Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Director Albert Pyun talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his 1990 film version of Captain America

Albert Pyun, Director of such films as RADIOACTIVE DREAMS, CYBORG, BRAINSMASHER: A LOVE STORY talks about his 1990 film CAPTAIN AMERICA in the aftermath of it's recent screening at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con.

TV STORE ONLINE:   CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990) seems to come a bit out of left-field in comparison to the other genres that you had worked in prior to making it...I wanted to see how your CAPTAIN film came about?

PYUN:  In the early '80s when I was just starting out...I never figured that I'd get the opportunity to make one film, let alone many.   So I figured that if I was going to get the opportunity to make a film I was going to try to do something that hadn't been done before.  So after I made my first film I knew that if I got the chance to make another one or several I'd make a film in every one of the genres that I had enjoyed as a little kid.

When I first started at Cannon Films....They had a Captain America poster on wall because they had wanted to make that movie for a while. I had been a fan of the comic book as a kid. I really liked the Steve Rogers character. His life story was the most fascinating aspect to me of the Captain America mythos.  Originally, the director Joseph Zito was supposed to make Captain America and Spiderman at Cannon Films, but it didn't work out for whatever reason. I used to run into Zito on the stairway at Cannon Films because he'd be out smoking a cigar because they didn't allow smoking in the building and in talking to him is how I originally found out about Cannon wanting to make a Captain America film.   In 1987 there was a stock market crash and that prevented Cannon from making new films and the cousins that ran Cannon, Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus decided to split it.   I was in Golan's office one day and he was asking me about the projects that I thought that he should take with him to his new company and one of those was the script that they had for CAPTAIN AMERICA. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  What kind of input did you get from Stan Lee at Marvel in regards to the film?

Captain America T-shirt
Available at TV STORE ONLINE

PYUN:  Stan Lee supported the idea of sticking with the Steve Rogers story and making it the film's central focus.  I think Stan was intrigued with the idea of a normal human being who volunteers for this process and his life becomes something that he never expected it to be.  I talked to both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and they were both very supportive as well.  Back then...The special effects were an issue too, because we didn't have CGI...So Marvel was concerned with some of the elements of the script, because they had remembered seeing how the late '70s Captain America television movies had turned out.  

Because the film was being made with a new company, the budget needed to bring the script to the screen just wasn't there.  I don't think that Marvel really wanted Golan to have the property because of their concerns with the budget.   With the budget we had, we had to make certain adjustments so the script would fit our budget and Marvel didn't like that.  We  didn't have the money that the script needed, and Marvel ended up being quite difficult on us because of that.  They really pushed the production into a corner and we really had to move forward with a script that really didn't fit our budget.    Golan just couldn't get the money collected for the budget and about half-way through the production we ran out of money.  That's why most of the action sequences in the finished movie are heavily truncated.     There was a lot of stuff in the script that we just couldn't do because of our budget.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you ever make an attempt at re-writing Stephen Tolkin's original script for the film?

PYUN:  No, because I really liked his script.  Stan Lee liked Stephen's script too.  Even though we had to cut a lot of stuff out of his script due to our budget I tried to retain his fish out of water thing where Steve Rogers is this guy from the '40s that comes back from Alaska and he's now in the 1990's.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you storyboard?   I really adore that opening shot in CAPTAIN AMERICA...It's a long crane shot where the camera comes down, goes across the street in Renado Beach, into a yard and takes us into the story via the home of Steve Rogers through his kitchen window...

PYUN:     Not really, but we did some initial concept drawings in the pre-production.  We didn't see any purpose in spending money for storyboard artists because we knew from the beginning that we wouldn't be able to afford many of the big action sequences or set pieces in Stephen Tolkin's script.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did Matt Salinger become part of the project?   Was he always your first choice to play Captain America?

PYUN:  Well, originally my idea was to cast two different actors to play Captain America.  There would have been no way then that one actor could've played the little Steve Rogers and then also play the Captain America Steve Rogers.   For the Captain America Steve Rogers I had originally wanted to cast Howie Long.   I went out to his house and met with him and he was a Captain America fan and he was really excited because even though he was still playing football at the time becoming an actor was a career path that he wanted to pursue.    But Marvel wouldn't allow it.  They told me that he wouldn't work because he wasn't an actor even though he had the build for Captain America.  

We came to Matt Salinger as a sort of compromise because he was tall and he had this sort of All-American face and plus I had really liked his audition reading because he did a great job at showing the sensitive side of Steve Rogers. He was great and could convey the hurt and pain of having to live up to someone else's idea of who he was supposed to be.   While he was tall...Matt could've been each incarnation of Steve Rogers but in the end we had to build a body suit for him for the Captain America side of the story, and I'm not sure now how that worked in finished film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That's one of the things that I like so much about your CAPTAIN film is that Steve Rogers is in fact this tortured soul of sorts.   He's not really the definition of what a super hero should be according to everyone's standards...I love those scenes with him and the girl...

PYUN:  Right...That's what Matt was really focusing on.   He brought that to it.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What a great cast too...Melinda Dillon, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox...Was this a project that people wanted to be a part of or were they people that you wanted to cast?

PYUN:  They were people that I wanted.   Many of those actors I had just been an admirer of.  I really liked certain qualities that I had seen in all their work.   Melinda had a great quality in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)....Ronny had a very unique quality in DELIVERANCE (1972).   In real life, Ronny has that kind soul that the character in DELIVERANCE has.   He's just the sweetest guy.   Then after I got Ronny I went after Ned Beatty because I really loved the chemistry that he and Ronny had had together in DELIVERANCE.    I just really wanted to bring certain qualities to CAPTAIN AMERICA.   Melinda Dillon...She had done a film that I was a big fan of called A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) with Darren McGavin.   I had to fly to London to get Darren McGavin for CAPTAIN AMERICA because he was living there at the time.   None of these actors had to audition.  I just offered them their roles because I thought that they all had a special quality and I wanted that to come across in CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Actor Scott Paulin as
The Red Skull 
TV STORE ONLINE:  What about Scott Paulin in the role of 'The Red Skull'?

PYUN:  Well, I had just worked with Scott prior on a small three day movie called DECEIT (1992).  I was completely taken with his ability to take small moments and turn them into something magical.  So I figured if he could do that on a small film that was shot in three days, he could properly bring something really great to The Red Skull.   Scott really added something to The Red Skull that made him something more than just a tradition villain.   I know that CAPTAIN AMERICA was a difficult experience for Scott too because so much of his work was cut out from the movie.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about that great Red Skull make-up that we see him in at the very beginning of your CAPTAIN AMERICA?  Was there any trial and error getting what you wanted for that?

PYUN:  Well, Greg Cannom did the make-up and he's went on to win Oscars.   Greg was very specific in the regard that he wanted me to cast someone who didn't have a breach in his nose and of course I cast Scott who had everything that Greg didn't want in order to achieve a great make-up effect.   So that really posed a challenge to Greg...Because remember we didn't have CGI back then so it wasn't like he could have a little bit of make-up on and then let a computer do the rest.   That Red Skull make-up was also a challenge for Scott too because each day he had to spend four to six hours in a chair getting made up.

TV STORE ONLINE:   There's also a unique sense of humor at play in your CAPTAIN AMERICA as well...I love that bit where Steve Rogers is in truck first with Ned Beatty, then later on with that girl....and every time he gets stressed out he plays a trick on them by saying, "Pull over for a second I think I'm going to be sick."   Then he gets out and runs away from them.  Was that type of stuff in the script or was that something that the actors or yourself brought to it.

Pyun at the helm.  Look for his upcoming
film ROAD TO HELL (2013) in
theaters starting in August 2013
PYUN:  It was in the original script but I just magnified it a little bit.  What was interesting to me what the fact that if you're a superhero and you have to steal from somebody then you don't really want to hurt anybody in the process of doing that.   He had to steal those cars because he had to get out of the bind that he was in and and once he found that this worked with Ned Beatty's character he thought it might work time and time again...laughing   I know a lot of people don't really like that aspect of the film but I thought it was really clever.   People don't like the film because it doesn't have those set pieces and the Captain America type of action that they were expecting.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It seems to me that the reason why many people don't appreciate your CAPTAIN AMERICA film is because they don't know or understand your sensibilities.  Do you think that hurt the film?

PYUN:  I do.  I did what I could do with the budget I had for CAPTAIN AMERICA.   Not having the budget I needed really made the shoot tough so I just tried to focus in on certain aspects that I found amusing and fun.  We knew we couldn't do big action pieces so we focused in on the people that were coming after Steve Rogers.  They weren't the biggest guys and they didn't have any type of special weapon.  In a weird way I saw the action in the film as something from a '40s movie.  I wanted just quick fist-a-cuffs and somebody goes down.  I didn't want anyone flying around on a wire.  I think I just brought a old school sensibility to it.

A  Showdown Homage:  Matt Salinger as Captain America
and Scott Paulin as The Red Skull
TV STORE ONLINE:  Well, you can clearly see how someone like Sergio Leone influenced you as a filmmaker...There's that showdown at the end of CAPTAIN AMERICA where you've set up the framing where Captain America is on the left side of the frame in a medium shot, then you cut to a extreme close-up of The Red Skull's face all the way to the right of the frame....

PYUN:  Right, that was always my intention.  I always saw that showdown as something out of a Spaghetti Western.   When we first cut the film together and showed it to the studio executives they didn't like that.   I mean, it's very much like the opening of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968).   They couldn't understand why these two actors were giving each other these looks. I did something similar in CYBORG (1989) at the end too.  I love them personally.  A Showdown is one of my favorite things in films.  I like it when two characters can sort of examine each other.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Some fans might not be aware of the fact that there are in fact now two different versions of your CAPTAIN AMERICA available. There's the studio version cut then your specially made Director's cut of the film based off of a work-print.    I personally prefer your Director's cut .  I mean you revise the story arc with the insertion of that scene of The Red Skull as a young boy playing piano at the end of the film, where in the studio cut that scene appears at the very front....

Albert Pyun's Director's Cut for
PYUN:  Right...The original ending that I had intended for the film I actually couldn't find even for my Director's cut.   In my original first cut of the film...It started with the scene that you see now of The Red Skull as a little boy playing that piano and then the Nazi's break in, shoot everyone and kidnap him.   Then the film was going to end with him thinking back to that same moment but at the end you would've seen him play that entire piano piece completely and then you came back and The Red Skull commited suicide.   When I showed it to the studio...They didn't like it.   They didn't think that the bad guy should get off the hook.    They didn't get it.  

Captain America T-Shirt
Steve Rogers really understood The Red Skull because they both were men that were set off on someone else's destiny and not their own.  I think Steve Rogers really understood and related to  The Red Skull's pain.  So we had to go back and shoot that little bit for the end where Steve Rogers as Captain America throws his shield and kills The Red Skull.    

The studio didn't understand that pain and sadness and pathos.   These guys at the studio clearly hadn't read the comic book in the '60s. Because if they had they would've understood  how Steve Rogers was in the comic book.   He was a superhero that solved his problems very uniquely.  He was a superhero who was very in-tune or sensitive to others around him.  The studio wanted him to be a killer, and he wasn't a killer in the comic book.   I was shocked to see Captain America in the new film with a gun.  When I saw that I couldn't believe that.

Albert Pyun's new film ROAD TO HELL will be hitting theaters in select cities in The United States this August 2013. 

To purchase Albert Pyun's Director's Cut of CAPTAIN AMERICA please visit his site HERE:
Looking for a Captain America T-shirt?  Check out TV STORE ONLINE's selection HERE:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who's The Killer? Star of the new hit ABC reality series Whodunnit? Gildart Jackson talks with TV STORE ONLINE

Star of ABC's new Whodunnit?  Gildart Jackson talks about episode four of Whodunnit? as well as his work on Charmed, Early Edition and his film YOU (2009)...

TV STORE ONLINE:  We had a new episode last night!

JACKSON:   Indeed we did...  What did you think?

TV STORE ONLINE:  I loved it!   You know the thing that I love most about ABC's Whodunnit? [2013] is the fact that it blurs that line between reality and episodic TV Show...

JACKSON:  Yeah for sure.

TV STORE ONLINE:   We had that mountain lion in the house too....What was that whole experience like being there to do that?

JACKSON:  It was a lot of fun, and it was quite scary.  That mountain lion was bloody big.   There were multiple trainers there and the chaps with the electric wires to keep it from running around.   I had no idea how big a mountain lion was until I saw it standing there across from me in that kitchen!

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you try to feed it?

JACKSON:  I didn't.  I know better than that. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  How is the show doing?  Are you getting good feedback?

JACKSON:  Well everyone who's stopped me in the street about it has been very complimentary.  We're building an audience, the ratings are going up, we are being received well by everyone.   Just the other day I was stopped by a fan of the show who had not only see every episode, but had just recently bought Anthony Zuiker's book about the show.  I recorded the audio book for that.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Yesterday I read some of Anthony Zuiker's book on WhoDunnit?,  which gives us the back story for your character "Giles"......Is that back story something similar to what you would've envisioned for Giles in the beginning as the actor behind him?

JACKSON:  No, it wasn't.   I didn't really have an understanding of how Giles would keep on coming back until Anthony Zuiker explained it to me.  Giles's back story is all revealed in the new book. People should go out and get it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Why do you think that reality television has such a grip on American television audiences?

JACKSON:   I don't really know...Does it really have more of a grip on audiences than episodic television, video games, or music?  I'd say not.  What it offers is something new to audiences and I think that's why people are watching.  It's  still somewhat new as a medium and that's exciting to people. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   What kind of spoilers can you give us for the rest of this season?

JACKSON:   I can tell you that it will be scintillatingly exciting!  I can tell you that the final episode, where the killer is revealed and the contestant who walks away with $250,000 dollars...That was just astonishing to be a part of.  I was flabbergasted by it.   I can't tell you what's going to happen, but I can say that the rest of the season is well worth the ride!

TV STORE ONLINE:  What would you say if I told you that I think that you're the killer?

JACKSON:  I'd say..."You're very good aren't you.  You're good at this."    And if you told me that you thought that "Geno" is the killer, I'd say, "You're very good at this aren't you." (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:   I'm loving your outfits in each episode...It was great to see you in that sort of Ernest Hemingway safari hunter outfit in last night's episode....

JACKSON:  Yeah that funny. Sadly we had to cut out the bit where I alluded to it in the episode.  I hope it played all right or made sense why I was wearing that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Oh course.....It was great to see you come out carrying that rifle to take care of that mountain lion...Giles obviously has his own style and finesse so it's not surprising that he'd be wearing all different kinds of outfits for the occasion.

JACKSON:  Yeah, he loves to get dressed for the occasion.  The next episode he gets dressed up as a cowboy and the next episode takes us out of the house and onto the grounds. The next episode is a great one and I hope that the fans enjoy it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I really love that film that you wrote called YOU (2009)...

JACKSON:  Thanks very much.  That film is one that is very near and dear to my heart.   As you know Melora Hardin is my wife and while I wrote it, she directed it.  It was really a labor of love for us and of course our kids are in it and my in-laws are in it as well. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  I really love how you've structured the film too.  What was your inspiration and process for writing it in the first place?

JACKSON:   It was a strange process.  My wife and I had just had our first baby and I had just gotten hired to write for a television series up in Vancouver, Canada, and I was going to be up there for a while.    Our daughter was only about four or five months old at the time and I really didn't want to leave them and go to Canada.   When I got there...As I was sitting there I started to feel really lonely.  So I sat down in my hotel room and just started to write.  Fortunately I don't really know what it's like to lose your partner, but I think the germ that was really running through my brain at that time was, "What if Melora my wife wasn't here to go on the journey with me and our family? How terrifying that would be. What if I had to do it alone?"   Subsequently I've talked to people who have told me that I'm not alone in this nightmarish thought.  

So YOU was really a love-letter to my wife.   I wrote it in about two or three days then I sent it off to my wife and she read it, liked it, and told me that we should make it.   Then with Melora directing it...She has made it a love letter to me.

Gildart Jackson in YOU (2009)
TV STORE ONLINE:  You also had a role in that Orson Welles / George Hickenlooper film from 1999 called THE BIG BRASS BRING.  What was that whole experience like for you?

JACKSON:   I think that was maybe my first job.  I was doing The Seagull, the Chekhov play in Hollywood and one day I was in my dressing room and there was a knock on my door.  It was a very Hollywood moment.  So I opened the door and there was George Hickenlooper.  He had told me that he had seen me in the play and that he had a role for me in his new film which was based on an Orson Welles screenplay.   I didn't believe him at first.   Then George and I became friends and we got to know each other a bit and he cast me in the film and I have a couple of scenes with Irene Jacob.  It was a fun experience.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Recently I just took a look at a couple episodes on YouTube of that British cartoon series that you wrote for in the mid '90s called Action Man (1993-95)...How did that opportunity come to fruition?

JACKSON:  Well before being an actor I was a lawyer.  When I quit my job I decided that I'd like to write, and at the time I had a friend who worked for DiC Entertainment.  I wrote them a spec script and I showed it to them and they asked me if I'd like to write an episode of the show.   I know that on IMDb it says that I wrote several Action Man episodes but I really can't remember if I wrote that many to be honest.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What kind of advice can you give to young screenwriters who are just started out...After all, you just sort of jumped in and went after it...

JACKSON:  Well for what it's worth....My advice would be to just do it.   Just do it and do it as much as you can.   I really think that the most satisfying moments for me have come when I've worked on something that I was very passionate about.   Find a subject that you really care about and don't worry about trying to write something that you think might be the next blockbuster film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm a huge fan of actor Kyle Chandler....You had a great role on the 4th Season of his show Early Edition [1996-2000].  What was that experience like for you?

JACKSON:   That was great.  We shot that in Chicago.  I played a man that gets him the newspaper.  The producers and Kyle had liked very much what I had done and they had asked me to come back in a bigger role in the next season but it got canceled. (Laughing)   

TV STORE ONLINE:   I really loved the first film, but I'm still scratching my head about the second one...I have to ask you about ATLAS SHRUGGED PART II (2012)...

JACKSON:  It was just another gig.  I went in for an audition for that. I had to play a guy that gets tossed around inside of a train car.

TV STORE ONLINE:    Then what about your work on Charmed (1998-2006)...I have to admit that I wasn't someone who watched Charmed when it was on television, but looking at your work on the show for the first time this past week I really liked what I saw...What was the whole experience like for you?

JACKSON:  Well you don't necessarily fall straight into the demographic that was watching Charmed when it was on...I usually get stopped on the street by a twenty-six year old girl who recognizes me as "Gideon" from the show, who had watched it when she had a wild color in her hair as a teenager.    That show was a huge hit. Especially with the girls.  My character Gideon was supposedly evil but I always told people that he was a charming fellow.   It was fun to do.  I got to ham it up as a wizard who taught at a magic school.  I worked opposite with a great actor named Billy Drago and he was just wonderfully intense.  Every time we got to do something together  I was just exhausted afterward. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  In that first episode of Charmed...Your character is thrown around a room by a young man.  Do you like doing your own stunt work?

JACKSON:  I do.  I can't remember now if I did my own stunt work on Charmed but I did on a episode of Las Vegas [2003-2008] that I did with James Caan.  It was a very early episode of the series, and I was playing "King Arthur" and there was a scene where my character had to dive into a pool at Mandalay Bay and get this Excalibur sword.   As the stunt man was planning  it out, I started to look at it and I told the director, "I can do this. I'm a good swimmer."    But I misjudged the height of the dive and when I went to do it I didn't dive head first, I ended up going in sort of feet first and we ended up having to do it a couple times to get it right.

I made a documentary in Peru also where I went deep into the Amazon jungle with a film crew. We went six or seven weeks deep into the jungle and that was pretty intense also.   It's a film called THE LOST TRAIL and we started to shoot it exactly where Werner Herzog shot his film FITZCARRALDO (1982).   We actually encountered a tribe that had never seen Westerners before.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  What can we see next from you?

JACKSON: Well, I'm about to record a new audio book.  Anthony Zuiker has written another book about WhoDunnit? that I'm about to read.  That will be on Audible.com soon.   Keep watching the show on ABC because the more people that watch it the better chances we have of doing another season and I'd really love to do that.

For more with Gildart Jackson please visit his official website HERE:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dr. Who's John Levene talks with TV STORE ONLINE

TV STORE ONLINE talks with Dr. Who's very own Sergeant Benton.  Actor and Comedian John Levene talks about his work on Classic Dr. Who as well as the cult classic film, PSYCHOMANIA.

TV STORE ONLINE:   One of the earliest roles of your career was in a rather wonderful and strange film called PSYCHOMANIA [1973]....How did that role come to you?

LEVENE:   PSYCHOMANIA was one of the movies that was given to me by director Don Sharp.  I had done three movies with him.  It was wonderful to work on because I got the opportunity to work with Robert Hardy who I had always enjoyed.  He was quite a prankster and he loved to play jokes on people but he was very good to me.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Your death scene in PSYCHOMANIA is really impressive too...

LEVENE:  Don Sharp had wanted me to be dead in a very gross way.   I did something that nobody knew about....I went up to the prop guy and asked him if he had any ten inch nails.  He said, "Yes, what do you need them for?"   Don wanted my body to be twisted in a very supernatural kind of way.  I thought that the one way I could do it would be if I could jam one leg up against an object that couldn't be seen.   So we put the nails into the floor and I put my foot on the nail.  It went just under the wedge of my heel, and Don was thrilled with it. He told me afterward that it made the entire scene.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where did you shoot those scenes in PSYCHOMANIA?

LEVENE:  We shot at Pinewood Studios.

John Levene in PSYCHOMANIA aka
TV STORE ONLINE:  I read online while I was doing my research prior to speaking with you today that your real interest in pursuing acting came after a chance meeting with actor Telly Savalas?

LEVENE:  That's right.  I was born in Salisbury in Wiltshire...Most Americans don't know where that is...But it's in Europe where all of the real fucking history comes from...laughing   

At eighteen I left home because I didn't want to live with my father anymore.   My father had come home from the war and as you know war can change a person.   I ended up working in a menswear shoppe.  I was a brilliant menswear salesman because I was very honest, I had a great sense of style and people trusted me, therefore they spent more money in the shoppe.  One day Telly Savalas walked into the shoppe.  I was in awe.  My manager at the shoppe told me that it would do me good if I served him and got the opportunity to meet a famous person.  I sold him some raincoats and while he was there he said to me, "Young man you have a great face, have you ever thought about becoming an actor?"

I had never thought about becoming an actor.  Growing up in school I was very shy and awkward and I had no confidence.   He went on to tell me that they were shooting this film called THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) and that they were looking for a new stuntman because one was recently injured.  He said, "If you know of anyone that is big and good-looking send them my way.  Here's my dressing room number come out and see me sometime."   So I went down to Pinewood Studios the following Monday to see him but the doorman at the studio didn't believe me and he wouldn't let me in.  So I never got to see my brief idol at work on THE DIRTY DOZEN.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can you tell me how Dr. Who and your character "Sergeant Benton" came to you?

LEVENE:   Well I was in London working at the time and I met comedian Joe Baker.   I'd meet Baker against many years later in Hollywood but that's another story.   Baker told me that I should try to do extra work.  So I went down to this agency called Denton De Gray.  Not long after that I got offered the chance to play a "Cyberman" on Dr. Who.  Of course I was ecstatic to have the opportunity and eventually I became friendly with the cast and crew on the show.   I came to the attention of Barry Letts, Douglas Camfield and Jon Pertwee on the show because I had an attention to detail and a good work ethic.

Levene with Katy Cummings
and Jon Pertwee in Dr. Who's
The Three Doctors
TV STORE ONLINE:  Getting the Sergeant Benton character on Dr. Who...How did you envision the character initially?  How did you find him?  Who was he to you?

LEVENE:  That's a great question in which I've never been asked before.  To be honest...I had no idea what an character even was back then.  I didn't even now that what I had done on Dr. Who was any good until about fifteen years after it was over with.    I was unaware of my own talent back then. I was a nervous young man working on Dr. Who.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did your background in comedy help you any on Dr. Who?

LEVENE:  I think so.  I still enjoy doing comedy.  Eddie Izzard is a genius and he's the type of comedian that I think that I really wanted to be but I just didn't have the courage to do it back then.  Now that I'm older...I have no fear of an audience.  My biggest comedy influence is Tommy Cooper.  He wore a fez and he was very tall and very ugly looking and I only mention that because him being ugly was what made him very funny, and that's the type of comedy I'm doing myself today.

Pick Up John's CD on his official
website www.john-levene.com
TV STORE ONLINE:  You've just put out a CD of music called The Ballads Of Sergeant Benton [2012] as well....

LEVENE:  Yes if you're reading this interview spend the ten dollars that you'll spend on dinner tonight on my CD.  You'll love it, and I only need to sell about sixty more copies in order to record my next CD in Hollywood.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I checked out the CD.  I really love your arrangement of The Beatles "In My Life".

LEVENE:  Oh...Bless your heart.  I'm not a good singer, I'm just an actor who likes to sing that has put out a CD.  I would appreciate it if anyone reading this would check out the CD though.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are you memories of shooting the Dr. Who episode The Three Doctors [1972]?

LEVENE:  It was pure magic.  I loved working with Jon Pertwee.  I learned everything from him.  Recently a new interview with Jon has surfaced that has been buried for over ten years, and in the interview he talks about how I was his closest friend and that I was one of the reasons why he came back to work on the show.    It was just a wonderful experience, and it gave me some time to shine.  When I wasn't on the screen everyone else was always saying, "Where's Benton?"   I loved it, and it did more for my confidence than any other story.

TV STORE ONLINE:  On The Three Doctors there are some special effects like the "Anti-Matter" blob....Does not having that creature there make it difficult as an actor to produce a reaction?

LEVENE:  Not really, because that is just what we do.  Sometimes it can be difficult but often times it isn't.  We all took it very seriously.  I think that's why Jon Pertwee loved all of us actors so much.  When we were doing The Doctor episode Invasion of the Dinosaurs [1974]....The monsters were so pathetic but we did those for Jon and we did it for the sixty-eight million fans of the show that were waiting for the next story.  I loved it.    

TV STORE ONLINE:   What about the Doctor episode:  The Daemons [1971]?

LEVENE:  That's the one that made me.  I got to do everything in The Daemons that I wanted to do.   I've heard little stories since that The Daemons almost got me James Bond but we'll never know I guess.  It was magic for me because I looked good, I was good and the whole story was magnificent!

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love the whole cinema verite style of The Daemons...

LEVENE:  Oh yeah...That was brilliant wasn't it?  

Dr. Who's The Three Doctors
TV STORE ONLINE:  On The Three Doctors episode you guys shot a lot of stuff in that rock quarry...Where was that?

LEVENE:   It's near Maidstone in Kent..

TV STORE ONLINE:  Could you talk a bit about the low budget aesthetic of making the show?

LEVENE:  Well, it worked didn't it?  Otherwise, millions of fans wouldn't haven't gotten hooked on it!  The budget on the show was very small.  It was like 40 or 60,000 thousand pounds per show.  I was only making 100 pounds an episode.  The budget had to be scrimped and saved, but it never stopped the creativity.  The writing was always brilliant and the directing was usually fabulous.   We didn't let the budget stop us! 
TV STORE ONLINE:  With The Three Doctors...I love that surreal stuff with Jon Pertwee and the creature fighting on that all black sound stage.  There's a great surreal tone to some of the Doctor episodes as like we'd seen in episodes of The Prisoner [1967] with Patrick McGoohan....

LEVENE:  Right yeah....There was a surreal feel to some of them certainly.  I actually was almost cast on an episode of The Prisoner, I knew one of the writers on the show.

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TV STORE ONLINE:   If you had a real TARDIS where would you travel back to in your own life?

LEVENE:   I'd go to Machu Picchu in Peru to have a picnic lunch with the one woman in my life that got away...Then I'd go back in time to see Douglas Camfield, Roger Delgado and Barry Letts again to thank them for my life!

TV STORE ONLINE:  Any memories of shooting the Doctor episode The Green Death [1973]?

LEVENE:  It was great experience.  We went up to Belgrade in Wales and shot down in that mine.  We were shooting in a mine a mile underground.  That was very grueling because I'm claustrophobic.  I loved the story because Benton got to shine again.  Of course working with Jon again was wonderful.  He gave me so many clues on how to become a better actor.     

4th Doctor Tom Baker with John Levene
TV STORE ONLINE:   I do love all of the camera tricks in episodes like The Green Death and Inferno (1970)...

LEVENE:   Right.  We used rear projection in The Green Death and then in Inferno for example...When they had to create the earthquake they would just stretch a piece of tin-foil over a empty frame and tap on it. I loved the ingenuity of the '60s and '70s, and the creativity of those working on Dr. Who then.  It was very inspired work.  I'll take that anytime over all of this CGI stuff.   

For more with John Levene visit his official website HERE:
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