Let me begin by apologizing for my tardiness in addressing the need for a regular post on this blog. For the past several months, I have been busy writing a screenplay that takes place within a theme park in Houston, Texas in 1979, called AstroWorld. And with generous assistance from the park’s former employees, I have created something very funny, and very magical. But it has taken a lot longer than I expected to produce a First Draft. So from here on, I resume my regular monthly posts on this blog featuring entertainment news and tidbits from the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy. **Also, please NOTE: I have a backlog of obituaries over the past several months. And all will be addressed at the end of my next blog post, in April. But for now, I have chosen to only focus on one: Leonard Nimoy. BLADE RUNNER 2 (or whatever the eventual title may be) has been given a green light by Alcon Entertainment and it’s associating partners. As reported many months ago, Harrison Ford will reprise his role as android hunter Rick Deckard, and a new director has now entered the mix, taking over for Ridley Scott; who will now service as Producer. Denis (Prisoners) Villeneuve will now helm the film. The only other details offered were that the film will officially begin production in 2016, and that Harrison Ford believes it to be, “the best script I’ve ever read.” Unfortunately, there is no further word as of yet, on any “definite” involvement on the part of Ford in a potential Indiana Jones 5 (excepting previous statements by Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger, and those pesky Chris Pratt rumors,) but Starlogger will keep you posted … HOWEVER, IN OTHER REBOOT-REMAKE-SEQUEL NEWS, director Neil (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) Blomkamp has managed to persuade 20th Century Fox to finance his own Alien film, based upon a personal art project (at left.) As of this writing, the film is said to be a sequel to all previous Alien films, and Sigourney Weaver is in negotiations to reprise her role as Lt. Ellen Ripley, or some variation of that original character. The film, thus far, is untitled. But director Blomkamp made a point to pin down the approximate angle his film will take by stating the following: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Alien. So it’s Alien, Aliens, and then this movie.” Blomkamp later clarified that he will not be revising the current cannon of the Alien franchise. Offering that he will not ignore events depicted in Alien 3 or Resurrection … MARVEL & SONY PICTURES recently made a deal for $0 (that’s right, no money involved; both parties simply agree not to share profits or sue each other,) allowing for appearances of Spider-Man in Disney-Marvel films, specifically including Captain America: Civil War (said to involve cameos of many characters in the Marvel Universe,) and possibly, the forthcoming Avengers sequels, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. It is not certain at this time if the Spider-Man character will make appearances in any of the other Marvel films planned by Disney, which in part include: Doctor Strange (starring Benedict Cumberbatch,) Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman,) Captain Marvel, and The Inhumans. And although Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been effectively cancelled, due to the lackluster performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Sinister Six and Venom are still in development at Sony, and Marvel’s own Kevin Feige will be producing a new stand alone Spider-Man film, which is aiming for a summer of 2017 release date. Actor Andrew Garfield will not be returning … ON THE SUBJECT OF CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, the film’s storyline reportedly pits Captain America against Iron Man, due to opposing views over something called, “The Hero Registration Act.” Robert Downey Jr., who will appear in the film as Iron Man, had this to say regarding the nature of his role in the film. “Ultimately, it’s Steve’s (Rogers) story; it doesn’t say ‘Iron Man 4: Civil War.’ I think that’s great, too. I think Chris has been hungry to bring even more of an underside and some shadow to that. I remember the comics — on the surface, you got the sense that Cap was baseball and apple pie, but underneath, there was all this churning stuff of being a man out of time. Now we know he’s made his peace with that. What’s the bigger issue ? It can have a little something to do with the past, but it can be about someone becoming more modernized in their own conflict.” DAREDEVIL WILL SOON BOW on Netflix. The series is said to be set after the events of the first Avengers film, and on the subject of the general plot of the show, Marvel’s Emma Fleischer offered the following: “We are still part of the Marvel Universe, but we are not explicitly in that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. world. We’re in our own corner. So the aliens (of The Avengers ) came down and ruined the city (New York,) and this is the story of Hell’s Kitchen’s rebuild.” Among the cast will be Vincent (Full Metal Jacket) D’Onofrio, who will play Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin … MARVEL’S A.K.A. JESSICA JONES will also begin airing soon on Netflix. The show, already in production, is a 13 episode series starring Krysten Ritter as a former superhero, turned detective. It premiers later this year …THE BEAUTIFUL MORENA (FIREFLY) BACCARIN has been cast as the female lead in the Ryan Reynolds Deadpool film. Having languished in development hell for several years, Deadpool somewhat reboots the character Reynolds first played in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here he plays an assassin who undergoes a procedure to cure his cancer, but the operation leaves him twisted and scarred while also giving him extraordinary abilities. The film, directed by newcomer Tim Miller, begins filming next month in Vancouver, Canada … BRYAN SINGER’S X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has entered production. The sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past will star a variety of new talent as the young X-Men characters we all know, dealing with the threat of the character, Apocalypse, in the mid 1980’s. Thus far, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, and Even Peters (Quicksilver,) are the only returning actors from previous films of the franchise. As for Patrick Stewart, the plan is for he and Jackman to team up for another Wolverine film. And good news for Jackman-Wolverine fans. Jackman recently stated that he intends to play the character of Logan/Wolverine, until he dies … A MINOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS news item: Jony Ive, a VP at Apple Computer responsible for many of their designs, including the iPhone, iPad, iMac, and more recent iOS platforms, was consulted on certain aspects of the new “crossguard” lightsaber seen in the recent teaser trailer. Specifically, the idea that the light blade isn’t so well defined. Said Ive: “I thought (the lightsaber) would be interesting if it were less precise and just a little bit more spitty.” He also suggested the redesign be, “more analog and more primitive and I think in that way, somehow more ominous.” … MEANWHILE, FELICITY (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) JONES has won a role in an as-of-yet unnamed Star Wars spin-off film. The script for that top secret project is now being rewritten by Chris Weitz … AND TARIANA (ORPHAN BLACK) MASLANY has won a separate role in a separate Star Wars spin-off film, set to be directed by Gareth (Godzilla) Edwards. Reportedly, Muslany will be playing the live action version of “Sabine Wren,” a character featured in the animated Star Wars Rebels … ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (scheduled to begin shooting The Legend of Conan this fall,) will yet again reprise his role as “The Terminator” in yet another sequel, scheduled to follow the upcoming Terminator: Genisys reboot. According to Schwarzenegger, the next Terminator film will begin production “next year.” The new Terminator films are reportedly designed to be a trilogy, and production is scheduled to move quickly to take advantage of the Terminator rights, before said rights revert to creator James Cameron; who has no intention of revisiting the Terminator franchise … SPEAKING OF LEGEND OF CONAN, Producer Chris Morgan has stated that the film will be more inspired by the original film by John Milius, than by the work of Robert E. Howard. “We look at all the source material and we love things that kind of speak to that tone. We’re incredibly respectful to Howard. I’m a huge fan of the stories and the books, but I’m a super-huge fan of the first movie; because that crystallized and distilled it all for me. Milius just killed it. He did such a good job. And Legend of Conan is really resonant and it really digs into the legacy of that original film. I’m already very proud of it.” … IN GHOSTBUSTERS NEWS, director Paul (Bridesmaids) Feig recently commented on his personal inspiration for the development up the reboot featuring an all female cast. Said Feig, “I will say, I was very inspired by (The Walking Dead.) What I love is how they play with the danger, they play with the scariness, but also the idea that it’s always about gauntlet run. And that’s something: an element I want to bring to this Ghostbusters reboot is having to get through these various obstacles that are supernatural and all that. I really feed off of The Walking Dead.” … PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES has officially started production in Queensland, Australia, directed by Espen Sandberg & Joachim Ronning. The story: ghost pirates lead by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) escape from the Devil’s Triangle, determined to kill every pirate at sea, including Captain Jack Sparrow. His only hope is in finding the legendary Trident of the Greek God Poseidon, which gives its possessor total control over the seas … IN VARIOUS DC NEWS: Gal Godot will reprise her role as Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman in a stand alone film that begins shooting as soon as this fall … Legion of Superheroes (a comic that followed a team of super-powered 20-somethings, in the 30th Century) is being developed and possibly prepped by Warner Bros. as a ‘superheroes in outer space’ story, ala Guardians of the Galaxy … Actress Margot (The Wolf of Wall Street) Robie has been cast as “Harley Quinn” in Suicide Squad, while Jared Leto has been cast as “The Joker,” and Will Smith has been cast as “Deadshot.” The film is being directed by David (Fury) Ayer … The CBS Supergirl series is finalizing casting and will begin shooting soon. The show is described as being about Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin, who was born on Krypton, but escaped its destruction the same as Kal-El, by being sent to Earth. Taken in by a foster family, she’s been a “Super girl” in hiding, living in a “Superman” world, until turning twenty-four and coming into her own … Director Zak Snyder has offered this image for his version of the “Aquaman” character, as he appears in his forthcoming Batman Vs. Superman: Jason Mamoa had this to say about the role: “It’s not my movie. it’s the first time in history to have them (Superman & Batman) both on the screen together, and I’m just excited to see those two up there. Justice League is quite a ways away. But I’m looking forward to it.” He added, “There’s definitely a plan in this whole universe that Zack (Snyder) is designing. And it’s amazing to be a part of it. I think everything that you see that is building, there’s a purpose behind the whole plan. What’s great about this is Zack, man. We don’t want to just reinvent it, but he’s got a whole idea of what Aquaman should be and I’m really honored to be playing it. I’m excited for the world to see it.” Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is scheduled for release March 25, 2016. Justice League is tentatively scheduled for release in November of 2017. A potential and eventual Aquaman film is also in the offering … IN BRIEF: A remake of Walt Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (1977) is now shooting in New Zealand. The film is being directed by David (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) Lowery, and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, and Robert Redford. The film is due in theaters August, 2016 … Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report (2002) has spawned a television series. Set 10 years after the film, and the end of the Precrime Division, another generation of characters will secretly relaunch the Precrime Division in a genuine attempt to avoid possible Armageddon. Casting is complete and the show begins shooting very soon … Evan Daugherty (Divergent, Snow White and the Huntsman) is writing the Tomb Raider reboot for GK Films and MGM. Warner Bros. will release the film … Director Rob (Parks and Recreation) Schrab will helm the sequel to The LEGO Movie. The LEGO Movie Sequel is due in 2018. This film will follow on the heels of The Batman LEGO Movie, which will be released in 2017 … Michelle Gomez will reprise her role as “Missy,” or “The Master” in the upcoming season of the BBC’s Doctor Who … Ash Vs. Evil Dead begins production very soon (if it hasn’t already,) and will air in half hour episodes on the Starz Channel, later this year. Sam (Army of Darkness) Raimi will helm the initial episode. And it appears that many members of the same team that made that film, are also involved here. Gimme some sugar, baby. … Amazon Prime has ordered a full series commitment after evaluating viewings of the pilot for The Man in the High Castle. Based upon the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, the story centers on an alternate history (set in ’62) wherein the Germans and the Japanese won the Second World War, and each control half The United States. When tensions between these two sides rise, things get interesting, creating a highly complex story that won a Hugo Award in 1963. According to Amazon’s VP Roy Price, The Man in the High Castle is the most watched pilot Amazon has yet produced. And they’ve produced a lot of various pilot episodes of various shows. The Man in the High Castle’s subsequent episodes will be available later this year to all Prime Members. … The 1982 comic Dreadstar is headed for television. Benderspink and Universal Cable Productions are producing the live action pilot, without a current Network commitment. The story centers on Vanth Dreadstar, the sole survivor of the Milky Way Galaxy, who teams up with a band of strange characters to stop an ancient war between two evil empires, from spreading throughout the Universe. Jim Starlin, who created the character, will pen the screenplay. Starlin is also the creator of a trio of characters featured in Guardians of the Galaxy: “Thanos,” his adopted daughter “Gamora,” and “Drax the Destroyer” … Writer George R.R. Martin has revealed that Producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones are about to completely mess with both readers, and TV viewers heads by killing off a number of characters on the show, who live on in the books. Martin had the following to say, “People are going to die who don’t die in the books, so even the book readers will be unhappy. So everybody better be on their toes. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are even bloodier than I am.” … 20th Century Fox TV and New Regency are developing what they call an “event series,” based upon the graphic novel, Enormous. The story is set in a near future and involves an ecological crisis that spawns massive creatures. No writers or Network commitment has been announced … David (Jurassic Park) Koepp has been hired by Sony Pictures to pen an adaptation of Sylvain Neuvel’s debut science fiction novel, The Themis Files. The story concerns a covert project to assemble ancient body parts of a giant humanoid relic, buried long ago and all over the world, by aliens … Warner Bros. hasn’t given up on that Space Invaders movie just yet. They’ve hired writer Dan Kunka, author of a blacklisted screenplay that got a lot of attention, to re-draft the material based upon the classic early 80’s arcade game … Warner Bros. is also developing a motion picture version of Adventure Time. Roy Lee and Chris McKay (The Lego Movie) will produce, and series creator Pendleton Ward will co-write. Originally a TV movie was in development in-between the show’s 4th and 5th Seasons, but was cancelled … And last but not least, the 24th Bond film, Spectre has started shooting, with Daniel Craig being joined by series regulars, and Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz, and Dave (Guardians of the Galaxy) Bautista. The story is said to involve a cryptic message from an unlikely source that sets down Bond inside a maze of a criminal organization. As ‘M’ fights political pressure to shutter MI6, Bond uncovers a hidden truth that could destroy everything he fights to protect. HOW MANY ENTERTAINERS: ACTORS, DIRECTORS, WRITERS, PRODUCERS, DANCERS, SINGERS, what-have-ya, how many can you name (and trust me, you can count them on one hand,) how many can you name right now, without having to research the matter, thoroughly, that showed the integrity, the discipline, the sincerity, the dignity, and the poise that Leonard Nimoy did in his career ? How many ? I can name one or two off hand. Sidney Poitier and George Pal. After that, I start searching my memory, and eventually, I dodge my failing memory for that old Cinemania ’97 program that I have installed on my computer; which I consult regularly for research and the occasional adventurous foray into film history. And while that wonderful tool may lead me to find a new list of potential treasures I haven’t seen, and though I may discover endlessly interesting personalities I was completely unfamiliar with, there aren’t many that stand out with a certain tangible integrity, or that shine with that simple honesty that is a person’s true and own character. Most, are simply people who are paid to be artificial. They keep their true nature to themselves. And besides, who could blame them for getting lost in that unending cycle of publicity, pomp and circumstance, artificial humility, and a certain ‘when in Rome’ mentality, that affects all who work in such an industry. But Nimoy seemed to sidestep all that jazz. How ? The man was the very portrait of how to be a professional actor. ‘Nuff said, right ?. He was also known for being a terrific director. Stop there ? Photographer. Writer. Teacher. Lecturer. All of these are roles that are hard to master. And according to many who knew him, he was also a good friend, a fair man, and a endlessly curious rascal, who most found difficult to hold a grudge against. Was he simply meditating, or did he really learn that much from playing the character of Mr. Spock ? To quote In Search of …, I suggest there must be, “some possible explanation, but not necessarily the only one, for the mystery we will examine.” Leonard Simon Nimoy was born in March of 1931, in Boston. His parents were immigrants from what is now The Ukraine. His father a barber, his mother a homemaker. Their son (Lennie) began acting when he was 8 years old in a neighborhood theater. After high school, he studied drama and photography, and received honorary doctorates from two different Universities. In ’53 Nimoy enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, and as a Sergeant, he served in Army Special Services, helping put on shows for the troops. Then he moved to Hollywood and did more than 50 small parts in various films and TV shows; generally as, ‘the heavy.’ He also took on ‘ethnic’ roles during an era when Hollywood sought out the scarce ethic talent they could find, to play any ethnic role they could accomplish on camera, with said actor. He played everything from Italians, to Russians, to Mexicans, to Native Americans. And throughout, he picked up extra money teaching acting classes, on the side. But Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train to the stars, made him first a star, then a pop culture phenomenon, and finally, a legend. Star Trek was almost instantly popular. Although at the time, no one at Lucille Ball’s company “Desilu,” or Paramount, or even NBC knew that. There was press; there was lots of press. But the sponsors just weren’t there. Mainly because the “Nielsen Ratings” weren’t accurate. But it was a great run for him, and he made great money for the term of the show’s run on television. And after the show ended, he kept working. First came Mission: Impossible, playing the master of disguise, “Paris.” Then, the film Catlow (1971,) starring alongside Yul Brynner. Rod Serling’s Night Gallery gave him his first opportunity to direct. And he gave a calm, cool performance as a murdering surgeon in a terrific episode of Columbo, titled, ‘A Stitch in Crime.’ And there were plays, and commercials, and appearances on other television shows. His role as narrator on the mysteries of the unexplained show, In Search of… kept him in the public consciousness for some time. Almost everyone who was alive at the time saw it in syndication, at least once. His role as a psychiatrist in Philip Kaufman’s successful remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, remains a clear standout. And there was more. You can be sure of that. He just – kept – working. And then, somewhere in the early to mid 70’s, Nimoy began spotting his likeness as “Spock” on billboards advertising alcohol. He immediately started looking around and found that his likeness was being loaned out by Paramount to all matter of product placement. Right across the board, “Spock” was everywhere. And he looked just like Leonard Nimoy. So Nimoy began the process of trying to get paid for that. Which was a long, convoluted legal nightmare. Both to get the residuals he was owed for co-opting his image, and as an attempt to influence some element of responsible control over what products the image endorsed. Concurrent to this, Star Trek was coming back to life. First, there had been an animated series. Which, just like the original show, was massively more popular with the public than anyone knew at the time it was being produced. Then, there had been conventions. Small conventions that got BIG turnouts. Thousands showed up. Nobody saw that coming. Including Nimoy, Shatner, Kelley, Doohan, Koenig, Takei, Nichols, et al. Even Roddenberry, who had been attending Star Trek conventions almost since the day after the last episode aired on NBC, had no warning as to the mobs that would eventually begin descending on those later conventions. Then, in 1976, Star Trek went into syndication. And everyone was watching. It was instantaneously one of the highest rated syndicated shows in television history. Nielsen had finally fixed their unique system of establishing somewhat accurate numbers, that matched programs with television viewers. And POW ! Paramount wanted the show back on the air. Which is precisely what Gene Roddenberry had been trying to accomplish for some time. But then suddenly, Paramount did an about face, deciding they would rather try this Star Trek thing out as a film. In theaters, to be precise. Thus, Roddenberry oversaw the initial development of a grand vision of a screenplay, and the studio developed a short list of directors for the project. But when they threw bait into the water, the only bite they got, was from director Philip Kaufman. Kaufman would eventually leave the project after clashing with Roddenberry over the script (he wanted Toshiro Mifune to play Kirk’s arch nemesis in the form of a Klingon Commander,) and once the script was deemed by the studio brass to have been developed “by committee,” it was summarily shelved. But the script cooked up by Roddenberry and his writers, was a unique story idea. Kirk and crew (including Spock,) arrive to investigate a planet sending out a distress signal. The planet is phasing in and out of our dimension, in intervals. After briefly clashing with the Klingons, Kirk and a few Red Shirts beam down. The planet unexpectedly phases away, and doesn’t come back. Through subspace radio, Starfleet instructs Spock, now in command, to wait. A protracted period of time passes, but finally, Spock must leave orbit. Three years pass and Spock and crew are unexpectedly ordered by Starfleet to return to the planet. Passing ships keeping a wide berth of the area, have reported the planet’s recent reappearance. Soon, Kirk is returned to the Enterprise with a whopper of a story about the planet’s human inhabitants, and the bizarre alien race (the Cygnans) that both control the planet, and steal the technology of other races for their own purposes. But Spock intuits that Kirk is not telling them everything. He’s hiding something. And this generates conflict between the two men. When the Cygnans eventually realize they aren’t going to get what they want (the Enterprise,) they utilize technology stolen from another civilization to generate a wormhole singularity, which pulls the Enterprise in, along with their own planet. The scenario resolves with the Cygnans being defeated, but with the Enterprise and it’s Crew in orbit around the planet, in another distant time and place in the Galaxy. The planet is dramatically revealed to be Earth, now relocated to its present location, the solar system we all know so well. Upon beaming down to check on the human inhabitants, Kirk introduces his crew to the ancient civilization of human inhabitants, in residence. And then reveals to Spock evidence of the Sumerian culture, including the history of the Cygnan race’s rule over them, inscribed on tablets. And the kicker … before departing, Kirk and his crew are heralded as Gods by the inhabitants, and its clear that the Enterprise crew are in fact the source of the mythical Greek Titans recorded in ancient human history. Kirk and crew beam up, and head back through the wormhole singularity, to their own time and proper place in history; making calculations and getting ready to contact Starfleet for assistance in closing off the wormhole singularity, for good. The film was to be titled, Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. Nimoy read it, liked what he read, but inquired yet again about resolving the dispute over his likeness being used without his permission, and without being compensated. Paramount were tired of hearing about this. As it turned out, they never even asked legal about it. They didn’t give a damn and assumed the situation would resolve itself without their intervention. Bad judgement call. Without Nimoy, they were dead in the water. A Star Trek movie was never going to be the same without Mr. Spock, anymore than it would be the same without Captain Kirk. But until the legal situation regarding his likeness being used as product placement without his consent, was resolved, Nimoy of course, just kept declining to participate. And without the Spock character, Paramount were hesitant to pull the trigger. So they merely kept Star Trek in development. Languishing. It was a film, then it was a TV series, then there was talk it would be a series of made for TV movies, ala Columbo. Then it was a feature film, then it was a TV series again. The execs at Paramount were just playing with the idea, really. But there was no real momentum. Finally, they pulled the trigger, and began pre-production on Star Trek: Phase II. A television show wherein the Enterprise crew had been away for a short time, and change had come to Starfleet, life had moved on, and the Enterprise had been refit. They contacted Nimoy. He asked them if there was any progress on resolving the dispute over his likeness being used without proper compensation or permission. Paramount terminated contact with the actor, and another Vulcan character was created to take Spock’s place. The show would go on. Supposedly. Paramount kept things moving slowly. And Roddenberry took his time developing scripts. Sets were built, actors were cast. And then … one day … on May 25th, 1977 … it hit. Star Wars. And reportedly, the executives at Paramount were stilted. Both by the vision of the film they were all “required” by the Studio hierarchy to see, as well as by the box office receipts that rollllllled in, week after week. Only days before it was scheduled to begin shooting, Star Trek: Phase II was put into turnaround. The Paramount brass had to think this through. And while almost everyone involved in the production of Phase II suspected they knew why, it wasn’t until Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released, that they found out for sure. The studio now made no secret of what they wanted. They wanted a “big idea.” In fact, many at the studio were chatting endlessly about the dazzling effects in CE3K, as well as the compelling and emotional momentum of the film’s storyline. And the executives were saying, “This could have been us!” Now it was a certainty. There was going to be a movie. From here on, they were only looking at making a motion picture. Finally, Roddenberry understood what they were after. And when Roddenberry turned in a quick rewrite of Alan Dean Foster and Harold Livingston’s script for the pilot episode of Star Trek: Phase II, Paramount felt that this was the big idea they were waiting for, and the project was given a green light. Within days, a young executive asked to meet with Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy acquiesced, but during their lunch, refused to read the new script until the lawsuit was resolved. They parted ways, amicably, and soon after Nimoy got the script, a letter of resolution regarding the lawsuit, and a check for past due residuals for the use of his likeness as Spock — and a promise that it would never happen again. Nimoy opened the larger envelope, read the script, had a meeting with the director of The Andromeda Strain, Robert Wise, and agreed to sign on. It goes without saying, that Star Trek: The Motion Picture not only had production problems, but that the film was never actually completed by the director. (*Star Trek The Motion Picture was finally re-edited by Wise in 2001, utilizing CGI and sound effects that had been recorded by Alan Howarth in 1979, but never used. The Director’s Edition, was much favored by director Wise over the theatrical release, and is currently available only on DVD. Paramount is said to be working to bring it to Blu-ray.) In fact, according to Robert Wise, the film that was released to theaters was in fact his workprint. And according to Leonard Nimoy, when he asked the head of the studio at the film’s premiere in Washington D.C. how long they had to finish the film before it’s release, the head of the studio replied that as far as he was concerned the film was done, and scheduled to open in theaters the following Thursday. Simultaneous to their conversation, employees of Paramount were actually already getting the release prints from the film lab, and lining them up in a large empty sound stage in preparation for delivery to the theaters. Nimoy was crushed. And shocked. He simply assumed, ‘Oh well, on to the next thing, I guess.’ But Star Trek had a funny way of hanging on. Shockingly, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, already nicknamed “Star Trek The Motionless Picture” by critics; and at the time, the second most expensive motion picture ever made — right behind Superman – The Movie … actually made money. With a final budget that had ballooned to almost $46 Million dollars, the film still brought in close to $140 Million. And in 1979-1980 business climate, a film had to make three times it’s budget to clear a profit and be considered a success. Paramount didn’t get a windfall out of it, but the film cleared a profit, and would make them additional money in cable and other ancillary markets, nonetheless. So the consensus among the staff at Paramount, was simply, ‘Let’s get the next one right. And let’s get it cheap.’ Dumber words were never spoken by a studio executive in such ironic conundrum. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was produced with the assistance of a television crew to keep costs down. Nicholas Meyer, the writer and director of Time After Time (a time travel story about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper to the present in his time machine,) was brought aboard to give the film more life. And he did. He eschewed the tired cliched and boring pacing of early 70’s sci-fi that had dogged the first film, and looked for a fresh approach that would appeal the both Star Trek fans and the Star Wars generation. He screened episodes of the Original Series, and discovered Ricardo Montalban’s character in the episode, “Space Seed.” Then, he made the creative decision to take inspiration from Captain Horatio Hornblower, and instantly, Star Trek II (originally titled “The Undiscovered Country,”) was off and running. There was only one problem. Although Nimoy loved his character, he didn’t want to “only” be associated with it. Spock hadn’t wrecked his career, but the Vulcan had definitely limited his options and opportunities. Due mainly to the stigma inherently associated with typecasting. So Meyer met with Nimoy, and asked, “How would you like to have a really good death scene?” Nimoy was hooked. And when news of Spock’s death leaked, Meyer and the film’s producer came up with a fun solution. Fake the death of Spock early in the film, belaying the audiences expectation of it, and then hit them with that zinger in the last reel. When another obstacle emerged, the producers dodged it with ease, as well. The studio felt “Undiscovered Country” was too vague and irrelevant to the plot, so Meyer and Producer Harve Bennett changed the title to Star Trek II: The Revenge of Khan. However, as soon as that title was announced, Paramount got calls from attorneys for Lucasfilm and 20the Century Fox Film Corporation. “That’s too similar to the title of our next Star Wars film, ‘Revenge of the Jedi.’” So Star Trek II became The Wrath of Khan, and 6 months later Revenge of the Jedi became Return of the Jedi. Yea, thanks for calling. Everyone involved thought the surprises were over. Until they screened the completed film for the first time, and the director saw that his ending had been altered by Paramount. There it was. Spock’s shiny new torpedo coffin, resting on the surface of a planet that was created by a device designed to regenerate life from death. All they could do was laugh. Even Nimoy thought it was hilarious. The movie was a hit. And those who made it accepted that their Frankenstein monster was in fact, a real beauty. And judging by the profits it made in June of 1982, every kid in every neighborhood saw it. More than once, in fact. Nimoy knew there would be a sequel. And he knew what the fans were going to want it to be about. So he moved quickly to get a meeting with Paramount, and told them that he wanted to direct the next film. They balked at that. Although Nimoy had, by that time, been working here and there as a director (mostly in television,) a had acquired a reputation for being a true professional — Star Trek III was slated to be a major feature film. With a sizable budget, to match. They weren’t sure he could handle the responsibility that came with the monolithic task of directing a major motion picture. Nimoy argued that he knew the character of Spock, knew Star Trek, and that he knew they needed Spock to be the momentum of the next story. And Leonard Nimoy direct’s The Search for Spock, had a nice ring to it. But Paramount still had reservations. Finally, Nimoy dropped a bomb on them. Either he directed Star Trek III, or this was the last conversation they were ever going to have with him again. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock wasn’t as much of a critical success as the the previous film, but it was the 10th highest grossing film of 1984. And whereas Star Trek II had made $79 Million, Star Trek III had made $76 Million. Not bad, as far as diminishing returns goes. But it wasn’t really Leonard Nimoy’s film. The storyline was mostly cooked up by Producer Harve Bennett, with generous suggestions from the Studio brass. And as a direct result, it was a very uneven storyline. And while being entirely watchable (certainly for Star Trek fans,) it nevertheless had retained no semblance of spirit of what had made the previous film so incredibly popular. But regardless, Leonard Nimoy’s work as a director, shined through. And Nimoy was immediately asked back to helm the next film. The studio told him, “the training wheels are off. We want your Star Trek film.” Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was one of the most successful films of 1986, generating over $100 Million, and remains one of the most critically and commercially successful films in the history of the Star Trek franchise. But it was something else: the most accessible to non-Trekkies. And that was alllll Nimoy. He wanted to lighten things up. The first Star Trek film was pretentious to the point of boredom. The second one was a bit gritty, and featured the death of a major player. The third was was operatic, and featured the death of Captain Kirk’s only son. Nimoy felt the fourth one should have something to say, but should also be light. Even frivolous. Still dealing with interference from Paramount, the initial draft was a retread on their biggest hit at that time, Beverly Hills Cop. It featured a “fish-out-of-water” team-up between the crew of the Starship Enterprise, and Eddie Murphy. And reportedly, the script came off as a Mad Magazine parody, similar in may ways to comedian Richard Pryor being wedged into the plot of Superman III. Thankfully, Murphy bowed out to do The Golden Child. A film he later regretted making, stating, “I just walked through Golden Child. I would have been better off doing Star Trek IV.” Soon after he departed, Nimoy called the cavalry: Nicholas Meyer. And the rest is movie history. Thanks in large part to screenwriter Nicholas Meyer, and the one and only Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the one Star Trek film that everybody saw. No matter who they were. Star Trek had finally generated a story that appealed to the general movie going public. And for a brief moment in time, those cult-like walls had come down, changing the fan base to include just about anyone and everyone. It was a magical moment for Star Trek fans. But it didn’t last. As stated, the fourth film cleaned up at the box office, during the ’86 holiday season. And by January, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner had requested a meeting with the Paramount studio brass. And as it had been agreed during secret contract negotiations for Star Trek IV, Shatner would indeed direct V. During production of the fifth film, Nimoy serviced as a consultant and confidant to his friend, but the film, and it’s story, was Shatner’s creation. Nimoy had climbed into the backseat and made no derogatory comments about Captain Kirk’s driving skills. The film was about the Starship Enterprise being hijacked by a religious evangelist who believes the intelligent source of all creation lies just beyond a barrier separating the outer areas of our Galaxy, from the large middle interior mid section thingy place, of our Galaxy. Notice how awkward that sounds. I did that on purpose; that’s what it’s like watching the movie. And while fans had high hopes (based primarily on the teaser poster seen at right,) the film was a flop for Paramount. And dependent on what sources you cite, the film cost just over $30 Million (much of it not even on the screen, due to some rather badly produced effects,) and had only made somewhere between $52 and $63 Million. While Paramount’s other big summer release that year, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, cleaned up at the box office, the Studio essentially took a bath in red ink on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The cast, including Nimoy, initially thought it was the end of Star Trek, once and for all. Then, Paramount called again. No kidding. Literally days after the failure of the film was official, the head of Paramount called Leonard Nimoy. “We want to do something for the Anniversary coming up.” Nimoy quickly, and wisely, suggested Paramount also contact writer/director Nicholas Meyer (a prime factor in the success of both Star Trek II and Star Trek IV,) and put the two of them get together to toss around some ideas. So, on a long walk on the beach somewhere on the East Coast, Nimoy and Meyer chatted. The Berlin Wall had come down in ’89, and and one of them (Nimoy says it was him, Meyer says it was him,) offered that there could be a Klingon parallel. As originally planned by both men, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Meyer finally got to use his title) was to be an expansive, big budget 1970’s style political thriller in space; with shades of Rod Serling and John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May, in the background. But Roddenberry was displeased with the direction and tone of the film. As well as many of the plot contrivances. And Paramount wanted to keep Roddenberry happy for the upcoming Anniversary. On top of that, and for reasons unknown, Paramount quickly began slicing away at the film’s budget. A lengthy scene that came hot-on-the-heels of Captain Sulu’s observance of the destruction of a Klingon moon that was a prime energy producer for the entire Klingon economy, had to be cut. Kirk was to be reactivated and sent to round up his retired crew. He knows where Scotty is, so he tears him away from teaching a class in a Starfleet Academy hanger, utilizing the Bird of Prey from Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. (Storyboard seen above.) Scotty knows that Uhura is commuting to Mars to host a radio program, so they rescue her from utter boredom, leaving the mic open in their wake. Next, they tear Chekov away from a chess game he’s loosing in Russia, and then, the group find Dr. McCoy drunk at a social gathering. This all had to go. And as mandated by Paramount, via Gene Roddenberry, the Seven Days in May subplot had to go, as well. So no reason for the military ribbons on some of the uniforms of some of the Starfleet personnel is ever given. The story behind that was that several months before the events of the film, the Military had re-organized and attempted a political coup to take over Starfleet. It failed and the Military was simply ingested into the Starfleet ranks. It made for great political intrigue and added more ingredients and red herrings to the plot. But it was gone. Then, there were small moments that cast doubt on many members of the Enterprise crew. Did they possibly have a motive to get involved in sabotaging a peace summit between the Klingons and the Federation ? Roddenberry wanted that gone, too. Then, there was the massive battle at the end of the film, that involved a cloaked Klingon ship attacking the Enterprise, only to be set upon by the Excelsior, and then surprisingly, by another Klingon ship, and also a Romulan ship. All four ships playing cat and mouse with a cloaked ship they cannot see, moving about the battlefield freely. The effects for that alone constituted about $11 Million of the films budget. Paramount simply told Nicholas Meyer, you no longer have $35 Million, you have $18, do what you can. The result was a movie that is a shell of its former self. Really. A good film, but not the great film it could have been. Not by far. Nimoy, however, like all involved, enjoyed the reunion, and the chance to build a Trek film that would leave a better lasting impression that Star Trek V. And now, finally, it was over. Right ? Nope. Nimoy rightfully turned down a walk-on in Star Trek: Generations, due mainly to a badly designed script and opening scene. (Shatner did the film and they reportedly shot his character in the back, before Paramount saw the scene and made them reshoot it; giving Kirk a more dignified death.) But between audio book recordings, convention appearances, funny commercials, and even two returning appearances in J.J. Abrams Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, “Mr. Spock” never really parted ways with Leonard Nimoy. Over the years, he had written two separate books about his relationship with the fictional character. “I’m Not Spock (1975,)” and “I Am Spock (1995).” The first was highly controversial among Star Trek fans, but both sold well. This added ‘Author’ to his colorful resume, and multifaceted career. He even helped produce a comic book: Primortals. And he made regular appearances on both The Simpsons and Futurama. He never stopped working. Even after he announced his retirement, Leonard Nimoy made appearances on Fringe, The Big Bang Theory, and others. He was a constant success, and truly a positive example to anyone wishing to achieve such success. And, he was a man filled with philosophical insight and wisdom. You only had to listen. Without a certain journal, or road map of the man’s intentions in life, I am not certain of his personal goals, or his general target of accomplishment. But I can say one thing for certain. Lennie hit whatever he was aiming at.
IN REMAKE NEWS, PARAMOUNT HAS HIRED WRITERS Geoff Moore and Dave Posamentier (Better Living Through Chemistry) to pen a remake of Joe Dante’s 1985 cult hit, Explorers. The original film centered on two kids who have identical dreams about flying above a giant computer circuit board. One is a computer genius, and decides to build the board, just to find out what it does, and surprise surprise — it generates a force field bubble that withholds inertia from the occupant. Joined by a third kid, the three boys scavenge a junk yard for parts for a flying machine, and eventually wind up traveling into space, and making contact with extraterrestrials that aren’t exactly what they had in mind. Paramount’s low budget label is behind this one, so no one is expecting very much in the way of large scale effects (thankfully.) The producers will be Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, ABC’s Life on Mars.) The project has been likened to the new wave of low budget, p.o.v. shaky-cam teens and S/F flicks that are now headed our way. Perhaps it will work, perhaps it won’t, but either way it’s a great excuse to post this beautiful poster imagine what could have been.
… AND SCREENWRITER SETH GRAHAME-SMITH (Dark Shadows, Beetlejuice 2) will make his feature directing debut with a new version of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, for Disney. The original, much maligned film, starred Jason Robards, Jonathan Price, and Pam Grier, among others, in a story featuring a dark character who arrives in town and begins privately bartering for people’s souls. His name is “Mr. Dark,” and he is the perennial ringleader of a traveling carnival at the turn of the last Century. Grahame-Smith had this to say: “I have been so crazy about this book, and it was such a formative title in my life that I actually wrote a piece on NPR about why it is so important for young males to read. It is a classic coming-of-age, father-son story about the transition from childhood to adulthood and how kids can’t wait to be adults and adults romanticize their childhoods. I’m not remaking the movie; I want the haunted atmosphere that makes the book so chilling, and I want to reinstate some of the classic scenes from the book that were missing from the ’83 film.” Grahame-Smith will write the treatment, and the studio will assign a writer to the project. David Katzenberg (upcoming Gremlins reboot, Beetlejuice 2) will produce the project … UNIVERSAL HAVE RELEASED some concept art for their upcoming tent-pole sequel/reboot, Jurassic World. Looks like a resort in Dubai, see for yourself: 20’TH CENTURY FOX released a second full trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past … and, well … now you’re talkin‘.
THERE’S ALSO A FRESH TRAILER OUT for Jupiter Ascending. That film from the creators of The Matrix. And it’s somewhat more compelling that the previous trailer.
A RECENT RUMOR SURROUNDING INDIANA JONES 5 had Harrison Ford being replaced by Hangover star Bradley Cooper. Thankfully, Disney assures us this was only a rumor, and nothing more. According to Disney Execs, a fifth Indy film is in development for release in calendar year, 2016, and star Harrison Ford is the only actor intended to play the role. Lucas and Speilberg are also said to be on-board for at least one, and possibly two more outings. And on a clearly related note, stages at Pinewood Studios, England have been booked next year for, “Indiana Jones 5.” … IN TERMINATOR 5 NEWS, Arnold Schwarzenegger recently commented on his character’s appearance in the larger plot of the forthcoming storyline. “‘Terminator’ deals a lot with time travel, so there will be a younger T-800, and then what that model does later on when it gets reprogrammed, and who gets a hold of him. So it will be all kinds of interesting twists in the movie.” And in addressing his own on-screen appearance at his current age, Schwarzenegger had this to say: “The way that the character is written, it’s a machine underneath. It’s this metal skeleton. But above that is human flesh. And the Terminator’s flesh ages, just like any other human being’s flesh. Maybe not as fast. But it definitely ages.” … DIRECTOR IVAN REITMAN has left the production of Ghostbusters III. This following on the death of actor/writer/director Harold (Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation) Ramis, who portrayed Egon in the original 1984 film. As soon as Reitman’s representatives released his statement, Sony Pictures announced that the writers of the LEGO movie had been hired to rewrite the current script. Actor Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddmore, commented: “Well there can’t be another Ghostbusters without Harold. It will be a Ghost- something, but it won’t be… That was always my fear – that something would happen before we all got together.” And Hudson was unfortunately right. Even Dan Aykroyd looks to be sitting this one out, so this now appears to be a complete reboot of the franchise. Very sad. … LUC BESSON’S NEW ONE, LUCY, suddenly has a nifty trailer out:
IN DC MOVIE NEWS, Russell Crowe has revealed that he will not make an appearance in the sequel to Man of Steel, currently titled Batman Vs. Superman. Said Crowe, “I don’t think they’re going to use me again. I think they’re jumping onto a different stream. They’re going with the different superhero worlds colliding.” … IN MARVEL MUSICAL CHAIRS NEWS, actor Chris Evans, star of Marvel’s upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier, has stated that he is soon to hang up his shield as an actor for good, in favor of moving into the director’s chair. And Robert Downey Jr., a.k.a. Iron Man, has also affirmed that he is leaving the house of Marvel. The upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a forthcoming Avengers 3, will be his last turns at Tony Stark. But in a strange twist, Hugh Jackman, who previously voiced his decision to retire from portraying the character of Logan/Wolverine, has signed on for Wolverine 2. The script is now being written for the same director who helmed the last one. And first came word that actress Anna Paquin, alias “Rogue” had been cut from X-Men: Days of Future Past, now comes word that Halle Barry’s turn as “Storm” in the film, has all but been eliminated. This has been Marvel Musical Chairs. Tune in next week when … THE 1980’s GRAPHIC NOVEL & COMIC by writer/artist Jim Starlin, Dreadstar will be headed to theaters soon. Benderspink have optioned the rights and reportedly intend to get the film into theaters as fast as they can. The comic concerns Vanth Dreadstar, the lone survivor of the obliterated Milky Way Galaxy, and his band of misfit cohorts, Syzygy Darklock, Willow, and Oedi, in their strange adventures while caught up in the middle of a war between two alien empires … THAT 2’ND TOM CRUISE SCI-FI ACTIONER, (the second of three he has signed on for, the first was Oblivion) has a new trailer. From the director of The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and formerly titled, All You Need Is Kill — the currently titled Edge of Tomorrow (yes, everyone is well aware that sounds like the title of a daytime Soap,) looks rather intriguing:
IN STAR WARS NEWS, confirmation has officially arrived that Peter Mayhew will reprise the role of “Chewbacca” in the new film, flying in the face of a spinoff novel “Vector Prime,” by author R. A. Salvator, which killed off the character from the Star Wars cannon. In other Episode VII news, the upcoming film will be shown in IMAX. And Disney head honcho Alan Horn has revealed: A) that casting is nearly completed, and will be announced soon; B) that the film is already shooting; and C) that the film takes place 30 to 35 years after Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, many eagle-eyed internet hounds quickly noticed an artist rendering of The Millennium Falcon in the background of a photo of a recent production meeting with production designer Rick (Jurassic Park) Carter … THE FIRST TEASER TRAILER FOR OUTLANDER, the cable series based on the massively popular books by DianaGabaldon, looks compelling enough. Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica reboot fame is producing:
AND NOW FOR SOME ASSORTED TIDBITS: Pixar is working on The Incredibles 2 … but Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, is on hold at Disney … Universal has hired the writer of both the upcoming Johnny Depp science fiction vehicle, Transcendence, and Ridley Scott’s forthcoming sequel to Prometheus, to pen a complete reboot of the original Battlestar Galactica (Bryan Singer is no longer attached) … Marvel has confirmed that Captain America 3 will hit theaters in May of 2016 … Actor B.D. Wong, alias “Dr. Henry Wu” in the original Jurassic Park, will return for Jurassic World … James Cameron’s Avatar sequels will utilize something called “Extra Deep 3D” … Nathan (Firefly, Castle) Fillon has revealed he makes a brief appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy … Wreck It Ralph 2 is being written as we speak … SONY will produce a Sinister Six film, based upon their right to use the Marvel characters: Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman and The Vulture … Frederik Pohl’s classic science fiction novel, Gateway will soon be adapted into a TV series … Screenwriter John (Gladiator, Skyfall) Logan is currently working on the script for the next Bond film, and rumor is swirling that Ernst Stavro Blofeld will make an appearance — also, actor Chiwetel (Serenity) Ejiofor is reportedly up for a role in the film … The Wachowskis are developing a new Matrix trilogy … Warner Bros. is planning a Minecraft movie … Dreamworks has a fifth Shrek movie in development … Jeff Goldblum is back for Independence Day 2, also known as ID4Ever … and finally, Richard Donner has confirmed that Goonies II will soon go into production, but without Donner himself directing … AND NOW FOR THE INEVITABLE BAD NEWS … MICKEY ROONEY has died. Born Joseph Yule Jr., in Brooklyn in 1920, Rooney was one part of a multifaceted vaudeville family. He could do comedy and drama, as well as sing and dance, just like his parents. He was one of the last surviving members of the silent film era, and went on to entertain troops in combat areas for the American Forces Network, during the Second World War. And by then, movie lovers everywhere knew his name. His longstanding professional partnership with Judy Garland became the stuff of Hollywood legend. But said Rooney: “Judy and I were so close we could’ve come from the same womb. We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love. Judy, as we speak, has not passed away. She’s always with me in every heartbeat of my body.” After the War, Rooney ping-ponged back and forth from the cinema to a new popular medium called Television. And he did so many shows, that Mickey and his talent agents reportedly lost track. Thus, in a situation resembling that of iconic director John Ford, Rooney’s resume on imdb has been termed, “incomplete.” What is known, is that Mickey Rooney was one of the most prolific actors in history — having acted since childhood. From the silent era, into the sound era. From stage, to film, to Television, award winning Mickey Rooney never stopped working. He died in his home in North Hollywood, at the age of 93, but he will be remembered. Among Rooney’s more notable genre appearances are: The Atomic Kid (which he produced,) The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, The Year Without a Santa Clause, Pete’s Dragon, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Erik the Viking, and Night at the Museum … AND MAXIMILIAN SHELL passed away in November at the age of 83. Shell had been hospitalized in Innsbruck, Austria, following a sudden, serious illness. He was an actor with a long, thoroughly distinguished career on both stage and film. Right out of the gate, and as a relatively young man, he won the best actor Oscar for his role in Judgement at Nuremberg. Shell was born in Vienna in 1930, and raised in Switzerland after his family fled Germany’s annexation of his homeland. Eage-eyed Superman: The Movie fans will spot his older sister, Maria, appearing in a key opening scene. Maximilian himself will best remembered by genre fans as Tea Leoni’s dad in the Steven Spielberg produced, Deep Impact, and a two-faced Cardinal in John Carpenter’s Vampires. But many of a certain age, will definitely remember the impressionable Shell, as Dr. Hans Reinhardt, in Disney’s The Black Hole.… THEN THERE’S THAT GUY ALMOST EVERYONE RECOGNIZES … and yet … they can’t seem to remember his name. Known for being a hard working actor, James Rebhorn was born in Philadelphia in September of 1948, and would eventually attend Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. There, he appeared in theatrical productions of Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata” and Moliere’s “Tricks of Scapin.” Graduating in 1970, he moved to New York City, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts at Columbia University, and became active in the theater scene. Rebhorn would eventually act in hundreds of plays, Television shows, and films, throughout the course of his career. And everyone who sees his face, remembers him from something. Whether it’s the guy who obsessively advises the the President in Independence Day, or the College Administrator who presides over the hearing in the last act of Scent of a Woman. Almost everyone has seen his face somewhere. As a prolific actor, he was always, ‘that guy that keeps popping up on TV all the time.’ But Rebhorn had a sense of humor about it, and television audiences never seemed to mind. Rebhorn’s work ethic was such that when in 2010 he got an offer to play a character on a daytime soap called Guiding Light, he took it without hesitation. To Rebhorn, a job was a job. He merely wanted to stay a working actor all his life. And he did. In addition to his aforementioned genre roles, Rebhorn also had parts in Cat’s Eye, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Real Steel, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green, among others. The cause of his death was a melanoma first diagnosed in 1992. “He had been fighting it ever since but managed to keep working,” noted his Representative. And at the time of his death, he was working on the highly popular cable show, Homeland. He was 65 years old. … AND TWO DR. WHO VETERANS HAVE ALSO RECENTLY PASSED ON: DEREK MARTINUS & KATE O’MARA. Derek Martinus was the British director responsible for a number of well-known early stories in the franchise, from 1965 to 1970. His credits included the serials, Mission to the Unknown, The Tenth Planet, The Evil of the Daleks, and The Ice Warriors, as well as the show’s first serial to be filmed in color, The Spearhead From Space. During his career the Yale-educated Martinus helmed episodes of A Little Princess, Z Cars, Blakes 7, Penmarric, and Spearhead and also directed the 1968 version of Henry James’ What Maisie Knew and the miniseries The Black Tulip. Derek Martinus had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, in his last years. He was 82 years old. Kate O’Mara was best known for her role in the 1980s U.S. soap opera Dynasty, playing Alexis Colby’s scheming sister Cassandra “Caress” Morrell. But she did plenty of other work that made her equally well known in the U.K. Beginning her TV career in the late 50’s, she accumulated an impressive assortment of appearances, including the documentary, Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (as Ms. Monneypenny’s assistant,) The Saint, The Avengers, Z-Cars, The Horror of Frankenstein, The Persuaders, The Vampire Lovers, the BBC series Howards’ Way, and The New Adventures of Robin Hood. In 1985 she joined the Dr. Who universe, playing “The Rani,” in the serial Time and The Rani. O’Mara passed away in a nursing home in southern England following a brief illness. She was 74 years old. … LEGENDARY SCREENWRITER, LORENZO SEMPLE JR. was born in 1923. As a young man, he had initially enrolled in Yale, but he soon left for France in 1941 to drive an ambulance for the Free French Forces. Somewhere in the middle of that experience, he earned a “Croix de Guerre” after surviving a battle in the Libyan desert. And upon returning to the U.S., he was promptly drafted into the Army and given a Bronze Star. Once out of the service, Semple took some writing classes at Columbia with the goal of becoming a playwright, and he penned several plays, some of which made it to the stage. He also began writing short fiction for The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Weekly. But the profession of writing teleplays and screenplays would secure his posterity. And he really made a name for himself. Right off the Bat ! Pun intended. Starting with the 60’s Batman TV series, Semple worked in TV for many years, retooling pilots and doing quick rewrites for any number of shows. Almost all of which went uncredited. But the gig payed well. And he followed with writing or co-writing several notable films, such as: Papillon, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, The Drowning Pool, King Kong (1976,) Never Say Never Again, Flash Gordon, and Sheena. And those are only the ones we know about. In 2008, he was hailed by the Writers Guild of America as a Living Legend. He died of natural causes one day after his 91st birthday. Holy sadness, Batman …
AND VERY SADLY, HAROLD RAMIS has died at the age of 69. The writer/producer/director was a native of Chicago, IL., who graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, before landing a gig as a joke editor for “Playboy.” From there he moved into radio, as a writer for The National Lampoon Radio Hour, alongside Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner. It wasn’t long before this talented group showed up at Chicago’s famed Second City. From there, some moved on to Saturday Night Live, while others moved on to it’s rival, SCTV. Soon, Ramis himself was hired to pen the screenplay for what would become the first and still best Lampoon of frat house college hijinks, Animal House. Soon after, he typed up Meatballs for friend and director Ivan Reitman, and soon after, Ramis was working with Reitman as a writer and voice actor on the animated film, Heavy Metal. Meanwhile, Ramis had been angling for the director’s chair for some time, and was now getting his chance, with Caddyshack. The film, which he co-wrote, was initially panned by critics and considered somewhat of a box-office failure, but later exploded in popularity once it began airing on “HBO.” But after Caddyshack’s initial failure, Ramis found himself in front of the camera. Working again with friend Ivan Reitman. The Army comedy Stripes, was originally designed as a vehicle for Cheech and Chong. But the comedic duo turned Reitman down. According to Reitman, studios were never really excited about casting them in the film, anyway. When Reitman brought up Bill Murray’s name, he got a warmer response. Casting Harold Ramis alongside Murray, however, proved to be difficult. Until it was proven that a replacement the studio would approve of, could not be found. Voila ! Stripes was a huge hit. In part due to Ramis’s on-set re-writes, working in tandem with Bill Murray’s improvisational methods. Sometime later, came the John Hughes scripted National Lampoon’s Vacation. A script which Ramis himself re-wrote extensively to give the film a much more comic tone. Gone was much of the Hughes material that developed the family dynamic, and as a direct result, the film was an even bigger hit than Stripes. And this time, Ramis was directing. Recovering nicely from his initial failure with Caddyshack, Ramis was asked to play the character of Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. The script had been originally written with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy, in mind. But when Belushi unexpectedly died of a drug overdose, the juggling act began. Murray replaced Belushi, and while several actors were considered for Egon Spengler, director Ivan Reitman and actor Bill Murray heavily campaigned for Harold Ramis. An additional role was written for Eddie Murphy, but when Murphy backed out, he was replaced by a very likable actor named Ernie Hudson. Hudson, who had already amassed quite an impressive resume, had his career noticeably boosted by the monster success of Ghostbusters. His more notable genre appearances included: Leviathan, Congo, and The Crow, and of course, Ghostbusters II. A few years later, Ramis wrote Back to School for comedian Rodney Dangerfield, and thereafter, spent several months in the Caribbean with Robin Williams and Peter O’Tool, filming the island comedy, Club Paradise. But Club Paradise was a riddled with production problems, due mainly to studio politics, and Ramis had a very quiet nervous breakdown, before turning to Buddhism. From this point in his life, Ramis was known to carry a sheet of paper with him, and on it was written, “The 5-Minute Buddhist.” Friends of Harold Ramis have recently commented that this simple piece of paper, gave Ramis the inner peace he clearly needed following the debacle of Club Paradise. Ramis would eventually offer comment on his later work, and the generalized difference between his more recent output, and his earlier days. Said Ramis: “The content’s different, but it comes from the same place in me, which is to try to point people at some reality or truth.” Eventually, he came back to work, reprising his role as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters II. And while the sequel was nowhere close to the merit of the original, it nonetheless made money for all involved. (Please see the unfortunate news regarding the now defunct Ghostbusters III, above) A couple of years later, Ramis worked with Murray again, directing him in a film loosely based upon the famous student short, 12:01 PM. Both the short, and a later TV remake, both centered on a man being forced by the Universe to repeate the same day over and over again, until he gets it right. But whereas the original source material of 12:01 PM was darker in tone, the Bill Murray vehicle was retooled as a comedy, and titled, Groundhog Day. In the later 1990’s, Ramis would direct the comedy Multiplicity, with Michael Keaton. Moving into a new Millennium, Ramis would direct several episodes of The Office, and make cameos in a slew of high concept comedy films. Among them, Knocked Up. Harold Ramis died from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis — a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, that began affecting him in May of 2010. It was so bad, that Ramis had to relearn to walk, before suffering a relapse, which he only partially recovered from. Actor/Comedian Chevy Chase had this to say: “I’m shocked and heartbroken to hear of Harold’s passing. He was truly a great friend and a great man who shunned unnecessary Hollywood-type publicity and lived with a wonderful wife, Erica. I’m deeply saddened for Erica, Violet, Julian and Daniel. Harold directed me in Caddyshack and the first Vacation. It was Harold who acted out and gave me the inspiration for the character of Clark Griswold. I was really copying Harold’s impression of Clark. He was a truly funny and highly intelligent man with great honesty and a great appreciation for the best kind of comedy. It’s just awful to lose Harold, there is just no one like him, he was so kind, so caring and so smart. God Bless him and God Bless his family.” And director Ivan Reitman followed with: “The world has lost a wonderful, truly original, comedy voice with the passing of Harold Ramis. He possessed the most agile mind I’ve ever witnessed. He always had the clearest sense of what was funny and how to create something in a new clever way. He was very generous about making everyone around him look better and smarter. Harold had an extraordinary impact on my career and I loved him like a brother. My heart goes out to his children, and his lovely wife, Erica. He will be profoundly missed.”
A public memorial will be held in Chicago, IL this May.