As a movie critic, I got to the movie screenings a week or two before the films open. I get invited to the screenings in L.A. where the cast usually appear, but...I’m 100 miles away in San Diego. There’s something about driving that far, and dealing with Los Angeles traffic, that doesn’t seem so appealing. Even if you get to sip a glass of champagne and rub elbows with someone famous.
Yet the world premiere for the latest Star Trek movie was in San Diego. The entire cast was going to be there because it’s Comic-Con weekend. I headed down, not intending to meet any of the cast. I figured we wouldn’t be in the same area as the stars.
Yet as my girlfriend and I pulled up, we saw about a hundred fans with various Star Trek 8x10s and movie posters, and a limo that had Simon Pegg. He co-wrote Star Trek Beyond, and plays Scotty. Now, seeing him in a white suit with the Star Trek emblem on it, kind of got me excited. That’s because I love him as a comedic actor/writer. He gave us those three wonderful films with Nick Frost -- Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and one of the best comedies ever made -- The World’s End.
He walked a few hundred feet over to the crowd behind barriers, screaming for autographs. Me and a few other people were on the other side, and when a person next to me started taking pictures, a fan freaked out. He started screaming at security, “We’ve been waiting here for two hours, and those guys get to stand over there?!”
Security didn’t do anything, but I decided to go over to will-call and pick up my tickets. As I was walking back, Pegg was still signing autographs. He started to come over to us, but I didn’t want to bother him. I figured I might see him inside. Unfortunately, I never did.
When Zoe Saldana showed up, she looked beautiful. She had a couple of kids with her, so I didn’t bug her for an autograph either.
John Cho got out of a limo, and the crowd of autograph seekers started yelling "Sulu, Sulu!" My girlfriend observed, "How insulting is that? You think he's going to go over to a crowd yelling his character name? Most of them probably don't even know his real name." It was a great point.
And truth be told, they were giving us free sandwiches from Subway, and free ice cream from Haagan Dazs. Autographs were the least of my worries. But when I turned around 30 minutes later, and Idris Elba (who plays a villain in this film) was walking by me, I couldn’t resist. I asked him to sign my ticket, and he did. I started to say something about liking him in the movie Beats of No Nation, but stopped myself, since there was controversy about him not being nominated for an Oscar in that. Then I thought about asking him about the rumors that he’d be the next James Bond. Then two photographers came over and started yelling things like “Over here! Can I get a picture?” So, I ended up not saying anything, but thanking him for signing my ticket.
My girlfriend pointed out J.J. Abrams, but I didn’t care so much about his autograph. And at the Critics’ Choice Awards, I kept running into him. If I wanted his signature, I would’ve gotten it there. Yet when I saw Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk, I couldn’t resist. That’s mostly because I just saw the movie Hell or High Water a second time. It’s one of the best movies of the year, so if you get a chance to see it (it also stars an excellent Jeff Bridges), go. My girlfriend gave me a hard time for not mentioning to him how much I loved the movie, but I was too busy telling him how I grew up watching his dad on CHiPs, always giving Erik Estrada a hard time. He said, “My dad is pretty awesome.”
I didn’t care about asking Zachary Quinto for his autograph, until it occurred to me….he plays Spock. The idea of having this cool Star Trek Beyond ticket, that has a picture of the U.S.S. Enterprise, signed by the actor playing Captain Kirk and Spock, that would be a cool item. Yet he was behind this chain link fence with his arm around someone. I asked for his autograph, and he merely looked over smiling, saying “Hey, how you doing?”
My girlfriend pointed out Karl Urban, who played Bones. I wasn’t familiar with him, so I didn’t bother him for an autograph. In the movie though, he was great. He had great presence on screen. I saw him afterwards taking a few photos with fans, but I didn’t want to bother him.
It turns out, talk show host Conan O’Brien was hosting this whole thing. He was hysterical, as always.
The event ended up being amazing. They had a fireworks show, lasers overhead that created incredible colors and visuals. And the San Diego Philharmonic Symphony accompanying the film, making the score stand out powerfully.
Perhaps the most intense moment was when Abrams spoke about the film, and said that cast member Anton Yelchin (who recently died in a freak car accident) should be there.
“His parents are here, and we’d like to have a moment of silence to honor him.”
The cast bowed their heads from the stage, and there was about two minutes of dead silence, in a crowd of about a thousand. It was a lovely tribute and as the lights darkened, the cast embraced in a group hug.
The movie opens this weekend, so all you Trekkies start lining up at the theatre. You won’t be disappointed.