B5 Feature Film: Save the Original Cast!

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Joseph DeMartino, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    A Call to Arms

    Some of you may have heard the recent rumors about the upcoming B5 feature film, “The Memory of Shadow” – how the money people are talking about recasting many of the roles from the original series with “name” actors,

    I am here to tell you that this rumor is true and that unless the powers that be are convinced that tinkering with the cast will hurt them in the pocketbook, they will do what they want to do, without regard to JMS’s wish or ours. The only people in a position to convince them that there’s money on the line are US.

    WE are the ones who watched the show in great enough numbers to keep it on the air for 5 years. WE are the ones who made the reruns and B5 S5 such a success on TNT that they spent millions of dollars on two extra TV movies and a half season of Crusade before they pulled the plug on that show for reasons of network politics as much as anything else. WE are the ones who lobbied and wheedled and threatened until a very skeptical Warner Bros. finally released the series, the movies and ultimately Crusade on DVD – and then bought the DVDs in such numbers that the studio decided to make this feature film in the first place.

    WE are the ones who will provide the all-important opening weekend opening box office and the initial word-of-mouth. It is perfectly true that a feature film like this can’t succeed if only the hardcore fans go to see it. It will have to attract non-fans, folks who have never even heard of the series. But if WE don’t make sure the film “opens” it won’t stay in theaters long enough for non-fans to discover the film. If WE don’t provide the positive word-of-mouth the film won’t succeed.

    I’ve heard that some fans don’t believe the rumor, that recasting the roles seems so obviously stupid and counter-productive that they don’t think Warner Bros. would ever do such a thing. I was skeptical myself when I first plugged into the ‘net after an absence of several month (hurricanes are such a bother) But I’ve since checked with a few individuals whom I trust implicitly and who are in a position to know about such things. They assure me the rumors are true. The studio is pressing for this, and since they write the checks, there isn’t a lot the production office can do about it.

    I’ve also heard that other fans are so upset about the reported story line or indications that a given actor or character may not be in the film that they’re not interested in the project at all. Big mistake. Some have even suggested that the story line and the cast changes are part and parcel of the same thing – that the studio dictated a story that prominently featured new characters and reduced the old ones to cameos that could be cast with “name” actors as part of some deep, dark plot to remake B5 in some new image of their choosing.

    Wrong

    I don’t know the story line for the new film. But I DO know that it is the story that JMS chose to pitch to the studio for the first B5 film.

    Did I just say “First B5 film”?

    Yes, I did.

    Everybody wants this film to succeed. If it succeeds, WB will want a sequel, the studios always do. If they do a sequel JMS can do a story that uses the original characters more. Everybody signing up to do the sequel to a successful movie will get a bigger payday than they did on the first. Maybe it makes more sense to do something that ties up some of the threads from Crusade and Rangers in movie #1, with the original cast in supporting roles. Then do the Teep War or some other story in movie #2. But this only works if the original cast plays the original characters in movie #1.

    And that’s where you all come in. We need you to write letters – real, snail-mail, printed and hand-signed letters, to get the attention of the folks holding the purse strings. We need to remind them that ultimately we, too, hold the purse strings. We buy the tickets at the box office.

    An ad hoc committee of fans has been working on ways to get the studio’s attention, including press releases and getting stories into the mainstream press. You can help by participating in a letter writing campaign with a bit of a gimmick to help it stand out from similar campaigns. Go to www.keepb5alive.com. Download one of the “B5 Bucks” designs on the site. Print them out, cut them out, and include them with your letter. We’ve also provided form letters that you can hand-write your own address and comments on, but I have to tell you – the studios pay a lot more attention to individuals who took the time to compose a letter of their own than those who merely signed a form letter that somebody else wrote. Just don’t forget to include the “ B5 Bucks” whichever you do.

    This may seem like a silly gimmick. So were the Budweiser frogs. Silly gimmicks are memorable, they get attention. They WORK. So can this if Warner Bros. gets socked with thousands and thousands of letters containing these novelty items. And that’s the key – make them realize that this isn’t an issue that concerns only a few fanatical fans of particular actors but something the vast majority of the fan community cares deeply about and that we will have to consider whether or not the B5 movie WB eventually puts in theaters is really B5 or some pale imitation that we, as loyal fans, can and will rightly ignore. Go to the site, download the materials, join the fight. The casting decisions are being made right now The countdown to the start of shooting has begun. The window during which we can make our voices heard is closing, but it hasn’t closed yet. Don’t let it close until you’ve added your voice to the chorus.

    Print out a letter, preferably one you’ve written yourself, today. Sign it, add a hand-written note and your address if necessary. Print out an envelope, stuff it, with some B5 Bucks, seal it, put it on the counter with your car keys. Make sure you mail it tomorrow.

    We’ve been here before folks. Our backs against the wall, no chance in hell of getting what we want. We’ve been here every single season, we were here at the end of S4 most of all. We were here trying to get the show released on some form of home video and ultimately on DVD. We were here trying to get a feature film off the ground at all. We’ve always tried to do the impossible and we’ve always been told that we never could. (One SF entertainment news web site won’t run a story on this controversy because they haven’t seen an official announcement of the film from WB and they don’t believe that anybody is ever going to make a feature film based on a “little” cult show like B5)

    We’ve always succeeded in the long run.

    Faith manages.

    Start writing.

    Joe
     
  2. Peter Overduin

    Peter Overduin Supporting Actor

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    I have not read a more articulate letter on any issue relating to what we all love, since DIVX.

    As I recall, the masses had something to do with killing that.

    I'm in. Well done, Joseph. You have long been a standard-bearer for this franchise...keep it up!
     
  3. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Sad news to hear. As noted at the link attached above, JMS has offered a "no comment" on this issue, but his comment is quite interesting nonetheless. From JMS News

    Speaking as someone that has become a recent fan thanks to the DVDs, this would be a big mistake. Star Trek did well carrying on the films with the original cast. And in a case like this, where the story (I presume) follows directly on from the continuity of the series - rather than just a film adaptation of the general concept of the original show like most films-from-TV - it makes sense to retain the original cast. Sure, try to get a few bigger names to fill in new roles. Hell, if JMS wants to have the film focus on new characters that can be played by big stars, in order to make the film more commercial, that's fine with me, and I am excited by this project. But to chage the actors that we have come to know and love over five seasons of incredible television would truly be a big mistake.
     
  4. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    This sounds intolerable. I can't imagine Warner would be so stupid.

    I will, of course, join the letter-writing campaign. I just hope it is enough.
     
  5. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Sadly, the studio *doesn't care* what we think about the casting.

    We, the Babylon 5 fans, are what politicans call the "core voter"; in this case, obviously, the core audience. What does that mean? It means we're gonna show up pretty much regardless; fans rarely skip the projects they're fans of. This is the reason Trek has been in such a sad shape for so so so many years; the core fans show up each time no matter how bad it's been.

    It doesn't *matter* if you didn't like the movie. It doesn't *matter* if you think it will be bad, or if you hated it, or if the film was stupid. People have been bitching about Trek for over a *decade*, but they still kept going until Nemesis. And even then, for Nemesis, the core fans STILL showed up. Star Wars has been lamblasted like few other films (genre or not) have ever been, and it doesn't matter because everyone who's bitching paid for tickets!

    If you go see it, you're voting for it. Money is all that talks. Folks sometimes say "but how will you know if you don't go". If you're not sure about a film, you should wait for one of several alternate venues before voting. Catch it in a dollar theater or wait for cable broadcast. But buying a first-release ticket or a DVD simply means you liked it. No matter what you said, you already voted with your dollars.

    So, bottom line, on the B5 movie, they're going to make changes as they like to try and attract non-core-audience members to the flick. Why? Because those of us who are core will have a hard time not going, and since we're going anyway, they can safely futz with the property to a large extent in an effort to entice non-core.

    Having said all that, this is the first I'm hearing about such a rumor related to a B5 movie. I won't rule out seeing it even with a new cast; there are many fine actors who could step into these roles. I have great attachments to the B5 actors, and would be rather upset if they recast G'kar or Londo (for example). But unless they cast actors I strongly disagree with, I won't say it's a bad thing as far as making it a good movie. Trailers will be what I look at.

    I have to admit though, I can't envision anyone else as Londor or G'Kar. Most of the rest of the roles I can see someone moving into, but Katsulus and Jurassik personified their characters so wonderfully it'd be tough to watch someone else fill their shoes.

    (ps: Trek Fans, let it die. Stop going, stop watching. Get rid of Berman. If you don't watch it, they might fix it, and we could all enjoy Trek again)
     
  6. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    "fans rarely skip the projects they're fans of."

    To an extent, but when fans are taken advantage of, or ignored, or given material they vehemently disagree with, eventually they stop being fans.
     
  7. Chris Bergmann

    Chris Bergmann Second Unit

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    Just wondering - what "name" actors do you think would want to get involved with a B5 movie?

    The show always had to hire B and C grade TV actors - so what do you think will happen in the movie?

    Brad Pitt as Sheridan?
    Al Pacino as Londo?

    As much as I loved B5 - this sounds like another ploy by jms to get some publicity for a probably already failing movie project.
     
  8. Lars_J

    Lars_J Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah, I'm highly skeptical of this as well.

    If they funded a B5 movie, it was because it was *B5*, and that includes the characters and actors. Recasting charcters would just unecessarily piss off the fanbase.

    Now what *IS* likely, IMO, is that the film with concentrate on *new* characters, which can be cast however they wish. This would make the existing B5 characters more like supporting or bit-players with limited roles.

    The short possible plot synopsis/intro posted a while back in another thread indicates that the movie will concentrate on two new charcters.
     
  9. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Well, don't be, because it really is true. After I expressed simliar skepticism early on, I was contacted by a long-time contact who is absolutely in a position to know but who does not especially have an ax to grind. This source has never steered me wrong. This is happening and those who care need to resist it.

    WB even more than most studios is infected with "Movie snobbery". The feature film folks look down on the TV folks. They'd rather use even journeymen actors who have been in some recent hints and who have recognizable faces than the actors already familiar to millions of fans simply because of this attitude. A big part of the reason that WB had to be dragged kicking and screaming into releasing TV shows on DVD, and then doing season sets, is that the people at WHV shared the same contempt as everyone else at WB for the TV division. They see themselves as an adjunct of feature films and didn't want to soil their hands on "mere" television.

    Yes, they really are that stupid. And yes, they really are arrogant enough to say to the creators of a successful TV show, "You're in the big leagues now, we know how a lot more about making a film than you do, now shut up and do what we tell you."

    As for studios "never listening" -

    DIVX is dead.
    Zardoz was released.
    All the major studios are doing TV on DVD - not in 2 episode single discs or in "best of" sets, but in full seasons.
    Babylon 5, the movies and Crusade were all released - the former in widescreen, with commentaries, extras, bloopers, you name it. Just like the fans demanded - starting back in 1997. It took some time, but we prevailed.

    Like the message says,

    "Faith manages"

    If you're conviced you can't win, the battle is over before it starts. Take a chance. Maybe we'll win again this time.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  10. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Before you hurt your arm patting yourself on the back, I think capitalism gets more credit than organized and active fans for at least two of those achievements.
     
  11. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Yes, but fan campaigns helped make them realise that they can make money off this stuff.

    Their success is due to "capitalism," but the impetus to get them started was possibly in some small part due to fans and others shaking them up and making them realise that they're sitting on a money maker.

    If they're dead-set on doing something, than no, letters or fans won't change their minds. But if they're undecided, still teetering on the edge between various possibilities.

    As fans, we can only do two things:
    1. Write and make our voices heard
    2. If they do recast the actors and/or do anything else equally stupid, don't go see it.
     
  12. Chris Harvey

    Chris Harvey Second Unit

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    Joe, any remote idea what JMS is doing about this? I know the WB suits have the ultimate power, but I would imagine JMS, as series creator/exec-producer, is fighting this tooth-and-nail.

    Like you, I've been extremely skeptical about the rumors... however, I *do* trust you more than any other 'net source.

    Is this already a done deal, to be stopped only by an onslaught of letters? Is it still only a possibility that is being entertained by TPTB at WB?
     
  13. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    It isn't a done deal yet. My understanding is that certain unnamed individuals are fighting this, but I can imagine a situation where Hollywood protocol, contractual obligations, and the desire to do future business in Los Angeles might limit their ability to make any pubic comment. Such hypothetical people might also have to keep a genuine distance between themselves and other individuals not so limited, much as political parties and campaigns were prevented (in that case by law) from coordinating with independent 527 advocacy groups in the recent election.

    Right now there are two camps, each pushing its own point of view. One side says the fans will be outraged, the other (which is made up of people from the features division who have no clue about organized fandom) is saying "A few of these geeks may care, but most of them don't and nobody's going to refuse to see the picture based on this."

    We need to make it clear that lots of us care, and care deeply, and that significant numbers of us might at least consider not going to see the movie when the time comes. Maybe if the only original character who appears is Garibaldi in a cameo, and they get Bruce Willis to do it, I'll go see the movie. But if Sheridan, Delenn, G'Kar and Londo all have at least substantial supporting roles and are played by other actors? Yes, I'll have to think twice about going to see the movie. I can always get the DVD from Netflix later if I want to see the story. I don't have to see the thing on opening day. There are lots of other movies to watch, plenty of DVDs in my library and more coming in every month. Maybe if the film turns a profit but doesn't do as well as they hope, and an organized fan boycott is part of the reason, they'll do a second film and this time use the original cast. I'd say a lot of B5 fans could live with that. We're a patient lot. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  14. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    And what is capitalism except the aggregate action of many individuals, sometimes organized, sometimes not?

    Sure, the free market was ultimately responsible for all that. But the studios do not always rationally respond to the evidence of the market. Warner Bros. was still clinging to the "TV shows don't sell on home video" mantra in interview a year after Fox had blazed the trail with The X-Files. Even when they finally broke down and got into the field they started with "Best of" sets of Friends and South Park.

    DIVX might well have succeeded if passionate early adopters of DVD had not organized to steer novices away from buying DIVX-equipped machines. By making a public controversy and open format war out of the rivalry, by getting into mainstream media to counter DIVX's claim that it was merely an "added feature" people like Ron and Packy, Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits, Jeff McNeal of The Big Picture, and a thousand nameless DVD enthusiasts who got to customers in Circuit City while the sales drone was looking up a price created the market forces that killed DIVX. If DIVX's propaganda had been allowed to go unchallenged it might well have established itself in the market. (Don't forget, even as vaporware it drastically slowed acceptance of what was then called "open" DVD. People fearing a repeat of Beta vs. VHS kept asking me if they shouldn't buy DIVX machines "just in case" to "future-proof" their systems.)

    On the other side of the ledger, the "organized fandom" you dismiss so easily convinced the studios that were originally DIVX-only to at least embrace both formats, out of fear that they might be backing a losing horse. Thousands of early adopters (the folks regular folks go to for buying advice) were organizing against the format. Prudence dictated that they hedge their bets. But they wouldn't have done so with out that same "organized fandom". And if Disney, to pick just one example, had remained a DIVX exclusive studio, then the dicates of capitalism might have made DIVX the winner of that format war.

    Of course it was money that was ultimately responsible for all these things. But in many cases it took organized fandom to show the studios where there was money to be made. Warner Bros. was dead certain that there was no market for B5 on home video. They finally licensed it to Columbia House and Image for VHS and LD release - and were stunned at the sales numbers. So they started their own VHS release, and started to make public noises about maybe doing the show on DVD. VHS sales immediately went into the crapper and the DVD plans were scrapped. In 1999 they stuck another toe in the DVD waters, looking at a Trek: TOS-style 2-episodes per disc, no extras, 4:3 release. But fan agitation for season sets, extras and widescreen convinced them that the fans would not buy if they released an inferior product, even though they'd been clamoring for the show.

    WHV manangment then changed, and the new crew was once again convinced that TV would never sell on DVD, and that B5 certainly wouldn't - and they pointed to the VHS numbers as proof. They finally released the infamous "test disc" of The Gathering/In the Beginning because the fans virtually dared them to, and as much to shut us all up and spare themselves the inevitable "B5 question during HTF live chats as anything. Their attitude was, "Here, we're giving you a disc. But you'd damned well better buy it or there won't be any more." Then they sat back and waited for the disc to tank so they could forget the whole thing. But of course, it didn't. We "organized fans" knew the market, and perhaps understood capitalism, better than the suits at WB. They've made a couple of hunderd million dollars worldwide on a DVD release that all of their marketing people told them wouldn't sell and that only fan pressure got them to do.

    I'd say "organized fandom" has done pretty well, and specifically that it has done pretty well by Warner Bros. They've never lost money listening to us, that's for sure.

    Boy, I love capitalism! [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  15. Joshua_W

    Joshua_W Second Unit

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    So what's the sitch on the movie?

    So far, all I've really seen is a casting call for the "lead" characters, and they're all new characters with the exception of Galen. (Who apparently won't be played by Peter Woodward.) No indication that any other characters (like Sheridan, Delenn, Garibaldi, Londo, or G'Kar) were going to appear or be recast. Of course, if the characters were to appear in the movie AND be played by the original actors, there wouldn't be any need to look for actors to play the parts.

    Was it JMS's plan all along to have this movie focus on new characters? Or did he re-write the movie to remove any old characters that would be recast?

    There's very little hard information out there at the moment, aside from a lot of vague rumors and innuendo.
     
  16. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    I remember Peter Jurasik saying that he got a contract for it or something like that and Dr. Franklin had to be written out since Rick Biggs died so it's not just Galen who is returning.
     
  17. Britton

    Britton Supporting Actor

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    Well, I pounded out a letter (and included a quote from Kosh for good measure), but I'd like to get more intel before I send it out.
     
  18. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    No, what you've seen is a rumor on a website that was leaked by heaven-knows-who and is not accurate.

    I don't know what additional "intel" anyone needs. The people in a position to know are not in a position to discuss this pubicly - those directly involved least of all. Some of us have received information indirectly from trusted sources in the industry - information that was presumably passed along to us in the hope that we would do exactly what we are doing - try to drum up public resistance to the idea. (Although in my case the source stopped short of suggesting that I do anything at all with the information, establishing a sort of "plausible deniability.")

    Short of JMS taking out a full page ad in Daily Variety, which I don't think would go over well even were he both inclined and contractually able to do so I'm not sure what some of you would accept as "confirmation".

    The information is accurate, the problem real, the time short. We can all sit around arguing the subtleties of which hints appear in which rumor on which web site, and speculate about JMS's possible motives and pull stuff out of our butts completely like imagining that the project is in trouble or we can do something. All in favor of doing something, get working. All in favor of pointless arguing - carry on. I doubt anything you'd write would be of much use anyway.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  19. Chris Roberts

    Chris Roberts Stunt Coordinator

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    Sweet! Because that guy horribly overacted. Although I'm still not big on the fanboy targetted character of Galen.

    From what I've heard this movie will be more Crusade related than B5 related anyways. Which means they'd be recasting the Crusade roles and that show blew no matter how JMS tries to spin it. If you're going to boycott the movie do it because Crusade is not Babylon 5.

    Also, this whole thing reeks of actors wanting more leverage for their new contracts. "The fans are demanding we be in the movie so you should pay us more."
     
  20. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Chris's post is so lacking in information, so completely based on a howling knowledge vaccuum, that is constitutes anti-data. After reading it you know less about the topic than you did before.

    1) Nobody knows anything about the plot. A gossip column item from a Canadian website claims to have inside information on some of the characters, but none of it has been confirmed and they don't call what they have a "casting sheet" or indicate that active casting is under way. (You can read the piece here.)

    2) Even if the casting information is accurate, it would indicate only that some new characters in the B5 universe are being cast and that the technomage Galen is probably being recast - which would not be shocking since Peter Woodward is known to have a prior film commitment for this spring, and because you expect to have new characters in the big screen version of a TV show. (X-Files? The Trek film? Any of this ringing a bell?)

    The absence of the names of the other characters from the original series would thus mean nothing. It could be that they aren't in the film. It could also mean they are in the film but that the studio is not doing an open casting call for them, either because they've already been filmed or (and this happens to be the case) a decision hasn't be made about offering the role to the orignal actor. Actually Capt. Lochley is mentioned, but her role is not one of those being cast. Presumably Tracy Scoggins, at least, has been offered a role. Assuming that you believe anything listed by so clearly bogus a site.

    3) A couple of websites in the U.S. and the U.K. that specialize in scamming would-be actors out of money (by selling them casting information available for free elsewhere) picked up the Hollywood North story and embellished and paraphrased it in ways that considerably distort even the questionable information in the original. Mostly they did so to increase the apparent worth of the information they had to sell, listing all the new characters as "leads" and building up their importance in the story. (While in one case completely omitting Straczynski's name, the name of the studio and getting other basic facts wrong.)

    4) None of the actors has anything to do with this fan effort. The initial information about the impasse over casting couldn't have come from them because they haven't been offered the parts, Einstein, that's what the argument is about. What information was given to fans from people involved in the film came from folks involved in the pre-production process. This was verfied by other industry sources not connected to the film (and therefore with no ax to grind) but in a position to know through a network of well-connected fans before anyone went public with any of this.


    Meaning, "from what I've read on various forums and news sites, most of which are retailing fifth-through-eighth-hand rumors..."

    What I've heard about this movie comes from people directly involved in it, cross-checked with other people in the industry in a position to know what is going on. I'm not speculating in a vacuum or extrapolating based on my own ignorance and prejudices.

    Oh, and nobody anywhere called for a boycott. If you're going to comment on a post, trying reading the post.

    Regards,

    Joe
     

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