Archive for the ‘William Shatner’ Tag

Spike, Captain Kirk & Me at Dragon Con!   Leave a comment

dragoncon-marsters

James Marsters, best known as Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, still has plenty of attitude.

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

For the first time, last weekend I attended Dragon Con, the nation’s premier science fiction and fantasy convention, in costume – decked out in a Zorro outfit. Posing with other attendees in wild getups was fun, but the highlight was getting to see two of my favorite genre stars in the flesh.

I never  before paid for a photo with the former star of a TV series. Not only did it seem like clingy celebrity worship — plus a waste of money — I always felt embarrassed for fading screen idols reduced to scraping by on $20 a pop. But when I spotted James Marsters, who played bleached blond cockney vampire Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I couldn’t resist. Not because I especially wanted a memento, but just for the opportunity to tell him face-to-face what a smashing job he did on the show. As I told the actor, he took viewers on a wonderful journey, deftly pulling off comedy, drama – even singing in the famous musical episode.

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Marsters gave my Zorro costume a thumbs up.

Marsters modestly responded that the writers “gave me such wonderful stuff to work with.” Which is certainly true. The arc of the character, who goes from villainous Billy Idol from hell to love-struck romantic hero, was one of the best ever written for the tube. Still a consummate actor, Marsters managed to make every fan on line feel like they shared a “moment” with him. (He complimented me on my “cool costume.”) Some of his legion of female admirers may have been a bit disappointed, though. A card on the table politely informed them that there should be no requests for “kissing, hugging or biting.”

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Thousands packed a ballroom to hear TV legend William Shatner.

Later, in a giant ballroom filled to capacity, I got to see my boyhood hero Captain Kirk himself speak. Bouncing around the stage buoyantly, the actor’s energy and mental agility belied his 85 years. It was a striking – and welcome – contrast to the classic Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years,” in which a mysterious disease causes Kirk to age rapidly, and he goes senile!

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Aging decades in just hours, Kirk shows signs of dementia.

A voracious reader, who chatted excitedly about the latest book he’d read on the intelligence of birds, Shatner proved himself far from the vapid egotist some see him as (an image spoofed hilariously by Tim Allen in the movie Galaxy Quest.) Shatner got deep as he recounted his discussion with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking for a science documentary. Surprisingly, when given an opportunity to ask Shatner a question, the genius posed the same superficial one any elementary school kid would: What was your favorite episode? The truth, the actor admitted, was that he recalls few details from the show in which he appeared 50 years ago.

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In an episode titled “Let That Be Your Last Battleground,” race hatred destroys a civilization — and even Kirk can’t fix it.

“I barely remember what hotel I woke up in this morning,” he joked. The star did say that in general what intrigued him were the episodes built around “big ideas.” In particular, he cited the one featuring a pair of aliens from the same planet, who hate each other because one is white on the right side and black on the left, the other just the reverse. Even when I watched it as a kid, the message about racial tolerance seemed heavy handed. The duo hail from “the southern part of the galaxy,” Spock informed the captain. But I guess in the 1960s, when TV’s first interracial kiss was shocking to viewers, you had to pound people over the head.

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Playing a young Army officer, Shatner helps Spencer Tracy prosecute Nazi leaders in Judgment at Nuremberg.

Asked about his experience as a young actor in Judgment in Nuremberg (1961), he recalled how the director sat the cast down and screened for them death camp footage of corpses being mowed into a trench by a bulldozer. He still wonders how humans can be capable of such bestial behavior, yet also incredible nobility and self-sacrifice. (That duality was, of course, the subject of another memorable episode, in which Kirk is split into a good half and evil half, due to a transporter malfunction.)

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Bill played a master of disguise on TV’s short-lived Barbary Coast.

But the former starship skipper was mostly funny. Asked about the short-lived 1975 series The Barbary Coast, in which he played a master of disguise, he reenacted the grueling experience of being made up as three different characters every day, often with elaborate prosthetics. It was such a pain in the butt that even though it was his first gig on the air since Star Trek ended nearly a decade earlier, “When it was cancelled after 13 weeks, I was glad!”

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“Stewardess!” Bill finds the skies not so friendly in this classic Twilight Zone episode.

In a famous Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” Shatner played an airline passenger recovering from a nervous breakdown, who keeps spotting a gremlin on the wing. He frantically tries to alert the flight crew, but naturally no one believes him. The TV legend revealed that when he flew with his children, they invariably made him prank stewardesses. They’d buzz for one, and when she came over, he’d turn from the window, making “the face.”

Mock Shatner for “overacting,” all you want. I maintain he’s way underrated. As is often the case with good performances, it seems like the actor is simply playing himself. But before being cast as the swaggering, self-assured, macho Kirk, he was best known for portraying weak or neurotic characters like the one described above. He wasn’t typecast.  What holds up best, as you watch the original series today, are those mind-blowing ideas, and Shatner’s performance. As he once said in an interview, he’s always been a storyteller, and you can see him reinforce the plot, note by note in each scene, with his acting choices. Experiencing what a splendid raconteur he is was a great reminder of this.

Still, I’m not above poking fun at Shatner’s acting style, as anyone knows who’s seen my impression.

Below are some more of my favorite Dragon Con moments:

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Plenty of time to clown around at the convention.

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Cute and creepy, you’ve got to hand it to her.

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The convention was heavily populated by Harley Quinns, like this one in the parade.

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This Harley didn’t really put much effort into makeup — but who cares?

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Not every female attendee at Dragon Con found me irresistible.

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The highlight of the convention for my son was this brawl between Godzilla and a T-rex, cheered on by Star Wars bounty hunters.

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As usual, oodles of scantily clad ladies roamed the convention.

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Bright idea for costumes: Uncle Fester and Wednesday.

dragon-warrior

A formidable alien warrior — except maybe for his weapon.

CHRISTOPHER LEE’S CIRCLE OF TERROR   Leave a comment

Horror Icon Christopher Lee turned 93 on May 27. And to celebrate the birthday of the screen legend, I offer you Christopher Lee’s Circle of Terror: a new pop culture game that could finally put a stake in the heart of Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Starting with Lee, you name an actor that played a role he also played. Then name an actor who shared a role with that actor. And so on, and so on, until the chain leads us right back to Christopher Lee. Let the games begin…

CHRISTOPHER LEE is best known for playing DRACULA, a role also played by...

CHRISTOPHER LEE is best known for playing DRACULA, a role also played by…

FRANK LANGELLA, who also played...

FRANK LANGELLA, who also played…

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON in

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON in “Frost/Nixon.” Tricky Dick was also played by

ANTHONY HOPKINS, who also played the role of vampire hunter...

ANTHONY HOPKINS, who also played the role of vampire hunter…

Dr.  VAN HELSING, a role also played by the famous

Dr. VAN HELSING, a role also played by the famous

LAURENCE OLIVIER, who also donned blackface to play Shakespeare's

LAURENCE OLIVIER, who also donned blackface to play Shakespeare’s

OTHELLO. The Tragic Moor was also played on film by...

OTHELLO. The Tragic Moor was also played on film by…

ORSON WELLES, best known to radio fans as the voice of...

ORSON WELLES, best known to radio fans as the voice of…

THE SHADOW.  The cackling crime-fighter was played on film by...

THE SHADOW. The cackling crime-fighter was played on film by…

ALEC BALDWIN. Though that reboot tanked, he launched a successful franchise as...

ALEC BALDWIN. Though that reboot tanked, he launched a successful franchise as…

JACK RYAN in

JACK RYAN in “The Hunt for Red October.” The two-fisted intelligence analyst was most recently played by…

CHRISTOPHER PINE, who also stars in the rebooted Star Trek movies as ...

CHRISTOPHER PINE, who also stars in the rebooted Star Trek movies as …

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK, a role of course originated by...

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK, a role of course originated by…

WILLIAM SHATNER, who starred in a short-lived TV series as...

WILLIAM SHATNER, who starred in a short-lived TV series as…

ALEXANDER THE GREAT. And as odd casting as that sounds, equally odd for the role was Irish actor...

ALEXANDER THE GREAT. And as odd casting as that sounds, equally odd for the role was Irish actor…

COLIN FARRELL, who also starred in the remake of “Fright Night” as

JERRY DANDRIDGE. The sexy vampire next door was played in the original by...

JERRY DANDRIDGE. The sexy vampire next door was played in the original by…

CHRIS SARANDON, who went from evil to good as...

CHRIS SARANDON, who went from evil to good as…

JESUS in

JESUS in “The Day Christ Died.” The Messiah was also played by…

MAX VON SYDOW in

MAX VON SYDOW in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Max was less nice as James Bond’s archenemy…

ERNST BLOFELD in “Never Say Never Again.” The super-villain has been portrayed by many other actors including…

CHARLES GRAY, who also played the older, smarter brother of Sherlock Holmes...

CHARLES GRAY, who also played the older, smarter brother of Sherlock Holmes…

MYCROFT HOLMES in “The Seven-Percent Solution.” The part of Sherlock’s big brother was also played by none other than…

CHRISTOPHER LEE in

CHRISTOPHER LEE in “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.”

So there we have it: A perfect circle including 12 actors. Now it’s your turn. Pick any actor above as a starting point, create a Circle of Terror of your own and post it as a comment below.

Speaking of Lee’s portrayal of Mycroft Holmes, the actor has the rare distinction of having also portrayed Holmes himself, in “Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace” as well as Holmes’ most famous client Sir Henry in “Hound of the Baskervilles.” Sherlock Holmes fans around the world have been delighted to see the detective’s creator in a new thriller, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of The Spook House.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes and the world's greatest magician probe a paranormal  mystery in new thriller.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes and the world’s greatest magician probe a paranormal mystery in new thriller.

Check out the book HERE.

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