Rainn Wilson read the script through Gunn’s ex-wife. Interesting.
• When asked about what he found particularly challenging about the role of Frank/The Crimson Bolt, Wilson snipped, “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.”
• Gunn admits he makes a poor comic critic, because they are like his “baby blanket,” as he genuinely loves them all. Sounds like someone I know. (Oops. Oh, hi, Mr. Moody! Didn’t see you there!) The director loved how Allan Moore’s Watchmen which was essentially a deconstruction of superheroes, incorporating that “Frank the superhero is really very secondary in the movie; it’s really much more about the fact that he’s this guy [to which] the story could be told without him putting on the suit.”
• The comic book store featured in Super, ComicSmash, is located in Studio City on Ventura Blvd. It’s also Gunn’s go-to spot for comic shopping, so go ahead, haunt him but be nice.