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Kirk gets Tricky

30/09/2004. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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William Shatner's 'Invasion Iowa' Proves to Be TV's Most Elaborate Hoax Ever.

Trek actor William Shatner revealed yesterday that "Invasion Iowa," the independent science fiction time-travel film he purportedly wrote, directed, produced, and starred in on location in Riverside, Iowa, is actually a fake.

Shatner stood in front of a crowd of hundreds and revealed to the people of Riverside that they are now the unwitting stars of their own television series for Spike TV, produced by Paul Wernick & Rhett Reese, William Shatner, and Gary Benz. Shatner then, as a thank you to the townspeople of Riverside for being such good sports, presented town officials with a $100,000 city service contribution.

"I fell in love with the people of Riverside," William Shatner said. "And the hardest part of this whole experience was containing my empathy for the individuals who listened to and identified with the soap opera that we played in front of them."

A crew of producers, writers, and actors spent more than a year planning this carefully crafted hoax, which lampooned the craziness of Hollywood before an audience of "small-town America." Shatner played the role of an increasingly over-the-top version of himself. His eccentric faux "entourage" ranged from his harried, neurotic assistant, to his spiritual advisor, to his flighty leading actress, all of whom were played by improvisational comedic actors.

"It's hard to imagine any undertaking more audacious, hair-raising, and ultimately rewarding than what we just finished in Riverside," says Paul Wernick. Rhett Reese adds, "This is unlike anything that's ever been tried in the history of television. It was a truly breathtaking experience."

"This is a breakthrough concept" says Peilin Chou, Spike TV's Vice President of Original Series, and the Executive in Charge of Production of "Invasion Iowa." "The complexity and intricacy of how the show is orchestrated coupled with the warmth of the people of Riverside makes this truly extraordinary television."

The series held auditions and cast several local residents for roles in the faux film, then hired more for its fake film crew. These individuals, mostly from the city of Riverside, became the unknowing stars of a television series.

The locals who became cast members, Brooke Lemke of, Iowa City; Wayne Simon, of Riverside; Leann Sexton, of Riverside; John Conway, of Wellman, Iowa; Mike Poch, of Riverside; Ryan Baumbach, of Iowa City; Brandon Kaufman, of Riverside; and, Bill Blank, of Des Moines, and the locals selected as crew members, Scott Riggan, of Riverside; Jim Pickering, of Riverside; and Diana Schultz, of Riverside; were given front-row seats to all the on-set and off-set shenanigans, including attending dailies in Murphy's Bar & Grill, a local bar and family restaurant, and becoming confidantes of Shatner and company.

"Invasion Iowa" creators and executive producers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and William Shatner chose the city of Riverside, population 978, in large part for its status as the "future birthplace" of Shatner's legendary "Star Trek" character, Captain (later Admiral) James T. Kirk, who was born in the quaint Midwestern farming community on March 22, 2228. Since 1985, thousands of fans have gathered annually in Riverside for "Trek Fest." Traditionally held during the last week in June, Trek Fest welcomes fans who come to celebrate their love of the "Star Trek" television series, films, and lore. "Invasion Iowa" has no connection to the "Star Trek" franchise.

The show is set to debut on Spike TV in early 2005. "Invasion Iowa" was created and executive produced by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and William Shatner. Gary Benz also serves as executive producer. Mary Jester is co-executive producer, Ronnie Weinstock is supervising producer, and Brendon Carter is director.

The series is exclusively produced for Spike TV by Reese Wernick Productions and GRB Entertainment. Peilin Chou, Spike TV's Vice President of Original Series, serves as the Executive in Charge of Production.

Spike TV, a network aimed at men is of course a division of MTV.

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