'Veronica Mars' returns: Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell on reshoots and the future of the franchise
When Veronica Mars opens on March 14, the fans that gave $5.7 million to fund the Kickstarter-financed big screen revival of the cult TV fave starring Kristen Bell will see every dollar on screen. They’ll also see a few pennies donated by the studio that owns the property and will be releasing the movie, too.
Last October, following a test screening, Warner Bros. (which is releasing Veronica Mars via its digital distribution division) agreed to pay for an additional day of shooting. Some people at the screening were confused by a subplot involving Veronica’s private investigator father Keith Mars (Enrico Calantoni) and its connection to the film’s central mystery, which concerns the murder of a pop star.
In December, Thomas shot two scenes with Bell and Calantoni to clarify the plot. These new moments allowed Thomas to fulfill a couple other desires, too, like depicting Veronica’s hometown of Neptune as a place marked by social injustice, stark class division, and corruption, which were key themes of the series. One of the new scenes involves Veronica and Keith witnessing Neptune cops executing a dubious stop-and-frisk. “For a town that didn’t have much of a middle class in the TV series, there was a lot of middle class in the movie, and I wanted to correct that,” says Thomas. “I wanted people to understand there was a dark side of Neptune, and I felt like we never saw any of that.”
The scene also points to the future of Veronica Mars, as it dramatizes why Neptune desperately still needs heroes like Keith and Veronica. Thomas says the story — which takes place nine years after the events of the series and finds Veronica in New York City and about to embark on a high-paying legal career — is all about reconnecting with her past and her true self and “accepting the mantle of her destiny.” All of this is expressed in the movie’s final image, which Thomas says was the starting point for his writing. “I worked backward from there,” he says.
The new scenes also allowed Thomas to get more of the Keith-Veronica relationship into the movie, which should make fans happy: Their father-daughter rapport — and the Bell-Calantoni chemistry — was one of the show’s great strengths. “The audience loves Keith and Veronica together. I mean, they will probably be lovers in the next movie,” jokes Bell. “That’s the type of feedback we get: Put them together, put them together, put them together!”
In addition to these new scenes, Warner Bros. asked for (and paid for) a prologue narrated by Veronica that sums up her life so far (i.e., the premise and arc of the series). The objective: To bring fans up to date and make the movie accessible to newcomers who think a marshmallow is just something you put in hot chocolate. Says Thomas Gewecke, Warner Bros.’ chief digital officer: “I think it’s also going to appeal to a broader audience of people who maybe aren’t familiar with Veronica Mars but have heard about it. We’re excited about the prospects for it.”
There’s something else Warner Bros. paid for, too: The incentives of T-shirts, autographed memorabilia, hometown premieres and more that Thomas promised fans for donating to the Kickstarter fund. Last spring, it was reported that 30 percent of the $5.7 million raised via Kickstarter would be used to bankroll these rewards themselves. The cost is about the same, but Thomas says Warner Bros. ultimately picked up the tab and hired a fulfillment house to execute the labor of packaging and shipping hard items. “People should not be under the misconception that Warner Bros got this movie for free,” says Thomas. “The money we raised went a long way to shooting the picture, but Warner Bros. is in for millions and millions of dollars.”
Now the big question is this: Will Warner Bros. will open up its wallet and pay for more Veronica Mars? Because while Thomas and Bell won’t rule out another Kickstarter campaign, they would rather spare fans the pressure and expense and have the studio finance future adventures with Veronica, be it films or a Netflix series. Both Bell and Thomas have other ongoing projects or potential ongoing projects. Bell stars in the Showtime series House of Lies and says she’s as passionate about that and committed to that as Veronica Mars; Thomas is shooting a pilot for a new CW series called iZombie. So it’s hard to imagine either will have time in the near future to organize another Kickstarter campaign in addition to writing and shooting a sequel. “I know what number we have to hit to do it again [with Warner Bros. paying for it]. I know the internal conversations,” says Bell, who declined to divulge said number. “I think we can do it. I have confidence. So I am not too pessimistic about this being the last round.”
In the meantime, we’ll always have the TV series, as well as a new line of novels that will continue Veronica’s saga. The first title, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, hits in March. Thomas says the books should be considered canon: “It would be my hope that, if we got to do any more movies, either these books could be turned into movies, or that the events in these books are reflected in whatever future projects we do.”
For more on the Veronica Mars movie and to find out whether more of your favorite cult TV shows — including Firefly, Party Down, and The Comeback — will be revived, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, Feb. 14. And for an exclusive video of Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring re-enacting one of Veronica and Logan’s most famous scenes, be sure to like Entertainment Weekly on Facebook.