The obsessive nature of sci-fi fans has long been lampooned in the media. Capt. Kirk himself once told a room full of Trekkies (excuse me, Trekkers) to “get a life” in one famous Saturday Night Live appearance.
So it’s a wonder, then, that fan-driven conventions like this weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con are continually able to draw stars from the worlds of Star Wars, Buffy and Battlestar Galactica. It turns out that the actors actually enjoy it.
“They love to come out and meet their fans,” says Gareb Shamus, chairman and CEO of Wizard World. “Their careers are based on their fans taking an interest in their careers.”
Kris Webb, who works with the annual Polaris Convention, agrees, having Anthony Daniels, Star Wars’ C-3P0 in action. “He’s very fan-friendly. He loves mixing with the fans.”
Webb says celebrity guests are the main draw for fans so most conventions are in talks with talent agents at least a year in advance of an appearance. “Availability is the number one reason someone won’t do it,” explains James Armstrong, event co-ordinator for FanExpo.
Of course, money helps actors get over whatever hang-ups they might have. Contracts are confidential, but Polaris, which is run by the not-for-profit TCON Promotional Society, spends roughly three-quarters of their budget booking celebs. The biggest names, says Armstrong, people like William Shatner or Stan Lee, can command tens of thousands of dollars. Contracts vary greatly, with some demanding fees from the promoters up front, while others choose to charge the fans directly.
Paying for a two-minute encounter with your favourite actor might ring shallow with some fans, but Webb looks at it differently.
“They start down this road for financial reasons,” he concedes, “but the ones that stick around the longest time are the ones that definitely show that they’re fan-friendly.”