Alan Tudyk’s Panel at Phoenix Comicon 2017
Fans of Mr. Tudyk will recognize him from ‘A Knight’s Tale’, ‘Death at a Funeral’, ‘Firefly’, and other roles. While in Phoenix this past weekend, Alan engaged fans with his humor, generosity, and all around awesomeness. Unfortunately I was running late, and ended up sitting in the very last row. At least I made it though!
Despite the best laid plans he was running late. An issue with a car he said, after a mock excuse in one of his many humorous voices. When he saw the crowd (after taking a giant selfie with us – I have to say being on the other side of those celeb panel selfies was really odd) he put his hands on his head and said “Holy crap that’s a lot of people!” Alan apologized for being late, and explained what he does at a panel:
“When you ask me a question I give you something from my bag of crap. Different things that are fairly useless, and then I’ll sign them for you; making it just a little more than crappy. I left my really great bag at home in L.A. So I have an extra crappy bag of crap. I don’t know what’s coming your way.”
The moderator jumped straight into the questions because the hall was packed with fans waiting for our favorite pilot (No offense to Han Solo, and all, but come on, it’s WASH)! Right out of the gate the very first question was “Have you ever had the opportunity to plan your own death?” Alan’s eyes widened, the audience laughed, and then Alan nonchalantly stood up and walked behind the moderator. Naturally we laughed harder, more so when the moderator said she hadn’t screened that question ahead of time. She also briefly commented on the nature of the question given the events that unfolded just a couple of days before. Fortunately the fan clarified himself by specifying “death scene in any of the productions” in which Alan has performed.
Alan’s response, after some humorously awkward stumbling, was “Dream death scenario? Finally somebody’s asked me that question.” Given that he has been killed by stormtroopers (a lot of them apparently), and had Joss Whedon drive a massive spike through his chest, Alan finally decided that his dream death scene would involve a shark fight (well he said boxing, which just conjures all manner of hilarity). Apparently Alan does a lot of diving, so he finally stuck with the shark. To this fan he tossed an autographed bottle of body lotion, and told him not to use it all at once.
The next fan asked how he prepared for his role as ‘Heihei’ the chicken in ‘Moana’. Alan, in true comedic fashion told us he “lived in a chicken coop for months”, and that he still has friends back there. Then he tossed an autographed piece of crap to her. “I think this is a showercap” he told her.
The questions continued, with him sharing his experiences. One fan wanted to know what motion capture was like. Working with ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) was great, “they made it as easy as possible.” At one point he was on stilts, making him about 7′ tall. At 6′ tall, it wasn’t too much of a change for him. While on the stilts (which were a newer type, having a split foot allowing faster running, and easier navigation on sand), he wore ski boots. “The lightest weight ski boots ever. They’re the kind of ski boots you buy if you like to climb mountains, and then put skis on , and ski back down in the same boots. Who does that?” Part of the reason he mentioned running on sand, was that in a deleted scene from the latest Star Wars film, he and Diego Luna were in ditches. The director would yell ‘there’s an AT-AT’, and then point, telling the cast to react. In his almost Jerry Lewis like way, Alan did his best bad reaction ever, and mused that may be why it is not in the film.
Further ‘Star Wars’ funny comes from Diego Luna, who according to Alan’s impression of Luna, said “Please take that thing off. Everyone was so happy a moment ago, and now…We were making a million dollar movie, and now it’s like we’re in a child’s play.” Why is this funny? What was he referring to? After all the oooh and aaah about ILM, the high-tech stilts, and the realistic aliens, it turns out that during some scenes Alan wore a back pack with a telescoping head on which was taped poster board and a picture of K2so’s face. I have to admit we all had a good laugh at not only Diego’s reaction, but the overall visual (thanks to Alan’s hand gestures, as well).
Often in these panels celebrities have to answer questions that have been asked at other panels. I think this next question was a first for him though. A fan asked him what character of his would he like to see as a pop figure. Someone once gave him pop figures of Wray Nearly along with Nathan Fillion’s character, Jack Moore, from ‘Conman’.
Those are the only ones in his house by the way. Not sure if it’s because he doesn’t like pop figures, he doesn’t have any others, or his wife won’t let him have them. Anyway, he then told us he would like to see Tucker from ‘Tucker and Dale vs Evil’,
as well as his character from ‘Death at A Funeral’ (the original UK version, not the US remake – he wasn’t in that one). That’s when it got a little weird. If you haven’t seen ‘Death at a Funeral’, Alan’s character ends up naked on a roof (I won’t spoil why or how).
Alan then looks strangely inquisitive as he says that; thinking out loud “Is it weird to want to see yourself naked?” Someone in the audience shouted “It’s hot!” Alan replied with “It’s totally hot. It’s completely natural.” His continued facial expressions brought out more laughs.
From there the questions moved to animation/voice over work. Turning the tables a bit, he asked us who knew what three roles he played in ‘Moana’. Heihei the chicken, the old man who wants to eat Heihei, and apparently the man getting a tattoo. “Even Disney didn’t remember that I did that because they didn’t put it in the credits. Also I played Moana. Just kidding.”
In most movies scenes will be cut if they aren’t working, or the film is running long. In ‘Moana’, Heihei almost didn’t make it to the screen. Apparently he was originally a serious, macho bird. When the lead animator went out-of-town the other animators rallied to save Heihei from the cutting room floor. The end result was the “dumbest chicken”.
Naturally it would not have been an Alan Tudyk panel without the Firefly questions. One question I have never heard asked before concerned scenes or storylines that he would have liked to have seen for Wash. With a loud, clear “Aha” he immediately brought up the subject of Wash and Zoe’s baby. Fans of Firefly will (or at least should) have read the comics. In those short series runs, Zoe has had a baby girl, named Emma.
Alan told us he and Gina Torres actually discussed that subject, him taking the “You’re not going on the mission because you’re also taking the baby. You would not be going” stance on the matter. To which Gina responded “Yes I would.” Alan said it would have gone back and forth until Zoe finally left for the mission. He also reminded us the two characters had the start of this conversation while laying a trap outside the “‘JiffyPop’ whore house” from Heart of Gold. The lucky fan who asked that questioned received a strip torn from his copy of the Dirk Gently script (he could not give out the whole page, or he’d get in trouble).
His next question was a doozy. Playing Manager Ben Chapman in ’42’ about Jackie Robinson, Alan was asked how he felt about the racist dialogue he had to use in that role. Since what his character says was recorded by reporters and others at the time, he had to say it. It was so hateful and “violent” a string of words, that he actually cried. While it is important to remember the negative side of history, for open-minded people, acting out those scenes can be emotionally trying.
The next fan to get the mike fumbled her question, twice. To his credit Alan lightened the mood by saying “I same way sentence improperly…” the rest of his comment was drowned out by the audience laughter, but it was along the lines of sympathizing with her. He explained to her that directing was harder, only because he directed the entirety of season one of ‘Conman’, as well as starred in and produced the series. The good thing though was that no one could tell him ‘no’. He could literally say “Let’s cover the table in yogurt. Not the cans, I want like an inch of yogurt on the table,” and no one could say ‘no’. This fan’s piece of crap? His boarding pass for his flight to Vancouver on Delta. In an aside he said there were “no incidents” on the flight.
Most of Alan’s fans have, by now, heard pretty much every ‘Firefly’ related story the cast will tell. However, at this panel, we got a few new ones. Apparently, while visiting Alan, Joss Whedon’s car was towed. Alan said “park over there” and when Joss finally left Alan’s, his car was gone.
Further Alan was asked about a ‘Firefly’ story pitch. Nathan Fillion told fans at a different event that he had pitched on idea involving rabid dogs, and dog fights. Alan it seems took a more comedic route. He regaled us with this little gem: “They land on a planet, they go off the ship to go do…something..a caper. I’ll let Joss figure that out. My job is to be the get away driver, pick them up and get them out of there when it’s time. But when I land, I start off with (in a congested voice) “I’ll be here when… goddang it I’m getting itchier and itchier”. In a nutshell Wash was allergic to the planet. Every time the camera cut back to him, he would have a rash, then be swollen, unable to speak properly. Completely swollen. “They can’t understand me on the com’s. I’m trying to fly.” Now that would have been funny. Since the comics are still running, maybe there could be a flash back? What do you think? Let Dark Horse comics know. I for one would buy that issue!
Jumping back to Star Wars, Alan said he would love to see a K2 backstory. Diego’s character Cassian Andor, reprogrammed him, so how did they get together? What was K2 like in the Empire?
Regarding the back story, Alan said “Movie – That’d be great; t.v. show – sure; animation – I’m in; etchings” (makes a face, laughs) “I’m not sure what my level of involvement would be. I’m open to a pitch”. As we laughed, I recalled Joss Whedon saying he would resort to etchings of ‘Firefly’ to keep telling the story. Fortunately we got ‘Serenity’ the movie instead.
Unbeknownst to me, I’m not a fan of westerns (I know, I know, as a Browncoat, how can I not be a fan of westerns. It’s complicated), Alan was in 3:10 to Yuma. His character, Doc Potter, the local veterinarian removes a bullet from Peter Fonda’s character, Byron McElroy. When the rest of the ‘gang’ say they’re going after the people who shot him, McElroy says he’s going too. To which the group says if he’s going, then the Dr. has to go too. Alan tried, but could not convince the director, James Mangold, to let him say: “Then I recommend immediate bed rest, 3-4 weeks at least.” Alan was not the only one who thought it was funny. According to him, Russell Crowe gave the director a hard time for not allowing the line in the scene. I’m sure it was all in good fun. Alan complimented the director, but jokingly said he could have made it a better movie.
The next fan question came from a little boy who asked what I am sure all of us have thought at one point or another. Did Alan (author’s note – or any other celebrity) come to Phoenix Comicon because casting told him he had to? Once the audience’s laughter died down, he said no, casting did not make him come to Phoenix. The boy then told Alan that he was on his badge. “I am?” was the actor’s response. Now I was hoping Alan would sign the boy’s con badge, but he did something better. As he signed this particular piece of crap, he told everyone, that he had recently gone to ‘Star Wars Celebration’, and this was his very first badge (he said tag). How cool is that?
Well, just when you think the crappy souvenirs are done, there’s more from his “extra crappy bag”. He bestowed mouthwash on one person, “I”m not saying anything, but I hear it’s refreshing”. The question? I honestly don’t remember.
The next one however had something to do with a video game. I believe ‘Halo 3’. He and Nathan Fillion both did voice work, only their lines were…a little different. While Nathan got to say things like ” “This way”, “We got em on the run”, Alan’s were: “Ow”, “That hurts”, “They’re using real bullets”, and “I have a plan. Let’s hide”. He paused dramatically for effect as he signed this fan’s souvenir piece of crap. “Here is my key…to my hotel room…in Vancouver.”
From that we went right back to silly as a fan asked how he learned he was cast as a chicken. Since ‘Moana’ has an all Polynesian cast, he said they didn’t want to cast ‘Texas boy’ in the film. Let’s take a minute to flash back to those changes made to Heihei. Alan’s further response was “Who are we going to get to do the stupidest chicken on the planet? GET ME ALAN TUDYK!” The contact lens for Alan’s right eye was this young man’s souvenir piece of crap.
The last question I recall, was also the funniest. “What is the weirdest thing you’ve been asked at a con or any other event?” as the audience burst into laughter, Alan began “There was this one time…This kid asked me if I could plan my own murder…” the applause and laughter raised the roof.
The next two pieces of crap he handed out were: another script piece on which “You can see ‘of’, ‘ing’, and ‘and'”. It was a piece of page 246 from his Dirk Gently script. He gave another fan a golden envelope, signed in the return address corner, with a heart under his name. “You can send that to anybody, and it will be me that sent it. That’s pretty crappy. Here’s another contact.”
Alan Tudyk left the hall with a standing ovation. Between his humor, his penchant for autographing pieces of crap for his fans, and his ability to connect to fans, his panel was a great way to end that day. That is two big damned heroes that I have met so far. I actually had a chance to speak with Sean Maher some time ago. Just a few more to go – Ron Glass R.I.P.
Stayed tuned my fellow geeks, there is more to come from me in “My corner of the dork forest”.