Proud to present to you my latest interview, with Erick Avari, an instantly recognizable, charming actor who seems to pop up all over the place. He has very memorable appearances in films including The Mummy, Independence Day, Planet Of The Apes, Stargate, Daredevil, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Mr. Deeds, The Glass House, The 13th Warrior and more. He’s also done work in television shows like The X Files, Madam Secretary, The Mentalist, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, Lie To Me, Burn Notice, Heroes, The OC, Alias and many more. Enjoy!
Nate: When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Erick: Age 14 (1966) It was something the late Fr. McGuire said in a class named “moral science” which was essentially a forum to talk about just about anything at all. While on the topic of an artists’ responsibility to society, and he astutely pointed out that societies have flourished when artists hold up a mirror to life and crumbled when artists stopped doing so. It seemed like a noble profession and the final nail in the coffin sealing my fate as an artist. If he were around today I’d have to ask if he thought Art imitates life or the other way around?
Nate: The Mummy: Care to speak a bit about your experience on this film?
Erick: Little bit of trivia. I was originally cast in the role Jonathan Hyde played and Omar Sharif was set to play the curator but two weeks before the shoot they called to say Omar had emergency hip surgery and so they were bumping me up to the role of the curator. It was a wonderful shoot! A couple of weeks in Marrakesh, a couple of weeks in London great cast and the most fun director to work with. It was magic. Made some lifelong friends and reestablished contact with some old. Who could ask for more?
Nate: Care to speak a bit about your years growing up in Darjeeling, India? It’s an area I’ve heard a lot about and would be fascinated to hear what you have to,say about it.
Erick: Funny you bring that up as just the other day some one posted a video of Darjeeling on Facebook and a flood of memories came pouring back. It is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Nothing like you might imagine India to be at all. Small tourist town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas with the most spectacular views of the worlds highest mountain, Kanchenjunga. I believe natural beauty stimulates the creative mind and it’s no wonder the residents have always had an affinity to the arts. Growing up I was surrounded by music, dance, theater, literature and given my father owned and operated the only two cinema halls in town, I was a very popular kid on Saturdays when traditionally the two would flock to see the latest “flick” that was playing at either the Capitol Cinema or The Rink (formerly a roller skating rink).
Nate: You have probably the best line in the movie Independence Day, despite only briefly appearing in the first scene. How was filming that for you, and how did it end up that you were uncredited for it?
Erick: Another story behind that. That was Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s way of saying thanks for my work on Stargate, shot the year before. Without going into too much detail but it was my first, “offer” and a very generous one to boot and I was overwhelmed with gratitude and though (mistakenly) and by not asking for billing I would be giving back in some stupid way. It was so wonderful to be appreciated and best of all, not having to go through the audition process. I can’t tell you how much of a joy that alone was but to be reunited with the same team even if it was for a week was heaven.
Nate: If you had to think of some of your favourite roles, in both film and theatre, what might they be?
Erick: Sir Richard in Jean Genet’s The Screens performed at The Guthrie theater in Minneapolis. One of the grandest productions on stage that I have been a part of (including King and I on Broadway) and perhaps the most acrobatic role physically I have ever undertaken. I ended up tearing ligaments in my ankle and finished the run on crutches. Best part, people thought the crutches were part of the play!
Vasquez in ’Tis Pity She’s A Whore at the Public theater with Val Kilmer, Jean Tripplehorn, Jarred Harris and on and on. Anyone who know the play knows that’s the run away role. Just loads of fun playing a smooth talking, eye gouging villain with an exit applause line designed to elicit applause to boot!
Nate: Daredevil: Nice to,see you pop in a comic book universe, playing Nikolas Natchios. How was your experience on that film?
Erick: I was completely charmed by Jennifer Garner and I had become friends with Michael Clarke Duncan over the 6 months we worked on Planet of the Apes together so that was …god I’m running out of superlatives but you have in fact touched on some wonderful moments in my career. Sufficeth to say, I miss Michael and feel he died way too young as he had so much to give to the world. He was a wonderful soul.
Nate: Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes: an underrated film for me, doesn’t deserve the negative reviews it’s gotten. How was your experience on this one?
Erick: I think a lot of people got robbed on that one starting with Rick Baker for make up. Tim Burton had a wonderful concept going into the film and we, the actors were so excited about where this one was going to go. It’s too bad there were too many opinions that had to be considered in the making of the film and it ended up to be a completely different animal (pun regretfully intended) and was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of my career.
Nate: Any upcoming projects you are excited for and would like to speak about?
Erick: I am returning to the theater, that is as soon as I find a job! I have been burning to get back to my roots and fortunately I am no in a position in my life where I can afford to do just that. There are roles in the cannon that I have been waiting to grow into and King Lear is at the top of my list. It will be a challenge that I will have to work toward but that is on my bucket list. Shylock is one I’d like another shot at as well and I could go on and on on that score. I am also transitioning into directing independent features and working to develop several projects.
Nate: Films/Actors/Filmmakers that you admire and enjoy, and maybe have inspired your work?
Erick: I have learned so much from every director and actor I have ever worked with. I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the greats of our era and I was always cognizant of the fact that I was getting a free education every time at bat. I think you learn so much from just observing and being privy to the conversations that move the creative process forward. To mention Woody Allen and Lasse Hallestrom and leave out Mike Nichols (whom I worked with although my scene from Charlie Wilson’s war was cut) or many of the theater directors I’ve worked with would be remiss of me.
Nate: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, and keep up the great work Erick!