SXSW: 'Veronica Mars' Delights Diehards at World Premiere

Warner Bros.; Eric Doggett Studios

"I felt like Veronica's superpower could be that she just doesn't give a s--t what people think about her," says creator Rob Thomas.

AUSTIN -- Veronica Mars' unlikely journey from cult TV series from the mid-aughts to crowdfunded feature film culminated on Saturday afternoon at Austin's South by Southwest, where creator Rob Thomas and his cast -- led by radiant geek goddess Kristen Bell -- attended the world premiere at the Paramount Theatre.

(A second premiere for backers of the film's record-breaking Kickstarter campaign -- which raised $5.7 million from nearly 92,000 fans -- was held later that evening at a cinema 30 minutes north of the city. Fans who paid $750 or more were promised two tickets to the event and its after-party.) 

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"Just so you know, the easiest answer for a big corporation is to say no, and Warner Bros. said yes," said Thomas as he introduced the film, looking dapper in a cornflower blue suit and baby blue tie. "I can't tell you how well they have treated us for being such a small movie." Thomas also took care to thank Bell for her unwavering enthusiasm for his dream project, and finally the teen detective series' rabid fanbase: "We would not exist without you."

Judging from the squees of delight that filled the theater as the lights dimmed, many were in attendance at the screening. Mars mania continued throughout the 110-minute film, which catches up with the lead character, [SPOILERS AHEAD] now a Manhattan-based law school grad, as she returns to the fictional hometown of Neptune, Calif., to help clear the name of her ex-flame Logan (Jason Dohring) after he's suspected of killing his pop star girlfriend.

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Brimming with the tart one-liners, touching exchanges and memorable set pieces -- including one disastrous high school reunion -- that made the show such a breakout hit with viewers, Thomas deftly bridges the seven-year gap, weaving in a dizzying number of characters culled from three action-packed seasons. [SPOILERS OVER]

After the screening, cast members Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs III and Francis Capra joined Thomas and Bell on stage for a question-and-answer session.

"This is such an extra-special experience," said Bell, dressed in a black pencil skirt and embroidered orange top. "It's so humbling to know that the reason we're here is because of our Kickstarter friends. We don't take that lightly that you guys are the reason this movie got made."

Asked if the cast had trouble getting back in the saddle, Thomas said time and budget constraints wouldn't allow for such luxuries. "There are smart ways to shoot a $6 million movie and this was not it. We chewed off a huge movie: 60 speaking roles, 35 locations, action pieces. The only way that we could make that work was by giving the actors about three takes per scene." Colantoni, a fan-favorite who plays Veronica's private investigator dad, then piped in: "Or one take."

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Another fan, who said the series inspired her during her formative years, asked where the character came from. Thomas said he worked post-college as a high school advisor, where he'd help to oversee the girl-dominated yearbook committee. "I became like wallpaper to them," he explained. "For five years I got a crash course on how teenage girls think and talk."

The experience led him to want to make a female heroine that impressionable adolescent girls could look up to. "Other girls on television, like Buffy or Alias, they could literally kick ass. I felt like Veronica's superpower could be that she just doesn't give a shit what people think about her." The line drew cheers.

Added Bell, "I'm so grateful that this is the project that has defined me in many ways. I love Veronica as much as everybody else because she's this weird paradox of confidence and vulnerability... [Rob has] written maybe the coolest, most relatable character ever."