Archive for Sean Astin

Led Astray

Posted in Events, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2015 by jaclemens

imageI was not one of the fans led astray by schedule mix ups on the Salt Lake Comic Con app, but then I couldn’t get it to open a majority of the time. Users overloaded both the app and the website on Friday, so that’s a tech enhancement request for next year’s conventions. As for this year’s RFID wristbands, I made sure I picked mine up and activated it in advance. Upon entering the press entrance Thursday morning, I gave the registration line a sidelong smirk and went straight to the scanning station – which was not yet operational. The volunteers fidgeted with it fruitlessly, and, after waiting an acceptable amount of time, I asked if we could simply use another station to scan our bands. I explained that we were all there for the opening press conference, but this volunteer didn’t know where that was held. I told him it was in the ballroom on the other end of the Salt Palace, where many scanners were set up, and he let us through. When I left later that day, I asked another volunteer if I was supposed to scan out – seemed like a sensible way to keep track of the number of people in the building at any given time – but she didn’t know. When the website was functional, it stated that scanning in and out was necessary.

imageThe press conference was less of a production this year. Gone were the TARDIS entrance, the live painting, and the Make-A-Wish kids. For a convention promoting #EPIC, the press conference really wasn’t. The celebrity guests weren’t prepared to be introduced all at once, and shuffled on stage holding coffee cups and rubbing their eyes in the lights. Except for the exceptional Marina Sirtis, who wandered out onto the stage without a proper introduction. She announced her guest narrating with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall the next two nights (following the Michael Lewis event), and Dan Farr shared an anecdote about Sirtis (a repeat guest) talking up Salt Lake to the manager of Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell, guests who appeared later in the convention. I did not have any questions for the assembled guests, but I did snap a photo of someone in a Carnage suit interviewing Richard Hatch.

imageFriday I started my panel-going with a session on how to get your novel published. The aforementioned Richard Hatch was on the panel, and I jotted down the scant tips he was able to mention before the Winner twins took over. Somehow their story of being dyslexic-but-adorable twelve-year-old twin girls didn’t seem applicable to my publishing pursuits. On my way to the Salt Palace that morning I listened to a Writing Excuses podcast on how to be a good panelist and a great moderator; it’s episode 37 from season 10, and should be mandatory listening for the writing panels. I found myself no closer to getting published, but I was able to find a cosplayer (Bioshock) to pose with this fall’s book from Tachyon Publications: Led Astray, the best of Kelley Armstrong. I also found out that Steve Diamond, who lives in my neighborhood, is also an author! He was promoting his book Residue in the large booth with Kevin J. Anderson.

Animaniacs welcome the press to Salt Lake Comic Con 2015.

Animaniacs welcome the press to Salt Lake Comic Con 2015.

My next panel was exponentially more entertaining, as Maurice LaMarche joined Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Rob Paulsen from the Animaniacs! LaMarche is the voice talent behind The Brain, Yosemite Sam, Morbo, Kif, and Calculon (Futurama), and the Lexus commercials. Harnell is the voice of Wakko and dozens of video game characters. Paulsen is Yakko and Pinky, as well as Donatello. MacNeille, who is the most versatile according to the others, is the voice of Dot, Hello Nurse, Babs Bunny, Daisy Duck, Agnes Skinner from The Simpsons, Mom from Futurama, and many more. Their panel was opposite Sean Astin (voice of Raphael), making me doubly glad I saw him at Fantasy Con last year. The synergy between the four actors was amazing, as they repeatedly set one another up to shine. I missed nearly all of the best sound bites, but I was overjoyed to get a recording of LaMarche talking about the Pinky and the Brain Christmas Special, which is one of our family’s traditions on Christmas Eve!

Advertisements

Fine Fellows

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by jaclemens
Oh my! Did I just photobomb Sean Astin and J.A. Clemens?

Oh my! Did I just photobomb Sean Astin with a member of the press?

Salt Lake Comic Con is about to begin, and I’m still savoring Fantasy Con! It has been a whirlwind couple of months since I met these two fine fellows, Sean Astin and Billy Boyd! Astin is appearing in The Strain, based on the books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. He can also be heard on Vox Populi, a weekly radio program, and as the voice of Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Billy Boyd is working on a new album with his band Beecake, and can be heard singing on the trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies! I was able to hear him sing “The Steward of Gondor” live during a panel (he sounded fantastic), and fortunate enough to meet both actors afterward.

Astin and Boyd are great together, and gracious to a tee. While Astin waited for an interview on camera, he turned to my friend Ryan to ask about his wife and children (who were in town, but not present that evening). Astin brought his own family to Salt Lake, something he never does on the convention circuit. However, his positive experiences filming Forever Strong and The Freemason in Utah showed him that Salt Lake City is an exceptional place. He may not have had as much vacation time with his family as he would have liked that holiday weekend, but he never ceased to be accommodating. I caught up to him as he was about to leave the room, and, after our meeting, he returned to a table for more group interviews.

At the conclusion of his spotlight panel on Saturday afternoon, Astin refused to allow the line of waiting questions be dismissed. Instead he went into a speed round, where each fan asked their question in one sequential string as he took notes. Then he answered all of the questions together, and no one went away disappointed. At Fantasy Con’s end, Astin was the last remaining special guest still at his table greeting fans and signing autographs. Sean Astin is a consummate professional.

Billy BoydBy way of comparison, Billy Boyd is a sheer delight. He brings out the conviviality in Astin (and everyone in the room, for that matter). Boyd said that being back with Astin and John Rhys-Davies helped him recall stories from their time working together, and he laughed heartily as he shared them. He also had kind words for his visit to Utah, noting the ambiance of dining alfresco and exploring the city on light rail. Waking up in a different time zone, he especially appreciated the bracing sound of bagpipes in the morning!

Boyd had the unenviable time slot of 10 am on Saturday for his spotlight, but was utterly charming nevertheless (once his “best friend” brought him a coffee). He demurred when asked to sing again, explaining that he sounded more like Rhys-Davies at that hour! Boyd did discuss performing with Beecake, and there was a genuine outpouring of enthusiasm for a tour date in Salt Lake City! If you haven’t watched the videos for “Please Stay” or “The Clown” you are missing out!

When I spoke with Boyd, I asked him about his employment as a print finisher in the guild. Over the course of seven years in the business he bound editions of both The Lord of the Rings and Master and Commander before appearing in the cinematic versions. As it was the eve of our Independence Day, I asked for his opinion on the referendum for Scotland’s independence (to be heard on the 18th of this month). Boyd said he had given it careful consideration and favors independence. Then he lightened the moment with a beatific smile and said “Maybe I’ll have apple pie!”