Celebrities may seem so unapproachable when you see them all glammed up in their fancy dresses and tuxedos on the Oscar red carpet, but they’re ultimately real people and have lives to live like any of us. You may have even run into one in person, whether at a public publicity event or by strange happenstance. In this week’s Roundtable, we tell stories of our celebrity encounters.
I’ve had a chance to meet a fair number of celebrities. One of the first I met was Hulk Hogan when I was about nine or ten. Just in the past couple years I’ve also met a few other big stars including Ron Perlman, Neil Patrick Harris and William Shatner.
I have two favorites. The first was a handful of cast members from ‘The Walking Dead’ at last year’s Calgary Expo. This includes Lew Temple (Axel), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Scott Wilson (Hershel), David Morrissey (The Governor), and Danai Gurira (Michonne!). Out of all the celebrities I’ve talked to, these were some of the nicest and most personable – especially Mr. Wilson. Such a great guy.
My other favorite meeting occured a few years prior at the same convention. It was the 25th anniversary of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ so all seven main cast members including Sir Patrick Stewart himself, plus Denise Crosby and Wil Wheaton, were in attendance. Now I’ve met numerous ‘Trek’ alums individually before, but seeing the entire cast all in one place was probably the most surreal experience I’ve ever had.
Thanks to my former editorial job at an online entertainment retailer (which, incidentally, no longer provides any editorial content), I’ve been lucky enough to interview a number of celebrities. Due to my location on the East Coast, a huge number of these were simply phone interviews (or “phoners” as us industry types like to call them) which were either published or uploaded as podcasts on the web site of my former employer. Over almost a decade of work, my interview subjects included William Shatner, Anthony Michael Hall, Kirk Cameron, ‘X-Files’ creator Chris Carter and producer Frank Spotnitz, producer Frank Marshall, author R.L. Stine, and – in one of the more fascinating interviews I’ve done – ‘Hustler’ publisher Larry Flynt… to name just a few you might be familiar with. (I also talked to a ton of actors and directors who are lesser-known.)
As far as meeting celebrities in person, I’ve done a lot of that as well, as I like to go to many sci-fi and comic book conventions. Around this time last year (April to be precise), I got to go to my very first Star Wars Celebration (in Anaheim, CA) and meet some of the franchise’s most famous actors, including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.
My most recent celebrity encounter was this past September, when I talked to Mitch Pileggi from ‘The X-Files’. Funnily, we didn’t talk ‘X-Files’, but rather about his stint on the ‘Dallas’ reboot. I also got to talk to Bill Shatner for what was probably the fifth or sixth time over the years… although I doubt he has any clue we did a lengthy interview about 15 years ago (something I never bring up).
The nicest celeb I’ve met (only counting my in-person encounters here) was Mark Hamill, hands down. He seems to be a great guy and really appreciates his fans. The worst? Adam West… but that’s a story for another Roundtable!
Other than exchanging a few words with Woody Allen years ago, the only celebrities I’ve really interacted with were Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio when I worked as a production assistant on a movie they made in my hometown. I was so shy that I could barely speak a word to Tomei. I did talk to D’Onofrio and his wife – who were both hung over – and gave each of them some of my Advil.
M. Enois Duarte
I had the privilege of working on various film and TV productions when I was younger, and I enjoyed meeting many celebrities. However, since those meetings were more work related than personal, I thought I’d share my chance encounter with Kevin Costner. At the time, I was walking around the Warner Bros. lot and talking to a couple friends when I suddenly realized I was standing right next to this really tall dude. Looking up at him, it took me a moment to recognize who I was standing next to, but as soon as I did, he looked at me and I instinctively said hello in a surprised tone. Nothing really happened during the encounter. I simply shook his hand and told him I was a fan of his work. Later, I realized he was on the lot working on ‘The Postman’, likely doing some final post-production touches, either the editing or possibly the sound. In either case, I would say this is one of my more memorable celebrity meetings.
My circumstances are a little different than most who have “celebrity sightings.” Back when I used to cover the Sundance Film Festival each year, I participated in as many interview opportunities as possible. I met many actors, directors, comics and musicians. So instead of a shameless list of name-dropping, I’ll share my favorite celebrity experience.
Many filmmakers choose to shoot their films in Utah, but I’ve only known one to make it a real community effort. When Danny Boyle shot ‘127 Hours’ in the locations in which the true story unfolded, we Utahns certainly knew it. When it came time for the film to open locally, he held a local red carpet premiere for all the crew members and their families. After the red carpet event, Boyle left the screening for a scheduled 90-minute mingling session with members of the Utah Film Critics Association. In a swanky hotel restaurant’s lounge with fellow critic friends, I got to shoot the breeze with one of my very favorite filmmakers.
The night had two cool highlights: First, while discussing and analyzing ‘127 Hours’, I explained my interpretation of one not-so-obvious aspect of the film, to which he replied with the biggest smile and enthusiastically exclaimed, “That’s what I was going for!” The look on his face was priceless. Later, I had no shame in asking him to sign my Blu-ray copy of ’28 Days Later’, which is my favorite Boyle film.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’m not even sure where to start!
I once spent a day on the set of ‘Big Wolf on Campus’ in Montréal and palled around with the entire cast, including that episode’s guest star Corey Feldman. In a completely random coincidence, I met actress Rachelle Lefevre – who’d starred on ‘Big Wolf’ several years earlier – while waiting in line for the Tower of Terror at Disneyland.
Most of my brushes with stardom took place at comic conventions or following live performances. I met a bunch of the stars of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ after a ‘Cinematic Titanic’ live show. I chatted up most of the cast of ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ as well as writer/director Edgar Wright and comic creator Bryan Lee O’Malley at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. Kristen Bell put her arm around me at a meet-and-greet in Chicago. I’ve met Weird Al so many times that it was kind of like “Oh, hey Adam!” after a while.
I met Jim Gaffigan back in early 2002 before he really broke through and was still doing stand-up in clubs. Zach Galifianakis once borrowed my glasses for a stand-up bit. I’ve also chatted with Michael Rooker, the 1997 lineup of Barenaked Ladies, Sloan, MxPx frontman Mike Herrera, the late great Tuscadero, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh, Ariel Rechtshaid when he was fronting a ska band (the guy’s writing/producing for Adele and Madonna now!), and more comic book talent than I could possibly begin to name. I used to be somewhat good friends with future ‘Bachelor’ contestant Katie Levans. The list keeps droning on and on, but those are the highlights.
My family has me beat. My father was part of the film union around these parts (IATSE Local 491!), doing camerawork for basically every production that rolled through Charleston, SC for a while there. He met all sorts of celebrities as a result of that. He also had a very tiny label oriented around fishing and instructional videos, and he’d get me autographs from people like Al Lewis and Lloyd Kaufman at industry conventions. My brother-in-law was Kevin Bacon’s stand-in on ‘Death Sentence’. Jeff, his wife Dana, and my now-wife Maggie wound up becoming friends with director James Wan as a result.
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
Hmmm… does growing up with Adam Sandler count? Probably not. He wasn’t a celebrity when I knew him and I haven’t seen him since high school. I’ve had a few close encounters. I was working on a play once and we wanted to get Al Pacino to come see it. (He had been friends with the actual person we’d written the play about.) We found out he was in town to see a different play in the same theater so I went up to him at intermission, introduced myself and handed him the tickets, then quickly retreated. Friendly enough guy. Not very tall. He was with Beverly D’Angelo and she was crying a bit. (I think their play was better than our play… or Al Pacino is just a meanie.)
CES is sometimes good for celebrity sightings. I met Dana Carvey after he did a short routine at the press preview event a few years back. Also, not particularly tall, but very friendly. I met Jillian Michaels (former trainer on ‘The Biggest Loser’ and now star of her own Reality TV show) at CES. She was there for an endorsement appearance. I was gnoshing on nachos and figured out after the fact that I was actually in her Green Room where she was prepping for the appearance. Oops. “Ooh, ooh, I’m a big fan!” he says, through a mouthful of nacho chips (her nacho chips). Friendly enough, though. Also… not very tall (but she had a smoking hot body, of course). But not for me.
In terms of star power, I guess the coolest encounter was when my friend Geoff Morrison and I were getting sushi at a place in L.A. called Asanebo. Super expensive, but amazingly good food. Small place with about 12-14 tables. Geoff went outside to make a call and came back grinning. “See that table behind the divider over there?” “Um, no, it’s behind the divider.” “Exactly. And behind that divider is George Clooney.” “Cool.” Then the waiter discretely pointed out, “Didn’t you notice who’s over in the other corner?” It was Gary Oldman. Geoff wanted to say, “Batman? Commissioner Gordon. Commissioner Gordon? Batman” but we decided discretion was the better part of valor. They were both sitting down, so I’m not sure how tall they are. I guess you could Google it. Needless to say… it was really good sushi.
Chris Chiarella (Sound & Vision)
This week’s topic suggested to me a tale of a random encounter more than a paid meet-and-greet or one of the wonderful opportunities made possible by our profession. So I’m reaching all the way back to film school in the 1980s, when the sight of light trucks and trailers parked on the streets of downtown Manhattan would set my movie-obsessed heart aflutter. On one particular afternoon in the spring of 1984, I had the good fortune to be free of classes for several hours in the middle of the day, the better to stalk international star Sylvester Stallone while he was shooting a scene for (gulp) ‘Rhinestone’. While I would watch the finished product that summer at the theater where I worked and be less than impressed with the results, this was STALLONE here, veteran of three ‘Rocky’ movies and his first turn as Rambo by this point. I even ran a question by him as he was signing the second of two autographs: “Is there going to be a Rocky IV?” A man of few syllables that day, he merely grunted, “Yeh.”
That might have been my first encounter with a major celebrity, and while I wasn’t able to snap a photo myself, a very talented photography student/friend captured the moment beautifully, and gifted me a print to display proudly along with the star’s artful “Sly” scribble and the Flair pen he used to create it.
Years ago, my wife and I went to a wedding for one of her coworkers. The bride told us that one of her bridesmaids (perhaps even Maid of Honor, I don’t remember), Amy, was a comedian in a sketch comedy show called ‘Upright Citizens Brigade’ on Comedy Central. I’d seen it once or twice but didn’t register the face. I think I may have said hello to her and exchanged brief pleasantries.
A couple years later, she joined the cast of ‘SNL’. To this day, my wife insists that I “know” Amy Poehler because I met her at a wedding once before she was famous.
Have you met any celebrities in real life? Tell us your stories in the Comments below.