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When New York-based film buff Daniel Craft was told he had terminal cancer less than six weeks ago, Craft’s friends and family took it upon themselves to make his last days as happy and comfortable as possible. His friend Doug posted a plea from Craft’s wife, Paige, on the popular Internet message board Reddit, and the message was picked up by social media and the press until it eventually found its way to J.J. Abrams. The director granted him access to see an early edit of the film, which isn’t set to be released until May.
“A day or so after the thread began, Paige, Dan’s wife, got a voicemail from J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof that was very nice and very straightforward: A producer for the movie would get in touch with them,” friend Grady Hendrix wrote in a follow-up post on Reddit. “The next day, one of the film’s producers showed up at the door of their apartment with a DVD containing a very rough cut of Star Trek: Into Darkness in his hands. Paige had made popcorn, Dan had spent the previous day resting so he could sit through the movie, and after signing about 200 nondisclosure agreements, they watched the film and had a blast.”
Hendrix told The Hollywood Reporter: “J.J. Abrams and the producer who came to give them the early cut told Paige and Dan, ‘Please don’t judge this — it’s very rough, but we wanted you to see what we had.’ Of course, he loved the film. It was the last thing he got to do before he passed away.”
After watching the film, Craft went back to bed and didn’t get out again. His wife took him to the hospital for hospice care Jan. 4, and Craft died at 10:15 p.m., with his wife and his brother by his side. He was 41.
But Craft was more than just a Star Trek fan. As one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival, he was instrumental in bringing Asian cinema to the U.S. ‘
“Jackie Chan, Jet Li — these actors have careers in the U.S. because of people like Dan bringing their movies over when distributors weren’t doing it,” Hendrix told THR. But like the other directors of NYAFF, Craft was merely fulfilling a passion. He still had a day job: working in the data department for MTV until, due to his illness, he was no longer able to work.
The film buff also was fluent in Mandarin and even tried his hand at acting in a few Chinese television series. “He always played the evil white guy,” Hendrix says. His biggest claim to fame might have been as an extra in Kill Bill Vol. 1, where Hendrix says Craft was “the bald white guy dancing on a dance floor.”
While thanking the people at Bad Robot, Abrams, Lindelof and the Reddit community for their generosity in helping a stranger, Hendrix told THR that Craft would have never asked for the kind of attention he is now receiving. “Dan would be rolling his eyes at being ‘the inspirational cancer story,’ but he’s done a lot for movies over the years,” Hendrix says. “It’s nice that the movies finally did something for him.”
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