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A day in Hall H

Fans are ecstatic; sometimes actors are, too

Everyone knows that Comic-Con brings together Jokers, Storm Troopers and Strawberry Shortcakes. But to experience the wackiness at its finest, spend the whole day inside the conference’s legendary Hall H.

As the place where studios often premiere scenes from high-profile projects, the people come out in droves. Comic-Con’s Hall H tends to be for the hardest of the hardcore fans, since entry requires waiting in line for hours to score a coveted seat inside the 6,000-seat auditorium.

This fierce passion for film creates moments that are nearly impossible to describe. But what the heck, here goes.

* In the land of Hall H, movie stars are more likely to drop their guard. It’s impossible not to crack a smile when a shaking, violently excited fan is trying desperately to ask a question and Josh Brolin, star of upcoming comic book Western “Jonah Hex,” succumbed to his charms. When he tried to ask Brolin about his character’s romance with co-star Megan Fox, Brolin remarked, “You’re so sweet. I want to make a joke, but I can’t. Do you want to come back on the plane with us?”

* The Hall H standing ovation separates men from the boys, women from the girls. All of the actors/directors/producers are on a hot streak, generally presenting greatly anticipated films. But on Friday, just three people captured the Standing O: Robert Downey, Jr., who’ll next be seen in “Sherlock Holmes” and “Iron Man 2;” Peter Jackson, in his first Comic-Con appearance, to hype “District 9;” and famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, readying Disney release “Ponyo.” People stood through the entire preview cut of “Sherlock Holmes.” Said Downey afterward, “Well, I guess that seemed to play all right.”

* The talent, perhaps caught up in the fever of Hall H, can break news here. This can be to the dismay of studio executives in the audience. Gary Oldman, co-star of upcoming militaristic feature “The Book of Eli,” blurted out that the third “Batman” installment would start shooting next year. That was followed by certain studio publicists furiously tapping on Blackberrys.

* Hall H doesn’t need Tim Burton to seem like a Tim Burton film. The very first question of the day was posed to twin directors, the Hughes brothers, about “The Book of Eli.” And who was asking the question? A set of identical twin Comic-Con fans, of course. The two interrogators wanted to ask the cast, who include Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis, what it was like working with twins. Kunis, a little wide-eyed, answered “They were both amazing directors. It was fun.”

* Hall H gets creepy. But that’s to be expected; people who deliberately choose to stay in one room all day have to have some amount of nutso in them. One Comic-Con attendee began to attract groans after he managed to ask icky questions at six straight film presentations. At one point, a piece of green foam was inexplicably sliding out of his ear (actually, his gum), further sparking jeers from the crowd. Later, at the “Sherlock Holmes” presentation, Downey received this wild pitch: “What was it like working with Jude Law’s moustache?” Without missing a beat, Downey replied: “We actually didn’t get along.”

* Stars seem genuinely happy to be there. They realize that winning over the crazed Hall H audience can spread good buzz about their projects. As Jackson said, “There is a lot of geek power here and I wish I could take this energy and bottle it up. And give it to studio executives to drink.” He then said he was three to four weeks away in delivering a draft of “The Hobbit” and hopes to start casting in another couple of months. Then he started snapping pictures of the crowd. “I want to remember this for the rest of my life,” he said.

Susanne Ault is a senior reporter for Variety’s sister publication, Video Business.

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