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Arrow in the HeadI had the chance to speak to TV/screen veteran David Ogden Stiers this morning and it was a hoot. You most likely know the man from such varied projects as "THX 1138", "MASH", "The Accidental Tourist", "Doc Hollywood", "Mighty Aphrodite" and "The Majestic". He's now appearing in The Dead Zone TV series which premieres on Sunday, June 16, 2002 (yes, this Sunday). It will then air every Sunday at 10 PM ET/PT on the USA Network. This is what he had to say.

A: Are you a big Stephen King fan by nature?

DOS: A long time ago I learned to sample an author, take a deep breath and walk away. Read other people, keep your spectrum broad. So yes, Iíve encountered Stephen King, in books and certainly movies and could easily dive into it and read nothing else. Iíve had to put the breaks harder with him than any other people. So YES, I am a fan!

A: Have you read "The Dead Zone"?

DOS: They handed me the book and I toyed with the idea of reading it and then I thought: youíre going to have to play the script page not the book page. Somewhere along the 3-4 months down the road Iím going to read it. And may kick myself for not having read it prior to shooting, but I donít think so.

A: What was it about the TV show that appealed to you?

DOS: Frankly, the quality of the writing and the production team. I had a meeting in LA in which they took a really overstuffed hour and a half for a good, long unfolding meeting. It was as close to old Hollywood as I remembered it in the last 20 years. Business wasnít first and they encouraged me to ask questions. They asked my opinion about the script, I wanted to know things about the shooting style since I had not seen anything. We had such a lovely time with handshakes all around. And whether it wouldíve happened or not, I floated out of that meeting. Itís rare to be treated like a friend you havenít met in a Hollywood meeting.

A: Iím assuming that the positive energy translated on to the set?

DOS: Oh yeah! Thereís a really remarkable group of actors and Michael Hall is right in front of the pack. I donít know if youíve seen anything of him in the pilot?

A: Yes, Iíve seen the pilot and I already interviewed Michael, I was actually taken aback by his performance.

DOS: Oh man! Werenít you?

A: Yeah! I know him from "The Breakfast Club", "Johnny B. Good" and here heís all growns up. I think heís come into his own as an actor.

DOS: Oh, no kidding. You have no idea whatís going to be asked of him down the road. Iíve read the scripts. Even if Iím not in themÖparticularly when Iím not in them I find them more interesting. The scripts with only Michael in particular are in the first place...literature. Writing is hard work, generating stories that catch peopleís attention and holding it are very difficult but this run of scripts have been remarkable. Theyíre writing novels every week where most hour shows are writing novellas. Nothing wrong with that but I prefer the novel.

A: Well, the novel is always more complete. Iíve seen the pilot and your character Gene Purdy is coming off as a nice guy so far but Iím getting hints that he will turn to the dark side.

DOS: Really?

A: Yes! So what can you tell us about your role? What can you give away?

DOS: Well, if youíre not sure then I would say very little [laugh]

A: [laugh]

DOS: I think if I read Michael and Sean correctly (the showís writers) the intent is to keep you wondering as long as possible but I can tell you the basics. He's a man whose faith is real, he is not lying. His commitment to his God is real, firm and truthful. But that religious commitment is partnered with a really astute and reactive business sense. He will manage that faith in very good earthly terms with that as the uppermost technique. I donít think he wants anything to disturb, distort or threaten the structure of his evangelical.

A: So basically heíll do anything to attain what he wants.

DOS: Iíve seemed to have said that but I think they are constraints. They are religious constraints.

A: Good pointÖ.what kind of research, if at all, did you do before tackling this role?

DOS: None, I didnít have the time.

A: Were you cast real fast, like last minute?

DOS: It was like ďhere it is, are you busy tomorrow morningĒ [laughs]. Now it wasn't that fast, I did have time to put my affairs in order before I tore out of Oregon for Vancouver. I live on the coast of Oregon and I actually drive there. Since Iím reoccurring, I only work for 3 or 4 days at a whack. It's a pleasure to drive up leisurely a couple of days before the shoot, stopping to have a nice dinner while learning the lines and then driving a couple of days after the shoot.

A: How many episodes have you guys shot so far?

DOS: Because Iím reoccurring, I have no idea where they are now. I know the order was 13 episodes and I think theyíre really expecting a back order, so it's all dependent on this coming Sunday night.

A: The advance buzz so far is pretty positive so I have a good feeling about the show. Actually, of all the episodes that you have shot, which one would you say is your favorite?

DOS: Since I shot five, I donít think I can answer that; I havenít seen them all. But if I make nothing else clear to you: I urge you to understand that the quality of writing that is coming out of this production is unprecedented in my experience and Iím pretty spoiled.

A: Yeah, I saw your filmography, very lengthy!

DOS: "Accidental TouristĒ, ďThe MajesticĒ which I thought was a wonderful script, just a bunch of really good movies. And also from a standpoint of television series, ďMary Tyler MooreĒ, ďMASHĒÖ  And this is unapologetically shoulder to shoulder with the best writing Iíve ever encountered.

A: Wow!

DOS: It is intensely humane, insightful; it embraces a wide variety of people and doesnít make fun of any of them. Villainy is only a portion on oneís persona. No one is only evil, even nice people squat flies and murder their pet dogs. They do not deal in absolute black and white and itís through that rich, middle palette of varying hues that they guide you and show you things. I think the world of Michael and Sean as writers and how theyíre able to identify writers to generate scripts and then hone them to keep that standard very high.

A: Looking at your vast list of credits I couldnít help but wonder, is there that one part that you played that stands out, that youíll always remember very fondly?

DOS: Well, there are a couple of roles I havenít played that I want to. Now I know the play is froth with problems in acceptance in a particular segment of the community but I would love to play Shiloh.

A: Oh yeah?

DOS: I think I have an understanding of the role that would take some of the sting and the negative reaction out of the publicís awareness. Particularly the Jewish American awareness. Iíve played Lear 3 times, I would love to do it again but Iím now understanding as I approach 60, John Gielgud's advice to an actor playing Lear. Are you familiar with it?

A: No, Iím not actually, but Iíd love to hear it.

DOS: Pick a light Cordelia...

A: [laugh}

DOS: You've got to carry her in at the end of act 5 and by that time your energy is running on reserve, so she better weigh 110 pounds and no more.

A: Thatís very useful advice.

DOS: Itís funny and actually quite smart!

A: Do you have anything else coming up apart from "The Dead Zone"?

DOS: Thank you, thank you that I donít have to impose that question on you.

A: [laughs] What do you have coming?

DOS: Premiering this weekend in Hollywood, its release date I believe is the 21st of June 2002, is an animated Disney movie called "Lilo and Stitch".

A: Yup Iíve heard of it.

DOS: It is really good! Iíll always say if something I did isnít stellar. Iíll find ways to let it be known somewhere beneath the surface that I am not among the soul of this project. You do the best you can, then you look at the result and if it doesnít cut  it, admit it because everybody is going to see it and know it. "Lilo and Stitch" is a splendid movie, very tough for Disney. It's PG, itís about a broken family, an older sister and a younger sister, Nany and Lilo. Nany did not get signed on to be mom and Lilo needs more than a big sister. They're tough with each other, they have ego battles and territory battles.

A: That sounds pretty harsh for a Disney movie.

DOS: It is...and into Liloís life comes Stitch, a renegade which was actually designed by me as a weapon and is now hiding from its pursuers, me and Kevin McDonald. Through it all, everybody gets humanized, we get softened and are brought to realize as the film says (not too much but just enough) how important the word "family" is. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

A: Sound pretty deep!

DOS: You will laugh, be warmed and will not feel manipulated.

A: Well, that would be quite novel for Hollywood.

DOS: Yeah, now wouldnít it?

A: Well, thatís pretty much it for me.

DOS: Cool.

A: Thank you very much for starting my day off on the right foot and Iíd like to wish you a very good day.

DOS: Thank you sir, well said. I hope your day is splendid as well.

A: Thanks, David.

DOS: Bye.

A: Bye.

--------------------

I'd like to thank David for his time, I had lots of fun doing the interview. I wish him and everybody else involved in "The Dead Zone" TV series the best of runs. On June 16, 2002, get ready to enter THE ZONE. I love saying that, doesn't it sound kool?

Read my interview with The Dead Zone's ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL here

VISIT THE DEAD ZONE OFFICIAL SITE HERE
 

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