Category Archives: Film

My review of Star Trek Into Darkness

I don’t go to the movies very often. I think the last time I went to a theatre on purpose was to see the first of the current Star Trek movies, and then I only went because it was a private screening and I could reasonably expect the audience to shut the fuck up, turn off their damn phones, and pay attention to the film.

I planned to write a paragraph here detailing why I hate going to the movies, but I think I just covered it, so let me write a different paragraph instead, about how I finally found a movie theatre that I will go to as long as it exists: the iPic theatre in Pasadena (also called Gold Class, I understand) is the only way I will ever watch a movie again for the rest of my life if I can help it. It costs much more than a typical multiplex, but it is entirely worth it, and this theatre has replaced the Arclight (which makes me sad, but sometime in the last couple of years, Arclight stopped enforcing the shut the fuck up and turn you goddamn phone off policy that had made it such an attractive destination for me for so long).

I’ve really wanted to see Star Trek Into Darkness, but I had resigned myself to not seeing it until it was available to watch in the comfort of my own home … until Stepto, e, and my friend Jen all told me about the existence of a theatre that was actually enjoyable, instead of wall-to-wall bullshit advertising and people who have such little respect for the movies and the rest of the people in the audience, they belong at the gathering of the Juggalos instead of in a movie house. When I saw that one of these theatres was not only nearby but was also showing Star Trek Into Darkness, I looked at my schedule, gave myself an afternoon off, and took my entire family to see it.

We just got home, and the rest of this post will be about my first impressions of the movie. If you haven’t seen it, do not read past the jump, or scroll past the giant picture of Bender B. Rodriguez I’ve placed for those of you who came here directly. I will discuss specific plot points and spoilers. You have been warned.

The short version is: I loved it. I think it’s my favorite Star Trek movie ever, and I can’t wait to see what this crew does next.


Continue reading My review of Star Trek Into Darkness

My Fast and Furious Fan Fiction

Hank Green posted a Fast and Furious thing on his Tumblr, and wondered where the novelization tie-ins were … so, being easily amused, I answered the call:

The Fastest and the Furioustest

I know, right? Don’t be discouraged, though; with enough practice, you too can capture the essence of these magnificent films for yourself, just as I have.

notes on the back page of a script

Years and years ago, I shot a movie called The Day Lincoln Was Shot. It was from the book of the same name, and I played Robert Todd Lincoln.

Here’s a photo of me from the set, in costume:

Wil Wheaton as Robert Todd Lincoln in The Day Lincoln Was Shot

The movie was a lot of fun to work on. I got to work extensively with Lance Henriksen, who played Lincoln, Donna Murphy, who played Mary Todd Lincoln, and Greg Itzin, who played William H. Crook.

As you can see from the picture, I spent much of the film in proper Union Officer dress. It was an authentic uniform that was authentically hot as hell in the Virginia summer heat, but I was one of the few soldier-dressed cast members who didn’t get a cold during production, because I asked our historians what soldiers did in the summers of the war to keep comfortable, and did the same.*

So — spoiler alert — Abraham Lincoln is shot in the back of the head shortly after my character, Robert, comes back to Washington from the war to visit his family. One of the more memorable scenes for me is from late in the movie, when Lincoln lay dying in Petersen’s House. Robert spends some quiet time with his father, who is unconscious and slipping away. I had to remind myself, as an actor, that I was not with President Abraham Lincoln (Lance looked so much like him, it was eerie), but a young man who was watching his father, who he loved more than anyone on Earth, die.

It was a very emotional day of production. I had to call up profound anguish and despair over and over again, only to let it go to varying degrees when the scene was finished. When we wrapped that day in 1997, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but it felt good. It was one of those rare moments where, as an actor, I was lucky enough to experience my version of leaving it all on the field.

While I was cleaning out the garage recently, I came across a page of the script upon which I’d written down some notes to keep myself focused. I scanned both sides of the page to share.

that penciled "mindy" was me showing someone on the set how this girl I liked in elementary school, Mindy P., wrote her name in 3rd grade. For a brief time, I signed my name "Willy" with the same crazy "Y". Because I wasn't already a big enough goober in 3rd grade, apparently.

And here’s the front of that page, which as it happens is the last page of the script:

The final page of the script from The Day Lincoln Was Shot

So you can see there are two main categories there: OBJECTS and PEOPLE. The Objects refer to this particular scene that we shot that day, when Robert goes through his father’s belongings. It needed to be intensely emotional, so each object — I think there were about a dozen — needed to be specific and meaningful to me in some way. (This is an example of how acting is a lot more than knowing your lines and hitting your mark). I don’t remember what each thing was, but I do recall a small pocket knife among all of them, that the director told me “was a father’s day gift you gave him when you were small.” I remember that when he said that during the take, it hit me right in the feels, and I collapsed into very real sobs, because I could just imagine what it would be like for me if I came across something I gave my father — that he carried with him — when he died. My dad was and is very much alive, but just thinking about that was too much for me to bear. I remember walking off the set when we printed that take, into a hallway, alone, where I just sat down and cried for a good long time. Sometimes the scene stays with you after you’re done. Sometimes, the scene follows you home.

The PEOPLE category is more general, and helped me make choices when I interacted with different characters in the White House. Some of them, Robert liked, and others he didn’t (the historical record is pretty vague on those matters) so I had to come up with specific reasons to define those relationships.

The final two bits are things I write in every script I ever have the privilege of performing: Keep it SIMPLE and The END is the BEGINNING. These are two things so vital to keeping performances honest and believable, you’d be surprised to learn how easy it is to forget them.

*Sit in the shade, and drink lukewarm liquids — usually tea — and let the linen underclothes wick away your sweat. It sounds gross, but it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as a Star Trek uniform on a hot summer day. Never take off your uniform, and never get out of the car, Groove.

it’s about looking back at those adventures, and remembering the people who had them with you

“I love Stand By Me,” the girl said. “I watch it all the time.” She put a picture of me and River, taken just after Gordie fires the gun behind the diner, on the table in front of me. I smiled at her as I slid it toward myself and spun it around.

“That’s awesome,” I said. “I’m very proud of it.”

I uncapped my pen and asked, “Who is this for?”

“It’s for me,” she said. She couldn’t have been more than 20. Younger than Stand By Me. Younger than Star Trek. Younger than both of my sons. I don’t often feel old, but at that moment, I did.

“…and what’s your name?”


“Okay, Jessica,” I said. I dedicated the picture to her, signed my name across Gordie’s t-shirt, and gave it back to her. “Have a great weekend, and thanks for your support of my work.”

She smiled and walked away. While I waited for the next person to come up I took a drink of my water. I was feeling a little sick to my stomach. It was Saturday afternoon, and I would succumb to the flu in about 5 hours.

The next person wanted me to sign something from Big Bang Theory. “Can you write ‘Game over, Moonpie’ on it?”

“I’d love to,” I said.

“I love it when you’re on that show!”

“So do I. I’m really lucky that I get to keep going back.”

He asked me about Jim. Everyone wants to know what he’s really like. “He’s amazing. He’s kind and brilliant and generous and one of the most talented comedic performers I’ve ever known. I’ve learned a lot from working with him. No, he’s nothing like Sheldon.”

I coughed and sanitized my hands for the nth time that day.

A family came up, and asked me to sign their Stand By Me DVD. They’d just showed the movie to their young son for the first time.

“What did you think of it?” I asked him.

“It was good until the end,” he said. I felt his parents tense up, like maybe he was insulting me or something, but I asked him to elaborate. “Because it was a great adventure but then it was all about Chris dying and I just didn’t like that.”

I nodded. “You know, one of the reasons Stand By Me has been so important to so many people for almost thirty years is that it’s different when you watch it at different ages.”

I looked to make sure he was following me. He was, so I continued. “When you’re young, like I was when I made it, it’s about going on an adventure with your friends and finding out who you really are, like what’s important to you when your parents aren’t around. But when you’re a little older, it’s about looking back at those adventures, and remembering the people who you had them with. I bet you’ll like it for different reasons if you watch it again when you’re older.”

“Okay,” he said, in that way kids say “okay” when they don’t want to listen to grown-ups talk about stuff anymore. I smiled and opened up the DVD to take the paper insert out of it.

I can’t remember their names, but I wrote it to them, above Gordie’s head on the left side of the cover. Then I signed my name, and had to choke back an unexpected burst of tears.

I’ve signed tens of thousands of pictures and things over the last 30ish years. Most of those pictures are from projects where I’ve been part of an ensemble cast, like Stand By Me, Star Trek, or Toy Soldiers. When we sign these things, we usually sign near ourselves and leave space for everyone else to sign over themselves. (I can always tell who was first o some pieces, because their signature tends to be huge and across the middle, and the rest of us sort of crowd into smaller and smaller spaces.)

I’ve signed thousands of Stand By Me DVDs over the years, and I’ve signed even more pictures of me and River behind the diner after Gordie shoots the gun. It wasn’t until I had this DVD in my hand, and the thought of remembering people you had adventures with in my head, that I realized I will never have to leave room for River to sign his name on any of them.

He left us twenty years ago. We’re quantum entangled for the rest of my life because of work we did together portraying a friendship that has managed to matter in multiple ways to multiple generations. I don’t think of him as often as some would expect, but when I do, I remember the sixteen or seventeen year-old kid who had his whole life ahead of him, instead of the 23 year-old I hadn’t talked to in five years because our lives were so different.

I blinked hard a couple of times and hoped the nice family in front of me didn’t notice the cloud that had passed over me. I gave them back their DVD, and thanked them for waiting in my line.

They thanked me and walked away. I watched them go, and turned back to see a picture of Wesley Crusher being put in front of me.

A Moment With Wil – Episode 17

I couple of years ago, I got this idea to make these really stupid short videos where I did stupid things and then thanked the viewer for spending that moment with me.

I’ve made 17 of them (this is not just a clever title), but never did anything with them other than show a few of them at various w00tstocks.

I think I’ll start uploading some of them to my YouTube channel, because they’re mildly amusing to me. To get us started, here’s the most recent one I made:

Thank you for spending this moment with me.

Answering a FAQ: “Why do you play so many evil characters lately?”

Every actor has a particular type they can play well, for some reason or another. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with who we are in real life, but it's just what we do well.

Example: Travolta is amazing as the Lovable Loser. When he's in Welcome Back Kotter and Saturday Night Fever in the 70s, he is the biggest star in the world, because people can identify with him in a way they may not be consciously aware of.

Then, in the early 80s, the industry decides to make him The Leading Man. They put him in films like Perfect and Urban Cowboy, and his career tanks. Nobody can connect to those characters, because it's not the right type for him to play. He does those talking baby movies for awhile, and then he explodes back to the top of the A list when he plays a junkie hitman in Pulp Fiction. He's back to being the Lovable Loser, and audiences go crazy for him, because that's the type he's meant to play.

You can do this with just about every actor if you look hard enough and spend enough time on it. It's all about Jungian Archetypes and Campbell's Hero With A Thousand Faces.

So why do I play evil characters? When I was a kid, I played the sensitive, awkward kid full of self doubt who really wanted you to like him*. When I was in my 20s, I kept getting auditions for those roles and never booking them, because it's just not the type I'm meant to play. When Kim Evey cast me as a douchey agent in Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show, and Felicia wrote me into The Guild as douchey Fawkes, things started to turn around. I realized that I'd found my type, and I started looking for those roles.

It turns out that my type is the Villain You Love To Hate, so that's who I am in The Guild, Leverage, Eureka, and Big Bang Theory. I don't think it's a coincidence that, once I started playing these types of characters, my acting career began to come back to life, and I will be grateful for the rest of my life to Kim and Felicia for taking a chance on me.

I really don't know why this is my type, but whenever I try to figure it out, I start to feel like Lenny with the rabbit, and I really don't want to break something that's working out pretty well for me right now.

I do know this, though: the whole point of being an actor is to portray characters who are different from who you really are. The most important thing in the entire universe to me is kindness, so it's really fun to play characters who are antithetical to my personal ideals. Exactly why I seem to be so good at doing that, though? I'm not going behind that particular barn.


*Incidentally, that's pretty much who I've been in my real life since I can remember.

Where’s Carl?

Earlier this year, Chandler Riggs and I were both at the Supanova convention in Australia.

This is a short film we made together while we were there.

Fun fact: you can follow Chandler on Twitter; he's a really awesome person.

On the set of Stand By Me

This picture was originally posted on Tumblr by thefactory-:

image from

You know that montage when we’re walking back home, near the end of the movie, and we go by in silhouette during sunset? It’s what they used as inspiration for the poster.

This picture was taken when we filmed that little bit. That thing we’re sitting on is called a Chapman Crane, and it’s a really neat piece of film equipment that allows for those big, beautiful, dramatic, sweeping panoramic shots you see in movies.

It’s a little dangerous, though, because there are weights and things on the end of that arm to perfectly counterbalance the weight of the camera and whoever is sitting next to it. More than once in film history, someone has stepped off the crane before it’s been rebalanced, and, finding itself a hundred or more pounds heavier at one end than the other, the crane has turned into a very dangerous catapult. 

The way I remember it, we kept asking Rob Reiner if we could sit on it when the shot was over, because the idea of sitting up in the sky next to the camera was so awesome, and he eventually said yes, because he was like that.

We were so excited to sit on this thing, and so excited to ride it up as high as it would go — it seemed like a hundred feet, but I’m sure it was more like thirty — but we had to wear seatbelts, promise to sit still and not step off the thing until it was balanced. I don't remember what everyting looked like from up there, but I do remember someone deciding to give the slate to River (who, of course, has his serious face on, like he always did) because it was a fantastic publicity photo opportunity.

I’m glad someone took this picture, because it reminded me of a joyful moment that I haven’t thought of in over a quarter century.

If Robocop was a bad 80s sit-com

I am easily amused, so earlier today, when my brain said, "You know what would be funny? If there was a Robocop sit-com, where he was always screwing up. Every time he did something, the other officers would put their hands on their hips, cock their heads to one side, and do this sing-songy "Robocop!" catchphrase. Then he'd just shoot everyone."

I mentioned this to Twitter. A few people quickly replied with funny ideas of their own… then I got excited and made a thing:



Robocop comes toward camera, doing that weird marching walk thing. He stops in front of a vending machine, and precisely turns to face it.



Through Robocop’s HUD, we see the nutritional information of the various items in the machine as he scans them. A can of soda has a mouse in it, a chocolate bar has traces of cocaine, a bag of chips is actually a bag of fingernails. All that skips by so fast, though, the audience doesn’t really notice it consciously. A crosshairs appears on the HUD and selects a bag of OIL-FLAVORED MICROCHIPS. They’re actual chips, with a cartoony, smiling Robocop drawing on the front. He’s giving a thumbs.


Robocop puts a crumpled dollar into the machine, which spits it out. He does this three or four times.


Dead or alive, those chips are coming with me.

(Laugh track)


Accept my money.

You have ten seconds to comply.

He tries to put the money into the machine. The machine spits it back out.


I have ordered you to accept my money.

You have seven seconds to comply.

He tries to put the money into the machine. The machine spits it back out. It falls to the floor.

(Laugh track)


You have attempted to assault

a police officer with his own money. 

You are under arrest.


An older, grizzled SERGEANT comes out of his office down the hall.


Robocop, what the hell are you doing?


Making an arrest, sir.

The Sergeant rolls his eyes and shakes his head.


Would you mind tellin’ me how you’re going

to arrest a vending machine?

(Laugh track)


By. The. Book.

 (Laugh track)


Robocop, you crazy. Let me help you.

The Sergeant picks up the dollar bill off the floor. ROBOCOP pulls his gun in a flash! He points it at the sergeant!


You are tampering with evidence.

You are under arrest.



You can’t arrest me, Robocop! I’m your boss!



You. Are. Under. Arrest.



Robocop, I ain’t got time for this. I retire in two days!

(Laugh Track)


Arrest. Arrest.

Arrrrrest. Arrrrrreeessst.




Aw, dammit. You’re stuck in a loop. I’d better reset you.

The Sergeant makes a move toward Robocop.

(Audience: Ooohhhhhh!)

The Sergeant puts his hand on Robocop's shoulder. Robocop snaps out of it.


Assault on an officer.

Use of deadly force is authorized.

Robocop shoots about a thousand bullets into the Sergeant, blowing him across the hallway where hits the wall and slides to the floor, leaving streaks of blood behind.


(gasping, dying, yet somehow still alive)

Dammit… Robocop… I had…

two days… until… retirement.

The Sergeant dies.



Thank you for your cooperation.

I am not arresting you any more.

(Laugh track, cheers.)

Dozens of officers rush into hallway, stopping short of the grisly scene. They look at Robocop, incredulous. Robocop turns back to the vending machine.


Your move, dirtbag.

Suddenly, the bag of chips drops from the vending machine for some reason, startling Robocop. He whirls toward it and destroys it in a hail of epic gunfire.


(sing song, in unison)


Robocop turns to the camera and innocently shrugs.

FREEZE FRAME as the synth-tastic theme music plays.

(Audience cheers)


Insomniac Theater: The Rock-afire Explosion

Unless I'm working on a show that requires me to get up at a normal hour to get to the set, I usually sleep for about eight hours, starting at one in the morning. When we do the stupid goddamn Daylight Saving Time*, it's really hard for me to get to sleep before two in the morning, which annoys me, because I don't like sleeping until ten am. I'm not sure why, but if I get disturbed even the tiniest little bit in the first hour of sleep, I'm fucked and awake for at least two more hours. It's really frustrating when it happens, which is (thankfully) not very often.

This is why I seriously contemplated setting my cat on fire last night: as I was nearly in sleep's restful embrace, she decided that it was really important for her to jump up onto my bed, right next to my head, then spring up to the window over my bed, where she pushed herself behind the blinds and repeatedly hit them. So that's why I was awake until four-fucking-thirty this morning, watching movies on my iPad, which is really what this post is about (after two hundred words of bitching about stupid things).

I rewatched the final episode of Sherlock's first season (OMG IT IS SO AMAZING), because I'm sure they'll eventually get around to releasing season two in America… and then I watched a documentary called The Rock-afire Explosion, all about the animatronic band from Showbiz Pizza Place. It was a fascinating, bittersweet film that focused on the guy who invented the band, and a few of the people who loved his creation. Much of the film's focus is on this guy who bought a complete band and built his own Showbiz Pizza Place at his house. He's a little odd, I suppose, but comes across as gentle and kind, and sincere in his desire to recreate some of the happiest days of his youth.

I was impressed that the filmmakers did not choose to make a documentary that was a freakshow, or that made fun of its subjects, but instead told a sweet and sort of sad story of how one guy invented something in the 70s that touched the lives of a generation — and continues to affect some of them to this day. It's only 71 minutes long, so if you have the time to watch it, I highly recommend it.

*I really hate Daylight Saving Time. If I were boss of the universe, we'd have one time and just fucking stick to it? Among the many reasons I hate it? Even though it's only one hour, it fucking jetlags me for a week or more. I know, stupid, right? But that's what happens to me. Every year. Twice a year. It makes me want to buy a hammer for the express purpose of hitting the guy who invented Daylight Saving Time.