Interview with Wil Wheaton

wil How did you first get your start in acting?

Wil Wheaton: It runs in my family, all the way back to when the Wheatons were pig-chasing potato-chuckers back in Scotland, in the year 9 [Ed note: ??]. In a more direct way, it’s my mom’s fault. She was doing commercials when I was a kid, and took me with her on an audition. They were casting for mothers and sons, so they asked me if I would try out. I was 7, and far too agreeable to everything, so I said yes, got the job, and never looked back. Not even when that train was chasing me. As an actor, who do you look up to? Who influences you the most?

Wil Wheaton: Ed Norton, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are all admired by me. They are fantastic actors, who always make the most of their roles. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they get the best written roles, but I’ve seen lousy actors screw up the best writing (first hand, even: Rutger Haue absolutely butchered Roger Avary’s brilliant Mr. Stitchscript). Like most actors of my generation, I was profoundly influenced by the entire casts of the Godfather I & II, and Apocalypse Now. I always thought Ray Liotta was really cool, but I’m not tough enough to play any characters the way he does. The actor who had the most direct impact on me was Patrick Stewart. Working with him, I felt like I was playing hockey with Wayne Gretzky, and I always brought my best game. Some of the work that went into developing that game stuck around, and I’m a better actor for the experience.
Stand By Me has a very large cult following. Are you surprised it was such a phenomenon?

Wil Wheaton: Not at all. The brilliance of Stand By Me is in the writing. It is such a wonderful story—it’s almost mythological—so are the themes, it appeals to audiences across generations. When I saw it as a teenager, it was a very different experience than when I have watched it as an adult. When we were working on it, however, none of us expected it to be as hugely successful as it has become. But I think we all knew we were part of something special.
Rob Reiner once said that since twelve year old actors don’t know the craft very well that he had to cast boys that were very similar to Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern. What about you was similar to Gordie? Do you really have the biggest one in four counties?

Wil Wheaton: After the writing, this is the reason Stand By Me is so wonderful: Rob cast kids who were exactly those characters we portrayed (I mean, look at how our adult lives have parallelled our characters) and could take direction. When we got to Oregon, Rob and the rest of the producers put us into a mini acting class for two weeks, and trained all of us to respond to the way he directs (do something right, get a cookie. Do it wrong, and it’s a taser to your nuts) and the results of his casting, and the training they gave us, is evident in the final cut of the film. And yes, I do have the biggest one in four counties. But I’m not saying which four.
What roles (past or coming up) would be a dream for you?

Wil Wheaton: I have been following the development of Bringing Down The House [Ed note: not the Steve Martin movie], about the MIT blackjack team. I’m a gambler, and I’m a nerd, and I love Vegas and her mystique (Strippers, The Rainman Suite, High Roller Shit) so this movie is a dream for me. Which means, of course, that it will hurt that much more when I call them up and they say, “Wil who?”
In the movie Toy Soldiers how did you feel about all the shots of guys running around in their underwear?

Wil Wheaton: At the time, I didn’t give it a second thought. However, over the years, it has steadily bothered me more and more. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Any good stories from working with Sean Astin? Are you still in touch with him?

Wil Wheaton: Sean is one of the most talented, hard-working, generous actors I’ve ever worked with. He’s also a really nice person, a good husband and a great father. He’s also a great director! He directed me in an episode of Perversions of Science a few years ago, and he was great to work with. He’s got a short film on the DVD of Two Towers that I just love. Sean is one of those rare people who really deserves all of his success. I don’t see him nearly as often as I’d like to, but it’s always enjoyable when I do. Someday, I’d like to have his Samwise Gamgee action figure fight my Cadet Wesley Crusher action figure in a death match.
How did you get the role of Wesley Crusher?

Wil Wheaton: You know those Can you draw me? match books? I saw this Can you reverse the polarity on this inverse sensor array? match book. The rest is history.
Were you a fan of Star Trek TOS before you joined TNG?

Wil Wheaton: Oh yeah. I remember playing Star Trek on the jungle gym in elementary school. Back then I always wanted to be Spock, because I thought he was too cool… but the kids who were Kirk always got to fight, while I stood there saying “fascinating.” We had this long-standing policy that we wouldn’t hire Trekkies on the show, because when we did, stuff always seemed to mysteriously vanish. I’m glad I didn’t tell them that I was such a fan when I was doing that matchbook thing. The job probably would have gone to Kirk Cameron’s cousin.
Did it ever enter your mind that you might be typecast as Wesley for the rest of your life? How did you deal with it?

Wil Wheaton: Yeah. That’s why I quit the show when I was 18. The big plan was to head out into movie land, and leave Wesley behind. Of course, this plan would have been much more effective if I’d actually done any films that didn’t totally suck right after I left. I wrote about it extensively in my weblog, and both of my books, and somehow came to the realization that I can exist without Wesley, but he can’t exist, would not exist, without me. When I realized that, I was able to take off the hair shirt, and finally feel proud of the work I’d done on the show.
How do you feel about what the writers did with the character of Wesley? (The Traveler story.)

Wil Wheaton: I guess this is one of those vi vs. EMACS type of things. Some people think that it’s just terrible that Wesley turned into a ball of light, and vanished into the sunset. Others think that it’s really cool that Wesley transcended space and time to become something greater than himself. Personally, I don’t really take a side on it. Though I think there’s an interesting story to be told about what exactly Wesley did between Journey’s End and Nemesis.
Ok settle the following feuds, Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Wil Wheaton: Star Wars. But only if you count the original Trilogy. And Han shoots fucking first, goddammit. Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard

Wil Wheaton: I think they both represent the eras in which they were born: For getting hot alien ass, Kirk wins without even breaking a sweat. But for diplomacy and coolness, Picard kicks Kirk’s ass. I just realized that it would probably be a funnier answer if I said, The bald one. Dang. Wesley Crusher vs. Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch

Wil Wheaton:Is it to see who’s more annoying? 1st season Wesley kicks Oliver’s ass. If it’s a contest to see who made out with Ashley Judd more, Wesley wins that one too. If it’s a contest to see who wore the worst costume, it’s a tie.
On your web site you claim to be a sci-fi geek. What sci-fi books and movies would you recommend?

Wil Wheaton: Books: Ringworld, The Foundaton Trilogy, Snowcrash, Dune, Burning Chrome, Farenheit 541 and 1984. Movies: 2001, Blade Runner, Logan’s Run, The Matrix, Metropolis.
Why did you decide to start

Wil Wheaton: I just wanted to let the world know that I was still alive, still working, and not a drug addict. Read the whole story
You have recently just written your own book entitled, Dancing Barefoot. Can you tell us a little about it?

Wil Wheaton: Sure. About a year ago, I was going to be working at a Star Trek convention. I thought it would be cool to collect some of my weblog entries and make a small, “offline” version of WWdN. Sort of a Greatest Hits package, I guess. That idea turned into a whole book, which I call Just A Geek. When I was doing the edit on that book, I ended up with five stories that I had to cut, because the book was just too long. I liked the stories a lot, and didn’t want to abandon them, so I collected them, and put them in their own book. They are five short-but-true stories about my life as a husband, stepfather, and former TNG cast member. I called my friend Ben ( and asked him if he’d do some illustrations for my stories, and I’m really grateful that he did. I think the illustrations take this book to The Next Level (whatever the fuck that is. I just like to say it because I don’t maximize my use of buzzwords enough.)
In your book, you said WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER dismissed you on the set of Star Trek V. Can you tell us about that?

Wil Wheaton: I am a huge Star Trek fan. I have been most of my life (though, when I was a sullen teenager, I would often proclaim to people oh, I don’t like that OLD series… Boy, it feels good to come clean about that! I also have some audio tape that Dick Nixon asked me to hold on to, and a map of Dick Cheney’s undisclosed location. MAN! I feel GREAT now!)

Sorry. Got sidetracked there.

I met WFS on the set of Star Trek V, and he was horrible to me. He was cruel, and dismissive, and treated me the way I understand he treats pretty much everyone who tells him how much they loved him as Captain Kirk.

The story is better in the book. I promise.
What have you learned from writing a book and running a website?

Wil Wheaton: It’s easy to start something. It’s very hard to start something, finish it, and finally decide that it’s as good as it’s going to get. I like to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite things. It’s hard for me to let something go, and just be happy with what I’ve done.
What projects do you have coming up in the future?

Wil Wheaton: I’ve done a lot of voice acting lately. I’m Aqualad on Teen Titans, and I do some voices for the Xbox port of Crimson Skies. I’m also finishing up Just A Geek, and working three other books: two fiction, one non-fiction.
What do you enjoy about being a celebrity? Do you enjoy your net-celebrity status?

Wil Wheaton: I really don’t consider myself a celebrity. Celebrity is this fleeting thing that is taken away as quickly and capriciously as it is granted. Right now, I’m very fortunate to have a group of people who like to read what I like to write, and as long as they keep showing up, I’ll keep entertaining them.
Millionaire or Playboy? Which and why?

Wil Wheaton: I’d like to be a Millionaire, because then I could *also* be a Playboy… but I don’t know if I’m cool or suave enough for that. If I was a Millionaire, I’d end up buying lots of tech gadgets and games. But if I was a Playboy… I’d make sure that a minimum of 15 super hot girls were always hanging around my pool, which would put The Grotto to shame. Mine would have a lion…and…a bear.

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