Billy Campbell, Tiny Ron and Yours Truly (photo by Samantha Holmes)
Last night was an amazing evening. After parking in the El Capitan Theater parking lot, I was telling my friend Samantha Holmes that there has been a dramatic upturn in the last year or two of my being recognized on the street.
“Sure, Bill,” was Sam’s response.
We rounded the corner on our way to the theater (to attend and participate in the 20th anniversary celebration of the premiere of The Rocketeer) and suddenly I was mobbed by autograph seekers! This has never happened to me. Really! Sure, I get requests for autographs at my convention appearances — but this was a full blown movie star-like assault! It felt very weird. I enjoyed it at first — but then it began to show signs of not letting up. Was I ever going to make it into the theater?
The frenzy finally subsided. Sam turned to me and said, “I’ll never doubt you again.”
The event was amazing. My pal Taylor White put it together, a Herculean effort. He eventually got Disney on board and everything escalated into a huge (efficiently run) Big Deal.
In the Green Room (the place where celebrities traditionally wait before making an appearance) I chatted and caught up with the other guests for the evening: the film’s brilliant director Joe Johnston, star Billy Campbell, “Lothar” actor Tiny Ron (that’s me with Billy and Tiny in the photo above; look how tall they are compared to me — and I’m 6’3″! Billy’s got very lo-o-ong legs!), screenwriters William Dear, Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson, and special make-up effects wizard (and my long time friend) Rick Baker, who created Tiny’s Lothar (Rondo Hatton) make-up for the film. After the film we held a Q & A hosted by the always entertaining and hilarious Kevin Smith. Dave’s and my mutual good friend Thomas Jane showed up — dressed like the Rocketeer! He was even wearing Dave’s original Rocketeer boots.
The print we watched was the first showing of a brand new digital restoration. It looked INCREDIBLE! I hope that Disney brings out a Blue-Ray version of this with loads of extras.
The theater was packed with fans, many of whom flew in for the event from back east. The enthusiastic reception to the film was extremely gratifying, as it was not a big hit upon its initial release (how the internet would have changed that if it had existed back then!).
As I wrote yesterday, the celebration was bittersweet, as The Rocketeer‘s creator, Dave Stevens, was not there (except, perhaps, in spirit). His friends and family were out in droves, though.
Dave’s little sister Jenny and his mom Carolyn were proclaimed from the stage to be in attendance (which they were), which brought a huge round of applause.
After the screening and Q & A we (and our friends) were whisked off the the Hollywood Museum (in the Max Factor Building) for a private reception and celebration.
I had been requested to design a commemorative print for the event (see yesterday’s Journal entry); they sold briskly.
This was the third time I had viewed The Rocketeer. The first time was with Dave and my wife twenty years ago at the premiere (at the same theater). The second time was when I watched the DVD on the day Dave died. This time was the best. The film really holds up and was even better than I remembered. It’s a terrific film and all who were involved should be very proud of the resulting movie. And Hey! — no CG! Everything was executed cinematic Old School style, adding to the film’s warmth.
Seeing it on the big screen added so much. I saw Dave’s handiwork all over the movie. He was a very hands-on producer. His highly personal period hand lettering and all kinds of little Dave touches were everywhere throughout the movie.
His own scene was crystal clear and Dave was very recognizable (Dave played the Nazi flyer in the German propaganda film, the first flyer to try the Nazi rocket pack. He turns it on and it explodes).
The evening was supposed to end at 11:30 PM but it went on until a half past midnight, when the patient Disney folks had to kick us out. It was such a love fest, we didn’t want last night to end!
If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. If not, it was, sadly, your great loss.
Dave would have loved the vindication and ultimate appreciation (which I’m sure will continue to grow) of his graphic and cinematic baby…and I’m sure he would have been completely embarrassed by all the well-deserved attention.