CULT FILM STAR Although the mainstream Hollywood press and audiences at large may not have flocked to theaters in support of the initial release of Howard the Duck in 1986, a core group of devoted fans and successive generations of viewers have elevated the film to cult classic status, resulting in a long-awaited special edition DVD release last year.
Ed Gale, the actor who stepped inside the Howard costume and helped bring the character to life, will be appearing at this weekend's WonderCon, the largest comic book and pop culture convention in Northern California, to meet fans and sign autographs (look for him at booth M19 in the Autograph Area, room 105).
In what was his first Hollywood role (it was actually the first movie he even auditioned for), Gale used highly energetic body language to convey the emotions of the diminutive yet daring duck. That high level of energy expenditure took a physical toll on the actor — and the restrictions presented by the full-body costume made even simple things, such as eating, very difficult.
"When it became apparent I was losing too much weight too fast — I lost 11 pounds in 30 days — they had to give me straws with protein shakes, or they'd drop M&M's down my beak," Gale remembered, speaking over the phone from Los Angeles.
Filmed largely in the Bay Area (the characters visit the California Academy of Sciences, take taxis in the Sunset District, and fly over the rooftops of downtown Petaluma), Howard the Duck had the backing of George Lucas as executive producer — which is one reason Gale suspects the movie was treated so harshly by critics when it appeared to be a financial failure.
"We as a society love to build people up and then tear them down, apparently they felt it was time to tear George Lucas down. But the power of the people has proved them wrong."
Gale, who has also appeared in films like Child's Play (1988) and Spaceballs (1987), along with more recent roles in television including My Name is Earl and Bones, says Howard is still the most popular character he has played. He's looking forward to returning to San Francisco.
"The adage that my manager told me was, 'If you're going to be good, be the best. If you're going to be bad, be the worst, and you'll never be forgotten.' And with Howard the Duck and all the great fans, that has never been more true," he said. "I definitely want to meet a whole new bunch of friends in the city where it all began." (Sean McCourt)
Fri/2, noon–-7 p.m.; Sat/3, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.;
Sun/4, 11 a.m.–-5 p.m., $5-$40
Moscone Center South
747 Howard, SF