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FireflyNathan Fillion - About "Serenity" Movie - Canada.com Interview
By Liz Nicholls
Sunday 24 July 2005, by Webmaster
Mal-content vindicated by big-screen break
Edmonton’s Nathan Fillion is Serenity’s leading man
Nathan Fillion found some Serenity, both in Hollywood and here Friday in the backyard of his parents’ Edmonton home.
You figure it would take a lot to flummox Captain Mal, a man of deadpan wit whose worst suspicions about everything keep getting confirmed as he shepherds his spaceship through the lawless extremities of the firmament.
Even world-weary Mal, however, might be jarred out of the cog of his low expectations by the route that has brought a cancelled Fox TV sci-fi western series called Firefly to a major Hollywood incarnation on the big screen — via an international cult following.
The anti-leading man leading man of Serenity, coming to theatres near you Sept. 30 with TV cast intact, is a handsome, good-natured, eminently civilized 34-year-old from the improv cauldron of Edmonton. He’s Nathan Fillion, poised for stardom if there are any laws at all, even probability, in the movie industry.
"Yes, vindication is the word; it’s very vindicating,"says Fillion of the $45-million big-screen adventure which reassembles the Firefly team, right down to the makeup artists.
Fillion is musing on the chain of events whereby a well-written, highly original series — by Joss Whedon, the renegade talent who created Buffy The Vampire Slayer — got neglected by Fox, relegated to bad time-slots, then dumped after 11 episodes in 2002.
"So depressing, so discouraging," sighs Fillion. "I don’t even know the why-fors. But somebody said that the life of Firefly, fighting a losing war and trying to survive, was very much like what it’s actually about."
Set in a bleak future 500 years hence, the series and now the movie track life on the lam: on a transport ship that’s seen better days, a family of mercenaries and misfits, outsiders, eke out an existence on the violent fringes of the universe. They’re led by a captain who’s ended up on the wrong side of a galactic civil war against ominously Orwellian forces, The Alliance.
"Adam Baldwin (who plays Jayne, one of Mal’s crew) said to me that, sure, he’s always disappointed when a series gets cancelled; he wants to work. But he’s never heartbroken the way we were when Firefly got cancelled. ..."
"It’s the feeling you get when you’re getting the run-around and you know it ... when someone’s not dealing straight with you."
Fillion, who’s back in Edmonton to hang with his folks and his older bro (two English teachers and a school principal, respectively), warms to his subject. "Any time art and business meet, the art is going to lose out, that’s been my experience."
There is, perhaps, a grassroots lesson for the chilly post-9/11 world and its Mals: Fox could yank an off-centre series, but it couldn’t make it lie down and die. The loyal fans, the self-styled Browncoats, wouldn’t allow it. They launched websites. They bought a million copies of the DVD. Fillion went to a sci-fi convention in London, and Firefly DVDs sold out, even though the show had never aired there.
That kind of measurable popularity speaks Hollywood-ese. Universal bought the rights and hired Whedon. And Whedon reassembled his forces. Fillion, he told Entertainment Weekly, "is Harrison Ford. He can do romantic comedy, thrillers, drama — and does all those in my movie."
And now the nice guy from Mill Woods is an action figure. Fillion laughs. "He’s sitting on the hutch in my dining room. It’s me — in my space boots, green pants, long duster, a gun." And he’s on a comic book cover, drawn by well-known artist John Cassady for Whedon’s Dark Horse Comics, part of a trilogy designed to bridge the gap between the end of Firefly and the start of Serenity.
Fillion’s is a story with a certain oddball Edmonton-style logic. He played TheatreSports, that loopy improvised entertainment where performers create from audience clues. He did a couple of David Belkes, including The Maltese Bodkin, a Shakespeare spoof where he played five characters including Iago. He did the Soap-A-Thon, the Varscona’s Guinness-busting marathon, as a French condo manager with an outrageous accent. He did a season of Die-Nasty, as farmer/poet Howie McChuckski. And suddenly, at 23, Fillion was sudsing it up in New York, on the ABC daytime soap One Life To Live, as heartthhrob Joey Buchanan, who arrived back from Italy, said "Buona sera, Poppa" to his dad, and set fans palpitating.
Fillion’s intro to L.A. was ... Steven Spielberg. He was "the wrong Ryan" in Saving Private Ryan. Since then, "work begets work," he says of a resume that includes Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place, and the five-episode Buffy finale. Recently he’s been in Vancouver shooting Slither, a horror flick with a whiff of Shaun Of The Dead in the premise. Fillion plays the chief of police in a backwater South Carolina town where nothing criminal ever happens. "I just mope around, supervising the school crosswalk, chasing deer out of people’s yards ... and all of a sudden there’s an alien infestation."
"Offers come along, but it’s not like people are knocking on my door saying ’we need you for this part’," says Fillion modestly. A premiere awaits that could change all that.
What he likes about Serenity is that, "yes, they’re on a space ship. But it’s a show about the people, who they are, how they relate to each other.... Joss Whedon is never guilty of two-by-four writing. You glean knowledge; you learn about characters from what they say, what they do.
"My wish is that Serenity does so well, it makes Hollywood think we should be investing in people like Joss, who know how to tell a story. We don’t need to spend $180 million on a movie. It’s clever witty writing that keeps you invested."
Mal, a case in point, is a man steeped in irony. "He’s not one to panic; he’s seen too much," he says. "He doesn’t have a fire within him. But there’s a lot of anger. He’ll fight when it’s not prudent. He gets beat up all the time; he gets clobbered but he won’t lie down. He’ll cheat and steal to survive."
Similarly, the vision of the future explodes the notion of progress. "It’s the same as now. It’s about money, greed, power. Governments are terrible. Life continues. We’re in space because we ran out of room. There are no aliens, just us," says Fillion, who’s already been at six preview screenings, held to reward the patience of die-hard fans who made Serenity happen.
"I’ve always fantasized about being on TV. And I was. Then I fantasized about being in the movies. What could be better than captain of a space ship? I get to ride horses, shoot guns, have adventures ... ."
It’s a dream that couldn’t possibly be schemed.