I recently had the chance to speak with actor Holt McCallany, who has appeared in diverse films such as Fight Club, Alien 3, Gangster Squad, Brian De Palma’s Casualties Of War, Michael Mann’s Blackhat, Below, Run All Night, Bullet To The Head, A Perfect Getaway, Vantage Point, Alpha Dog, Men Of Honour, Three Kings, The Peacemaker and more. He’s also appeared in TV shows including CSI, Law & Order, Burn Notice, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, and starred in Lights Out for FX, playing boxer Lights Leary. He’s one of my favourites and a great talent. Enjoy!
Nate: You gained some pretty high profile credits very early on in your career. Alien 3, Creepshow etc. How did you initially break into the industry? Any stories about the early days?
My parents were both Broadway actors so I grew up in the theater. I never really considered any other profession. They were very supportive and helped me get started, but you find out quickly that no matter who your parents are if you don’t have talent you won’t last long in show business. One funny story I remember from the early days is auditioning for my first film Creepshow 2. It was a horror film by Stephen King that was a sequel to a successful film that had starred Ed Harris and E.G. Marshall and a number of very fine actors I admired. I auditioned to play a college frat boy but the producer offered me the role of an American Indian. I said “I can’t play an Indian, I’m a white Irish guy who was born in New York.” He said “You have good bone structure, we’ll give you make-up and a wig. Burt Lancaster did it.” I replied “But I have blue eyes!” The producer took a beat, looked at the director, then looked back at me and said “We’ll make you a half-breed.” I’ve never forgotten that. “We’ll make you a half-breed.”
Holt: Theatre vs. Film: How do the two compare for you, does one hold a higher spot or do you enjoy both equally?
Holt: For me working on stage is a more satisfying experience. In the film world you can give a good performance but everything will come down to what they choose in the editing room. That’s the crucial stage in the process, and actors are usually excluded. I don’t think there’s one actor in the world who’s worked extensively the movie business and not had the experience of seeing a performance ruined in editing. It happens all the time and it’s very frustrating.
Nate: Blackhat: What was your experience working on a Michael Mann film ?
Holt: Blackhat is a very good example of what I’m talking about. I worked hard for Michael Mann and gave him a good performance but in the cut he cut almost all of my stuff out of the film. I was so disgusted I didn’t even attend the premiere. The film was a commercial and critical disaster but that didn’t change the way I felt.
Nate: Besides acting what other hobbies/interests do you have?
Holt: I enjoy boxing and martial arts. I love to read and to travel. I like jazz. I’ll be the president of the jury at the International Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium this year and I’m looking forward to that.
Nate: You mentioned before on twitter that Lights Leary is your favourite role that you’ve played. Can you elaborate? Is there any hopes of ever seeing a movie/continuation of it?
Holt: Lights Leary was a very well-written and complex character. It was unfortunate he didn’t get a second season because the people who watched the show seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. As far as a film version down the road I’d love todo it but it’s a long shot.
Nate:Criminal Minds: Your portrayal of a veteran suffering PTSD was harrowing and very convincing. Did you do any research, and what kind of prep did that involve for you before you filmed?
Holt: Yes I had the opportunity to speak to a number of vets about their experiences in Iraq. They were very open and I was grateful for their isights. I also got some hand-to-hand training for the action sequences from Amir Peretz, an expert in Krav Maga.
Nate: Who are some of your favourite films/actors/filmmakers?
Holt: As a boy growing up my favorite actors were Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, and Steve McQueen, of course Marlon Brando, and I was a big fan of Gene Hackman. I remember being fascinated by A Clockwork Orange when I was very young. I watched it so many times I could repeat all the lines. I would have loved to work with Stanley Kubrick, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with great directors like David Fincher, Clint Eastwood, David O. Russell, Walter Hill, David Twohy and many others.
Nate: Do you have any upcoming projects you are excited for and want to mention?
Holt: Yes I’ll be appearing in several films next year including Shot Caller opposite Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for director Ric Roman Waugh, Sully with Tom Hanks for director Clint Eastwood, Jack Reacher 2 with Tom Cruise for Ed Zwick, and a big action film called Monster Trucks. I have high hopes for all of them.