MONTCAIR, NJ - As part of the Montclair Film Festival (MFF) closing weekend lineup, a highlight on Saturday was the conversation with Norman Reedus, who plays a cross-bow bearing zombie killer named Daryl Dixon on #1 TV show “The Walking Dead.”
Joel Stillerman, President of Original Programming at AMC and Sundance TV, moderated.
The Wellmont Theatre was at capacity, while fans of Reedus shouted professing their undying love as the conversation began.
The audience quickly learned Reedus was not a popular kid, and not much into comics. In fact he hasn’t even read the comic book series The Walking Dead as yet. When asked if he liked comic books and superheroes he said, “Um… well, I liked the Pink Panther but wasn’t into comic books and superheroes so much.”
What Reedus clearly did show was a passion for motorcycles. AMC will debut a series of 6 one-hour episodes following the star that will take fellow bike enthusiasts on the road, showcasing motorcycle culture and different types of motorcycles each week.
The audience also learned that Reedus is entirely accident-prone. He boasts a titanium eye socket, was hit by a bus, and flipped a motorcycle, not once but twice in the same spot. If you are wondering what his favorite bike is, he did mention the Triumph Tiger 800.
The conversation veered toward prior work. Reedus was in Boondock Saints, alongside Willem Dafoe back in 1999, a movie in which two Irish brothers accidentally kill a mafia thug. Reedus said the movie’s theme was moral ambiguity.
In fact many of his roles seem to have a lack of clarity as regards ethical perspectives. One thing he said about The Walking Dead was, “I liked how the character had a chip on his shoulder. The apocalypse gives the character reasons to become the man he becomes.”
When the audience was told he would take questions, approximately 75-80 people sprung to their feet to stand in line while several others rose and sat again contemplating whether they had the courage to address him.
Those audience members who did get a chance to speak, fared quite well. Deidre, an acting major at Montclair State University asked what he likes best when working on a character. He said, “I like how little things turn into story lines.” He referenced how in longer series one can always go back and “unpack a storyline later.”
The multitalented actor is also a photographer and his book, The Sun’s Coming up Like a Big Bald Head, was in the hands of several audience members. He didn’t as much refer to himself as an actor, motorcycle rider, or photographer but said he did all of those things. His down to earth demeanor endeared his fans.
Someone asked what show he would like to be cast in, if he could pick any show at all. He said either HBO’s Eastbound and Down or Game of Thrones, much to the delight of the audience whose applause drowned his words. Stillerman said, “Eastbound and Down is the Breaking Bad of Comedy.”
An English teacher asked him for life lessons. He said, “It’s okay to be you.” While one woman in the audience thanked him for “being a regular guy and not a jerk”, another woman confessed she has her husband stand in the yard with a crossbow…
The question that seemed to excite Reedus most was whether in real life he could handle a bow. He claimed he shot one, on live TV in Tokyo. He said the instructor never thought he would reach the target at such a long distance.
He also played the title character in Lady Gaga’s “Judas” video. Besides explaining how he got to that role, which was not the first story that started with him being drunk at a bar and misbehaving, he said, and repeated about Gaga, “She’s awesome. I really liked her.”
Two of the notable moments were when a young lady at the microphone just froze, was too nervous to ask him her question. He stood up, gave her a collectible figurine that stood on the table beside him, and got off the stage to hug her.
Stillerman jokingly said that he'd better not see the figurine on E-Bay as it was a one of a kind.
The other moment was when the Q&A session ended and a child, who had been in line waiting, and was next, began to sob. The child had a baseball cap and Reedus extended the time frame allowing the youngster to ask the question. The child amidst tears, sputtered, “I just want to ask you why you are so cool.” Reedus also called her onto the stage and presented her with another figurine, and replied, “Because I had a cool mom.”
The event ended to the 21 Pilots song Stressed Out, “Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days, when our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out”