Weir: This is it. Seriously, Doctor, calm down. You’re embarrassing me.
McKay: I’ve never been so excited in my entire life
Karoline: I know! Isn’t it great! *Bounce*
The Sci-Fi Ball was a three day event hosted in Bournemouth’s Carrington Hotel on the 12th – 14th February. I was lucky enough to attend on the Saturday of the event when all four guests were attending. This convention was scheduled a little differently than the Massive Events event I covered before in that there were talks throughout the day, with photo opportunities spread over the afternoon and signings as the last thing before the ball in the evening. An important aspect of this convention however is that it is charity-based with proceeds from the auction and other special events going to the Teenage Cancer Trust, and they are very keen to not become a commercial convention.
Guests at this convention were Kai Owen and Lachlan Nieboer who played Rhys Williams and Gray in Torchwood respectively, as well as Alexander Siddig of Deep Space 9 fame and Lou Diamond Phillips of Stargate: Universe.
Kai and Lachlan were on first, and whilst Kai was very chipper, Lachlan appeared a little hungover. Much of their talk was taken up with in-jokes about the previous evening when a couple of the attendees had taught them some con-dancing! Kai and Lachlan also expressed a desire to do quick fire questions which the audience gladly sated! For example, I asked Ferrari or Lamborghini? Stand-up or sitcom? Drama or comedy? Summer or winter? Simpson’s or Family Guy? Cake or death? Amusingly, only Lachlan seemed to understand this as the Eddie Izzard reference it is, while Kai is obviously not that well-versed in Eddie Izzardisms!
The next guest on stage was the fabulous Lou Diamond Phillips, who was introduced with a fun little music video including clips from all of his past works. When he came out he commented on the video, saying that he could always tell when a movie was going to be a hit, because it involved him getting his a$$ kicked! He then thanked the organisers of the event for a wonderful weekend, adding that he was happy to be here because he enjoys performing for an audience, after which he invited questions from the attendees.
The first question came from one of the aforementioned show organisers, who asked what he considered his worst performance was? Lou replied at length, saying that he doesn’t think anyone sets out to do a bad film, that he doesn’t like actors who just ‘walk through’ a movie or series. He also warned the audience not to believe everything that is put on the website IMDB and that incorrect information regarding his height which had been put on there had actually cost him a couple of jobs! He said he had just graduated from Texas University with a degree in Performing Arts and after his role in ‘La Bamba’ he couldn’t get cast until a friend called Eddie (not Izzard) asked him to be in a film called ‘Stand and Deliver’. As he never actually gave a direct answer to the question, should we assume there was a reason he mentioned these two films? I can only think of one way to find out, go and buy them on DVD! 😀
He was then asked whether this was his first time in England, at which point he proudly stated that he was a huge ‘Anglophile’ and that he is of English/Scottish descent on his father’s side. He said that London was his first stop on a tour of La Bamba and the director took him on a tour of Piccadilly Circus where Lou met his ‘doppelganger’, a 6’1”cardboard cut out in a music shop called Records, an experience he found to be very strange.
The next question was about his passion for cooking which was revealed on Twitter, would he have become a chef if his acting career hadn’t worked out? He replied that he cooks about five nights out of the week because he enjoys it so much. He’s judged Iron Chef a few times and revealed that Robert DeNiro has invited him to a restaurant opening. He told us that he and his wife are planning on producing a reality cooking show, but personally finds time limits in cooking scary. He finished off his answer by telling us that he was thinking of putting together a cook book called “Eats, Meats, Rests”, so keep your eyes peeled! He also apologised for not Tweeting whilst he was at the convention like he had said he would, but that his phone had run out of battery and he didn’t have an adapter to charge it up.
He was then asked about his time working on Hollywood Homicide with Harrison Ford. He could barely stop laughing as he told us of his character – an undercover police officer who dresses as a hooker, however he said that many of his scenes were cut. The director wouldn’t give the part to anyone without seeing them in drag and so Lou Diamond Phillips scared his children and dressed in full drag, including mini-skirt, to attend his meeting with the director. He drove to the meeting in a Ford Bronco and as he was driving, his skirt started riding up his legs. During his drive a lorry overtook him then suddenly slowed down along side him, Lou then realised that the driver was looking down into his car but could only see below his shoulders, including his padded bra and underwear! A sight we can only imagine! He also told us of getting in touch with his feminine side during his time in the movie, from shaving and plucking to filming on Hollywood Blvd dressed completely in drag and glitter. He then said that he still gets starstruck, but he made himself go up and talk to Harrison Ford when they were having a break in filming. Their conversation consisted of:
LDP: What’s up?
Harrison Ford: Well, I don’t have glitter on my tummy but I’m all right.
He said that while he was acting, he couldn’t stop thinking ‘I’m acting with Harrison Ford and I’m in a dress!”
The next question was regarding Stargate: Universe and he was asked about the intention to change the format of Stargate: Universe compared to its predecessors. He replied that he appreciates the Stargate: Atlantis’ fans but recognised that Brad Wright wanted to challenge himself with a new direction. He spoke about the filming techniques involved with Stargate: Universe and how, when they are filming a scene you can’t relax and just read your lines because there is almost always a camera pointing at you and you never know which shots they are going to use in the final cut. Another question on this topic was whether there was any room for ‘tom-foolery’ on set with this new filming technique, to which he replied that everyone was very funny on set and that in particular, he and Justin Louis have a lot of fun doing their body swapping.
When asked about the best prank that he’d seen played on set, he recalled his time filming Young Guns with Emilio Estevez, saying that all the cast received gift boxes from MGM with a thank you card, but Emilio had replaced the contents of their boxes with a ‘cowpie’! In order to get back at him, when they were filming on a sheep farm, Lou rented a sheep, dressed it up in garters and a bodice and left it inside Emilio’s trailer as a surprise for him. However they were filming for a lot longer than Lou anticipated and by the time Emilio returned to his trailer the sheep had ‘left its mark’ all over his trailer!
The next question was whether there is still room in Hollywood for original ideas now that it is more of a business? Lou told us that he had in fact just finished writing a Sci-Fi film that he wants to direct which is an original idea based on an old short story. He said that District 9, Up in the Air and Hurt Locker are original movies but with a smaller budget, whereas big Hollywood films are based in some way on imitation. However, he added that you can’t blame the studios for producing films like that, since they make films they know they are going to make a return on which is driven by the audience who go and see them in cinemas.
He then did a list of quick fire questions:
Thunder / Lightning —-> Thunder
On top / Under —-> Both
Tooth fairy / Boogeyman —-> Boogeyman
Disney / Pixar —-> Pixar
Slap / Tickle —-> Slap
Breast / Thigh —-> Thigh
Kirk / Spock —-> Spock
Star Wars / Star Trek —-> Star Wars (but only the IV, V, VI)
Beauty / Brains —-> Brains
Type casting / Unemployed —-> Type casting
Movie / Theatre —-> Theatre
Next, someone asked how he feels when playing morally ambiguous characters and whether he has to feel justified in their actions. He then told the audience that he thought his character in Stargate: Universe was ‘a prick’, however he said that what makes a good bad guy is that they don’t know they are doing wrong. He added that Telford does not feel bad about what he does because he thinks that he is doing the right thing. He said that actors have to adopt the same point of view as their character. He took the role in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit without reading it because he trusted the director, however it turned out he was cast as a paedophile and he couldn’t let his children watch it. He likes the psychology which makes an interesting bad guy and followed it up with a very good impression of Hannibal Lector!
The last question was whether he preferred smaller independent films over blockbusters, to which he replied that there are different tastes globally, and that while he knows that independent projects won’t be seen by a lot of people, he does them because he likes the story and/or the character. As an example, he used his project Shadow Of The Wolf which was very successful in Canada and Europe but did not do as well in the USA.
To finish up Lou’s time on stage, the compere came on stage and together, they auctioned a limited edition Stargate: Universe t-shirt which had all the names of the cast and crew, which Lou would sign and personalise for the auction winner with all proceeds going to charity. Lou concluded with expressing his thanks for all the support the fans continued to give both him and the show before leaving the stage to a rapturous applause!
Not long afterwards, Alexander Siddig took to the stage with an energy that just made you smile. He started off explaining that he only lived an hour and a half away so he drove to the convention in the morning and would drive home that evening, certainly making it a long day! He then told us about a film he is currently taking to festivals around the world, called Cairo Time, in which he co-stars with Patricia Clarkson. They began in Dublin, just before this convention, and were then heading to Khartoum in Africa before jetting on to Australia, however, during their time in Khartoum (which is incidentally where he was born) Alexander has been invited to meet the current president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir. He charmingly asked the audience for suggestions as to what he should say to the President, unfortunately I could not hear the suggestions,, but whatever they were, they made Alexander crack up! He then told us that at the film festivals they receive gift bags and one of the gifts for the festival in Dublin was an Ipod Touch with the name of the festival engraved on the back of it. He didn’t know how to use it himself, but he taped over the back and gave to his son! He told us that he is currently addicted to playing Battlefield on the Xbox with his son, to the point where his son calls him on set and asks whether he is free to play or not!
The first question from the floor was what he considered his worst performance, and he said that he felt that his role on Merlin was hammy, he said it was “The ham in Hamlet, mate!” But ultimately he simply feels embarrassed watching his own work back, even work he’s not in that much.
When asked to name any scene or episode he disliked filming in Deep Space 9, he said that he hated filming the racquetball scenes because they had to wear skin tight spandex suits. As his favourite scene or episode, he chose the time when they were filming with three emus on set and the wrangler got so starstruck (or ‘startrekked’ as my mother seems to read that word!) that the emus were just running around doing whatever they liked!
He was then asked about the Deep Space 9 episode Our Man Bashir and whether it was based on James Bond. He replied that it wasn’t and that it was produced because his was the most unpopular character for the first three seasons. The studios and producers were taking their cues from the fanbase and kept trying to remove his character from the show, however Rick Berman kept ‘going to bat’ for him and fought to keep him. So they created this episode in order to try and make Bashir more popular and it worked! He was also asked about any other storylines he wanted to do and said he would have loved to do more spy stories because they were a lot of fun.
Then someone asked him about his name, which he explained in a fascinating story. His mother came from Liverpool, England and wanted to call him James, however his father was Sudanese and he and his family wanted to give him a Holy name. He then revealed that Siddig is in fact his first name, and it wasn’t until he was about six and he had been living in England for nearly three years that he named himself after his best friend ‘Alex’. Alex was, however, a Golden Retriever! And so he became known by his ‘Western name’, Alexander Siddig, while his Arabic name remains ‘Siddig’ followed by all the names of his fathers before him.
When asked about his relationship with Terry Farrell, he said that there was no chemistry on screen but they got along well enough even though he is no longer in contact with her. He then mentioned that he had become very close friends with Andrew Robinson who played Garak on Deep Space 9 as well as Colm Meaney. Apparently Colm hired a limo one St. Patrick’s Day which drove them to all of the many, many, Irish pubs and bars in Los Angeles, of which Alexander said there were….. many!
He then spoke about how the story arcs were planned, and said that they were ‘painted with broad strokes’ and there wasn’t that much detail, for example, he said “Sisko’s a prophet? That’s news to me even now!”
I then asked him about his time filming Merlin and whether he was able to go off to Pierrefonds Castle with the rest of the cast to film. He said that he was left to film in Cardiff whilst the rest of the cast went off to France. He also said that the kids are a ‘magnificent lot’ and really nice and he enjoyed his time filming.
When asked about filming Poirot, he said that David Suchet is very anal even though he denies it but really loved filming with him.
Next came Alexander’s quick fire questions:
Batman / Spiderman —–> Spiderman
Dax / Dax —–> Both
Typecast / Unemployed —–> Typecast
Joe 90 / Captain Scarlet —–> Joe 90
Sweet tooth / Health freak’ —–> Sweet tooth
Kitten / Puppy —–> Puppy
Stockings / Hold-ups —–> Both
Teddy bear / Doll —–> Doll
Phobias —–> Public swimming pools.
Tattoos? —–> None.
Favourite drink? —–> Bourbon.
Someone then asked about rugby, since the Six Nations competition was playing that weekend, and who he thought was going to win. He said that he enjoys watching sports but alternates between rugby, football and cricket.
He also told us about how he came to be cast in Deep Space 9 and that he originally thought he was auditioning for The Next Generation! Apparently, Rick Berman had seen a film of his and asked to see him. All he had to say for his audition was ‘No’ but once he left the room, the producers followed him out and told everyone else to leave because they had found their Bashir. He considers himself a ‘niche’ actor who does art films and will occasionally do commercial projects.
A slightly strange question was ‘how far down did they make Nicole De Boer’s spots go as Dax?’ Alexander said he used to play dot to dot when he had scenes with her!
The last question was, what was the naughtiest thing he had ever done as a child. He told us a story about when he was at boarding school in Ramsgate and he decided to swing on the bars which ran across the ceiling. However the bar broke and he fell and broke his nose on the bed frame and when the teachers came in he made up a story about how he fell despite the fact that the towel he was swinging from was still up on the bar!
For me, it’s the personal encounters you have with stars that really makes conventions special and usually mine come from the most innocuous things. For example, at this convention I had a photo with Lou Diamond Phillips and as I went up to meet him, we shook hands and he asked me my name. I told him ‘Karoline’ and he kind of went ‘Oh really?” He put his arm around me and we both smiled for the camera and as I stepped away he started singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ to me! And trust me, the man has a great voice! I think I must have blushed bright red as I giggled at him because he gave a hearty laugh as I left. Suffice to say I went in to the hallway and collapsed on the floor in a swoon! When we went for signings afterwards, I asked him if he was a Neil Diamond fan and he sang part of ‘I am I Said’ to us and said he would love to do a ‘Diamond Does Diamond’ cd! Something else to keep your eyes out for guys!
Another personal moment came when we were signing with Lachlan Nieboer and I gasped “You have a white chocolate cookie!” when I spied one next to his pens. He smiled up at me and asked me if I wanted a piece, I refused and hid behind my friend because I hadn’t meant for him to hear me but he insisted and gave me a piece which turned out to be half of the cookie! Kai Owen was on the next table and started teasing me about stealing Lachlan’s food at which point I must have again been bright red with embarrassment and asked if he wanted it back. They laughed at me and Lachlan told me to keep it, after which he told Kai off for teasing while we went and queued for Alexander. To answer your question no, I don’t have the cookie anymore. I hadn’t had lunch so I eated it while we were queuing! 😀
When we signed with Alexander he laughed as we presented him with a Merlin Season 1 Companion to sign. He said he didn’t even know that one existed and was surprised when we showed him the page with his photograph on it. He then asked me to repeat the name of the castle I had mentioned in my question at panel, explaining that when I’d said it earlier he wasn’t making fun of me when he asked me to repeat it but that he simply couldn’t hear what I’d said. We thanked him for coming and said that we hoped to see him at another event soon and moved on to queue for Lou.
Overall I really enjoyed this convention, even though I only went for the day. It was very relaxed and friendly and there was a great rapport between the organisers, the guests and the attendees. I had such a great time that it was such a shame that we couldn’t hang around for the Sunday as well. I must say a huge thank you to the organisers for putting on a brilliant show and being ever so friendly and helpful as well as a thank you to the guests Kai, Lachlan, Alexander and Lou for being charming and friendly to us all! I can’t wait to attend their next event, Reunion 8 in Daventry over September 10 – 12, 2010 with their first announced guest Connor Trinneer!
Hope to see you there!