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Celebrities discuss acting, Saudi fans and Jeddah’s heat at Stan Lee’s Super Con

JEDDAH: At Stan Lee’s Super Con, fans in Saudi Arabia joined famous actors, musicians and cosplayers from around the world who came to the Jeddah Superdome to celebrate the centenary of the late American comic book writer Stan Lee.

Mike Bundlie, the convention’s producer, told Arab News that he appreciates the fact that Saudi fans are enjoying these events so much. “The beauty of movies and comics is that they appeal to everyone and the fact that people in Saudi Arabia are just as interested is really important for people in the US to know,” he added, adding that every celebrity, who attended the conventions there was amazed at the reception.

Hollywood celebs wowed fans on the red carpet at the event, which ended Saturday, including Zachary Levi, best known as superhero Shazam, Guardian of the Galaxy star Micheal Rooker, Eternal actress Lauren Ridloff and Arrow star Katie Cassidy.

Ridloff, who is also known for playing Connie on The Walking Dead, said Jeddah’s Super Con is especially important because it’s her first time at the event. “I have to say it’s incredible to be here. I never imagined my first Comic-Con would be held in Saudi Arabia and it was such an amazing experience. I loved meeting the fans yesterday and everyone is so warm and open.”

Ridloff, who is deaf, said she is serious about portraying her disability on screen. She told Arab News that her role as Makkari in The Eternals will open doors for many people around the world who feel different from others because of their disability.

She added that she’s excited to reveal an upcoming project with American filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Canadian-American actor Joshua Jackson to her fans soon.

American actor Levi, 41, told Arab News it was easy for the “Shazam” superhero to play 16-year-old Billy Batson. “Basically, I’m a male child, so a person who never really grew up, a bit like Peter Pan. So it wasn’t all that difficult to try to act like a 16-year-old boy again because in a lot of ways I’m still that kind of person.”

Levi said spending time in Toronto and enduring the biting cold in Canada, where the first film was filmed, was a complete contrast to experiencing the summer heat of Jeddah for the first time.

Describing the effect Canada’s cold had on the shoot, Levi said, “We had to do extra takes because we couldn’t say the words we wanted to say, but at the end of the day we made a really great movie.”

The second part, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods — which is set to release in December — was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, which the actor says was “not as hot as Jeddah in the middle of summer, but still pretty hot.”

Levi added that he’s very excited for the second film as it will be much better than the first, with a bigger budget and more superheroes. “We used Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu as villains and that’s fun, Helen Mirren is just an icon as is Lucy. It’s a real treat to have the opportunity to work with them and I think the script is fantastic and the action is great.”

Expressing his delight at being in the Kingdom, Levi said visiting Saudi Arabia is something he can finally tick off his wish list: “I’ve met new people in a new place and learned more about this incredible world learned from where we live and the warmth we received from all the fans was incredible.”

Cassidy, who plays a very physical role as Black Canary on the CW TV series Arrow, told Arab News that staying in shape is important. “When it comes to action, I don’t like to prepare, I like to be ready. Even when I’m not filming, I’m constantly keeping fit and healthy and staying in shape because that way when an action role comes along it’s seamless for me.”

She keeps fit through martial arts and combat training, such as kickboxing and muay thai. The actress said it also helps her get into the character’s headspace, “and do more of the artistic script analysis and backstory and mentally focus more on the character than just the physical part, because the physical part hopefully it will be there by now.”

Cassidy also thanked her Saudi fans for their loyalty to the show. “You are the reason we are here and I cannot express how grateful I am for everyone.”

Clive Standen, who played the brutal Rollo on the popular series Vikings, said he got into acting to draw attention away from himself, so he loves playing characters he doesn’t even recognize himself in in a mirror would. In the violent historical drama action series, he found it easy. “There’s not a lot of pretense, you just walk onto the set and feel like a Viking.”

“The type of character I play is far from me, but I have to ask some dark and deep questions about myself and put them on screen. I’m not taking the figurine home. I hang it on the door and come to the carpet and play tickle fights with my son.”

The actor said it was the furthest he has flown to meet his fans, a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles to Jeddah. Standen also shared some of his future projects, saying he’ll be starring in a horror film called Possessions, which he described as “The Shining” but with a twist.

He will also appear in the video game Space Marine 2, where he described his character as a “six-foot-tall, 400-pound crazy Space Marine.”

Lexi Rabe, a 9-year-old actress known for playing Tony Stark’s daughter in Avengers: Endgame, said American actor Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord in the Guardians of the Galaxy film series, would pick on her to steal her bagels. “What have I done about it? I found a fake bee and chased it with it.”

She told fans at the event: “I love you 3000.”

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Zachary Levi (circa 1289)

Basically, I’m a male child, a person who never really grew up. A bit like Peter Pan but in a good way I think I hope. Yes, I’ve always wanted to have fun. I love to have fun, I like to bring fun, I love people, I love love, I like simple, I love life. So it wasn’t too difficult to act like a 16-year-old boy again, because in many ways I’m still that kind of person.

We shot the first one in Toronto, Canada, in the middle of winter and it’s very, very cold. It’s the opposite of how it feels right now in Jeddah. That wasn’t that fun, so we really created a lot of fun in a climate that wasn’t very fun. In fact, there were some nights when it was that cold. Me and young Jack Grazer, who plays young Freddie, it was so cold some nights that our mouths and our tongues started not really freezing, but they moved very slowly because the cold does, and so did we had to do extra takes as a result. We couldn’t say the words we were trying to say so coldly. But at the end of the day we made a really great film.

We shot the second one in Atlanta, Georgia. That’s almost – it’s not quite as hot as Jeddah in the middle of summer, but it’s still pretty hot. So we have the two polar opposites of weather. But I’ll take the heat over the cold any day.

I think you know in the first movie no one really knew how it was going to be received. We all hoped it would go well, and it went pretty well. It was even better, you know, our initial box office was good, but then a lot of people watched on demand afterwards, in streams.

When you go to the movies you know you think is it worth going for? I think a lot of people who didn’t see it in the cinema at first later saw it on TV and really enjoyed it. I think, I hope, that a lot of these people will say, oh, we really want to see the next movie in theaters.

I think it’s going to be even better because of that, but for the film itself we’ve got more budget, we’ve got more time, now the big fun reveals that all kids get superpowers, now it’s all very established so we’re getting a lot older Superhero versions of it in the movie, which is a lot of fun.

And we have Helen Meeren and Lucy Liu as villains, and that’s really fun. Helen Meeren is simply an icon, just like Lucy. They are both such icons. It’s such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with them and I think the script is fantastic and the action is great, I think it’s even better than the first one and that’s saying something because the first one was really good .

You are great, you are fantastic. I was so grateful that I was invited. I was invited to the con in Riyadh a few years ago but I couldn’t make it, so I’m very, very grateful that I got to come this time and experience this incredible country. I’ve been to the UAE before and I’ve been to Bahrain before but I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia so I was just checking things off the bucket list like this amazing world we live in, and the warmth we received from all the fans was amazing.

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Lauren Ridloff (C1286)

I have to say that many doors will be open to many people around the world who have felt different from others and I think that’s what it meant to me.

I have to say it’s amazing to be here, I mean here in Saudi Arabia, I never thought my first Comic-Con would be here in Saudi Arabia and it was such a great experience. I loved meeting the fans yesterday and just everyone is so warm and open. I’m just so lucky to be able to connect with people on this level.

I am very pleased to announce that a new project with Eva Deverene and Joshua Jackson is currently in the works.

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Katie Cassidy (C1285)

I’m so excited to be here, thank you for having me. It is wonderful. We landed at 3am and I had the best night’s sleep. It’s exciting to be here, can’t wait to experience it, looks like it’s going to be a great time.

When it comes to action, I don’t like to prepare, I like to be ready. Even when I’m not filming, I’m constantly staying fit and healthy and staying in shape because that way when an action role comes along it’s seamless for me. So I don’t have to worry that much about physicality and I’m still in combat training, kickboxing and muay thai. So I just stick with it and that way when I finally shoot I can go into the character’s headspace and do more of the artistic script analysis and backstory and mentally focus more on the character than just the physical part because that’s more physical Hopefully part will already be there.

Thank you for being such amazing loyal fans, you are the reason we are here and I cannot even express how much gratitude I have for everyone.

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