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One way to get a captive audience

Making the annual drive from Los Angeles down to San Diego for Comic-Con is never pleasant. But this year, a handful of journalists were invited aboard a train to travel to the ‘Con in classic style.

The trip Wednesday was organized by Fox-Walden in honor of “City of Ember,” a film directed by “Monster House’s” Gil Kenan and written by “Edward Scissorhands” screenwriter Caroline Thompson. The movie, which opens Oct. 10, is based on the book by Jeanne DuPrau. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where resources are dwindling, the story centers on two young teens who live in an underground city lighted only by lamps and floodlights. When the electrical system starts to fail, they search for a way to save Ember and its citizens before they are trapped by darkness.

The studio rented a couple of vintage train cars, hitched them onto an Amtrak train and decked the old-time rail cars out with “Ember” props for writers to inspect on the journey to San Diego.

Most already-skeptical members of the media were a bit apprehensive because of the old rail cars’ occasional jerks and rocking.

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But as publicity events go, this was unique. The director, screenwriter, production designer Martin Laing (now on “Terminator Salvation”) and Oscar-winning producer Gary Goetzman of Playtone were on board offering insights into the film, with Kenan screening bits of it to smaller assembled crowds in an eight-seat screening room setup.

Saoirse Ronan, the young actress who received critical acclaim for her performance in last year’s Oscar-nominated “Atonement,” plays one of the teens.

Goetzman said it may have been difficult to cast “special dude” Bill Murray, who plays the city’s corrupt mayor, but that it wasn’t a hard sell. “He gravitated toward the idea of playing the mayor,” who is a “totally unctuous character,” Goetzman said.

-- Jevon Phillips

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This item and others can be found on the Hero Complex blog (latimes.com/hero complex).


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