Michael Ironside

Michael Ironside was born Fred Ironside on 12 February 1950 in Toronto, Canada. He is best known for playing villains or "tough guy" heroes. His breakthrough role was as Ham Tyler in the television miniseries V: The Final Battle. He is also known for his roles in Top Gun, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. He has recently become a star in the realm of video games, voicing Tom Clancy's character of Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell games and plays the Global Defense Initiative's General Jack Granger in the upcoming Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. Ironside has recently signed a 5 year deal to portray Captain Jonas Trager in the Spaceworks Television sci-fi series, Ice Planet.
As well as being an actor he has also worked as a producer, film director, and screenwriter in movie and television series. Darren Rea caught up with Ironside as Reeker was released on DVD...

Darren Rea: What was it about your character in Reeker that attracted you to the project?

Michael Ironside: It actually wasn't the character. It was both David Payne [writer/director] and Tina [Illman - who produced the movie and played the part of Gretchen]. From the first time I met them they just seemed bright and enthusiastic and they were trying to do an independent film completely on their own without any kind of studio involvement at the start.

I was introduced to them through a friend - whose opinion of people I respect. David said: "Have a look at this character." And I thought it was rather interesting. I liked the script itself - it was a very clever, low budget kind of new twist on an old idea. I really wanted to work with David and Tina to see how they do their business.

I'm one of those guys who believes that you've got to give it away to keep it - whether it's a talent, an influence or any kind of power. I thought I'd work with them and if they screw up I wouldn't work with them again, and if they follow through I would. I think they did a brilliant job.

DR: Whenever you appear on the screen an audience is instantly suspicious of your character. Are you ever worried about typecasting and is it something you are keen to distance yourself from.

MI: No, I don't think you should distance yourself from anything - at least I don't. Over the year's I've basically just stepped around it by choosing the best that's offered me, embrace it and do the best I can with it, and then move on to the next project afterwards.

Quite frankly, I've played a few leads over the years and I was shocked at how many times they get beat up, thrown of horses, jump of bridges, smacked by everyone in the film, only to win the last fight in the film and walk away covered in bandages and bruises. The bad guy walks through whistling a tune and smacking people around and he only gets beat up once - when he dies at the end.

DR: You must have died on film more than any other actor.

MI: I think Vic McLaglen probably has me beat there [laughs]. Growing up I always remember saying to my dad: "God, he dies a lot." You know. I remember in The Informer where he's in that crucifix position at the end where they shot him.

But, yeah. I do. I die a lot. I get paid quite a bit of money to make the lead a good lead.

DR: When your time comes, how would you like to go?

MI: When I die? Hopefully it won't be for another twenty five years as I've got a seven year old.

My grandfather always said that he wanted to die in bed with another man's woman, a cigar in his mouth, and his boots on. And he got two out of those... but I won't tell you which two [laughs]. I'm not sure. I know I don't want to go by fire and I don't want to be trapped when I go.

I have no fear of death. That sounds kind of corny, but being from a very large family - I have like 97 first cousins and my mum had 18 brothers and sisters and they all had at least five kids - I've been around it all my life. My father was very gentle with me. He said: "If death is wrong, then being born is wrong, because everyone goes that way. It's the nature of how you spend your time - not how you go." I don't think I have any preference - I just wouldn't want to burn. I've seen that a couple of times.

I have this thing about being trapped in small spaces. As a kid I got trapped a couple of times and I think there's an organic panic in there that I don't really want to be a part of. I remember seeing that film Buried Alive and I pretty much sat there and couldn't eat popcorn or do anything through the whole thing. I kinda just went: "Jesus! Why am I paying money for this?"

My father passed on in his sleep, which seemed to be very quiet when we found the body. He was in bed and he had a questioning, perturbed look on his face [laughs] and he had half a cup of tea on the night stand. If I had my choice I'd probably go like that. I just don't want to hedge my situation by asking. Be careful what you pray and ask for.

DR: I know a lot of people, who have expressed a preference for the way they want to depart this earth, do actually bow out they way they wish.

MI: The great Rod Serling once told a story about an English guy that they hung twice and the rope broke broke both times. The story was that once you do it twice you've got to let the guy go, and he was being interviewed and they asked him how he would like to go and he said: "I'd like to die at the feet of roaring lions." Sure as sh*t he gets hit by a cab in front of City Hall where there are two cement lions. [laughs]

And that's why I don't really want to mess the hair of the Almighty [laughs]. Whatever you chose is alright with me - just no suffering please and make it comfortable for people around me so that they don't have to deal with any sh*t.

DR: You're also well known for providing the voice for Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell video games. How difficult was it to adjust to a medium where the only thing that sells your character is your voice?

MI: It was very difficult for me at first. I'm not one that likes acting in a glass booth. When it was offered to me it was kind of a unique situation because they hadn't even started work on the game - they hadn't even created any of the characters.

I got them to hire four or five other people to work with me. We worked up the characters and they brought in this brilliant actor in Montreal, where we recorded it, who did all the other parts for me while I was in the booth so I had somebody to act with. If you're acting by yourself it's basically masturbation - you know what I mean? It's unreal and it's a let down every time something comes up. So, I wanted somebody to have that relationship with - to bounce the stuff back and forth with. And I think we did a fairly good job - we created a fairly realistic character who isn't just a killing machine with a two-dimensional voice and attitude. There's a kind of resistance about him.

I wanted to create someone who questions the authority - doesn't openly but you know that, given the right opportunity, he would question the authority that sends him where he goes - which I thought would work well with the game player. Being a pacifist [laughs] I wanted people to basically be responsible on some level - either emotionally or spiritually - for what they were doing in the game.

DR: What are you doing at the moment?

MI: I've been doing a lot of small projects on the side because we've been on hold, and are getting ready to go with this project called Ice Planet. This is a TV series that's a Canadian/German/UK co-production. The problem was we were set to go in the spring, but our executive producer had a heart attack during his stress test for the bonding company and that kind of screwed everything up. We had to find a new executive producer to replace him. I start that in about a month.

I did one of those Masters of Horror episodes, which was fun. The episode was directed by Ernest Dickerson and it was a lot of fun. I've never played a vampire ghoul. They sent me the script and we made some changes. I made him a high school teacher - sort of a predator of adolescent boys - which was fun to do, because it was sending it right over the top. Hopefully people can take a look at that and again question authority figures.

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Victoria Lowe at DSA

Reeker is available to buy and rent on DVD from Pathe Distribution Ltd from 13 November 2006.

Click here to buy this DVD for £10.99 (RRP: £15.99)

This interview was conducted on 06 November 2006

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