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UP FRONT: COMIC-CON

Bam! Pow! You'll see stars

A-list actors are expected to promote their sci-fi fare at the Comic-Con.

July 26, 2007|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

IN Hollywood you have actors and you have movie stars, and the difference between the two was whether you saw them smiling at you from the stage of the Academy Awards or from the side of a McDonald's Happy Meal promoting the latest summer blockbuster. That's clearly changing, especially now that comic-book and fantasy heroes on film routinely triumph over the villains, succeed at the box office -- and win over movie critics.

The new world order as far as genre films is crystal clear in San Diego today and through this weekend as Comic-Con International continues its evolution from its early days as swap meet for funny books to its current incarnation as the Cannes for Capes or, more indelicately, Sundance for Super-Geeks.

Indeed, Hollywood is rolling south to preview the genre films for the next year, and don't think for a minute that the executives aren't sweating bullets. A bad showing in San Diego echoes viciously on the Internet for months and can maim a movie before it ever arrives at theaters (Exhibit A: "Catwoman," which was consigned to the cinematic litter box as soon as surly fans starting hissing during the preview panel at Comic-Con).

The stakes are high and so is the star power: Edward Norton, William Hurt, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Peter Fonda, Kate Beckinsale, Mary McDonnell, Liv Tyler, Josh Hartnett and Milla Jovovich are some of the stars expected to attend to promote their films. The casts of TV shows like "Heroes," "Lost," "Battlestar Galactica," "Bionic Woman," "Eureka" and "The Sarah Silverman Program" will also be on hand. Then there's filmmakers Ridley Scott, Sam Raimi, Joel Silver, J.J. Abrams and Kevin Smith as well as icons of the word and pictures: Ray Bradbury, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and Matt Groening among them.

Here's how topsy-turvy the entertainment world has gotten: An Oscar winner with a considerable Hollywood history will speak on Sunday but not to promote a film -- Nicolas Cage is going south to stir fan interest in the new comic book title he is writing with his son.

Robert Downey Jr. will be there too. An actor's actor by all accounts, Downey will don a super-power suit of armor to bring Marvel Comics character "Iron Man" to the screen next year in a Jon Favreau film that also features Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard -- a cast that proves that hero movies are now winning the hearts and minds of respected actors.

For Downey, the choice to take flight in hero-franchise came after a bit of peer envy.

"I came up with Johnny Depp, right, we were right there and there was always respect and I watched him and his choices, which have been wonderful. And then I see Johnny Depp do 'Pirates [of the Caribbean]' and then suddenly Depp is on a Slurpee cup. And the movies are good. And he's great in them. And I think: If Depp is on a Slurpee, I want to be on a Slurpee."

Up, up and away ...

geoff.boucher@latimes.com

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Comic-Con

Tickets can sell out quickly to this pop-culture convention so plan accordingly.

Where: San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Drive

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Saturday. Nighttime sessions, 7 p.m. to midnight. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Price: $12 for children and seniors today through Saturday, $25 for adults; $7 for children and seniors on Sunday, $15 for adults.

Info: (619) 491-2475, www.comic-con.org

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