Ever since I began this blogging & website malarkey a few years ago, the opportunity that it's provided for me to meet so many like-minded individuals has been truly wonderful. However few things in that time have been as thrilling as the chance this week to talk to an actor, who has not only appeared in a staggering list of genuinely iconic movies, but a good few of those films happen to be on this here bloggers own personal all-time favourite list. Let me list you just a few that the man in question, Vernon Wells has appeared in: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Commando, Weird Science, InnerSpace & Fortress. Not a bad body of work, eh?
Well, over the last year or so I've been privileged to be able to get to know an up and coming Australian filmmaker, Travis Bain, after reviewing his excellent Aussie Sasquatch film Throwback. This then progressed through watching the progress of the plans for his next major projects, an intriguing Scifi feature film, Starspawn as well as the current crowdfunding campaign for his Psychological thriller, Landfall - the Indiegogo page for which you can find RIGHT HERE.
I have to be honest (for once in my life), when Travis first contacted me back in the deep dark mists of time to ask whether I'd be interested in reviewing Throwback, the one single fact that enticed me to say yes was that the legendary Vernon Wells was also appearing in it. Now you all know me by now, because never one to miss out on an opportunity to indulge my need for superficial self-indulgence I began to pester Travis for an interview with Vernon. Of course I convinced myself that I was doing this for the good of the 5D Website, but of course that would be partly true, for the chance to talk to the guy that played of of my all-time favourite iconic film characters (Wez, from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) was just too good to miss. Yes, as always it's mostly about me.
So when Travis told me a little while ago that filming was about to begin on his Starspawn appetiser, Starspawn: Overture and then asked whether I wanted to have a telephone chat with the redoubtable Mr Wells, well I was about as excitable as this blogger can get (and that's pretty damned excitable). I decided though not to appear to be too overly keen and embarrass myself by eagerly agreeing straight away and act like a star-struck fan (which of course I am). So being the professional (stop laughing there at the back) that I am I decided to wait an appropriately polite length of time before saying yes....... which worked at out at about one nano second later. When I said I have professional standards, I didn't say they were lofty ones.
Well, on a cold and wet Scottish morning last week I was incredibly lucky to spend nearly half an hour talking to Vernon in between shot set-ups. I would like to sincerely thank Travis Bain for arranging this and coping with the technological mobile phone issues we initially had during the call. I would also like to thank Vernon for his time and putting up with some of my inane questions and all too regular interruptions. Thankfully, I think I managed to keep the 'Tell me just how fab you are?' questions to a relative minimum.
THE INTERVIEW BIT...........
5D) Hi Vernon, man I appreciate you taking a few minutes out as I know you're busy.
VW) My pleasure mate.
5D) How's things going, how's things going with the filming of Starspawn?
VW) Great, great! It's been a lot of fun. I enjoy all of this because, well, this is what it's all about, making independent films and having a lot of fun.
(VW) It's all the same process. Strangely enough I find that independent films put a lot more work into their prep and into their actual set up into everything that they do because they don't have the luxury of the budget to be able to shoot it 27 times. They have to get it done, you know, the first time or the second time so you find that there is a lot more that goes into the preparation and and everything for those things. Of course there is still a lot of prep for the big ones but then they have that luxury of doing the same shot so many times.
VW) Ah, no it's like any film, I give the same, erm, amount of effort no matter what it is but sometimes there are projects that you feel even more for. This is one of those projects, as was another that I did with Travis, Throwback, and there are a load of small films that I've done which have been very attached to the project.
5D) Yeah I saw Throwback some time ago after I was lucky enough to be sent a preview of the film by Travis - it was excellent, I really enjoyed it.
(Note: Readers can see the article I wrote on Throwback RIGHT HERE).
What can you tell us about this role that you have in Starspawn?
VW) Erm, yeah, he's a father who has a 17 year old daughter. He's a bit of a crabby father and his wife has died of cancer recently. So he's a little at a loss how to react to his daughter who being 17 years old of course she has those hormones (laughs) and everything for a 17 year old and just wants to get the heck out of Dodge (laughs). So he's sort of trying to cope until it comes to him having some other worldly experience, which terrifies him and suddenly he becomes very protective of his daughter because suddenly he finds that she's in danger and so he tries desperately, without telling her what's going on, to protect her. This is all brought about by the other people in the film and so he suddenly has four or five people encroach upon him, and get drawn into the middle of this things and he then has to try and protect all of them. He goes from being a grouchy old man to the one who becomes the protector.
5D) I'm conscious of the time we have as you're in between takes at the moment. Can I ask you about a certain few films that I'm sure that you're constantly asked about? (Laughs).
VW) 'Course you can. We've got plenty of time, they haven't even began setting up yet.
5D) (Laughs) - Oh that's cool. Do you ever get fed up of answering questions about the handful of genuine iconic films, Mad Max, InnerSpace, Commando, Weird Science, Fortress etc?
VW) You know, the strange thing is that at one stage I used to, in that people wouldn't look at the other work that I was doing and they were always harking back to Mad Max or Commando or Weird Science or InnerSpace (laughs). Erm, all of these films you know and I just found it annoying, but then I came to the realisation like I think we all do is that those films are my legacy and who I am - you know?
5D) Yeah, the thing is I mean that you were kind of the movie soundtrack to many of us growing up and there are some iconic films which you should rightly be proud of them.
VW) Oh yeah, I really am. I'm extraordinarily proud of them and actually what it was more than anything was that it was so difficult to accept that I had done things that were so part of our cultural heritage. Erm, you know the thing of it now is I still have a problem accepting it when people come up to me saying 'you've been in some of the greatest films through the years....you've done this, you've done that!" (Laughs). I feel that just a little bit off-putting because that all I am is an actor and I've been very blessed in my career but when it all boils down to it I'm only as good as the director, the writer, the crew and the other actors that work around me. You know, I can't say "I'm brilliant!" It's all the circumstances around it to make it.
VW) Erm, well Wez was kind of a written piece that George had, erm, and he wasn't as big as what he eventually became. Erm, he was, he became something that was different. George and I worked on the character, but George always says that the character was me that I developed, that I put the emphasis on things. Personally I think George took somebody who had never done a film before and made them realise what they could do as an actor. Something for which I'm forever grateful for. But regardless of that I think that Wez turned out to be one helluva of a character and one helluva of an acting job.
5D) Yeah. Personally I think the character stole the whole film.....
VW) Shhhhhhhhhh - you're not allowed to say that! (Laughs).
5D) (Laughs) - What did you think of the reboot, the remake of Mad Max?
VW) Fury Road?
VW) I thought Fury Road was George Miller to a T. I mean George is wonderful at the road movie, his set ups are brilliant, the equipment that he has, the trucks, the things that he does, the visual styling that he does and everything. Anybody that is working today should look at him as just amazing, erm, and I also think that it was interesting to watch Charlize Theron in the role just walk all over everybody else in the film! (Laughs).
5D) Well this is the thing isn't it that it's not really about 'Mad Max'. It's actually her character and her character's back story....the Max character is actually a supporting character if nothing else, which I found really interesting.
VW) Yes! I mean, I don't know whether that was intentional or whether she's just such a strong presence and such a strong actress and that is what was going to happen. But, erm, regardless, I mean it's still an amazing film, one of those films that you will remember for a long, long time.
Personally I think that Road Warrior was the best of the series (Laughs)
VW) The story in Road Warrior all came together, you know. It had a beginning, a middle and end and you knew where everybody went, and what everything was, and you invested in the characters. I believe that made it the stronger of all those Mad Max films, but that's me because I was in that one! (Laughs)
5D) (Laughs) Well I mean, I'm not just saying this because I'm talking to you now, but I would totally agree and thought Road Warrior was certainly the strongest of the three.
Of all the films that you've done, what's your actual favourite?
VW) You know, the funny things is I'm proud of everything I do regardless of whether it's a big film, little film, studio film or indie film. It really doesn't matter to me because I'm gonna do it because I've gotta have a reason to do it so I'm always proud of whatever I do.
But when it comes to considering what films are my better films, well you always have to say Mad Max, Commando and all that. Though truly I have a couple of films shortly coming out at the moment which I consider 100 times more about who I am now; One is called The Inquisitor which is coming out later this year and another which is called The Lighthouse Keeper which is a wonderful horror film.
5D) Are those both independent films?
VW) Yep, those are independent films. And then I think also that Landfall, which is the next one that I'm doing with Travis, is going to be a knockout film, I think it's going to be great. I mean the one thing I would ask from you is that you help us push that because we do have the (crowdfunding) site up and it would be really nice with all of us pushing together and I just think its gonna be a great film.
You know I've had this little thing going where I've said that I've put a little money into it and if I can do that then all the people who keep writing in to me on my website saying "Hey man we love what you do.......we love who you are" - well OK, now's your chance to put your mouth where your money is and your money where your mouth is, stop saying how much you like me and bloody do something! (Laughs)...... Sorry, that's that Australian thing, you know! (Laughs).
5D) (Laughs) - Well I'll quote you on that mate when I write this up and quote that as the tag line for the whole piece - "Put your mouth where your money is and your money where your mouth is, stop saying how much you like me and bloody do something!" (Laughs).
VW) You know, I just enjoy what I do. I feel terribly blessed to be who I am, where I am in my life and career. I've had an amazing career, I've done well over 170 films and you know, people just dream of getting there and I've been there and done it and it still feels so amazing!
Yep, that's Vernon waiting to talk to me.
VW) Well my thing is that the minute I do start doing just for the pay check then I'll quit because you know that this is a business that you do because you have fun. This job is like the greatest playground in the world (Laughs) you get in there and you get to play with all this stuff and it's so much fun to do. I don't think people understand how great it is and the minute that goes away then it's just a job and do you know what? I don't want this as a job I want it as something that I enjoy.
5D) Obviously your in Australia at the moment - do you still work around the world or do you prefer to work closer to home these days?
VW) I was actually in the UK two weeks ago doing a couple of conventions and I love going to the UK, I love working wherever they take me because I just enjoy the whole process. When I leave here on Sunday I'll fly home then I think a week and a half later I start filming again in Los Angeles then I think two weeks after that I'm filming up in Lake Tahoe. Then there's I believe another film when I come back here, er, that's to do Landfall. So, you know while it still happens I'm going to enjoy it and keep doing it and then when it stops I'll say I had a great time and I've got nothing to be ashamed of! (Laughs).
5D) Yesterday I put on Facebook that I was a little excited about talking to you and you would not believe the number of comments I received ......." Oh tell him Commando is the greatest film ever!...... mention Mad Max!!" (Laughs). You've got a huge fanbase out there.
VW) Believe me, you know what, as I like to tell the people when I do the conventions I am blessed in what I do and because people like what I do I continue to do it, and I never ever take that for granted and I never take the fact that I have all these fans for granted. I think the one thing that we always have to do is be aware of is that the people that like what we do are the people that continue to keep us in business, and the minute you forget that that's the time you're out of business. Because people then begin to say "Oh he's an arsehole" (Laughs).
I love the fact that people like me and I always find a kind of a little bit disarming (Laughs) and so (Laughs) vocal about who I am..... I'm always like "Crap, aww gee er........" and I do get a little embarrassed by it (Laughs).
5D) Well you know, we have a convention very near here in Aberdeen in Scotland (Granite City Comic Con) every April, I'm sure they'd love to have you over here as a guest.
VW) I'd love to do it, it would be fun!
5D) And I'd buy you a beer!
VW) You got me! (Laughs). The whole thing is if I do come over there of course my wife will wanna come with me because she's madly in love with the Bay City Rollers and Scotland as a place!
VW) .......er sorry, what was that?....... Oh InnerSpace! Sorry, someone was just walking past me and slapped me on the butt! (Laughs). Erm, oh I loved InnerSpace. The funny thing is that, er, Steven Spielberg actually put me in it because he loved the role I did in Road Warrior and then he proceed to take all my tools as an actor off me, my voice, my eyes and my hands! And then he said "Now act!" (Laughs).... which was kind of scary.
But I loved it because I was working with Joe Dante who was like this bloody big kid! (Laughs) so I had so much fun with him and doing the movie and I enjoyed it immensely - it was one of those films where you just got to go out and have fun everyday! That's what it was.
5D) Yeah, it's just a pure fun film - funnily enough I watched it again just a couple of weeks ago and it still stands up pretty well. Do you watch yourself on film, can you watch yourself?
VW) I actually try not to very much (Laughs) because I have the tendency to criticise myself. Me watching myself own film is listening to me go..... "Are you kidding me??!!...... "You've gotta be kidding me!" (Laughs)........ "God, they let me do that!...... I am so critical of what I do and I don't look at it as a whole piece but just simply as what I'm doing. So even though the part may fit into what was happening in the film I'm sitting there criticising the hell out of the way I look, or the way I put my hand or something.
I think that all actors are the same, we're never satisfied with what we do, we're always nitpicking and trying to be better. Acting's a very organic process, it's taking the things that you find around you and the things that become part of your life and who you are. It's this organic thing that happens, that grows all the time. Actings not a thing where you say "Hey I'm an actor" it just doesn't happen like that, it keeps evolving, getting either bigger or smaller or better or worse - and that's what I think I like about it the most in that it still takes me places where I haven't been before.
VW) Yep, most definitely.
5D) Listen, Vernon - I've taken up far too much of your time. I do appreciate this. Can I wish you the best of luck with Starspawn and Landfall and say that if you look me up I'll definitely buy you that beer!
VW) Hey, I would be more than happy to take you up on that offer! It's been a pleasure talking to you and thank you for taking the time in talking to me.
5D Well it's been a thrill for me, I've been a fan of your for many years.
VW) Thanks, mate and I'll talk to you soon.
So there you have it........ a thoroughly enjoyable conversation it was too. I hope that the warmth, passion and humour comes across from Vernon, he genuinely had me in stitches with the delivery of his stories. I would like to repeat my thanks both to him and to Travis Bain in taking the time and effort to arrange the phone call.
Oh, and one more thing, remember - in regard to the Landfall Indiegogo campaign, as Vernon said ........ "Put your mouth where your money is and your money where your mouth is, stop saying how much you like me and bloody do something!"
Vernon & Travis Bain (centre right)
You can read much more about Vernon at his official website at http://vernongwells.com
The Indiegogo page for Landfall can be found at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/landfall-a-feature-film-thriller-by-travis-bain#/