It was (mostly) a pleasure to attend the Saturn Awards again this year, the 40th Anniversary of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
The ceremony was again held at the picturesque Castaway Restaurant, with a roster of nominees, presenters and guests that would turn very few paparazzi heads. (As ceremony host and frequent celebrity roaster Jeffrey Ross indelicately put it, “This lineup looks like R2-DList.”)
But to geeks like myself, the Saturn Awards offer the opportunity to meet people that the average filmgoer or casual TV viewer couldn’t care less about, but who have touched our lives by having created, directed or starred in current cult favorites or iconic films or shows of our youth.
I was looking forward to meeting a handful of the guests, especially Frank Oz (talk about an icon from my youth). But first my girlfriend and photographer Emily and I had to find our numbered spot on the red carpet line. It was first-come, first-served last year, which worked just fine for us, but this numbered spaces garbage kinda sucked, primarily because a very tall dude (like, Manute Bol had a kid with She-Ra tall) was standing next to me, blocking almost my entire view of the left side of the red carpet.
This was, of course, the direction from which the guests were walking, so consequently several folks I wanted to speak to (Dennis Haysbert, James Remar, Lea Thompson) brushed past me before I even saw them.
Plus, we were REALLY scrunched together.
To be fair, the Saturn folks did their best to remedy the problems, but it wasn’t as well organized as last year, to be blunt.
Ah, enough whining.
Nice! Before he got to me, I was able to catch a glimpse of him as a reporter asked him what he thought of PROMETHEUS, having played Captain Dallas in Ridley Scott’s original ALIEN.
“Haven’t seen it.”
“I’m happy for Ridley, but I have no real interest.”
Someone else asked, “What does it mean to you to be nominated [for Best TV Guest Star, LEVERAGE]?”
“Not much, really. I don’t really care about awards. I’m just here to have fun.”
That same blasé attitude carried over into his answer to my first question. I told him I lived in Philly for 19 years, and had a soft spot for the Philly-lensed FIGHTING BACK. Any memories of the shoot?
“Um, I don’t think I saw the movie! I remember liking Philly, but films come and go. Some you remember more than others.”
His tone brightened a bit when I mentioned I loved A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, and asked how he liked working with Redford.
“First job I ever had, about a hundred years ago, was with Redford [WAR HUNT, 1962]. Overall, RIVER was a great experience. It’s great to make a living doing this!”
Joel Courtney of SUPER 8 stopped by to tell me the new TOM SAWYER movie he stars in is looking good, then Mary Ann herself, Dawn Wells, stuck out her hand to say hi.
“Hi, Dawn. I’m Dean from Forces of Geek.”
“Forces of Geek?! Did you make that up yourself?”
Being a horror fanatic, I had to ask her about a semi-obscure yet effective horror cheapie from 1976 called THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN.
“Oh, sure! It was based on a true story. They brought me in because the girl they hired couldn’t carry her shoes and talk. I remember one night after wrap, I walked into the Marriott with my bloody face and matted hair, and the clerk about fainted behind the counter!”
And on her guest spot on an episode of ROSEANNE: “I got to play Darlene. I had to wear her costume, and her boots must have weighed 15 pounds apiece!”
The great director Walter Hill was sauntering down the carpet and I flagged him down. He seemed surprised I recognized him. I wanted to ask him about BULLET TO THE HEAD, an action flick with Stallone that got delayed for a year.
“It comes out February 2013. The studio didn’t want it to be released too close to Sly’s movie coming out in August. I don’t know why there was such a big deal about it, but…”
I told him I thought his 1989 film JOHNNY HANDSOME was quite underrated.
“It didn’t do much in this country, but it did very well in Europe and Japan. Oh, I don’t know – some work, some don’t. But it’s one of my favorites.”
While there are a handful of publicists floating around the red carpet, touting their clients so we know who they are, at times there are awkward moments when an up-and-comer or non-household-face TV exec stands in front of you expectantly. Sometimes it goes well with a mere handshake and introduction, other times not so much.
The woman next to me stopped Vince Gilligan and started in on a long-winded question about his terrific show, THE WALKING DEAD. I talked to her for a bit before Red Carpet proper began, and she was cool, so I started to intervene, but I saw Vince grin at me, so I let it play itself out.
When she’d finally gotten the whole question out, Vince genially said, “Yeah, WALKING DEAD is a great show, but I have nothing to do with it. I work on BREAKING BAD.”
She looked mortified for a split second then dove into a BREAKING BAD question. Afterwards, she apologized for her faux pas.
“Not at all! That’s the best recovery I’ve ever seen!”
There were a fair amount of starlets and hunks, mostly from TV shows that I don’t watch, that seemed perfectly nice but I just didn’t have much to say to them or ask them. There were some “hi, how ya doin” chats with the likes of knockouts Lesley-Ann Brandt and Viva Bianca (both from SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE) and Beth Riesgraf (LEVERAGE). Lance Reddick of FRINGE told me about a very cool sounding film he stars in with William Fichtner, the Danny DeVito directed thriller, ST. SEBASTIAN.
I did talk for a bit with Alec Gillis and his daughter, Camille Balsamo.
Alec is a make-up artist who was nominated for THE THING prequel, and Camille is an actress who appears in next year’s BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, which I asked her to describe.
“It’s an adaptation of a young adult fantasy novel about a teenage kid who doesn’t really fit into her hometown, and has supernatural powers. So she’s dealing with just being a teenager and also her powers.”
I told Alec that I wanted to hate THE THING prequel, as the ’82 version is one of my all-time favorite films and I by and large dislike prequels in general. I told him that I was surprised I didn’t despise it. Full disclosure: This is technically true. It was better than I expected. But it still ain’t good.
But both Alec and Camille were very nice and cool, so I left it at that.
“Yeah, the ’82 THING is one of my faves. Now that the movie’s come out, I’ll say that was a huge burden. We didn’t pretend we could do better than the Carpenter version, because it’s an amazing piece of cinema, especially for geeks like me and, I assume, you.”
He laughed and pointed to Camille, who made a face and shook her head.
“Not for her, though!”
Robert Kirkman, on hand to pick up the inaugural Innovators Award, stopped by to talk about Season 3 of WALKING DEAD.
“New setting, new characters. It’s a bigger, better season. There’s a lot in store for Rick Grimes. Gonna test his ability as a leader. At the end of Season 2, he took charge, and we’re gonna see the ramifications of that.”
Craig Parker of SPARTACUS was hanging on the carpet.
My girl Emily, a major LORD OF THE RINGS fan, yelled out, “Long live Haldir!” Parker looked to her and laughed.
I introduced myself.
“Hi Craig, I’m Dean from Forces of Geek.”
“Forces of Geek?! Fantastic! You know, someone described this event to me last night as the Adult Video News Awards….for geeks.”
He laughed, and I mentioned I had a friend, Tommy Pistol, who won the AVN Newcomer award a few years ago.
“I watched the awards last year on television”, he said, “and the Newcomer winner was a young girl, and it was so sad because I thought, ‘Next year, you’ll be like aaalllll the rest!’”
I asked him the differences between the SPARTACUS and LOTR shoots.
“The difference is when you make a film it’s just forever. You’re there for three years but you just do a bit here and a bit there. I mean, it’s wonderful when you have that time. But on SPARTACUS we shot, I think, 12 or 13 days per episode. And it’s actually more like theater; in a day, you would play three or four scenes. I like that – I much prefer working than sitting around. Especially a show like [LOTR], because you’re sitting around and you see a Mars bar or some snack!”
Bruce Greenwood laughed when I told him I saw his acting debut in the little-seen Alistair MacLean thriller, 1981’s BEAR ISLAND, in the theater with my mother when I was eleven.
“BEAR ISLAND! Ho……Wow!”
I also complimented him on the undervalued WWII horror film, BELOW.
“Yeah, good movie. A lot of people like that, actually.”
A childhood crush appeared before me: Lindsay Wagner, the BIONIC WOMAN herself.
During the ceremony, Jeffrey Ross mentioned her, saying, “Lindsay doesn’t know that I used to masturbate to her in slow motion.”
Smitten as I was, I went another route, and brought up a TV movie of hers that I thoroughly enjoyed as a kid, 1979’s THE TWO WORLDS OF JENNIE LOGAN, a SOMEWHERE IN TIME-esque fantasy romance. Truth be told, I rewatched it recently on YouTube, and while it doesn’t really hold up, it has some interesting moments, and she’s very good.
“Oh, you’re a romantic!” she said. “It was interesting to me playing that character. In one time period, she was a forward thinking woman, and in the other she was an old-fashioned girl.”
Lin Shaye walked up. I reminded her that I worked as a PA on the Hallmark Channel movie FAREWELL MR. KRINGLE with her two years earlier.
“Yeah, I know your face, but –“
She gestured to my facial hair. The Monday previous was Mustache Monday on the last shooting day of another Hallmark Channel film I worked on. The crew came to work in various mustaches, and I was sporting a very biker-esque Fu Manchu that I hadn’t shaved off yet.
We caught up briefly, then I asked what her nomination as Supporting Actress for INSIDIOUS meant to her.
“Really a lot. It almost caught me off guard how gratifying it was. I won a Fangoria Chainsaw Award, which was exciting, because it’s fan-based. And this is great, because I’m in a category with some big actresses.”
She then told me about her new film, FDR: AMERICAN BADASS, with Barry Bostwick as FDR and Lin as Eleanor.
“I think it’s gonna take the country by storm. We had so much fun, and Barry is a force of nature. Everyone who’s seen this film says it’s screaming out loud funny. And I’m hoping his fan base from ROCKY HORROR are gonna come over to this one.”
Incidentally, Emily Blunt beat out Lin for her performance in THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. I’m a bit biased, but I think Lin was robbed.
Steven Bauer swung by, looking ready to party. Being a huge DePalma fan, I asked him about working with him.
“I had a great time in the second movie he cast me in, RAISING CAIN. Really cool movie, not many people know it. Had a really nice time with him, got to know him a little better. But when we did SCARFACE, we had a ball, but most of my time was spent with Al. We were always together. Brian, to his credit, really knew to leave us alone.”
I had to bring up Donald Cammell’s WILD SIDE, and the amazing scene in which Christopher Walken’s character threatens to sodomize Bauer as punishment for raping Anne Heche.
“Sad story there, because the director committed suicide. But I had a great time with Chris. And that scene – crazy. I really thought I was in danger! (laughs) Every time my friends watch that, they go, ‘No! No..no, you’re NOT!”
One of my favorite shows of my early teens was THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, so it was very cool to meet William Katt.
He told me about his newest movie.
“It’s called PARANORMAL MOVIE – Kevin Farley directed it. Tom Sizemore’s in it, Eric Roberts, Deep Roy, a cameo by Robert Hays. At one point, I pay homage to GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. I won’t divulge it now, but it’s very funny.”
I also mentioned I dug the horror/comedy HOUSE.
“HOUSE was great. First post-modern, MTV horror film. And it’s all due to Steve Miner – he’s the genius behind the whole thing.”
Hey, that’s Gregory Harrison from TRAPPER JOHN, M.D. and the LOGAN’S RUN TV series!
But being a geek, I had to ask him about the cult horror flick from acclaimed 80s music video director Russell Mulcahy – RAZORBACK.
“RAZORBACK – oh, wow! Didn’t think I’d get asked about RAZORBACK tonight. But that’s good! Russell sort of locked his style in with that movie. We laughed a lot while we were filming. ‘There’s gonna be smoke in every shot!’ And usually a windmill. He loved his anamorphic lenses and taking advantage of the Outback horizon.
“I had a great time shooting it. I liked the ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ feel to it. Guy thrown into this strange location, meeting strange people and creatures. And the Outback – remember how odd everything looked in the film? I loved Australia.
“Actually, my favorite review I’ve ever gotten in my life was by Judith Crist. She’d write these one line reviews for TV Guide. I memorized it because it so tickled me: ‘RAZORBACK, Australia, 1984. Starring Gregory Harrison. Arguably the best film ever made about a man-eating pig.”
“And it’s very true!”
Scott Bakula, looking very 70s porn star (like I should talk), walked on over.
I told him I was a LORD OF ILLUSIONS fan, and had seen the Director’s Cut at the International House in Philly with Clive Barker in attendance.
“Oh, boy! How’d that go?”
“Someone asked him why he cast you, and he replied, ‘Have you seen him with his shirt off?!’”
“Good answer!” he laughed.
I asked if it was cool to be a part of STAR TREK history.
“Oh, it’s fantastic. A thrill to be a part of it. I’ve done a little sci-fi, so to get to be the first captain to kind of lead everybody off was appealing to me. It hasn’t let down at all. I’ve had a blast. It worked out, in my life, perfectly and I feel very fortunate to be a part of the STAR TREK universe.”
Okay. The moment had arrived. Frank Oz was standing in front of me.
He was much taller than I expected (not Manute Bol had a kid with She-Ra tall…but tall), but he met me with a smile and a handshake and introduced me to his wife, which I thought was cool.
But then after smiling as I gushed about him for a few seconds, he leaned in for my first question. It was the first time in a LONG time I was actually starstruck, and I had to quickly look at my notes to remember what the hell I wanted to ask him.
(I was happy to hear that other far more cynical peeps on the carpet had similar reactions to meeting him: “I just met Frank Oz!” “Frank Oz just reached across three people to shake my hand!!! That’s YODA!!!”)
Anyway, I told him I was mixed at best on the recent MUPPETS movie, and knowing he was vocal about not liking the script and hadn’t voiced Miss Piggy for the film, I was curious if he ever saw a time when he’d be Miss Piggy or other Muppets again.
“The Muppets will always be around. It’s not like the new movie brought them back; they’ve always been around. I’d just prefer an edgier picture, not a retro picture. And I would like the performers to be given more credit, because they’re brilliant. As far as me doing any other characters, it’s really up to Disney to ask me.”
I asked if he had been disconcerted upon learning that in PHANTOM MENACE, Yoda would be CGI instead of a puppet.
“Not at all. George brought me in and asked for suggestions on how to do it. You know, George had a story to tell. He had the big fight scene, and if Yoda had stayed a puppet, he couldn’t have told the story. You have to be true to the story. He’s not going to ever change EMPIRE to CG, that’s a dear thing. But it’s a digital age. As long as it’s pure, I’m okay with it.”
I had to tell him that THE BLUES BROTHERS was my favorite movie, and I loved his cameo.
He laughed and said, “One condom. Soiled.”
End of Red Carpet.
So, after a quick beer and a photo with a “lifesize” replica of Tars Tarkas from the unjustly maligned JOHN CARTER in the lobby, I headed to the Media Room to watch the ceremony.
The ceremony began with Dennis Haysbert handing a surprise Saturn Award to Jeffrey Ross for hosting his 10th show in a row.
The usually acerbic Ross cracked wise (“Will Allstate insure this, Dennis?”), but he also seemed genuinely touched.
Though a few minutes later he was back in raunchy form with a hilarious aside after saying hello to Frank Oz.
“Frank’s done the puppetry and voices for Grover, Yoda, Fozzie and, of course, his most famous creation, Miss Piggy, which he’s been doing for years. In fact, the only man in America who’s had his hand inside of a pig more often than Frank is Snooki’s gynecologist.”
HUGE laugh from the crowd.
Winners and presenters filed into the Media Room after their awards for photos and brief Q and A’s.
I did get the chance to tell Drew Goddard how much I loved THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (easily my favorite film of 2012 thus far) and to ask if the DVD/Blu-Ray would have a Special Feature that would allow viewers to see the security cam, monster chaos more clearly.
“Oh, yes. Absolutely, we have that on there!”
Arachnophobe Emily chimed in with, “Will we see more of the giant spider?”
“Oh, yeah – he’s in there!”
It must be said that many of my colleagues in the Media Room were loudly unfunny, obnoxious dweebs (again, I should talk). But I had a nice chat with some smart fellows discussing how the aforementioned JOHN CARTER wasn’t given a fair shot – by audiences OR Disney’s marketing department. We all agreed that, despite some flaws, it was the kind of fun, energetic movie that our dads or uncles took us to see when we were kids, like the Ray Harryhausen flicks or stuff like WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS. Do check it out with an open mind if you’re a sci-fi nerd.
Anyway, the show itself was your usual mixed bag, with a very fun clip reel for James Remar, who received a Life Achievement Award, a hysterically funny reel for THE SIMPSONS, which won the Milestone Award, and an admittedly long-winded but heartfelt speech by Frank Oz upon receiving HIS Life Achievement Award. The dweebs bitched and moaned about the length of his speech, but that’s Frank F’in Oz, people! He’s allowed to talk.
In his speech, he mostly singled out George Lucas and Jim Henson to thank for his career, especially Henson. He said that when he first went to work for Henson, he had horribly low self-esteem and told him he couldn’t do voices, just puppetry – he was just too shy. One night during a live show, Henson told him he HAD to go on stage and do the voice for one of the creatures – he was terrified, but figured if he couldn’t be good, he’d at least be LOUD. It worked, and the audience – and Henson – loved it, and the rest is history.
About George, Oz said he was nervous and unsure about what Lucas wanted from Yoda. He finally got up the nerve to ask Lucas what he wanted from him.
“Frank, just make it wonderful.”
It must be noted that in addition to being a Ringer, Emily is a HUUUUGE Muppets and Frank Oz fan. After the photos were taken of Oz in the Media Room, Emily and I stepped out to head to the after party. We saw Oz standing on the sidewalk, holding his award.
“Congratulations,” I said to him. “It’s so well-deserved.”
Emily went up to him and rested her hand on his arm and said, “Thank you for everything you did for my childhood.”
He smiled very warmly and said, “Thank you.”
Emily made it around the corner before the tears started flowing.
|I Dream of Jeanie‘s Barbara Eden|
|Leslie David Baker|
|Glen Mazzara and Robert Kirkman|
|Super 8‘s Riley Griffiths Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee|
|Editor Paul Hirsch|