Q: Your character, Brother Samuel, is a warrior monk who envisions himself the savior of humanity, which is interesting since a lot of characters you've portrayed have been protectors of humanity.
The movie is an attack from an otherworldly, diabolical force that is able to turn mutants in the most horrific manner, through this transfusion of bodily fluids, and goal is to just mutanize the whole population of the world. And the backstory is that they've been here before. Brother Samuel represents an order of monks whose sole purpose is to pay homage to the prophet that saved the world from extinction the first time they came and safeguard the secrets of this original warrior hero in a book he had compiled as to how the machine works, where it's located and how to neutralize it.
Q: And that is the MUTANT CHRONICLE?
Yes, the MUTANT CHRONICLE, from the title. So it's an order of monks, spirituality being part of their point of view but mainly the safeguarding of this secret in the event that there is a second visitation and this film deals with this second visitation. And people are going fast and the whole world is at war. But then the war takes second fiddle to this common purpose of total annhilation and everybody who can evacuate, evacuates the Earth in their spaceships. So air travel is different than what it is now, more advanced, but most of the population does not have access to an escape like that, so it's up to Brother Samuel and his faith to neutralize the attack.
Q: And he recruits the Thomas Jane character?
Yes, Thomas Jane is a life-long soldier.
Q: The movie was shot at Shepperton, the same studio where you did QUEST FOR FIRE?
I really didn't do QUEST FOR FIRE at Shepperton. We started off there. QUEST FOR FIRE was all done at locations throughout the world but our initial base of operations was Shepperton. That was my first movie, so this was the first bona fide movie studio I set foot in, in 1980. This was kind of like an amazing reunion because, you know, if you remember your first anything...your first ice cream, your first pizza, your first sushi, your first love, this was like that. 27 years in the making, this little reunion.
Q: That's cool. And with this movie, MUTANT CHRONICLES, all of it was shot on the studio, right?
All of it was shot in a studio setting because the world is a manufactured reality, everything is built, drawn, created in a post-production milieu, so there's an awful lot of shooting on green screen which is drawn in after the fact by Simon and his merry band of visual artists.
Q: I would imagine that acting against a green screen is more like acting in a theater--
It does play into a different set of muscles in your imagination. Every time you're asked to act, whether it be commercials, film or theater, it's a slightly different set of circumstances based around the same essential problem. It's a little bit of a stretch when you have to imagine things that are not there.
Q: You've been in a great deal of sci-fi and horror movies, low-budget and high budget. How would you say MUTANT CHRONICLES compares?
I'm very proud of the film, actually. I saw the film twice and me watching my work is like a root canal usually, so for me to see it once was a stretch. I liked it a lot the first time I saw it, I thought all the work was quite serious and I thought the filmmaking was smart and the storytelling was smart and I liked the final result of it. So I saw it again at ComicCon and I liked it even more the second time.
Q: So would you say that you're your own harshest critic?
Actually, I've read things over the course of time that were harsher than what I thought of myself (LOL), but generally speaking I think we all are. I don't know any artist who's not his own worst enemy in that regard. For me, the trick is, I don't even go anymore. Why put myself through that? My take on my work is probably distorted so because I'm not seeing anything in an objectified manner, you know, it's really none of my business what I think. I've stopped going a lot. I just love doing it and that's enough for me.
I love Simon, I loved the thing (MUTANT CHRONICLES) when it was on paper and the circumstances under which he made it turned me into like a member of his army and I give this guy every bit of support I possibly can because I think he's a very good guy and REALLY smart filmmaker.
Q: What is your favorite part of the movie? Any specific scene?
I actually like the quiet bits in everything I've done, like in HELLBOY 2. I like when characters reveal, when nuances of the story are revealed, that's what earns an audience's attention, the plight of the people, and that's usually revealed in the non-action sequences. I think he (Simon) pulls off the action stuff really well, but those quiet moments are generally my favorite parts of the films I've done.
I've been very lucky, in light of how much genre credits there are, they've always been compellingly human, characters with hearts that are worth spending time with. Spending time with both as the doer, the execution of the film, and the audience as well. To me that's first and foremost. If it's strictly gratuitous action or horror I'm generally not going to sign on because I just feel you have to earn the respect of an audience and have to earn it by sharing with them something they can understand and recognize.
Q: What are you working on right now?
I just finished a piece with Nicholas Cage a few weeks ago in Budapest, a period piece called SEASON OF THE WITCH, which involves the Church and witchcraft and the Crusades. A very intimate film on a big canvas. I'm getting ready to get back to work on SONS OF ANARCHY on F/X. We're going to start the second season soon. And I have three or four movies in the can that are in various stages of either making it or not making it to the marketplace in these strange and troubled times in which we live.
Q: I appreciate you taking the time to do the interview.