Davidís Milehicon Panel   Saturday October 27, 2007

There were about 40 people waiting in the panel room when I arrived, so I told everyone to fill in the rows in front of Davidís table, so they could all hear him without a mic.  David was supposed to be following me in, but he was stopped in the hall by fans.  When I poked my head back out the door and saw he was coming, with several folks in tow, I went in and got the crowd waiting ready for him.

David came up front and I introduced him and we were off on our first question.  They ran the gamut from The Fly to Voyage to James Bond to what movies he liked and/or wanted to make or remake.   David in turn, introduced me and promptly told everyone if they had any questions he couldnít answer to ask me, because I knew everything.

I explained that wasnít quite true, but that I had been with David in various capacities in his fan club and web sites for almost 25 years, so that helped.   I let David field the first few questions on his own, while I walked around the room taking some panel shots for the web site.  The con photographer had showed up at our table about half an hour before the panel and was now covering the panel, so there should also be some Milehi photos on their web site soon.

It was a good crowd and they kept asking - for the most part Ė really good questions.  The Battlestar Galactica question didnít go anywhere, David doesnít watch it, but that led to a discussion of what he had been watching Ė namely Madmen on AMC and Damages on FX.  I told him to mention Nip/Tuck and Boston Legal and the latter show started a lively back and forth, with David saying his least favorite characters were Jerry and Clarice, the hands thing with Jerry is too much and Clarice is too much period.  I said they ought to hire David as a judge on Boston Legal, as the judge they had (played by Shelly Berman) was so senile as to be useless (as a judge).  I thought the actor was doing a really good job playing senile, but that was the last thing one needed in a judge and that David would do a much better job.  In my humble opinion, of course.

The audience laughed.  I was told that judge character wasnít supposed to be realistic and I needed to lower my expectations.  We also mentioned that David had asked if the part of Sarek (Spockís father) was going to be cast in the new Star Trek movie and the casting people had told him no.  They had no plans to include Sarek as a character, which again I thought was a total waste, as David would have been the perfect actor to play it.

The questions then turned to Voyage and David told everyone Ė in response to a question if he ever complained if they wrote Lee Crane out of character Ė about the one time he took a third season script home to work on and the storyline had Crane doing something that was so completely out of character he finally couldnít stand it.  So he got up and drove back into the studio.  He marched into Irwin Allenís office and raised such a fuss that they rewrote his character for that script.  So the next morning, David was on the set and there were no pages to do and Irwin came up to him and said, this is all your fault!  But the rewrite was worth it, the new pages had Crane was written much more in character and he could now play it.  Not that David did that a lot, but this time he felt he had to.

When asked about a typical day on the Voyage set, David said it was very hard work, and he described how heíd come in, get made up, do the master shots, then the close-ups, until they got all the days work done and then heíd have to learn another 12 pages before the next day shooting.  That kind of schedule didnít leave him much time to do anything else when they were filming.  The episodes needed to be completed in six days, at the most 6 and a half.  Any more time spent after that put them over budget and caused all kind of hand wringing, so the actors and crew tried very hard to get each and every show done in six days. 

They asked him about doing his own stunts in Voyage and David said they took him to Catalina Island the first year and put him in the yellow wetsuit and he had to swim this way and that way and all over and they shot lots of footage, which was a good thing, because when second season rolled around, he was kept much to busy too film anything like that, so they would put someone else in the yellow suit and film it in the tank, but most of the time they would save time and money by using all that yellow wet suit footage from the first year over and over again.

We were talking about one of Davidís first season shows, The Saboteur, and David said he would have liked that one better if it hadnít run over by about 10 minutes and they hadnít had to cut out some of his better stuff.  There was more filmed than we saw and naturally the scenes that had to go ended up being his.

David mentioned thatís why he likes theatre better than television, because so much of what he did in film and TV was cut and it never seemed to be cut in any way that made sense to him.  He hated to have all his good work end up on the cutting room floor.  David loves an audience and actively responds to their reactions, which we could all see at the panel.  David became very animated answering the questions, continually pacing back and forth with lots of dramatic gestures.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to him. 

At one point, he made a sweeping gesture and knocked his water bottle over.  Oh, shit, David said, without thinking.  Then he immediately apologized for swearing.  No one seemed to mind at all.  We mopped up the spill and moved on.  

Getting back to the theater discussion, David said his favorite theater role was in Chapter Two (1979-1980) because he had a different audience every night and he played it for months all over the country.   David could try different interpretations and it was a big part Ė he was on stage all night in nearly every scene.  The role had great range.   He   could really get into it and keep working on refining it and he really enjoyed that.  

David was asked about his Bond films Ė he told how he went to the restaurant to have a nice dinner with his wife and waved at Cubby Broccoli who happened to be there. The next thing David knew they were calling him in Florida to come back to LA for a meeting on his day off from the play he was doing there and thatís how he won the part in Licence to Kill.  They also asked which Bond he liked better.  David was very diplomatic and said he enjoyed working with both actors.

David was asked several Bond Questions.   They wanted to know if he had seen the ďnewĒ Bond, Daniel Craig.  David said, no, he hadnít seen the film yet and really could not venture an opinion.  I told David he would probably like it, as the movie plot was character driven and very gritty, two things he does like in a film.  Some of the audience then ventured their opinion and we all ended up telling David what we thought of the new Bond in answer to this question.  Craig played him rough around the edges, not very suave or sophisticated, but interesting.

            It was the same with the question about the new Felix Leiter.  I told David he didnít have a very big part in the film, but he helped in Bond in much the same way Davidís character had done in Live and Let Die, only David had much more screen time in his roles that Jeffery Wright did.  David knew who Wright was, having seen him in another non-Bond films and he thought he was a good actor, but again could not say anything about his performance in the Bond film.

            The audience wanted to know why Felix was never used properly or why they kept changing actors and David said he had no idea other than they seemed to want him both times he was cast.  I took on the Jack Lord part of the question and said I had read somewhere that it was a money issue.  Jack didnít repeat after Dr. No, because he wanted equal billing and the same money as Connery.

He chose The Fly when they asked which movie he wanted to remake.  David agreed that the Goldblum version had too much gore, but he did think it was an interesting interpretation, but he still liked the story he did in his film better.  He would welcome the opportunity to do that story one more time.   Youíll have to read the book to find what he wants to do with the film that was not done fifty years ago.

He then told everyone he had been working on a 50th anniversary Fly book with me and that I was writing it.  I told everyone what a big help he had been with it so far, and who was publishing it and when it would be published (Spring 2008).

David kept telling everyone there that I knew everything Ė which isnít true.  I learn something new from David every time I attend one of his panels, but it was nice of him to say that.  I did add a few facts to the discussion as it went along, but David has been doing these panels for years and tells wonderful stories once he gets going.

Case in point.   Someone asked him if he ever wanted to produce or direct.   David has no interest in producing, but he did think because he was an actor, he would make an effective director, given the chance to do so.   He says people tell him all the time he should teach and he mentioned that in his work for the Actorís studio West Ė he goes every Friday and helps Martin Landau and Mark Rydell teach a class Ėthat he is and he likes doing it.   Everyone knew who Martin Landau was, and David explained that Rydell was a famous director, who had directed Henry Fonda to an Academy Award in On Golden Pond.  

Acting is a very subjective thing and very hard to make real and Rydell likes to tell this story in class to help the aspiring actors find their way.  He was directing Henry Fonda - who basically plays a really old man who knows heís dying and this is most probably his very last summer at the pond.  Fonda was terminally ill at the time and knew this would be his last film, so he was trying really hard to get it right Ė trying too hard.   Katherine Hepburn (as only she could) piped up with the following advice:  Henry, she said, you donít have to act old, you are old!

            Watching David tell this story was priceless.  First he did Rydell, then he was doing a very good Fonda impression, hobbling around the front of the table like a very old man, then he started to shake and in a bang-on New England Hepburn voice, complete with quaver, he totally nailed Katherine Hepburn.  The panel audience was falling out of their chairs laughing.  David is truly amazing.  He loves playing all the parts of any story he is telling to a group.

            He was asked if he had seen any good movies lately and he said, not really, but he was looking forward to seeing Love in the Time of Cholera, based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that will open in limited release on November 16.  Javier Bardem has the title role.  David spoke briefly about his membership in the Academy that nominates films for Academy Awards.

            David was asked what his dream project would be Ė and he said he like to make a film in which he could give all his friends Ė most of whom who are 80 or older Ė parts in, so that everyone who wanted to work would then have a job.  Nothing for himself, only a real desire to help out his friends.   

            They asked David how long he had been married and he said almost 40 years and got a very nice round of applause.   He was pleased and said it helped to find the right one and to work at it.  It seemed to him that the young actors of today didnít seem to have the commitment to their marriages to make them work.  He also thought they got married too young, that they didnít know who they were or what they wanted.  David said he was ready to get married when he did, at 40, having already done all his wild oat sowing, so to speak.  And that helped, too.  I couldnít help teasing him that Bridget hadnít kicked him out yet, so he must be doing something right.

            We wrapped the panel up shortly after that.  Everyone had their questions answered and had a good time, so the hour passed very quickly.  David was up for the rest of the afternoon and the glow of this performance put him a good mood for dinner and took his mind off his back, at least for a little while.