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An encounter with director, James Gunn at the Saturn Awards

Actor, Michael Rooker and director, James Gunn.
Actor, Michael Rooker and director, James Gunn.
Oscar Benjamin

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Saturn Awards presentation event. The awards ceremony is presented on a yearly basis by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films since it was founded in the year, 1972. Winners are decided by academy members whose membership is open to the public. The awards ceremony was created by the late Dr. Donald A. Reed who initially had its roots in another group he had founded called The Count Dracula Society. The awards show was once again held at The Castaway Restaurant in Burbank, California on June 26th which turned out to be a spectacularly beautifully cool Burbank night.

Actor, Michael Rooker and director, James Gunn
Oscar Benjamin

The early evening started around 6:00 P.M. as the ceremony began as most events of this nature with a red carpet photo opportunity for the gathered press. It was immediately evident that the night would be quite civilized as the photographers present were rather cordial and respectful when they addressed each celebrity that posed for them. The impressive roster of attendees who walked the red carpet included Malcom McDowell(Star Trek: Generations), Daniel Cudmore(X-Men: Days of Future Past), Kristin Chenowith(Wicked) and Steven R. McQueen(The Vampire Diaries). The fact that the press was rather favorable encouraged the celebrity presence to drop their guard quite often as press requests for playful shots on and off the carpet were fulfilled by many of the talent that was present. One particular series of images were initiated by this with the talented and always funny actress, Madison Dylan(Two and a Half Men). The Saturn Awards is always quite stylish with their idea of character prop displays from well known films and Madison proved to be wonderfully playful with the various character props that were around. The line between covering the event and actually being a participant is often blurred at this awards show which makes it one of the most entertaining to cover.

The red carpet portion of the night lasted approximately one hour and a half. Most of the press decide to stay to cover the show in the special press room that is backstage of the show itself. Press members are allowed to monitor the show with a special direct feed to the room. Prior to the beginning of the actual awards show, press members are generously invited to have a dinner which is not the usual standard for these events. It is quite gracious of the academy to offer this often unknown perk to the press.

During the course of the show, the winners are escorted back for another opportunity for the press to take pictures and also ask questions in a separate area of the backstage press room. Many of the most popular with the press included Chloe Grace Moretz(Kick-Ass) who stunned the photographers with her eye catching artistically designed multi-colored dress which was dazzling to shoot. The "Life Career Award" winner was Malcom McDowell who many in the press room agreed stole the show with his often hilarious, but ultimately inspiring acceptance speech that covered everyone from the late director, Stanley Kurbrick to his often tumultuous friendship with actor, William Shatner. The veteran actor proved so popular that members of the press queued up to have their picture taken with him!

There was a heavy Marvel Studios' presence with a number of noted movers and shakers from the studio that made their presence known at the show. The contingent was lead by none other than the president of Marvel Studios-Kevin Feige. Feige was present to receive the "Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture" award that was given in honor of Iron Man 3. Feige was quite affable and seemed to enjoy the attention of the press as his very wide and genuine grin indicated. The director of Iron Man 3 was also present to represent Robert Downey Jr. who had won "Best Actor" for the same film. Shane Black received even more accolades from the collected press and enjoyed the attention judging by the amount of time he had decided to stay on the backstage mini runway.

It was during the appearance of the next individuals that sparked off a somewhat controversial exchange and possible press scoop on the part of this columnist. Director, James Gunn and actor, Michael Rooker attended the night as presenters. There has been a number of stories swirling around the casting of actor, Nathan Fillion at a very late stage in the just wrapped production of Guardians of the Galaxy. Speculation has run rampant on which character the actor might be portraying. The following is an unedited exchange between this columnist and James Gunn. The director was quite excitable in the brief conversation which may have been due to the fact that it was his final week filming the movie or perhaps he had grown weary of fielding the questions on this breaking news aspect of Guardians of the Galaxy. Whatever the case truly was, the responses were punctuated by humor and a smile from the director.

Oscar: James, James:

James: Oh, you got me a gift pack? Thanks!

Oscar: Can you comment on Nathan Fillion and what role he has in your movie?

James: I already said that he is in my movie. He is like barely in it! He's not any of the people that people think he is!

Oscar: Nova-perhaps?

James: Nova! What!? I have already said no! He is not Nova and his is not Cosmo. He is nothing! Listen I want to work with Nathan in a future Marvel movie, so I wanted him to be in a role that wouldn't preclude him from being in a future movie.

Oscar: Okay I understand! Thank you!

James: Sure!

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the answers were Gunn's confidence that he will be working on further Marvel Studios' films. There are a number of space borne Marvel characters that the actor could comfortably play. Names that immediately spring to mind include Captain Mar-vell and Adam Warlock both of whom have ties to the villain introduced at the end of The Avengers and who has been confirmed as being a player in the Guardians of the Galaxy. That infamous and celebrated villain's name is Thanos who is now being portrayed by James Brolin.

The fact that talent has often let its guard down at the Saturn Awards is one of the major reasons why press should make the Saturn Awards yearly pilgrimage to cover the event. Beyond that-the show is a wonderfully entertaining event which celebrates genres that are many time overlooked at the mainstream awards shows. It is an irony that the majority of the top ten box-office winners have their roots in Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy, but they are not well represented at the various other awards presentations. The Saturn Awards reminds us that this films have intrinsic value beyond visual delights and it is to the credit of the academy that they have recognized this fact.

The Winners of the 2014 Saturn Awards

Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture: Iron Man 3

Best Science Fiction Film: Gravity

Best Fantasy Film: Her

Best Horror Film: The Conjuring

Best Action/Adventure Film: Fast & Furious 6

Best Thriller Film: World War Z

Best Actor: Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man 3)

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Best Supporting Actor: Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)

Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson (Her)

Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie)

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Best Writing: Spike Jonze (Her)

Best Editing: Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger (Gravity)

Best Production Design: Dan Hennah (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

Best Music: Frank Ilfman (Big Bad Wolves)

Best Costume: Trish Summerville (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)

Best Make-Up: Donald Mowat (Prisoners)

Best Special / Visual Effects: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould (Gravity)

Best Independent Film: 12 Years a Slave

Best International Film: Big Bad Wolves

Best Animated Film: Frozen

Best Network Television Series: (tie) Hannibal, Revolution

Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series: The Walking Dead

Best Television Presentation of a Limited Series: Breaking Bad

Best Youth-Oriented Series on Television: Teen Wolf

Best Actor on Television: Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)

Best Actress on Television: Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)

Best Supporting Actor on Television: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

Best Supporting Actress on Television: Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead)

Best Younger Actor on Television: Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead)

Best Guest Star on Television: Robert Forster (Breaking Bad)

Best DVD/BD Release: Big Ass Spider

Best DVD/BD Classic Film Release: Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition

Best DVD/BD Collection Release: Chucky: The Complete Collection

Best DVD/BD Television Series Release: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 3, 4, 5

The Dan Curtis Legacy Award: Bryan Fuller

The George Pal Memorial Award: Greg Nicotero

The Life Career Award: Malcolm McDowell

The Special Achievement Award: Marc Cushman

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