Monday, October 26, 2015

Magnificent Seven Week: Con-Man

After our night out in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday it was right back early Sunday morning for the western and Magnificent Seven themed M7 Con! It's a small show but I had no clue there would be so much going on as we encountered closed streets for the Rock and Roll Marathon then crowds inside attending a Tony Robbins Con. We wandered around the 3rd floor looking for our room but there was no signage or sight of other attendees until one of the organizers and star Eric Close happened to walk by! I walked and talked with Close, a veteran of two of my favorite shows, Seven and Now and Again as well as the long running Without a Trace and now Nashville. Close was incredibly nice as he asked for our names and pronounced mine right on the first try! We briefly chatted Now and Again (it came right after Seven and he needed to get in shape real fast), the new Seven flick starring Denzel Washington (wondering why he didn't get a call) and popping up in American Sniper (has known Clint Eastwood for years, put himself on tape and then found himself flying to Morocco working opposite Bradley Cooper).  Again, super nice guy and seemed genuinely pleased to be there.

We checked in and walked the small dealers room with lots of western gear like jewelry, clothing and playing cards while all of the panels took place in a room next door. It was the most intimate convention experience I've ever had and that was part of it's charm. The show is put on by some hardcore fans so they're to be commended for getting it all set up for a third year running. This was to be the biggest Con to date as 5 of the 7 were scheduled to join, including "Buck Wilmington" Dale Midkiff, "Vin Tanner" Eric Close, "Ezra Standish" Anthony Starke, "J.D. Dunne" Andrew Kavovit and "Nathan Jackson" Rick Worthy along with guest stars Fabiana Udenio and Daren Flam. Sadly Worthy was shooting something in Michigan and couldn't make it. But it was a full day of programming starting with a video chat with a Steve McQueen expert from where I don't know as we came in late due to all the closures. His panel focused mainly on McQueen's run as the star of hit show Wanted: Dead or Alive and he showed off some cool and funny pieces of memorabilia that included playing cards, action figures, dart gun rifles (5 different sized toy replicas were produced), comic books and paper backs. We wandered the huge convention center for a few minutes to scope out where the Live-Evil screening will take place during this week's Comikaze and ended up in the West Hall where another show was in progress, a Mexican Jesus Con! While walking the hallway seeing nuns and exhibitors, an excited gent ran up to ask me where I got my bitching Michael Biehn/"Kyle Reese" Come With Me If You Want To Live shirt and we rapped for a few moments. Already I had chatted with Eric Close and helped spread the Biehn gospel, the day was already a success.

Back to M7 Con we sat in for a writing panel with a screenwriter and author who talked how the Western genre is still lasting today with Bone Tomahawk and Hateful 8. It was interesting as he discussed the Western to be a setting that could be used for many kinds of stories but are tough sells as period pieces are not Hollywood's favorites. Many of the attendees write Mag 7 fan-fiction and the guest discussed basic ways to get their writing out and how to protect their material. Then it was time for the main event, the Q&A panel with the cast. Along with the actors, show developer and producer John Watson joined which was a real treat as he was there from the beginning and helped make the show happen:

- Watson and Pen Densham pitched the show to CBS big cheese Les Moonves after acquiring the rights from producer Walter Mirisch.
- Biehn was first cast member in, originally thought to play Vin before sliding over to leader Chris.
- Ron Perlman was the other star name and told Watson if the show got picked up he wouldn't join them. When he found out pilot was going to series, changed his mind. Was supposed to be replaced by the Confederate soldier who rebels against Kurtwood Smith but Watson had to inform him that he was fired and his character was being killed off.
- Biehn and cast had a lot of input into the show and their characters, Watson could always hear Biehn coming down the hallway with his boots and spurs. Like all good actors, wanted the show to be the best it could and asked for less dialog.
- Never had a writer's room on show, one or two scripts at a time.
- Dale Midkiff had the option to audition for multiple roles but only wanted Buck.
- Midkiff's mustache was a last minute decision, 8/10 men of the period had facial hair yet no one on the cast did.
- Flam auditioned for J.D. but lost out, ended up working as a P.A. on show and guest starred on one episode, stood in for Ron Perlman when the star had to head off for the Alien: Resurrection premiere.
- Flam got tossed around by Michael Biehn for multiple takes during a fight scene.
- Close had done an unpicked up pilot with Watson years before and had a deal with CBS.
- Several of the cast members chose the pilot as their favorite working days on the show as it was new, they were shooting outside Tombstone with a great group of guys. Close, Kavovit and Watson stayed out on location going for runs, exploring the mountains and stargazing while Starke drank with Perlman in hotel bar.
- Close never fired live ammunition from the Mare's Leg as it was not long after Brandon Lee's tragic on set accident so safety was paramount.
- Having 7 heroes meant needing double or triple that many bad guys for fight scenes. Not having to worry about squibs and blood made it easier to shoot the mass melee.
- Starke and many cast members were inspired by Michael Biehn's gun twirling skills in Tombstone. Kavovit could always be seen practicing which became second nature.
- Kavovit still has the guns and a hat.
- Starke nearly passed out in the van getting to set on day he had to dress as a woman complete with a corset. Doesn't understand how women breathe while in them.
- Close calls Magnificent Seven the greatest time he's ever had working in the business.
- Watson was producing TNT movie Buffalo Soldiers with Danny Glover concurrently with Mag 7 and they both shot in same areas. Director of Soldiers was not happy about that and threatened to hurt Watson if 7 interrupted their shoot with noise from gunshots.
- Show was always in flux, disappointed they were only picked up as a mid-season replacement, moved from Friday to Saturdays and back again.
- Show was a hit in ratings but didn't do well in big cities, people weren't talking about the show at parties. Moonves liked the show but was overruled and it was canceled.

After that there was a short meet and greet with the guests where I asked Starke, who I just realized goes by Tony Starke...about his appearance on The Flash back in the 90's. He said it was a great time and he'd love to see the character come back on the new series and has Tweeted it to co-star John Wesley Shipp. Sounds good to me, bring back a modern version of The Nightshade while you're at it. It was a long but fun day, hats off to the organizers, while also totally random with our little western fandom, Rock n' Roller runners, Tony Robbins attendees, Jesus lovers and outside next door at Staples was some kind of wrestling event so WWE fans brandishing fake title belts and yelling about John Cena. Oh L.A., there truly is something for everybody. If I'm doing the math right, M7 Con was our 17th show of the year! See ya at Comikaze!

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