Sometimes technical difficulties can delay a project, even writing. Thankfully the problem has been solved and I’m able to bring to you an interview with a man who needs no introduction. He’s a living legend for portraying icon characters in films like THE ROAD WARRIOR, COMMANDO, and WEIRD SCIENCE. He’s one of the hardest working actors in the biz and literally has dozens of projects in the pipeline. One such film which has recently made its way to Digital HD and VOD is COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS. Here’s Vernon Wells to tell us all about it.
Corey Danna: I had a funny thing happen to me last night. I have a friend who is a filmmaker and he’s been editing his latest film. He’s sent me a few scenes to check out or give my opinion on and the one I saw last night had you in it.
Vernon Wells: What was the film?
CD: CAESAR AND OTTO’S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN.
VW: Oh yes! How does it look? Was I any good?
CD: Yeah, it’s a fun scene, really convincing monologue.
VW: Oh good!
CD: With the release of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, there’s interest in the series again. Have you had a chance to see the new film?
VW: Not yet, I’ll be seing it Saturday with a few of my friends.
CD: Wez has gone on to be one of the most iconic villains in cinema history. How much did you contribute to the creation of the character and how much was George Miller?
VW: It’s funny, I always credit George with starting my career because that (THE ROAD WARRIOR) was my first film. I think that George will say the whole thing was me. I think George is a wonderful director that understands human psychology extremely well and knows exactly how to put you in the position that best fits what he needs. I think he did that extremely well with me and I think in the development of the character I had a lot to do with that. He would give me direction and I would go out and do what he wanted, the way he wanted it. From that point of view I had a lot but it was really a collaborative effort between the two of us. Mostly it was him because he pushed me in the direction he wanted and bless his little cotton sox for having the time and energy to do it with me.
CD: Wez isn’t the only iconic character you have played. To a slightly lesser extent, you also have Bennett in COMMANDO. You worked with director Mark L. Lester as well as Schwarzenegger, can you tell me a bit about that?
VW: Mark Lester was fine, totally different style of director. To me, Arnold was like the little brother I never had who was sometimes a pain in the butt but he was great to work with. I had a lot of fun with Arnie and a lot of fun with Mark. He allowed me to develop the character into what I thought he should be and I think it turned out really cool. It’s actually the 30th anniversary of the film. We’re still talking about it thrity years later, you can’t ask for much more than that.
CD: You tend to be associated with all these tough guy roles but people tend to forget you’re actually great at comedy. You did films like INNERSPACE and WEIRD SCIENCE that have gone on to be cult classics in their own right.
VW: I was fortunate indeed to be allowed to do things like that and I really enjoyed doing them. Also, in the same vein there was POWER RANGERS: TIME FORCE which I really enjoyed doing and was more of a comedy exercise for me from start to finish. But I get to do those things and I love it, I mean it doesn’t matter if it’s comedy, action, horror, drama, or sci-fi, you have to go out there and give 120% regardless. You have to know what you’re doing and you have to know what your character is, it’s that simple, just don’t forget to enjoy yourself and I have a ball.
CD: Which directors you’ve worked with were most influential to you as a performer?
VW: Seriously, in everything I’ve ever done, there’s only been one director I would never work with again and that wasn’t in this country, that was overseas. It was because he didn’t understand what we go through to do what we do, he didn’t understand and it became a very bad situation. The directors I work with here in the states or Australia are incredibly good at what they do and incredibly easy to work with. George Miller was my greatest mentor, Joel Silver as a producer put me in all these films and started my career. He was a very brave man so I’ll always be grateful for that. Every director I’ve ever worked with has in some way influenced what I do and how I do it. From that point of view, every one of them has inspired me, what I do, and I have enjoyed what I’ve done with them.
CD: Speaking of directors, how did you meet Ari Novak?
VW: Actually, it was through a producer. I did a film previously called JURASSIC CITY and it was the same producer who was doing COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS and he asked if I would be interested in reading the script. They were interested in having me play the villain of the piece and I just really love horses. The idea of having horses and dinosaurs really intrigued me and I was curious to see how they would make it work. And shooting there in Montana sealed the deal, I was ready to get on the plane right then.
CD: Ari mentioned to me you used to work in the mines back in Australia. Did you use that experience to help develop your character?
VW: I worked in an open cut mine and it was my families property. I mined bluestone, which is a very hard rock used on roads. I even drove trucks, front-end loaders, and big dozers, everything they had, I drove. I was even involved in the mechanics of fixing things when they broke down. Just being around the stuff and knowing how it works, it didn’t influence the character but it did give him a background. I drew on it to give this particular character a history and I knew where he was coming from in his need to get things done.
CD: What else can you tell me about your character Marcus?
VW: To me, he’s not so much the villain as someone who, when he sees a way to make money, he just takes it. He’s not the kind of man to stand still when people are screwing up, they’re costing him money. He demands perfection and he will ride you until you deliver it to him. He’s probably the kind of boss people would call a hard a– and not a nice man to work for and that’s what he was.
CD: Being a veteran performer, how did you like working with the fresh talent?
VW: Everyone in the cast was wonderful, I had a ball with them! I enjoyed myself and I think most the time they were trying to drag my butt off of a horse. Every time there were horses on the set I was trying to climb on them which I think was distressing the director because I was wearing my suit and getting horse hair all over it. The cast was great, they all did their jobs very well and it was a pleasure working with them.
CD: You’ve done several films now with Eric Roberts, can you tell me a bit about your relationship with him?
VW: Eric, is great to work with. I have a ball with Eric Roberts! I know there’s always talk about him but I’ve never seen that side of him. I have a lot of respect for him and I think that he has a lot of respect for me. We get along very well with each other and he’s really, really cool to work with. When he gives, he gives, you better be ready to duck when he’s throwing punches. The guy is serious, I love that and that’s how it should be. You always have to be prepared to go that extra step to bring a character to life and he’s like that.
CD: Since you were shooting on a tight schedule, did filming go off without a hitch?
VW: I don’t think we had any big issues. The horses all cooperated, the town people cooperated, we closed the town down and were riding through the streets and I never felt like we were under any stress to get things done. No matter what set you’re on, things will come up, and it will push your schedule back a little bit. If the director and crew know what they are doing, all of that is covered and you won’t have a problem with it. I think I had all the time I needed to do what I needed to do to bring the character to life.
CD: Can you talk about shooting the scenes that required special effects being inserted during post and reacting to stuff that wasn’t there?
VW: It’s kind of interesting because as an actor you need to be able to react to a blank wall basically and do the same emotional queues if there was actually something in front of you. The director is the one who gets the performance. He’s the one standing there saying, “Vernon, it’s coming from your left and it’s going to bite your arm off and you need to react, show me the fear as you run.” I find it a challange as a actor to deliver everything to a blank wall, but it will take a good director to be able to explain exactly what he wants from you and we had a good one. Special effects directors are great to work with, they know exactly what they want.
CD: The special effects in a film like this don’t always turn out exactly how they want but I was really impressed with the final result in COWBOYS VS. DINOSAURS.
VW: The dinosaurs all looked realistic which is fun.
CD: Can you sum up your experience on the film and maybe talk a bit about what your favorite scene was?
VW: The whole experience working on the film was a lot of fun. I have two favorite scenes: there was one where I was driving through the city and I have the horses with the cowboys streaming past me and there’s dinosaurs coming across the road. I have to react them and I have to get the heck out of dodge, love that scene. The other scene I liked was when I was in the truck driving across the top of the mountain looking for the airfield to get out in my helicopter and the spitting dinosaurs are in the back seat.
CD: I’m sort of blown away by the amount of projects you have coming up, are there any you’re really excited about?
VW: I have quite a few things coming up I’m really excited about. I’m currently involved in a project called DANGER IS MY BUSINESS which is a film noir thriller, like a back to the 40’s flick with L.A. cops and it’s a murder mystery. I play a cop who is very dirty, it’s set in the 40’s, and I’m worse than the criminals he’s chasing. There’s a couple of other projects I’m hoping will come into fruition. One I’m directing called THE PROMISE, which is a vampire film I have great hopes for. There’s a lot of other stuff coming up but I haven’t really been given permission to talk about them yet. I have a film coming out called LOST PREVENTION which I shot in the midwest, and I can’t remember where we shot it. Lets move on then. I also have THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER which I’m very proud of, it’s like JEKYL AND HIDE. There’s another one coming out next month called THROWBACK which we shot in Australia. I’m just a happy dude and I’ll keep working until they stop hiring me.
CD: Is THE PROMISE going to be your first directorial effort?
VW: No, I’ve directed a couple of shorts and done commercials back in Australia. I actually took up acting so I could be a better director. But I was blessed with a couple of iconic roles and did some great stuff after so it ended up being my forte for a number of years.
CD: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
VW: It’s been my pleasure, sir. Especially on this beautiful afternoon here in Los Angeles.