MegaCon Orlando, the annual pop culture pilgrimage, is about to descend once again on O-Town, and fans are in for a treat.
More so than previous years, MegaCon’s 2019 iteration promises a blast of nostalgia in the form of cast reunions from some of the most iconic films and TV shows of the '80s, ‘90s and early 2000s.
At the top of the list are Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Tom Wilson and James Tolkan, who will all participate in a special Back to the Future experience. There are also smaller reunions set for The Goonies (Sean Astin, Corey Feldman and Ke Huy Quan), The Lost Boys (Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric), Boy Meets World (Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle and Rider Strong) and even Doctor Who (David Tennant and Billie Piper).
MegaCon also promises a host of former and current small and big-screen heroes in the form of John Barrowman and Stephen Amell (The CW’s Arrow), Rose McIver (The CW’s iZombie), Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and Zachary Levi, the star of this year's DC Comics hit, Shazam!
And that’s not even counting Peter Weller, who rarely appears at such fan conventions, and who will be making his first-ever trip to Orlando.
“I don’t do many of them, maybe three a year,” Weller said by phone during an interview with Creative Loafing. “It’s a very rejuvenating experience, it’s very humbling and it’s a very appreciative and compassionate experience to see the gratitude that fans have to be entertained.”
MegaCon has basically written the rulebook on keeping attendees entertained, and each year brings a wealth of new surprises. In addition to 400,000 square feet of memorabilia and collectibles vendors, this year’s event is highlighting DIY creations with Masters of Cosplay International, featuring cosplayers from Canada, Italy and Argentina; offering a 30th-anniversary Mickey Mouse Club reunion panel hosted by Joey Fatone of NSYNC; and presenting the first-ever Digicon Experience, which features social media influencers and content creators from YouTube, including Zach Clayton (BadZach), Bunny Meyer (Grav3YardGirl) and more.
But for most people, it’s the chance to connect in person with a favorite celebrity that makes MegaCon special.
Weller said he appreciates the people who want to talk to him about his blockbuster roles, but more so, he’s pleased when they bring up other titles in his expansive catalog.
“There’s certain favorite films that I have and some people, most people, are not going to talk about a couple of those films, but there’s always three or four people who loved those films,” he said. “I’m not surprised, I’m happy they bring up other films.”
To that end, he was gracious enough to share his thoughts on five of his classic movies that have stood the test of time.
Of Unknown Origin (1983). Weller’s first big role was a classic man-vs.-nature horror film set inside a recently renovated brownstone that becomes inhabited by a resourceful, dangerous rat. “There’s a great actor, one of the stars of Animal House, a great improvisational actor named Peter Riegert, it’s his favorite film that I’ve ever done. He just loves it,” Weller said. “Of Unknown Origin is the first film I ever starred in and it certainly is seminal to my whole career. And I had a ball doing it.”
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). “If you find out what it’s about, please tell me,” Weller said, completely deadpan. “There’s several of us in the cast that would still like to know what that film’s about.”
Shakedown (1988). Weller starred with Sam Elliott in this variation of the typical buddy-cop action adventure from cult director James Glickenhaus. “Shakedown is more than just a cop-buddy movie, it’s the last movie, action movie, big action movie, shot all through New York when New York was still dangerous,” Weller said. “New York had yet to turn into Disneyland, which it is now. And don’t get me wrong, I love a safer, cleaner New York, but there’s something visually compelling about its violence and its filth that Shakedown portrays. Subsequently, I look at Shakedown, now I look at Shakedown as that. It’s like, wow, Sam Elliott and I were walking around a very dangerous New York in those days.”
Naked Lunch (1991). Weller starred as Bill Lee, the writer whose typewriter turns into a cockroach, in David Cronenberg’s award-winning adaptation of William S. Burroughs's acclaimed novel. “It’s an adult film about adult dilemmas and the problem of continuing creativity,” Weller said. “Yeah, it’s not for everybody, but it is for anyone who has ever wanted to be an artist. It’s truly about the journey of the communicator, or the journey of the artist.”
Robocop (1987). Weller said there was a lot he didn’t fully appreciate when he first read the script for Paul Verhoeven’s classic fantasy about a cyborg police officer struggling with his very existence in a world gone mad.
“Look, when I read the script, I didn’t get it would stay till now, I didn’t get the trickle-down economics, the privatization of crime, the whole usurpation of capitalism,” he said. “I didn’t get all that. I got the humor in it, I got the violence in it, I got the message in it. I didn’t get identity theft. I didn’t get any of this stuff that makes Robocop prescient and viable and resonate today.”
Weller said there’s also a reason why in the preceding 32 years that no one has been able to build a better Robocop.
“The soul of the film is what Verhoeven put into it. Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier wrote it, but Verhoeven was obsessed on one thing: Loss. The loss of self. The loss of the physical world,” he said, “but that the soul awakens on its own… that is the one thing that no one can take from you and that is the thing that will be born again and again.”
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.