Oz Comic-Con isn’t just cosplay and questionable catering options – it’s also all about the panels. This year Falk and Martin stuck their bulbous heads and mismatched eyes (actually we’re pretty normal looking) into a few of the panels including Game of Thrones, Christopher Lambert and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We also checked out the cosplay championships, where the mighty power of worbla reigns supreme.
Game of Thrones panel with Daniel Portman and Eugene Simon (Martin)
I’m not at all surprised when an actor turns out to be completely different from the character they’re known for playing. But wow, sometimes even my cynical façade is shaken by an actor who is the complete, total, screamingly polar opposite of their onscreen persona – as was the case with Daniel Portman, the Scottish actor who portrays Podrick Payne in HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. While good old Pod, loyal squire to Tyrion Lannister and later to Brienne of Tarth, is a markedly shy and inarticulate character, Daniel is quick-witted, loud, and a bit of joker. Being from Glasgow, it struck me that he’s also not the sort of person who’s afraid to say it like it is.
Eugene Simon, who plays Lancel Lannister in the series, is perhaps a bit closer IRL to his GoT character. With an accent that I would guess was cultivated by an education in the English public school system, the charismatic Eugene came across just as approachable as Daniel, though perhaps he gave somewhat more serious consideration to his answers. It was great fun listening to the two lads bounce off each other. I can’t remember offhand if Podrick and Lancel were in many scenes together in the series, but it was clear Eugene and Daniel knew each other well and enjoyed joking around together onstage.
Like the professionals they were, they barely gave away any spoilers about their characters (except for Eugene loudly proclaiming that he was dead every second sentence). But we did learn some useful things about life on the set of the most important television series ever made.
When asked what he’d learnt from Game of Thrones, Daniel answered “diplomacy” (which got a few laughs) and “learning to ride a horse good enough so that it looked bad” – a reference to his character’s notorious lack of coordination in the saddle. Speaking of saddles, at the beginning of the panel we were cautioned by the Oz Comic-Con MC not to ask any personal questions to do with sex, religion or politics. I guess those rules only applied to the actors and not their characters, as someone in the audience asked Daniel the question that’s been bugging fans of GoT ever since season 2: what exactly did Pod do with the prostitutes in King’s Landing?
Daniel laughed out loud at this. “Let’s just say that Podrick is nothing if not a generous and giving lover,” he answered in his Glaswegian brogue.
Eugene spoke at length about Lancel’s journey from a callow and pampered Lannister knight-boy to Cersei’s tormented lover to his final incarnation as a religious zealot of the Faith Militant. According to Eugene, probably the most welcome transformation for him personally was when Lancel cut his flowing Lannister locks in an act of penance, which meant that Eugene no longer had to wear a wig on shoot. “God, it itched,” he told the audience.
Eugene also stressed how much he’d learnt about his trade from other actors on the set. “As an actor, never think you know it all,” he said. “You can always learn from others.” But it’s possible that all the backstabbing and violence in the series had finally warped even a nice young fellow like Eugene Simon, for his final advice to aspiring actors was that if anybody did get in your way to the top, you ought to “Kill them! Destroy them all!” And with these words he leapt up and overturned the coffee table that had shared the stage with the two actors, to much delight and uproar in the hall. Looking almost surprised at his own outburst, Eugene bowed to the applause while Daniel/Pod, like the faithful squire he is, quietly righted the coffee table and offered an apologetic smile to the audience.
Champions of Cosplay (Falk)
After wandering around the Oz Comic-Con exhibition area and taking a short lunch break it was time to take in some cosplay action. Already impressed by the huge array of brilliantly costumed characters that were wandering around the grounds (and the vast majority of whom were “just” hobby cosplayers!) the next step was to find out what happens when cosplayers level up. Cue the Melbourne phase of the international Champions of Cosplay competition, the winner of which gets to compete for the Australian title, and then has the chance to go on to the world final in Chicago.
The eight contestants were breathtaking, with costumes ranging from an Azerothian Orc Warchief, to Doctor Strange, to an interpretation of Dumbledore’s phoenix Fawkes from the Potterverse. Host Jusz Cosplay did a fantastic job introducing the contestants, and detailing the amount of painstaking effort and craftsmanship that went into the creation of each costume — many contestants worked on their pieces for months on end. For uninitiated audience members like me it was also an opportunity to learn about worbla, a rare and much sought-after mystical substance that is required to unlock the highest levels of cosplay powers. Okay, it’s really a type of thermoplastic. But it does play a role in some of the highest levels of crafting, and was a key part in the creation of truly awesome costumes, including that of winner Kayla Jean’s Blue Serpent Warlock from Granado Espada costume. Congratulations Kayla, and good luck for the next round!
Christopher Lambert panel (Martin)
French actor and alleged immortal Christopher Lambert came on stage in blue jeans, black hoodie and a pair of aviator glasses. With his peroxided yellow hair he looked like everyone’s favourite Euro-uncle, which I honestly mean in the best possible way. I’m a fan of Christopher Lambert from way back. I think he’s awesome.
Now 60, Christopher Lambert’s lasting fame is founded on two cult movies from the ‘80s, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) and Highlander (1986). However I don’t want to sell Christopher short, because his career encompasses much more than these two films, stretching as it does over six decades (his first role was in 1963 when he was 7 years old) and including other great films like Luc Besson’s Subway (1985) and the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! (2016). But during his panel it was definitely Greystoke and Highlander that his fans wanted to know about.
A lot of questions focussed on Christopher’s training for the swordplay and stunts in the Highlander franchise (Lambert starred as the eponymous Scotsman Connor MacLeod in the first four films of the series). There were people in the audience asking very, very detailed questions that I can only believe they’d been formulating for many years prior to this panel. Perhaps even since Highlander first came out.
Christopher was very patient and good-humoured in his responses, just like you’d expect from your favourite Euro-uncle (ok, I may have a Euro-uncle fixation on him). According to him, one of the hardest stunts he did was in the first Highlander film during the “I don’t like boats” scene, where Sean Connery, who plays the immortal swordsman Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (I think they used every Spanish surname here) deliberately tips MacLeod into the freezing waters of a very real Scottish loch. The stunt itself was easy – Christopher just had to fall off a boat – but the water was very cold indeed, even for an immortal highlander.
Perhaps the most detailed question came from one fan who wanted to know where was Connor MacLeod during the scene in the first Highlander film where Ramirez seduces MacLeod’s wife (obviously I’m condensing the abridging the question here). “Because I don’t think that another man seducing his wife would be something that MacLeod would stand for, you know what I mean? So where were you when that happened – were you just down at the shops or something?”
For a moment Lambert seemed a bit confused by the question. Maybe our Australian accents were throwing him off (and by the way I was struck by how uncannily similar Christopher’s French accent sounded to Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite Arnie being Austrian. I mean, Christopher even pronounced “movie” the way Arnie does. “So I did this moo-FEE, you know …”).
But no, Christopher was just trying to come up with a valid response. “Listen,” he said, and broke into some very French-sounding chuckles. “Heh, heh, heh. Listen. Sometimes in movies, it’s best not to think too much about what’s going on. Just let it happen. I don’t know where Connor was in that scene, because it wasn’t in the script. And where was I? I was probably at the pub! Heh, heh, heh.” I hope this pithy response gave closure to the fan’s question.
But Lambert’s take home message to sum up his career so far was nice and straightforward. “I only ever took a role if it looked like fun,” he told us. “I got into acting because I wanted to be someone else – not boring old me! When I read a script by the time I get to page 20 or 30 I know if it it’s gonna be fun or not. Now, I’ve made some good films, and I’ve made some bad films too, it’s true. But in all my films I had fun. That’s the only reason I did it – for FUN!”
Like I said, Christopher Lambert is a cool guy. He can be my surrogate Euro-uncle any day.
Come Sunday evening, it was time for a final panel session. Already sitting in the auditorium after Christopher Lambert, more and more people began to file in, and a growing level of excitement were palpable: something big was about to happen.
And it did, with stars Alyson Hannigan and Tom Lenk literally skipping onto the stage for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer panel. After a short introduction, they begin to field audience questions, and it quickly became clear that these two are old friends from the way they bounced off each while recounting anecdotes, ranging from their first encounters with Joss Whedon (AH was convinced that she was about to start working with a terrible person who was making false claims about having written Toy Story) to sharing acting tips (need to cry on cue? Try pulling out a nose-hair!) to finding out who hasn’t been faithfully watching every single one of the other’s post-Buffy shows (they were both guilty of that one).
Along with the humour there was also humility, with both having clearly enjoyed their time working with a special group of people on a ground-breaking show, and it’s this as much as the funny stories that made the two stars seem like old friends of the audience too.
Like the Buffy series itself, the session was over all too soon. It’s hard to believe that it’s already 14 years since the seventh and final season of the show first aired on TV, and it speaks volumes for the impact that this show has had on popular culture to see that the fans were as enthusiastic and abuzz as if the show had just finished its run a few months ago.
This panel was a highlight of what was overall a fantastic day at Oz Comic-Con 2017. My one disappointment is that we never did learn the difference between Dark Willow and Veiny Willow. Maybe they’ll be back next year to let us know
Games vs Play would like to thank the Melbourne organisers of Oz Comic-Con 2017 and Blue Planet Public Relations for access to this year’s con. To find out more about the latest reviews, stories and other cool things in the world of games, like us on Facebook. And remember – if you’re game, we’ll play!