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Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico) - Starship Troopers 3
Casper Van Dien was born in New Jersey, USA on 18 December 1968. He attended Admiral Farragut Academy where he graduated third in command, after which he moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. His breakthrough role was as the lead in Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (1997). He was also in Tim Burton's critically acclaimed film Sleepy Hollow (1999). Van Dien also starred as "Lord of the Jungle" in Tarzan and the Lost City (1998). Other credits include The Omega Code (1999), Big Spender (2003), and The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006). Sci-fi-online.com caught up with Van Dien as Starship Troopers 3: Marauder was released on Blu-ray and DVD...
Sci-fi-online: What made you want to get involved with the Starship Troopers franchise again, 10 years after the first film?
Casper Van Dien: Well, I love Ed Neumeier, the director of this film and the writer of the first and second films, and Robocop and great science fiction movies like that.
Basically, after Starship Troopers 2, which Ed wrote but didn’t direct, he wanted to take this film as far away from Starship Troopers 2 as he could. And he’d also said that if he ever got the chance to direct he would want me in the movie.
Also, the way he’d made my character grow and change, that was very informative for me as an actor, it was really interesting to me.
SFO: How would you say the character of Johnny has changed since we last saw him then?
CVD: Johnny has failed to be promoted in the military even though everyone else has. I mean, even his boot boy from the first film is above him now, but he’s not got there yet. It's 11 years later in the story and the reality is that the war’s not going so well and we’re losing a lot of people but Johnny knows how to do his job and he might not have been promoted but he’s become a warrior.
SFO: How did your approach to how you played him differ from the first film?
CVD: Well, Ed is a really great friend so in a way it was easy for me. I understand Johnny incredibly well and Ed knows him too so in a way it was easy for me to slip back in.
He’s grown up more - in the first movie he joined the army for a girl but now he’s a soldier. He lost the girl and he became a soldier and in this film he’s more of a warrior. You know, he does what he has to do to survive and he might not agree with everything he’s being told but he’s there to fight. He ignores the hierarchy around him and he just does what he does. With the history of my family and the military that’s kind of easy for me to understand.
SFO: Does the military history in your family help with a role like this?
CVD: I think that the character of Johnny Rico definitely resonates. All of my family, with the exception of me, were in the military. I went to military school so I do understand. They’re very honourable - I mean, the government, the military, people in higher positions are kind of like ‘well I’m willing to sacrifice soldiers in order to make whatever point it is that I want to prove’ but the people who serve I want to, and do, get to give my respect to.
SFO: This was Ed Neumeier’s directorial debut. He’s obviously got a lot of experience as a writer but what was he like to work with as a director?
CVD: For me he’s a brilliant director, and one that we all loved working with. He’s had a learning experience that most first time directors don’t have. He’s done these amazing films like Robocop and I remember in the first Starship Troopers movie that he was there every day, he was on set and he was seeing how it was to direct so he had this enormous opportunity to learn how to get the best out of people.
He got to witness Paul Verhoeven and learn from him - and what an amazing guy. He got to put the political satire back in the film as well, which was great. I mean, he obviously wrote the first film off the back of Robert A Heinlein’s novel with all it’s political satire, and he was able to bring that back to this movie and add a religious twist, which is this film’s sense of humour in a way. It was just great and I just love Ed.
This one has really brought the politics back. It’s even more satirical than the first one. The first one, I don’t think got to express its satire as much as it wanted to and I wouldn’t say that satire even features in the second movie, but this one is more satirical than even the first and it's put the humour back in as well.
Ed is great with it though, he loves political satire and has this great, twisted sense of humour. He’s just really capable of understanding satire and he nails it. He’s great, he’s just amazing to hang out with and has this incredible sense of humour.
SFO: So tell us about the bugs this time around. How do the creatures differ in this movie?
CVD: Oh the bugs are amazing this time around. I mean, we’ve always fought with budget constraints but things really do look incredible this time.
We had the special effects guy who worked on the Alien movies and he just did this incredible job. A lot of the bugs from the first movie, he added his own twist to them and he added a sense of humour to the killing that these bugs do.
The scorpion bug was amazing and he put his two cents into that and more and the outcome is just wonderful. The brain bug from the first movie is reintroduced too and we have this wonderful twist with that one too. The bugs are fantastic.
SFO: How was the shoot itself?
CVD: The shoot was entirely in South Africa and it was amazing. I got to work with my wife [Catherine Oxenberg] which is something we love to do whenever we can. The whole family came down and we went on safari after the shoot. But everyone was so enthusiastic about the movie and I can honestly say that we got one of the best crews we could get.
Everybody was so proud to be part of it and they all came up with ideas and put in so much more work than they were asked to - which is just such a thrill to find. It was amazing to work on this movie with these people. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew or a better experience so it was just great to be there, definitely the most enthusiastic team or experience I’ve ever seen - it was a blast.
SFO: Do you enjoy getting involved with the DVD extras side of things?
CVD: I’ve been doing this job for 20 years now and I enjoy every side of the job, you know? I started when I was 19 and I love making movies, I love the interviews, I love getting to talk about it, I love the DVD extras, I love every part of it. I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my life, it’s silly and it's fun and I love every part of it so it’s a thrill for me. Having someone look back over what I do is the most exciting part for me.
SFO: You’ve obviously worked with Paul Verhoeven on the first film. He has a reputation for being quite an eccentric, but what do you think of the guy?
CVD: I love Paul. He, for me is one of the most passionate and incredible film makers out there. To make a film with him, let alone to watch one, is just one of the most amazing things.
I mean, look at his films, whether its Robocop or whatever, I mean Black Book, what an amazing film. I love him and I’ve learned so much from him, by listening and by talking to him and by watching. And you know he’ll scream and yell and it’s crazy but he’s just passionate about filmmaking. He’s just exciting to be around. I’m still awed by his ability to make amazing films.
SFO: You’ve worked on a lot of sci-fi and genre material. Does it hold a particular appeal to you?
CVD: As an actor you get all these offers, all these different scripts and I just love every different opportunity. I got offered a lot because of Starship Troopers, a lot of sci-fi stuff and you know what, films are difficult to make so every time I get the chance to do it, I do it. I love sci-fi and I know all the Dutch stories like Sleepy Hollow - I grew up near there anyway and I got to work with Tim Burton and it’s all just amazing to me. It’s always a thrill to me and I’ve been so fortunate to have these opportunities. I’m having the best time of my life because of this job.
SFO: And what’s coming up next for you? You’ve just finished work on Mask Of The Ninja so what else is in store?
CVD: Yeah, Mask Of The Ninja is great. I play a cop who is called to a scene and I get there and there are all these dead bodies and I don’t know what’s going on and then there are these two Japanese families at war and they don’t want to deal with me.
But right now I’m keeping on promoting Starship Troopers 3 which is just a joy and a pleasure
SFO: Thank you for your time.
Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is released on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment from 29 September 2008.
Click here to buy Starship Troopers 3: Marauder on Blu-ray for £15.98 (RRP: £24.99)