11:22am PT by Michael O'Connell
'Veronica Mars' Movie: Rob Thomas Talks Casting Obstacles, the CW Reboot That Wasn't
Try and escape Veronica Mars this week. The long-dead cult TV show, officially resurrected as a feature film as of today, has been ubiquitous -- despite a peanuts promotional budget.
Creator Rob Thomas, star Kristen Bell and the cast of Veronica Mars capped off an aggressive publicity blitz by opening PaleyFest with a "reunion" on Thursday night. It's a funny label for a group that's been traversing the country (Austin, New York and Los Angeles) together for the last week. But fans weren't showing signs of fatigue from the exposure, nearly filling the expansive new digs -- PaleyFest moved from the Saban Theatre to the Dolby this year -- and many are backers of the film's Kickstarter campaign.
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Last night also brought some positive news on the box office front. In a very limited theatrical launch, midnight screenings at 95 locations raked in $260,000 for Veronica Mars.
There's not a lot of new ground to cover on Mars, but the audience lapped up anecdotes about getting the movie off the ground and a few new insights into the last-ditch efforts to save the show when The CW canceled it in 2007. Casting, it seems, was the biggest issue when the Kickstarter campaign put the movie on its feet.
Thomas summed up his offer to returning actors thusly: "I asked them, 'How would you like to work for scale and then spend days signing posters in the aftermath?' "
Many of the players did not think they would be asked to return. "I just called to make sure I didn't have to be the 10,000 donor to be in the movie," said Chris Lowell, whose Stosh "Piz" Piznarski was never exactly a fan favorite. "I'd come to a place where I was ready to accept that I was not in the film. When [Thomas called], I said, 'Let me guess, he gets killed.' "
Percy Daggs, who played Wallace for the duration of the series' three-season run, was more confident. "There is no way I wasn't going to be in this movie," he said. "I had the NAACP on speed dial."
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Most of the entire cast -- Jason Dohring, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni, Tina Majorino, Ryan Hansen -- was able to work the production of the film into their schedules since it fell during the TV season hiatus. But there was one issue: Krysten Ritter.
"Krysten Ritter had booked a movie," said Thomas, who had written in an important part for Ritter's seldom seen Gia Goodman. "Almost all of our other actors were involved in TV series. Working around that schedule was the toughest of all of them."
Thomas also said that the film's premise -- a murder and a 10-year high school reunion for the cast -- was at one point going to be similar to the proposed reboot of the series that was on the table at The CW in 2007: Veronica (Bell) on her own as a young FBI agent.
"I couldn't figure out a way where an FBI case would weave in Wallace and Mac [Majorino]," said Thomas, laughing.
But in all seriousness, it turns out the proposed fourth season of Veronica Mars wouldn't have included most of the series' cast. Thomas told the crowd that the would-be reboot would have focused on Bell and a new troupe of actors. The fact that the film is as much of a reunion as it turned out to be, he says, is because they felt that's what the backers wanted.
Links to screen the Veronica Mars movie are now in many of those backers' inboxes. And the film is showing in 291 North American theaters this weekend.