The longtime television and movie actor was in Riverside filming and directing scenes for his own science-fiction movie, which will be called "Invasion Iowa." Earlier last week, Shatner personally facilitated a special "casting call," in which seven local residents were selected for supporting speaking roles.
Those locals include John Conway, age 57 of Wellman, who will play a priest; Wayne Simon, age 45 of Riverside, who will play "Pa"; Leanne Sexton, 43, of Riverside, who will play "Ma"; and Brooke Lempke of Iowa City, who will play the daughter. Three others will also be in the film, portraying "local punks." They include Brandon Kaufman, age 19 of Riverside; Bill Blank, age 26 of Des Moines; and Mike Poch, age 21 of Riverside, who also happens to be the son of Riverside Mayor Bill Poch.
The longtime television and movie actor's unannounced appearance in Riverside last Tuesday caught most by surprise. It was previously announced that a movie would be filmed in Riverside, but hardly anyone knew Shatner was involved until he arrived in a limousine.
According to Jeanmarie Carrasco, public relations director and publicist for Glacier Point Productions (the California company that is coordinating the filming for Shatner), the scenes shot in Riverside will take up about the last quarter of the movie. The remainder of the film will be completed in a Los Angeles studio. "The scenes we're shooting here will appear only at the end of the movie."
Riverside, which has a population of about 900, was chosen, according to Carrasco, because it was "a perfect depiction of small-town life." While she said it wasn't the deciding factor, she did acknowledge that Shatner had previously heard Riverside was the home of "Trek Fest," where hundreds gather each summer to celebrate the late 1960s' sci-fi television drama. So while in town, the former Captain Kirk saw his future "birthplace" and visited the tombstone behind the beauty solon on Main Street that marks Kirk's final "resting place", as well as the downscaled model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, (a.k.a. U.S.S. Riverside).
Local residents have been hoping for at least two decades for Shatner to attend Trek Fest in person. Letters of invitation were sent to his agents many times by the Riverside Area Community Club (RACC) over the past 20 years, but Shatner never did show.
Riverside laid claim to being the future birthplace of Captain Kirk in 1984, when it was mentioned in a book by famed science fiction novelist Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek) that Kirk was born in a small town in Iowa. It was former Riverside resident Steve Miller who decided Riverside fit the description and created the annual celebration.
With his recently presented television Emmy in hand for his performance on ABC-TV's "The Practice," Shatner got out of a white minivan shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday at Hall Park. Rumors had circulated in the area that Shatner might be coming to Riverside but the only thing locals knew for certain was the "director" of the film would be on hand for the casting call.
Dozens of people, drawn by curiosity, filled picnic tables at the park and listened to the University of Iowa Marching Band play until Shatner arrived. After finding his way to the Red Barn stage by the baseball diamond, Shatner joked with the crowd and explained he brought the Emmy along as a "good luck charm."
Filming began Tuesday evening and continued throughout the week.
Carrasco said the theme of "Invasion" would deal with regret and being able to go back in time to change events. Featured filming sites included St. Mary's Church and Murphy's Bar & Grill, Delgattos, as well as at an undisclosed farm location. Carrasco estimates that about $1 million will be put into the area's economy because of the film, both before and after its release.
Shatner co-wrote the film with fellow "Star Trek" legend Leonard Nimoy, (a.k.a. Mr. Spock). Shatner will direct the entire film.
While Shatner is making "Invasion Iowa," Priceline.com is making a documentary of its filming for release on DVD. Representatives were on hand in Riverside Tuesday night and shot several photographs and reels of film of Shatner interacting with local residents.
No one is saying whether the movie will go straight to DVD, or will be shown in theatres first when completed. Carrasco did say, however, that another big-name star would be in Riverside for filming, but wouldn't reveal his complete name, only that his name is "Sean."
Though a lot of the details of the film remain sketchy at this point, Shatner assured those at Riverside's Hall Park last Tuesday, they wouldn't be disappointed.