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November 21 2008

James Marsters to star in Sci-Fi channel original movie "Alien Western". It's described as "... a sci-fi television film about giant, vicious, alien bugs that come to earth to gorge themselves on the uranium deposits found in the ground of an Old West town."

Why? I mean, I get it, everyone does things to pay the bills. But find yourself a nice romantic comedy or something, something that wouldn't end up being in a terrible discount bin.
Am I the only one for whom that page has no news item on it whatsoever?

ETA that it only seems to work if I start here and then click on the item in question.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2008-11-22 06:19 ]
Oh, man. *headdesk*
oh no :(

First shadow puppets, then dragonball, now this? Poor James.
*whimper* James, oh James, why must you keep testing my love for you?

I blame uber-blind PTB that refuse to see that great talent belongs with GOOD film/TV. I know it is a novel approach, but trust me here, it might just work.

But, hey, we might all be jumping the gun, and it's actually a good movie about alien bugs and cowboys. I'm interested to check out the new accent! :) And why an outlaw would try to save everyone right after they tried to hang him... if the rope can't get ya then the big hungry bugs from space might.

Any James is better than no James...
Yeah. What y'all said.
So James joins the illustrious club of Whedonverse actors appearing in SciFi channel movies?

So that's

Nick Brendon
Amy Acker
Amber Benson
Adam Baldwin
Morena Baccarin
Summer Glau
Julie Benz
Charisma Carpenter

Anyone else?

I seem to remember that there's a big budget cowboys/aliens movie coming out in the cinema in the next year so I get the impression that SciFi are trying to cash in on the craze.
Why is Scifi channel still allowed to do original programming, unsupervised by pros like Ron Moore and whoever does the Stargate shows? I mean, other networks put out bad stuff pretty consistently, but Scifi puts out utterly unclean stuff inevitably. Please just stop.
I'm pretty sure pros like Ron Moore and Brad Wright have standards, which is what SciFi doesn't have on its own.
Ohh dear

A western with sci fi elements

That'll never work :)

This looks like it'll be fun to make and, as Simon says lots of Whedonversers have worked for this channel before .

The wailing and gnashing of teeth amuses me. JM gets a few weeks in Europe, fun playing at space cowboys , a paycheque and then back in time to start a world press tour for Dragonball. Seems like a reasonable business proposition to me .
*hee* this is gonna be wonderfully daft fun!

*goes of singing he's a rhinestone cowboy*
I don't understand Sci-Fi original movies. Sometimes I think they're post-modern pseudo-B-movies that're intentionally bad (sort of like less/un funny Troma films), other times they actually seem to be genuinely trying but failing by such a huge margin that you wonder how a TV network could know so little about making TV. Of Simon's list of verse stars, how many were in films that were even mediocre - not good, just not tripe ?

That said, I get why an actor would do it, they get paid, they get a trip to Europe and it probably doesn't damage their career much if at all because, basically, (virtually) no-one will see it. And don't forget, for every 'Get Carter' or 'The Dark Knight' Michael Caine's done his fair share of 'The Swarm's or 'Jaws IV's - even the best have to eat.
SF Westerns are my thing. I also love The Wild, Wild West.

But SciFi channel alien invasion movies? Does that ever go well?

Oh, James.
But find yourself a nice romantic comedy or something

Why? Not all of like nice romantic comedies. You got PS I Love You (that was a comedy, right?)

Let me have giant bug robots in the old west! Woo hoo!
Agreed that this is unlikely to be an award-winner, but it is work and it can contribute to more than the bank balance and kids' college funds. As someone noted above, Michael Caine attributed his longstanding success to using all that grist for the mill from appearing in 'everything' - big/small/good/bad. While much of James' post-Buffy work has been sci-fi TV and film (Angel, Smallville, Torchwood, Shadow Puppets), there is also a record of other small roles in TV and film (Without a Trace, PS I Love You, Cool Money) and some upcoming small (Moonshot) and huge (Dragonball) budget diverse projects. And who knows, this could be a break-out cowboy/aliens role that could launch a franchise!
Well it'll give us an excuse to have a cheesy Saturday night party thread at Whedonesque like we usually do for SciFi movies. And it would take a better man than me to work out which is the best ever Sci-Fi channel movie.
An actor loves to take on different roles. To my knowledge James has never played a cowboy before. I think this will be fun to watch. At the very least, we can stop photoshopping pictures of "Cowboy James" .
Others who are going to be in upcoming Scifi Channel movies are Michael Shanks, Lou Diamond Phillips, Eric Balfour, Bruce Dern, Adrian Paul,Shannon Doherty,Scott Elrod, Greg Evigan and Peta Wilson. So James has lots of company in thinking this might be a good gig. I'm firmly in the "Let's wait and see" camp.
It seems that many actors, when asked, say they'd like to play cowboys at some point. Also, many people would like to visit Eastern Europe, and having somebody else pay for the trip makes it a very sweet proposition. So, play cowboy? Check. Visit Eastern Europe? Check. Get paid? Check. Deal with CGI opponents? Been there, done that, but will be there and do that again. Oh, yeah, and play lead. Check. All of these seem like perfectly good reasons to do this movie. Also, there's no way it can be worse than the movie I saw a fragment of the other week on SciFi Saturday morning, about a planet inhabited by ... brace yourselves ... grizzly bears. Yes, the scientific team wound up imperiled by being in a place just like the Western Canadian wilderness, complete with grizzly bears (and from the way it was cut together, I wouldn't be surprised if all of the bear imagery came from stock footage). Not talking, civilization-building bears, either, just, well, bears. What a scifi concept. I was, of course, rooting for the bears. As long as the extraterrestrial bugs do not look like bears, I will probably be happy.
Sounds like good campy fun.
It just hit me. All those fan artist that love to manip James into cowboy attire might be more than gleeful. Ahh, and the fics (crossover or not) that could be born of this? *snicker* I’m already getting one where Sam (James’ new char-to-be) is thrown into the WAY future where he meets the real alien cowboys. Mal and crew.

*blink* I apologize. I will be sitting in the corner now. *throws mutated bunny out the window* Oooh, bunnies can fly!

ETA: Berry! Just saw your post! See, I can read thoughts ;)
I never did make it through Mammoth.
I'll take James anyway I can take him and hey, this type of thing usually works for Bruce Campbell. Like most of you said, I wish TPTB could open their eyes and recognize great talent and put James in a movie that would be worthy of him, but in the meantime I'll be glued to my screen with my DVD recorder going.
b!X beat me to it, Mammoth has got to be one of the most memorable SciFi movies. Let's just say I'll never forget it - even if I rinse my cerebrum in bleach.
Darn it! I was hoping he would be starring in Mansquito 3: Back to the Suck.
This is gonna be FUN!
Hey James Marsters fans! Quit complaining! At least James is getting work. I wish Alexis Denisof could get as much work as James is getting today!
I haven't seen them all but I think Nick might win the 'coming up roses" award for SciFi movies -- his movie Fire Serpent wasn't Oscar-worthy by any means, but it was entertaining and not just in a godawful way.
B!x, if you couldn't get all the way through "Mammoth" you missed the *dancing* mammoths scene! Oh, and the guest appearances by Sir Anthony Hopkins as "Jeb" and Emma Thompson as "Daisy Lou!" ;-)
Like Saje, I do wonder about the whole Sci-Fi channel original movie thing. Specifically, I've been wondering how it works money-wise. Even the lowest budget original movie has to be pretty expensive to make..Do enough people watch these mostly deeply boring ventures to make them worth filming?
This channel canceled the "Dresden Files", which seemed to have some sort of returning audience from week to week. Was that a big money loser and are the movies some sort of success? I'd be more likely to watch if they were filling their empty schedule with, say, a series of old science fiction classic films, myself. Which would be much cheaper, I assume.
Does someone understand how this works re money-making? Can you explain it to me?
Does someone understand how this works re money-making?

I would imagine the foreign market plays a important factor. TV stations will buy any old tat.
toast wondered...

how it works money-wise. Even the lowest budget original movie has to be pretty expensive to make

Not really, as these things go. In the glory days of a few years ago, a SciFi Original meant a $2 million budget, with SciFi putting up about $750,000. The rest is largely raised by preselling other rights. As Simon noted, foreign markets are important, as is home video (especially "special edition" unrated DVDs with a little bit of extra content).

Note that the budgets and up-front money have actually shrunk in latter years. Which is one reason that Alien Western is being made with two other movies in Romania. (Not counting the two they just finished.) And they speed things along by adhering to a very specific formula.

Do enough people watch these mostly deeply boring ventures to make them worth filming?

Yes. A well-performing Original apparently brings in viewership comparable to, say, Stargate, and even BSG. Sad but true. That's why they're making 36 of them for 2009, after all. It's like spam ads: you can't imagine who the market is,'s out there.

[ETA: the last link, and a slight markup tweak.]

[ edited by structuregeek on 2008-11-23 17:54 ]
I guess James is no longer as discerning, about the roles he takes, as he used to be.

IMO, SciFi Channel made-for-TV movies, are, by far, the worst movies on television. Other than the paycheck and the all expenses paid trip to Europe, I can't see any other reason for James to take this job.

I don't know, if I were a theatrically trained, Shakespearian actor, I think I'd be a little embarrassed by this.
Thanks for all the info, structuregeek. I was just asking someone about all of that earlier today, and they didn't have an answer for me. Fascinating.
Not as embarrassed as I would be if I were a "fan" who was publically called out by a Shakespearian actor's manager and banned from any future events involving that actor.

I'm not a big fan of cheesy sci fi but the gnashing of teeth in some corners of fandom is a bit extreme. Given the dicey SAG negotiations, I'll take Outlaw Sam over nothing any day.
The other financial factor here is that unrated DVD versions of SciFi Channel original movies tend to come out shortly after the initial airing (sometimes almost immediately after). The DVDs make overall profit for parent company NBC/Universal, as they don't have to pay an outside supplier for the film: they own it lock, stock and alien. They already have plenty of publicity, because most people who like the genre will have seen the ads for *this* DVD on other DVDs *and* in all the ads SciFi Channel has in the run-up to the premiere of the movie. So anybody who missed it, or doesn't want to hassle through the several years of commercials, or can't deal with one more blipped-out swear word, can rent the movie (more money). In the cases of movies featuring actors with cult followings (I don't think they're casting all these Whedonverse actors by accident), there are people who will go out and purchase their very own DVDs. It's a profitable formula and it seems to keep NBC/Universal happy with the actors. Not sure exactly what the timing was, but I know the SciFi movie Adam Baldwin starred in aired not too long after filming began on the first season of "Chuck." If a network likes an actor, they'll often use them repeatedly -- witness, for instance, Fox and Adam Busch ("The Jury," "House," "Back to You" and now "TSCC"). So maybe another upside to this for James Marsters is being on NBC/Universal's collective mind as someone they've worked with :)
Thanks for that info Shapenew. I didn't know about the connection between Sci-fi and NBC Universal. Now I'm even happier. Not to mention the fact that you say these usually come out on DVD. YAY!
Thanks for the explanation structuregeek, I'd no idea. 36! I'm amazed. I didn't know about the connection with NBC Universal either, shapenew, thanks. Apart from fans of the actors, who may be watching despite the rest of the package, I do wonder who all these viewers are.
As others mention, they do tend to get actors with cult fandoms to star in these so i'd imagine their fans make up part of the audience (e.g. Bruce Campbell has done some or I saw part of one with Amanda Tapping and I certainly wouldn't have watched as much of 'Mammoth' as I did if not for Summer), then there're the folks that watch "anything with dragons" or "anything with space ships" etc. then the folk just watching cos it's on then the "B-movie gems" fans that must watch purely on the off chance etc. Guess it all adds up.

The DVD market must surely be just the actor's fans though cos make no mistake, most of these aren't "daft fun" or "so bad they're good" - I loves me some B-movie goodness as much as the next guy - they're actually just bad (the bad bad that is ;) with flat, plodding scripts, terrible effects, shoddy and/or inappropriate scores, cheap sets etc. etc.

(one poster on IMDB says of Adam/Morena's 'Sands of Oblivion'
Better than average for the Sci-Fi Channel, 9 April 2008
Author: JoeB131 from United States

Which is actually one of those "Leper with the most fingers" distinctions.
which made me smile ;)

One thing in favour of our faves - I haven't seen one yet where the verse actor wasn't by far the very best thing in it.
Hey James Marsters fans! Quit complaining! At least James is getting work. I wish Alexis Denisof could get as much work as James is getting today!
Little Green Kid

Very true! Mind you I honestly think that Alexis must have made a career choice to not take many roles over the past few years. Simply because I refuse to believe that casting directors could be stupid enough to not use an actor with his talents.

But, back to Mr Marsters. It does seem that some fans either quickly forget or genuinely don't realise how consistantly he's worked since BTVS and ATS ended . His IMDB page ( isn't 100% up to date but makes fascinating reading. He's been a very busy bunny :). Dragonball and Moonshot are in post production,there are five new Dresden Files audio books to look forward to . If he wants to take a few weeks in Europe to play cowboys I say good luck to the boy :).

[ edited by debw on 2008-11-23 13:10 ]
As Saje says, there is in fact a sizable audience for "anything with dragons," or "anything with aliens" or "anything with guns." Also, don't discount the sizable audience for "anything that promises to be spectacularly bad." I somehow wound up (I promise you I neither paid for it nor stole it) with a DVD of "Anaconda 3" starring David Hasselhoff -- a SciFi Movie premiere :) I watched it. I will just say that neither the title nor David Hasselhoff's presence quite prepared me for the experience. I told a friend of mine I had the DVD and that he could have it since I was done -- he practically teleported over and kicked in the door to get it in his eagerness for a new schlockorama epic. So there are people who actually *hope* certain movies will be as bad as, or worse than, they sound. And whoever asked about it before -- yes, SciFi does have a habit of making low-budget knockoffs of whatever big-budget genre items have just come out or are upcoming. As to NBC/Universal, they have a number of cable networks, including SciFi, USA and Bravo. I guess this may bring us back to James Marsters being someone they've worked with and liked, since I believe "Cool Money" was for USA. This may make them look on him more inclusively -- "he's already one of ours" -- when casting series/theatrical features.
Not as embarrassed as I would be if I were a "fan" who was publically called out by a Shakespearian actor's manager and banned from any future events involving that actor.

There is no need for embarrassment when the fan knows that they did nothing wrong. On the contrary, it was the manager who was being petty and trying to cover things up. But, that's all history and best not be brought up again. :-)

And, just to stay on topic, here's a link to an article, that I picked up from More Than Spike, that reflects my feelings about SciFi Channel movies:

[ edited by Yoga Lady on 2008-11-23 17:55 ]
There is no need for embarrassment when the fan knows that they did nothing wrong. On the contrary, it was the manager who was being petty and trying to cover things up. But, that's all history and best not be brought up again. :-)

Err, so exactly why did you do just that? *g*

I'm looking forward to seeing the end result of this however it turns out. *draws up deckchair and waits*
One of the more subtle pleasures of being a newbie to the Whedonverse has been seeing so many welcome faces from shlock appearing in things that are actually worthy of their talents. (Yes, I'm one of those people who finds The Hoff to be an essential ingredient to fine cinema.) I suspect I'll be finding out shortly how...unpleasant...the extra context can be. Right now, though, I'm just glad to see the actors getting work.

(Oh and Yoga Lady and others, I do feel your pain. Some actors really just like to work, though, regardless of the context. One of my favorite actors of all time is Christopher Walken, who for many years has literally never turned down work if it fit his schedule. I adore him unironically but I'll never try to defend his resume, only his work within it.)
I entertain the idea that producers invited James as a Joss actor to pay homage to Firefly and Serenity.
While I was initially dismayed that James would take work of this dubious caliber, it occurred to me that if he is ever going to be noticed as more than a supporting actor or villain of the week, he needs to do a leading man role. And while he was the lead in Cool Money and Shadow Puppets, neither were exactly characters of stellar, well, character.

So I have decided to be very happy for him, and hope that this will lead to greater public visibility and bigger and better things.

And hey, cowboy.
And while he was the lead in Cool Money and Shadow Puppets, neither were exactly characters of stellar, well, character.

Well, I don't know how stellar James' character will be in this. I've read that he plays an outlaw, and is in the process of being hanged, in the opening scene; just before the bugs attack.
Of course, no character can start out as evil/flawed and be the least bit likeable or interesting. I mean Spike was always a good guy right? Oh...
Don't be so quick to leap to judgment. Outlaw Sam was probably found guilty of seducing the judges daughter or making the schoolmarm go mad with lust or just being too darn sexy for the common good. The rest of the cowboys were just jealous.
I've pretty much given up hope of seeing my favorite jossverse actors in any really quality productions, on any kind of regular basis (with the possible exception of Nathan). There's just so much competition and lots of really good actors out there, scrambling for work.
I happen to think that James is far better than most actors getting a lot more quality and high-profile work, and actually has that "star quality" in the bargain. But if the powers that be didn't pick up on the fact that he can carry a movie as a lead in a role representing a drastic departure from his usual roles, after Cool Money, they probably aren't going to. So what can you say, an actor's gotta work.

Although as a huge fan of Christian Kane, I have high hopes for Leverage, it looks really promising and hey, TNT! How I'd love to see James get a lead or major supporting role on a quality series on cable, where they generally support their shows (especially TNT).

I appreciate the tutorial on the economics of the SciFi channel's productions. Although it's really depressing, it explains why they continue to churn out what I agree are the absolute worst movies on TV.
Aren't both Summer and David leads in successful series? I thought Jewel was a series regular as well. Nathan has a starring role in a midseason show. Adam's series has a 22 ep order. Morena and Alan are both in Pilots. Aly's series is in it's 4th year and wildly successful and I am sure I am forgetting someone. I would say that Jossverse actors are pretty damn successful right now.
I think Shey was referring more to quality than success, but yeah, I agree that there is a lot of good stuff for them all right now. I'd say both T:SCC and How I Met Your Mother are quality shows and, while I've never seen it, I've heard that Bones is too. Count them blessings. :-)
Jewel was a series regular on 'Stargate: Atlantis' but that's been cancelled (anyone see last week's Jewel heavy ep. ? Altogether now, 1, 2, 3, awwwww ;). That said, I doubt she'll be out of work for long (and there're SGA D2DVD movies on the cards so she may well pop up in one of those too).

Most of the 'verse actors do OK I think and with the Buffy/Angel people especially, it's probably worth remembering that many (maybe even most) TV actors don't get a 5 or 7 year run on a show EVER so they've already achieved major success.
How I'd love to see James get a lead or major supporting role on a quality series on cable, where they generally support their shows (especially TNT).

Oh, God, YES!!! I just don't understand, with the caliber of actor that James is, that this hasn't happened for him. Boreanez is on Bones, Glau on T:TSCC, Baldwin on Chuck, Hannigan on HIMYM, Fillion with his own series, for a while, then on DH for a season, and now his own series again.

There seems to be so many new series comming out, especially on the cable networks. Why can't James land any of these roles? I can only guess that John Q. Public isn't as impressed with James as his fans are. *shrug*
Why can't James land any of these roles? I can only guess that John Q. Public isn't as impressed with James as his fans are. *shrug*

The general public have very little say in what they get to see. It's the TV companies that have that have that power, and so It's not as easy as you seems to think it is.

Very few actors are powerful enough to cherry pick what jobs they want and If you worked in the industry you'd know that.

[ edited by sueworld2003 on 2008-11-24 20:38 ]
And then there are a few 'fans' who are a much greater hindrance to his career than John Q. Public. Go figure. *shrug*
I can only guess that John Q. Public isn't as impressed with James as his fans are. *shrug*

Isn't that true of most fandoms though? I mean if the viewing public of the US loved Joss as much as the Whedon fandom does Firefly would still be running and no one would be the least bit worried as to the fate of Dollhouse.
Yeah i'm fairly sure that's how you tell your fans from everyone else - fans tend to like you more ;).

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