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Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Dennis Quaid Performances

What’s the first thing you think of when Dennis Quaid is mentioned? Western? Action film? High concept SciFi? Disney flick? For a guy with hero good looks and a winning smile he has deftly managed to avoid being totally typecast in his career and although very frequently nails the romantic lead, also shows up in unconventional, challenging roles that test and allow him to grow as an actor. He’s got charm through the roof but there’s also a darkness brooding in his persona that I always enjoy seeing brought forth in the work, as well as a talent for quick paced deadpan humour. Here are my top ten favourite performances:

10. Vaughn Ely in Martin Guigui’s Beneath The Darkness

Villain roles are a rare breed for him to be found in, but there is the odd one out there. This is a low budget ‘serial killer next door’ type horror flick in which a group of teenagers try to prove that their upstanding, affable neighbour (Dennis) is in fact a mass murdering maniac. Sounds fun, right? It is but only thanks to Quaid’s certifiably fruit-loopy performance that steals the whole thing. It’s new ground for the actor but he seems right at home in dark, tongue in cheek character work and plays the pants off of this unhinged suburban maniac.

9. Jack McGurn in Alan Parker’s Come See The Paradise

This is an important, heartfelt performance and one of the only ones where he doesn’t use that winning smile or roguish charm. Set in the US following the attacks on Pearl Harbour, he plays a family man married to a Japanese woman who, along with their young daughter and entire family, are imprisoned in internment camps during a period of history that is shamefully not discussed very often. It’s a terrible situation to find you and your loved ones in and his performance, which spans over a decade, reflects the hardships and turmoil of that time while retaining a fierce love for family and country.

8. Davidge in Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine

An intergalactic survival story sees military pilot Quaid and an extraterrestrial (Louis Gossett Jr.) marooned on a strange planet together. Fighting as mortal enemies in a war, they are forced to reconcile hatred and rely on each other for survival. A bond like no other is formed and both actors handle the mutual character development beautifully, making this much more than just a SciFi adventure story.

7. Doc Holliday in Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp

This is frequently known as ‘that other Wyatt Earp’ film because in most circles it is eclipsed by the admittedly superior Tombstone. Easy to see why as it’s moody, emotional and dour where it’s counterpart is essentially a cheerful swashbuckler. Val Kilmer’s pitch perfect take on Doc gets all the raves and rightly so but I find Dennis’s rendition to be equally as compelling, a snarky, fatalistic loudmouth who blindsides in certain scenes by laying down lucid emotional truths and providing sad yet profound insights.

6. Jimmy Morris in John Lee Hancock’s The Rookie

I’m not usually huge on sports films but this one is such a great underdog story, father son drama on two levels and just an all round feel good piece. Quaid plays a prodigy pitcher who never got his shot at the major leagues as a kid but now, in his mid forties, he’s thrown another chance when most of the guys around him trying out are half his age. You just find yourself rooting for this guy so willingly when you see the shine in the eyes of his kid (Angus T. Jones) and the blooming admiration his own father (Brian Cox, excellent as always) shows when he succeeds. Quaid plays it stoic, achingly modest and unsure of himself until that magic pitching arm gets to come into play and he becomes youthful again in the blink of an eye with a remarkable piece of acting.

5. Remy Mcswain in Jim McBride’s The Big Easy

About the cockiest hotshot vice cop you could find on the streets of New Orleans, Quaid’s Remy is womanizing, fast talking, fun loving, well meaning and just a tad corrupt, which spurs on the conflict of the film. He clashes royally with uptight DA Ellen Barkin until sparks inevitably fly and we are treated to some of the hottest, most adorable romantic chemistry I’ve seen in cinema. Quaid is easygoing and lighthearted in the role but never too goofy or self parodying, and there’s several scenes of sobering gravity that show his range even in a role as walk-on-the-clouds effervescent as this. We also get to see one of the most mature, realistic and down to earth sex scenes in film history, which is all too rare in Hollywood.

4. Arlis Sweeney in Steve Kloves’s Flesh & Bone

A dark, chilling tale sees Quaid play the son of a ruthless killer (James Caan) who falls in love with a drifter (Meg Ryan) that has some connections to their collective past. This is a stormy, doom laden psychological family drama that didn’t see half the exposure it deserves. Quaid plays the role introverted, a man haunted and confused by events he is still trying to reconcile, pitted against his demon of a dad and on a path to a violent, destructive conclusion.

3. Frank Sullivan in Gregory Hoblit’s Frequency

Trust Quaid and costar Jim Caviesel to make such an ‘out there’ premise feel so down to earth. As father and son they are able to communicate across a thirty year gulf of time and transcend the barrier of death itself via a very special HAM radio. Quaid makes comforting magic out of the Everyman/dad/firefighter/baseball fan archetype. There’s a warmth and genuine love he has for his family that jumps off the screen as grounds the film in human emotion.

2. Guy/Joshua Rose in Predrag Antonejevic’s Saviour

A little seen or heard of film, this one is brutal to sit through but worth it every second. A French foreign legion soldier with a tragic, bloody past, Quaid’s rough hewn mercenary finds himself awash in the Serbian/Bosnian war with no discernible side to fight on, genocide abound at every turn and a stunning lack of humanity poisoning the region. He finds a modicum of redemption in caring for a woman (Natasha Ninkovic) and her baby that is the product of rape by muslims, something her whole village has now shunned her for. This is dark, grim stuff we witness along with Guy, but his actions and eventual turnaround of soul are something wonderful to see. Quaid plays him streamlined of any heroic sensibilities or obvious moral fabric, just a man of few words with a tortured spirit trying to navigate a region tearing itself apart with evil.

1. Nick Parker in Disney’s The Parent Trap

This is a very personal choice for me, it’s one of the first films I ever saw as a kid, and was my introduction to Dennis’s work as an actor. There’s something cosmically perfect and warm about his performance here and to me no other film or series has captured his essence quite like this. Just a laidback Napa valley winemaker, a loving father and husband who finds himself in the wackiest of situations. His father daughter chemistry with both versions of Lindsay Lohan as well as Natasha Richardson just works so well and their whole unconventional, very sweet family dynamic carries the film to memorable heights.

Thanks for reading!! Please feel free to share your own favourite performances from Quaid and as always stay tuned for more content!

-Nate Hill

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Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Jennifer Lopez Performances

Jennifer Lopez has long been a powerhouse across many different genres, mediums and forms of artistic expression. Her gritty urban vibe laced with an angelic tenderness always rules the screen whenever she shows up in cinema, as well as a heaven sent singing voice, unbelievable dance skills and charisma for days. I’m not altogether familiar with her music career but I’ve greatly enjoyed her work in film for decades, she’s intense, varied, heartfelt and always completely focused. Here are my personal top ten performances:

10. Gabriela in Bob Rafaelson’s Blood & Wine

Essentially a thankless side chick role, she expertly plays demanding mistress to Jack Nicholson’s narcissistic petty thief in this pitch black crime drama that’s filled to the brim with contemptible characters. She makes the most out of an early career turn here and makes as vivid an impression as the rest of the prolific cast, almost all of which are cast against type.

9. Grace Santiago in Joseph Ruben’s Money Train

This is a terrific buddy action flick that sailed right under everyone’s radar and these days remains overlooked. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson are the two cops, also adoptive brothers and Jennifer is the fellow officer caught between them. It’s interesting because both the script and her performance shirk the usual love triangle tropes and although there is romantic interest, she serves a much more functional part in the story than just that and ends up being smarter and tougher than both of them.

8. Harlee Santos in NBC’s Shades Of Blue

Many of the cop shows these days blur together, don’t last long or just aren’t all that memorable but this was something special due in part to Lopez and costar Ray Liotta, whose chemistry is incredible. She plays a big city cop who gets deep into corruption almost by accident with her trouble prone, hotheaded boss, friend and mentor (Liotta). It’s a tricky wade through urban quagmires of moral distress and bad decisions, she anchors it beautifully with a performance that elicits sympathy despite the crimes committed and has you feeling like you’re right there beside her.

7. Teri Flores in Luis Llosa’s Anaconda

Ahh, one of the ultimate 90’s nostalgic B movies. JLo plays it sexy and dangerous here in high adventure mode, holding her own against tough guy Ice Cube and creepy poacher Jon Voight. There’s been so many horrendous TV movie creature features in the last ten years (Pirahnaconda comes to mind as some bastard offspring of this) that people forget how legitimately fun this one is. J makes it so too in a performance that’s never too campy and never to straight faced.

6. Slim Hiller in Michael Apted’s Enough

A royally abusive, psychotic husband (Billy Campbell) gets an epic beatdown from Lopez’s Slim, the battered housewife and mother who has had, you guessed it, Enough. This film gets a bad rep but fuck the people, it’s a terrific star vehicle, effective thriller, stunt showcase and cathartic revenge story that is engaging, affecting and re-watchable. Jen makes a dynamic, sympathetic lead and you really feel every punch and kick when she fights back. Supported by an eclectic cast including Juliette Lewis, Jeff Kober, Noah Wyle, Dan Futterman, Bill Cobbs and Fred Ward, this has always been one of my favourites and stands as an example of how good Lopez is in a starring role.

5. Jean Gylkyson in Lasse Hallström’s An Unfinished Life

Maybe the most complex performance on this list sees her yet again play a victim of abuse, on the run from her nasty ex husband (Damien Lewis). She takes refuge on the ranch owned by her estranged father (Robert Redford) and their complex, stormy past relationship is explored meditatively by both as well as director Hallström who always has a way with challenging dramas. Jen really shows the deeply etched hurt and regret in her work here, one gets the sense that she maybe blames herself for certain things, the fascination is in seeing a slow but steady recovery and reconciliation for her as well as Redford.

4. Selena Quintanilla in Gregory Nava’s Selena

She brings light, warmth and beauty to an inspirational yet heartbreakingly tragic true life story that earned her a Golden Globe nomination and established her as a force to be reckoned with as both an actress and singer. The real life Selena rose to chart topping levels almost overnight and delivered a knockout solo performance at the Houston Astrodome, and here JLo paints a breathtaking picture of these events and embodies the artist with grace and charisma to spare.

3. Grace McKenna in Oliver Stone’s U Turn

Here she plays the only First Nations femme fatale on record (or at least the only one that comes to mind) in Stone’s wild, edgy and ultra violent sun soaked neo-noir. It’s the tale of one one wayward man (Sean Penn) who comes to town and wishes he hadn’t as it seems every local, yokel and their mothers all have it in for him. Grace is a manipulating, slutty, sociopathic, dangerous little brat who plays him and her tyrannical husband/stepfather (Nick Nolte at his slimiest) against each other to deliberately cause chaos for everyone. There’s a wounded bird vulnerability she displays as a lure that switches into conniving mind games before her targets can even react, it’s a deadly piece of work from Lopez that nails both the past trauma in this damaged girl’s psyche and the hard, amoral edge that it has cultivated in her.

2. Karen Sisco in Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight

She rocks the Elmore Leonard dialogue like no other as smart, sexy and uncompromising federal marshal Sisco, who becomes conflicted when her feelings for slick ex-con Jack (George Clooney) threaten to derail her job. This is another performance that shows off her toughness and vulnerability, sometimes in the same scene. There’s one part where she’s sitting quietly having a drink in an airport bar, minding her own business. A couple hapless businessmen take turns trying to pick her up with increasingly pathetic tactics, and it’s a joy to see her firmly shut each one down with equal parts class, stealth and just plain magnetism. Don’t even get me started on the multitude of scenes between her and Clooney, they’re pure magic.

1. Catherine Deane in Tarsem Singh’s The Cell

A child psychologist who enters people’s dreams to learn about their mental state and help them, she’s forced to navigate the subconscious of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio) and find hidden truths in his threatening world. Jen finds the complexity and compassion in this character, it’s her innate empathy with the human beings around her that drives the work she does, and she radiates light and resilience. As the cops around her express judgment when she adopts the killer’s dog when all is said and done, you can feel that a combination of seeing people’s private worlds inside their minds and her intuitive nature has made her this way, and the performance from Jen to back that up is remarkable.

Thanks for reading!

-Nate Hill

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Gary Oldman Performances

Gary Oldman is both one of my personal favourite actors and an absolute champion of the craft, an adaptable master of any role thrown at him who can take words on a page and lift them to magnificent heights in his work. Intense, implosive, focused, hard working and super dynamic in front of a camera, he’s always an actor to watch and an undisputed master of his craft. I love each and every performance this man has given us so far in a brilliantly diverse career, but here are the ten characters that stand out the most for me:

10. Charlie Strom in Sin

Bear with me on this one. Like any actor, Gary has appeared in a few duds, and overall this happens to be one of them *but* his performance in it is fantastic. Ving Rhames plays a tough ex cop whose sister (Kerry Washington) is raped and brutalized on Oldman’s orders as some kind of underworld porn king. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues in which Rhames seeks revenge for the atrocity but discovers that Oldman targeted him for reasons of his own going back into both their pasts. It’s a decent script given the scrappy low budget treatment but Oldman’s tormented villain is worth sitting through for. He has a conversation with Rhames midway through the film that gets philosophical in nature and overall he just nails the haunted persona of this role.

9. O.W. Grant in Bob Gale’s Interstate 60

This is a playful role in one heinously overlooked hidden gem. Essentially an existential road trip movie with supernatural elements and enough cameos to launch a pilot, Gary plays a mysterious genie like deity who grants everyone he sees one wish by blowing green smoke from his monkey shaped pipe. He also has no reproductive organs, as a hitchhiking nymphomaniac chick hilariously discovers. It’s light, easygoing work from the actor who isn’t doing any heavy lifting with the performance yet still makes a terrific comedic impact and seems like he’s having a lot of fun.

8. George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

John Le Carré’s chilly Cold War thriller sees Oldman take on the role of an MI6 lieutenant embroiled in the treacherous search for a soviet spy amongst his own ranks. Restrained and opaque, one begins to see the keen scrutiny hiding behind the character’s initially withdrawn nature. When an event causes him to almost lose that composure, he expertly shows the emotions bursting forth and the efforts to keep them within, reaching a pitch perfect note of performance that gets better and more detailed every time you revisit the film.

7. Jackie Flannery in Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace

One of the great crime dramas he has taken on, this one sees him play a volatile, unstable Irish gangster in NYC’s brutal Hell’s Kitchen, stick between his mob boss older brother (Ed Harris) and childhood friend (Sean Penn) who is now an undercover cop infiltrating their ranks. With a mop of greasy hair and the mannerisms of an untrained dog let off the leash, this is a ballistic tornado of a characterization with childlike notes, a good dose of rambunctious restlessness and primal violent nature uncaged.

6. Sirius Black in Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban

From the moment we see gaunt, haunted eyed convict Black onscreen Gary makes him a magnetic, spooky presence to be reckoned with. Even before that we see him howling out of moving wanted posters in Diagon Alley and off the front page of the Daily Prophet. Oldman makes juxtaposed genius out of his work here and the shift from scary fugitive to compassionate friend and mentor to Harry is handled beautifully. It’s also nice to see him and fellow British thespian David Thewlis collectively chewing scenery, they have palpable chemistry and I’d love to see a buddy cop thing with them one day, or something like that.

5. Jack Grimaldi in Peter Medak’s Romeo Is Bleeding

The ultimate corrupt cop, Oldman’s Jack is a loose cannon dirtbag who discovers that his ways have consequences when his life is made into a living hell by terrifying femme fatale Mona Demarkhov (Lena Olin) and ruthless mafia don Falcone (Roy Schneider). He inhabits the sweaty, desperate neo-noir palette of this great film very well, especially in sly, mournful voiceover as he literally narrates his own story as if it didn’t happen to him.

4. Dracula In Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola outdoes himself with this lavish, baroque piece of eye candy that for me is the best film version of Dracula ever made, likewise for Gary’s knockout performance as the titular vampire king. He has several incarnations here from armoured Transylvanian knight to skeletal senior citizen to dashing foreign prince to full on nine foot gorilla werewolf hell-beast thing and he rocks each one with full blooded embodiment and spectacular verve. Surrounded by solid players like Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Sadie Frost, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant and Tom Waits in an encore as the lunatic Renfield, this is a magnificent dark jewel of a film and a horror masterpiece.

3. James Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises

The actor goes inward here for a fierce, gritty turn as the legendary police commissioner, giving the character all the salt of the earth integrity and brooding charisma we could hope to get. In a career full of extravagant portrayals and amidst a trilogy riddled with flamboyant villains and people who dress up in costumes, ironically he gets to play the most down to earth and level headed guy, comparatively. His Gordon is a straight arrow cop who is fallible, tactical and compassionate.

2. Drexl Spivey in Tony Scott’s True Romance

A white pimp who thinks he’s black, this has to be the single most impactful performance ever filmed that only takes up one five minute scene and another brief thirty second one. Dreadlocks, gnarly scars, a dead eye, leopard print housecoat, this guy couldn’t be more visually ridiculous but for all the flourish and swagger, it’s Gary’s mannerisms that shine through and win the day. The goal of his scene is essentially to circle and intimidate Christian Slater before pouncing on him like a pissed off coyote, and he succeeds in freaking him out plus the rest of the world watching on their screens. This film is filled with memorable moments scene after scene but his mad dog portrayal of this reprehensibly hilarious Detroit gutter-rat piece of shit stands out.

1. Norman Stansfield in Luc Besson’s Leon The Professional

I’m not sure what Besson’s direction to Oldman was in playing this spectacularly corrupt DEA agent but he kind of just runs off and does his own thing to the point where other actors in the scene look scared of him for real. Casually homicidal, easily distracted, highly unstable and so intense he frequently goes red in the face, this is a villain that would frighten most others into submission. Contrasted with Jean Reno’s and Natalie Portman’s more contemplative performances he’s the wild card of this tale and fills it to the brim with madness, firepower, dark humour and that trademark white suit that you better not get blood on or he’ll shoot you after he’s already killed you in a crazed tantrum of scenery chewing that only Gary Oldman is capable of.

Thanks for reading ! Please share you favourite Gary Oldman performances as well!

-Nate Hill

Actors Spotlight with Raymond J Barry

Image result for raymond j barry

Joining us is seasoned veteran actor Raymond J. Barry to discuss his long and amazing career. Raymond speaks about being a theater actor and playwright, to appearing in such films as Falling Down, Interview with the Assassin, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Year of the Dragon, Born on the 4th of July, and Training Day among many. He shares wonderful anecdotes from the films he has been a part of, and his candid thoughts on his roles and people he’s worked with. We hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as we enjoyed recording it. Please visit Raymond’s website to view his reel as well as his artwork.

 

Canadian Virtuoso: A chat with actor Nick Mancuso- An interview by Nate Hill

My first interview ever, revisited three years later. Nick is still out there making great art, and this was a fantastic chat!

Recently I had the great honour and privilege to have a chat with legendary Canadian actor, producer and writer Nick Mancuso, an accomplished man of the arts with a career spanning over forty years in film, television and theatre. He has appeared in countless films, including the Under Siege series with Steven Seagal, Rapid Fire with Brandon Lee, Black Christmas, Ticket To Heaven, Captured, Mother Lode alongside Kim Basinger and Charlton Heston, Heartbreakers, In The Mix and countless hidden gem indies. Early in his career he starred in the popular NBC series Stingray, also appearing in shows like Totall Recall 2070, Wild Palms, The Hitchhiker, Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Hunger, Call Of The Wild in which he played John Thornton, The Outer Limits, The Firm, and more. He has also served as the artistic director for the Pier One Theatre in Halifax, during his epic career. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, some of which he was kind enough to share with me. Here is our interview:

Nate: You have a ferocious intensity and frenzy to a lot of your work, which is equal parts scary, and fascinating. How did you stumble upon that energy and rambunctious, unique vibe within yourself, and apply it to your work throughout your career?

Nick: That’s a good question. What are it’s origins? I guess I was born with it, but I suspect some of it comes from my early childhood experiences in the heart of southern Italy right after the war, in 1948. There was much suffering, much poverty and infant mortality was at 75 percent. These were terrible times, and I almost died from an intestinal infection at age 2. I remember vaguely fighting for my life,  battling to stay alive. In those days people were starving to death in my town of Mammola, and the great migrations for survival began, with almost 18000 people migrating to foreign lands like France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Canada, USA, Australia, Argentina, Brazil. We left in order to survive, in order to have a new life. My family was part of those migrations. I remember my mother, my baby sister and I came in a steerable in the belly of the troop ship the Vulcania from Naples to Halifax. I had to adjust to a whole new life, a new language and a new country. I very much sympathize with those poor people crossing the Mediterranean and dying trying to get to Italy. 7000 drowning every year, it’s a terrible plight of genocidal proportions while the world does nothing. I understand what it means to be an immigrant, to be rejected and to have to fight for everything in order to survive. I suppose those early experiences marked me with that ferocious intensity you refer to. To me the eye of the Tiger is very real. It’s ironic or somehow fitting that my town was also the birthplace of another man who gained world prominence. His name was Pepe Luca and they did a film about his struggles as a warrior in Vietnam, with Sylvester Stallone portraying him. His name was Rambo.

Nate: Thank you for sharing that Nick. You studied psychology early in lif. Did you find that helpful in your acting work, with forming characters?

Nick: I think the study of psychology is mostly a waste of time. As far as the craft and yes the art of acting goes. I refer to the work as psycho-physical labor, which is a misnomer because it implies dualism and really full engagement in the reality of the moment is all that truly matters. Acting is being nothing else. The true actor becomes and is transformed by the imagination, inspired by the vision of the writer, the screenwriter and the playwright. We all have within us the potential for all being and all states of human and yes, even non human consciousness. The actor has a duty to the truth, an impossible task ultimately. All children are natural actors. But we lose that ability as we grow up. It is as Einstein said, that he continued as a grownup to ask the same questions he asked as a child. It very much is child’s games with adult rules, as Sondra Seacat stated. Any knowledge that will fire up the imagination and cause it to manifest into Action is useful, providing it engages the imagination. This is what I’ve meant by Stanislavakian inspiration – to breathe in. Henry Irving, the great British actor of the last century, said of acting that it was a paradox. The actor is and is not himself. It’s the difference between the dry dead notes on the page and the living music of life. No, the study of behavioural psychology was of no value whatsoever as far as the art and craft of acting goes. I did however find the study of homeopathic medecine and Hahnemann’s Materia Medica to be somewhat useful, and Karl Jung very helpful. Very much it’s a child’s game with adult rules. It’s ridiculous to take any of it seriously, what is however necessary is what Constantin Stanislavsky referred to as “gladness”, a glad heart and lightness of spirit, which is easier said than done. Heart surgery is serious business, acting is not.

Nate: Black Christmas: Was that really your voice on the phone as the prowler? (which was terrifying by the way). How did that job find you?

Nick: Yes that was my voice. “Its me Billy”. I did it standing on my head to compress my thorax, but Bob Clark the director did some as well, and a Toronto theatre actress whose name escapes me (mugsy Sweeny?) sorry can’t recall, but I did a play with her by Des Macnuff (directed Jersey Boys on Broadway) at the old Toronto free theatre now, Canstage. I was a stage actor, I don’t even think I got a credit, and it’s ironic that that first little film became a cult hit. I recently did an interview and narration for the re-release by Anchor Bay. I think I made a hundred bucks and never a cent since then. Ain’t showbiz grand?

Nate: Stingray: How was it in a lead role for a television series? Did it shift things greatly in your career at the time?

Nick: Well yeah…it did.. I was starring in my own tv series for NBC…short lived as it was. Two years after it was cancelled they realized they had a hit and tried to reorder it, but I was starring in another short lived series called Matrix, weirdly enough with Carrie Anne Moss, who went on to do the hit movie The Matrix.  The two had nothing to do with each other, but my career had been filled with such oddities. By the way Stingray was based on a pilot I wrote, or at least improvised with Stephen J Cannell called Shack. Steve,  who was truly a great soul, let me write it with him when I was first put under option for ABC in 77. I will always miss Stephen J Cannell who was the Shakespeare of TV in the 70s and 80s, from Rockford Files, A-Team, to Hunter, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Wise Guy and 21 Jump St. A truly amazing creative force and it was an honor to have worked with him. He died young and is very much missed. …

Nate: You have an astounding background in theatre, including the Vancouver Playhouse. How does it compare to film for you, does your passion lie with one more than the other, or have both been equally good to you?

Nick: Theatre is sculpture, film is painting, it takes art and craft. In both cases but they are different mediums and demand different techniques. Brando was a great film actor, the greatest. So was Marilyn Monroe. Olivier was a great stage actor. It’s rare you find both in one artist like Michelangelo, who could both sculpt and paint. I use the analogy of the jet fighter and the astronaut. The stage actor is a jet fighter. He’s in charge. He’s flying the plane, and the film actor is the astronaut, he’s flying higher, he’s flying faster,  every one knows his name but he ain’t flying the pod. The editor, the director and the cinematographer are. It’s not necessary to be an actor to be a star, but it helps. Of the two mediums I like both. Neither have been particularly good to me, but to my mind acting is a vocation, not a profession. Like the priesthood, the true actor is called to it. He or she had no choice but to act…but it is as Brando stated in the end: “a mugs racket”. Would I have done anything else in a career that now spans almost 45 years? Nope. It’s been a great run. Actors are born, not made.

Nate: I’ve heard that you were considered for the role of Indiana Jones. Is there a story behind that?

Nick: Yes, I met with Stephen Spielberg 4 times for the role of Indiana Jones. He screen tested me alone, just him and a camera. One day I walked into his office, and there was a blowup of a check for 80 million dollars, his cut of Star Wars. When he and lucas were students they made a deal that they would share in each others successes and the check was his share. I was told years later that I was the top contender for Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was a much better choice in my mind, and obviously in the mind of the world. It became one of the highest grossing movies of all time, catapulting Harrison Ford into the celestial heights of film. It’s like all our destinies turn on a dime. Had I gotten the role, my life would have been radically different, but then on the other hand I might not be here typing these words on an Android. Who knew Steve Jobs would create Apple, and that Facebook and Twitter would revolutionize the world we live in? How many steve jobs are out there who just happened to miss one tiny bit of the equation?

Nate: Do you have any upcoming films that you are excited about and would like to mention?

Nick: Yes I’m excited about a film I did called The Performance, beautifully written and directed by Stephen Wallis. It deals with an old stage actor (me) who returns to the theatre he began his career in 40 years ago. I don’t want to give the plot away but it’s the best work I’ve done since Ticket to Heaven, where I was submitted by MGM/UA for a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination. I’m also excited by a film I wrote and star in entitled Born Dead, a neorealustic feature shot on the cold wintry streets of Toronto, about an actor who decides to end it all …powerful performances by local Canadian actors Sean Mcann and Tony  Rosati, as well as a host of street lunatics, alcoholics and drug addicts. It’s in post, and directed by a very talented Armenian Canadian named Robert Gulassarian who to my mind has a real future in the business. On Sept 13 in Toronto at the Toronto Indie Film Festival my film on the life of the beat American poet Gregory Corso will screen at the Carlton Cinemas. I star and cowrote it, and it was shot in Rome, Los Angeles and Calabria, directed by very able and talented young Italian director Matteo Scarfo. I’m hoping to start rehearsals on my Play, Sinatra American Faust, on the life of Frank Sinatra, at the national theatre of Romania which has staged one of my first plays, Dumneu es unMafiot (God is a gangster). As usual I have a lot of irons in the fire and hope to continue doing this work as long as I am able.

Nate: Your work has been an immense inspiration to me in my own process as an actor. Do you have any advice for aspiring students in the craft? Not as far as making it, or finances or anything, more along the lines of honing the craft, creating the characters, and your process.

Nick: At the root of it all is inspiration …The act of creation has only two mortal enemies: seriousness and fear. These two qualities flatten the life force and the artists ability to leap and play. Don’t listen to naysayers and critics, because if they knew what they were talking about, they would be doing it, instead of sitting in the sidelines. Acting has one word in it: Act. Action, Motion, Movement. It’s all about getting off your ass and doing, with the sure knowledge that 9 out of 10 times that bull is going to throw you. I admire bull riders, because they have the qualities an actors needs. Flexibility, resiliency and the ability to brush yourself off with your hat and get back on. They also have two other necessary qualities: The ability to have extensive courage, and the ability to withstand great pain. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Nate: Wow. You have answered my questions and then some, Nick. I am profoundly grateful for this, it’s a wealth of information, and I feel honoured to have spoken with you, even over the cyber causeways of the Internet. Thank you so much for your time and words, it means a lot.

Nick: You’re welcome, Nate.

A Chat with actor Chris Ellis: An interview by Nate Hill

Very excited to bring you my latest interview, with actor Chris Ellis! Chris has an epic and wonderful career, appearing in many films including Armageddon, The Island, The Dark Knight Rises, The Devil’s Rejects, The Guest, Catch Me If You Can, Transformers, Wonderland, Planet Of The Apes, October Sky, Mr. Bean, Con Air, Wag The Dog, A Little Princess, Crimson Tide and many more. He’s a true gentleman, a hard working performer and a great guy. Enjoy our chat!

 

Nate: How did you first get into acting? Was it something you always wanted, or did you stumble into it?
Chris: From age 5 while watching the Mickey Mouse Club on early television, I warbled, “Hey diddley dee, that actor’s life for me.”
Nate: I’ve heard you referred to as a character actor before. What is you opinion on the term, and would you categorize yourself as such?
Chris: A male character actor is one who never gets the girl because he is not pretty enough – too bald, too chubby, too southern. I have played such roles throughout a lengthy, undistinguished career. Just once I wanted to kiss the girl.

Nate: The Dark Knight Rises: How was your experience working on this film, with Christopher Nolan and such an epic scene on that bridge?
Chris: You have the advantage of me, sir, as I have never seen that movie. More to the point, I have never read the script, though I understand I appeared in it in the early, middle and late sections. The reason I never read the script is that I was never shown any part of it other than the pages containing my own dialogue, and those pages were drastically redacted such that I was able to see the immediate cues for my dialogue and nothing else. At one point, after shooting a scene over my shoulder, the camera was turned around on me for a reaction shot. My query as to what I might be reacting to and how was answered by Nolan so: “That is on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know.” He fleshed out that response by suggesting I react as if I were “reacting to the sight of two guys talking.” No one I know who saw the movie hinted that I never looked as if I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but in fact no plot point was ever made known to me, nor any suggestion of the long arc of the movie. On the other hand, I got paid well, travelled to Pittsburgh, New York City, and Nottinghamshire in England. In all three places I had lots of time off in which to wonder what the hell the movie was about and to do lots of sightseeing. Any time, Mr Nolan.
Nate: I’ve noticed that you work with Michael Bay very frequently. Are you two pals, or has that just been coincidence? How has you experience been on his films, Armageddon/The Island etc.?
Chris: I worked with Bay on Armageddon, Transformers, and The Island. He is said by some to lack gentility and sophistication, and I have seen him on sets demonstrating a want of courtesy to actors who permit him to do so, but if you want a big action movie grossing a billion dollars about exploding planets and trucks turning over in high speed traffic mishaps, he is your boy. If you want art, go to the Lemmle Theatre in Santa Monica. I do this for a living. I go to museums for art. 
Nate: The Devil’s Rejects: such a wild and crazy film. Very memorable part as the goofball cop. How was your experience on that set, working with Rob Zombie and William Forsythe?
Chris: One day I mentioned to my theatrical agent that I had always been a fan of horror movies, by which I meant the classics of that genre, mostly from the 1950s and 60s. Very next day he called me with an offer for “a horror movie by Rob Zombie,” of whom I had never heard. I wouldn’t call The Devil’s Rejects horror – more like a Charlie Manson wet dream, but Zombie was the soul of gentility on the set. He is covered in tattoos, many of them visual renderings of famous horror movie characters from a simpler time, and when I worked with him he kept his wallet attached to his person by a length of chain sagging with languor between the wallet and his belt loop. This is a fashion accessory I associate with the Donald Trump demographic but which was belied by Zombie’s gentle and quiet spirit. 
Nate: What are some of your favourite roles you have played in your career so far?
Chris: Last year I played a judge on a TV series called Murder In The First. That was my dream job, as it involved sitting in a comfortable chair all day long on set, frequently unshod, and with an improving book in my lap to which I could refer between the words, “Cut!” and “Action!” I quite enjoyed yet another incarnation of Sheriff Cracker von Peckerwood in a 2000 movie called The Watcher, not least because I was given a rather wide berth by the director and screenwriter in making the dialogue my own. Also, it was a character with whom I felt a comfortable intimacy. The same applies to the character I played in the movie Armageddon and in one episode of the TV show X-Files. Playing Deke Slayton in Apollo 13 was probably the actual thrill of a lifetime because we all believed while working on that movie that it would become a significant movie (which it remains) and because I remembered Deke while he had been part of the Soyuz/Apollo mission in 1975. But, I hope it will not appear to be taking the liberty of rodomontade to utter the hope that there never has been a time of stepping onto a movie set without breathing a prayer of inarticulate gratitude for the consummation of a lifetime’s desire.
Nate: How was your experience on Catch Me If You Can?
Catch Me If You Can was a joy to work on, first because the script is superb, and because it gave me the chance to work with Spielberg who is a gentleman non pareil and who offers every artistic freedom to everyone on set. When I worked with him, at the completion of each set up, he would ask to the crew as well as to the cast, “Does anybody want to try another one? Anybody want to try something a little different? We have the time, so let me know if you’d like to do anything else with this shot.” Of course he has a very competent crew surrounding him, so his movies are apt always to come in one time and under budget, so it was a joy to work with such freedom.
Nate: Do you have a favourite or preferred genre to work in, or is it all equally enjoyable? Just once I’d like to kiss the girl, but as I say, every time I step onto any kind of set I remind myself that I am not laying roofing tar in Phoenix during the summer. If you ever hear me complain about any circumstance of my livelihood, you are invited to come where I am and kick me in the nuts.
Nate: What is next for you? Any upcoming projects, cinematic or otherwise that you are excited about and would like to mention?
Chris: Nope. Mostly what I do for a living is wait for the phone to ring. My family and I are now on vacation, but soon as I get home I will be slouching toward the telephone hoping to god it rings.

Nate: Thank you so much for your time Chris, it’s been a pleasure, and keep up the awesome work!

A Chat with Actor Mark Acheson: An Interview by Nate Hill 

  

Very excited to bring you my latest interview, with actor Mark Acheson. Mark has played countless distinct characters in film, including the mailroom guy who befriends Buddy in Elf, the thug who attacks Rorschach in Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, Moses Tripoli, the head of the North Dakota mob in FX’s Fargo, and more. He has also appeared in John Mctiernan’s The 13th Warrior, Reindeer Games, The Chronicles Of Riddick, Hot Rod, She’s The Man, 3000 Miles To Graceland, Crossfire Trail and more. Enjoy! 

Nate: When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
Mark: My first play I performed in grade 7 at age 11. My school loved the bad boy character and suddenly I was popular. I was hooked from then on.

Nate: Some actors/films/filmmakers who have inspired you in your own work?
Mark: I always loved movies and television and my idea of the perfect actor is Daniel Day Lewis who I think is unrecognizable from role to role. That to me is true acting.

Nate: Fargo: How was your experience with that show? Any stories from set?
Mark: Fargo was perfect. I remember the incredibly talented Noah Hawley who wrote the script always on set polishing constantly. I was very proud that our episodes won three Emmys including best miniseries and best casting by Jackie Lind who is truly a force of nature.
Nate: Watchmen: your experience working with Snyder, and on the film?
Mark: Zach was the youngest and possibly one of the most gifted directors I have ever had the pleasure to work for. He was relaxed and made the set even more so.

Nate: Some of your favourite roles you have played so far in your career?
Mark: So many great projects I have been lucky enough to be in but working with Will Farrell in Elf had to be the best. I have been recognized all over the world from that one small part. Director Jon Favreau let us ad lib everything. Will is a genius!!
Nate: You went to Langara College’s Studio 58. I myself went to their somewhat new subsidiary program called Film Arts. How do you find that theatre training has affected your work in film? Do you still do any stage work? 

Mark:  I entered theater school at age 15 and it changed my life. To play Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Gave me my start as a pro and my first agent. I miss the stage very much especially Shakespeare which I enjoyed so much. Sadly these days stage is too infrequent and too much of a time commitment.
Nate: The 13th Warrior: excellent, underrated film with a notoriously troubled production. How was your experience working on it?

Mark: This was originally titled Eaters of the Dead. Difficult set. Schwarzenegger was originally booked but fought the studio about shooting in Canada. He was getting ready to run for governor. Best part was to meet and work with Omar Sharif. Such a film legend and an even nicer man.
Nate: Your dream role?

Mark: After acting for almost 50 years my dream is just to keep working. I love it all especially the variety.
Nate: Any upcoming projects, cinematic or otherwise, that you are excited for and would like to talk about?

Mark: I currently have 4 projects in the can including Lewis and Clark for HBO airing this Christmas but I am barred from any pics or descriptions until they air. July I will start another movie that looks like alot of fun but as usual I will be killed like I was on two shows last week. Just making a living dying.

Nate:  Thank you so much for your time, and the opportunity to chat. Best of luck in the future!
Mark:  Thanks again Nate. All the best. Your interest makes all the struggle and auditions I didn’t get worthwhile.