Majel Rodenberry, ‘The Wolf Man’ and Frank Miller’s ‘Buck Rogers,’ all in Everyday Hero headlines


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Sorry for the skimpy blog this week! I’m trying to finish up some long pieces for the upcoming 2009 Film Sneaks Issue of the Los Angeles Times and also keep pace with assorted holiday doings. Anyway, here is a two-day edition of Everyday Hero, your roundup of handpicked headlines from the fanboy universe ...

MAJEL B. RODDENBERRY DIES AT 76: One of the signature faces -- and voices -- of ‘Star Trek’ through the decades has died. Majel B. Roddenberry, the widow of ‘Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry, died Thursday in Bel-Air after a battle with leukemia. My colleague Dennis McLellan has written a fine obituary, here’s an excerpt: ‘’She was a valiant lady,’ Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on ‘Star Trek,’ told The Times. ‘She worked hard, she was straightforward, she was dedicated to ‘Star Trek’ and Gene, and a lot of people thought very highly of her.’ Once dubbed ‘The First Lady of ‘Trek’’ by the Chicago Tribune, Majel (sounds like Mabel) Barrett Roddenberry was associated with ‘Star Trek’ from the beginning. In the first TV pilot, she played a leading role as Number One, the first officer who was second in command. But at the request of various executives, changes were made, and she did not reprise her role in the second TV pilot. Instead, she played the minor role of Nurse Chapel when the series began airing on NBC in September 1966. Roddenberry had another distinction: Beginning with the original series, she supplied the coolly detached voice of the USS Enterprise’s computer -- something she did on the various ‘Star Trek’ series. She also was the voice of the Starship Enterprise for six of the 10 ‘Star Trek’ movies that have been released, as well as the 11th, which is due out next year. Roddenberry also played Dr. Christina Chapel in two of the ‘Star Trek’ movies, ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ and ‘Star Trek: The Voyage Home.’ And she played the recurring role of the flamboyant Lwaxana Troi on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.’ Roddenberry, whose pre-’Star Trek’ acting career included guest appearances on series such as ‘The Untouchables’ and ‘The Lucy Show,’ had no idea she was establishing a career path in science fiction when she took her first ‘Star Trek’ role. ‘Not at all,’ she said in a 2002 interview with the Tulsa World. ‘I certainly didn’t have any idea that I’d be doing it this long, for so many different shows and films -- especially as a product of a series that was a flop. The original was only on for three years. It wasn’t considered a success by anyone’s standards.’’ [Los Angeles Times] ... ALSO: Here’s a photo gallery of the actress in various roles.


VAMPING AT THE MUSEUM: It’s been a big year for fangs and pierced arteries and now there’s an exhibit titled ‘Gothic: Dark Glamour’ (running through Feb. 21) at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Critic Karen Rosenberg has written an especially vivid review, here’s an excerpt: ‘Organized by Valerie Steele, the director of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum, the show unfolds in a nightmarish mise-en-scène conceived by the British artist and set designer Simon Costin. The clothes have been installed in a labyrinth of haunted palaces, ruined castles and cemetery-gate enclosures. Naturally it all takes place in F.I.T.’s cryptlike basement galleries. The gloom and doom can be overpowering, but Ms. Steele and Mr. Costin understand that too much is never enough for the goth devotee. And it’s impossible to upstage the clothes, with their capes, corsetry and fetishistic hardware. As uniformly macabre as it is, ‘Gothic: Dark Glamour’ resonates with several groups. Fashionistas will relish the chance to see famous creations by Oliver Theyskens, Ann Demeulemeester and other avant-garde designers. Readers of Poe, Shelley and other Romantic literature will enjoy seeing gothic characters and settings come to life (or undeath). And the eager consumers of adolescent vampire fantasies, from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ to ‘Twilight,’ will thrill to the clothes’ sex-and-death subtext...At F.I.T. an antechamber to the main gallery displays fashions representative of three gothic muses: the victim, the widow and the vamp. In the victim category are filmy gowns that could have been worn by the swooning subject of Henry Fuseli’s 1871 painting ‘The Nightmare.’ (A reproduction is on view.) In the widow category is Victorian mourning dress: suffocatingly high-necked, monochromatic black ensembles. In the most spectacular category, that of the vamp, is a scarlet dress by Eiko Ishioka made for Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Its cascading bustle suggests spilled blood...Also in the show’s first section is a fascinating curio cabinet of gothic accessories, among them a bat-shaped belt buckle, a brooch made from a pigeon’s wing and a bottle of laudanum. Some objects date from the Victorian era, others from current collections; it can be difficult to tell which is which.’ [New York Times] MORE: You can find the museum’s website and info on the exhibit right here.

THE ‘BUCK’ STARTS HERE?: A few weeks ago I met up with Gabriel Macht, the star of ‘The Spirit,’ for coffee and he told me that he wants to make as many films as he can with Frank Miller. He would like, in fact, to become the director’s on-screen muse, a la Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro (or, these, days, Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio). Well, Macht might want to start diving into some old Buster Crabbe movie serials. Why? Here’s the story in the trades today by Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit: ‘Frank Miller and Odd Lot Entertainment, the creator and production company behind the upcoming comic-book adventure ‘The Spirit,’ are close to teaming again on the classic sci-fi property ‘Buck Rogers.’ Odd Lot, the shingle run by Gigi Pritzker and Deborah Del Prete, is in negotiations to option the rights to ‘Rogers’ from Nu Image/Millennium, which obtained those rights this year from the Dille Trust. Millennium is expected to get a credit on the movie but won’t be involved in day-to-day production. John Flint Dille, a friend of Miller’s, operates the trust, which may have partly prompted rumors at the time of the Millennium acquisition that the comic auteur-turned-filmmaker might come aboard to direct. But Miller was not attached at the time; he only became involved when Odd Lot entered the picture. Miller will write and direct his own big-screen take on the comic serial; while the creator has only begun to sketch ideas, it’s expected to be a darker take, with many of Miller’s signature visual elements and themes, such as corruption and redemption. It’s likely to be a priority project for Miller, though he has been mulling a ‘Sin City’ sequel.’ [The Hollywood Reporter]

HOW WILL THE WOLF SURVIVE?: Director Joe Johnston will be bringing Captain America to the screen but first he has ‘The Wolf Man’ next November. Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro will be handling the hairier parts of the script while Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt will be the characters looking for a leash. Del Toro talked to MTV and explained that for his research he went back much further than ‘Teen Wolf’: ‘I definitely looked at what Lon Chaney Jr. did in the original ‘Wolf Man’ and the movie,’ Del Toro told MTV News. “I also looked at the ‘Werewolf of London,’ the Henry Hull movie, which was made maybe 6 years before in 1935, and looked at ‘Curse of the Werewolf’ with Oliver Reed.” While they are staying faithful to the aforementioned 1941 Chaney Jr. version (generally accepted as the ‘classic’ Wolf man movie), he notes that there will be some minor deviations from the story that center around actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays his father in the film. He spills some background details on the characters and notes that he and the legendary thespian won’t be playing very nice together either. ‘Anthony Hopkins’ role was [originally] played by Claude Rains and the relationship between Rains and Lon Chaney Jr. was a good father and son [relationship]. In [our version], it’s definitely fractured, I’m like the prodigal son, I’ve been gone, he sent me away when I was a child and I haven’t seen him in twenty six years and I come home again to visit my brother who’s missing, but I [also play an] actor too which is also different.’ Don’t expect other monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein or the Mummy to walk into the frame either. ‘You mean, the guy named Dracula waiting in the taxi outside?, Del Toro cracked. ‘No, there’s no other monsters coming into play, that’s maybe down the line.’ [MTV Movie News]

HERO COMPLEX, FOR REAL: Reporter Joshuah Bearman and photographer Stefan Ruiz went around the country visiting with people who dress up in costumes and fight crime. The result is a truly loopy look at a cultural curiosity. An excerpt from Bearman’s article, which is in the newest issue of Rolling Stone: ‘Like other real life superheroes, Master Legend is not an orphan from a distant dying sun or the mutated product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry. He is not an eccentric billionaire moonlighting as a crime fighter. He is, as he puts it, ‘just a man hellbent on battling evil.’ Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. if malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can’t other individuals step up to save it? ‘What is Osama Bin Laden if not a super villain off in a cave, scheming to destroy us?’ asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona. True to comic-book tradition, each superhero has his own aesthetic. Green Scorpion’s name is derived from his desert home, from which he recently issued a proclamation to ‘the criminals of Arizona and beyond,’ warning that to continue illegal activities is to risk the ‘Sting of the Green Scorpion!’ The Eye takes his cue from the primordial era of Detective Comics, prowling Mountain View, California, in a trench coat, goggles and black fedora featuring a self-designed logo: the ‘all-seeing’ eye of Horus. Superhero -- his full name -- is a former wrestler from Clearwater, Florida, who wears red and blue spandex and a burgundy helicopter helmet and drives a 1975 Corvette Stingray customized with the license plates that read SUPRHRO.’ [Rolling Stone] Want to read the rest? You’ll have to buy the magazine now on the stands, the article isn’t available online at this time.

ON THIS DATE: Today, Dec. 19, is the 34th birthday of Takashi Sorimachi, the star of ‘Great Teacher Onizuka’ and ‘Fulltime Killer’ and an actor that some call the ‘Tom Cruise of Japan’... Also, the great Robert B. Sherman is 83 today. He and his brother, Richard Sherman, are a vital part of Disney’s history as the songwriters behind charming classics such as ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee,’ ‘The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,’ ‘It’s a Small World (After All).’ To celebrate, let’s all get a song stuck in our head today.

Majel B. Roddenberry photo courtesy of the Roddenberry Archives. The bat top hat was made by milliner Justin Smith and the image is courtesy of Museum at F.I.T., which has the headwear on display in ‘Gothic’ exhibit. The image from ‘The Wolf Man’ is courtesy of Universal Pictures. Tigger image courtesy of Disney.