Whoosh! Issue 41 - February 1999

An Interview With Campbell Cooley

Xena: Planning and More Shooting

How much material is completely planned out or storyboarded in advance, and how much is figured out while filming (like blocking, for example, or fight choreography?)

[75] COOLEY:
I think it's different with every situation. I'm sure a lot of it is ready ahead of time, but I have seen instances where we made it up as we went along. I'm sure that such things as fight choreography and dance sequences are definitely prepared ahead of time. There has to be a degree of flexibility because things don't always go as planned.

How many takes are generally shot?

[77] COOLEY:
They usually like to get within two takes since there is so much to accomplish each day. If it's a complicated shot, it can take many more, which can throw the filming off schedule. The first scene of Deimos and Vargus by the pit in LOVE AMAZON STYLE (H105/602) took us seven takes to get right since it was one continuous hot. I admit I was responsible for blowing ONE of those takes when I accidentally stepped out of the frame.

How much input do the camera people have, or is it primarily the director? (It must be difficult, with what I gather is the same crew, but alternating directors each week.)

[79] COOLEY:
I'm sure I haven't seen everything that goes on behind the camera, but on the Xena/Hercules sets the camera people appear to have a lot of say, which I think is good. They know their jobs and what will generally work best. Everyone seems to work really well together.

Directors and Rob Tapert

Tell us about the directors you've worked with. Any difference in directing styles from Hurst, a stage actor, Campbell, a screen actor, and Becker, a screen director?

[81] COOLEY:
I watched Michael Hurst closely throughout the filming of A TALE OF TWO MUSES (74/406). He's VERY hands- on and very calm despite pressure. Bruce struck me as really intense, but that may have been because he was directing AND acting at the same time. But I can say with confidence that he's a great director. As for Josh Becker, I'd work with him again in a heart beat. He's quite laid back and fun to talk with since he's a virtual walking database of movies. I didn't really get to watch Andrew Merrifield [VANISHING ACT (66/320)] in action, but I know that he's directed a lot of other Xenas and YOUNG Hercules episodes, so he must be good. Of all the directors I worked with, I got to know Josh the most. We talked about nothing but movies.

So, any funny stories from off camera or behind the scenes?

[83] COOLEY:
Ummm, how do I put this? I made a fool of myself at lunch one day during IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404). Josh invited me to come over and eat with him, Lucy, and a few other people. I was SO hungry that I wasn't really focusing on my surroundings, and Josh made the comment that I was sitting next to a 'big time' producer, so I'd better be nice to him. I thought Josh was joking and broke away from my lunch just long enough to extend my hands and make a worshipful bowing motion as if to pay homage to the individual, and then went right back to eating. Several seconds later, I realized I was sitting next to Rob Tapert. I was SO embarrassed! My lunch suddenly became less important. Not knowing if I'd offended him, I spent part of the rest of lunch contributing to the stories they were swapping. He cracked up at one of my jokes, so he must not have been too upset. He's a very down to earth guy.

Auditions and Salaries

How does the audition process work?

[85] COOLEY:
Pacific Renaissance contacts Diana Rowen about the parts, and Diana Rowen Casting contacts the various agents saying who they want to audition. I've been pretty fortunate in that I get called to audition quite frequently. On two occasions, I've auditioned for more than one character in the same episode.

How do they determine salaries?

[87] COOLEY:
Part of it is what the agents can negotiate. Apart from how well your agent can negotiate, it depends on how much experience you have and how big the role is.

Xena/Herc: Working With the Regulars

What Xena/Hercules actors that we might recognize have you worked with elsewhere?

[89] COOLEY:
Joel Tobeck. I have a brief cameo role with him in MOney For Jam, a New Zealand TV movie. If you blink, you'll miss me. I got to threaten him as he was being released from prison. You see me sitting in a jail cell, and as Joel Tobeck is released from his cell, I shout out, "You can run, but you can't hide pretty boy!"

Hmmm. Tobeck is released from jail, and a convict calls him "pretty boy." Scary. I also understand you were Bruce Campbell's stand-in in FOR THOSE OF YOU JUST JOINING US (H90/509). Since that's something very different from other roles you've done, how did that come about?

[91] COOLEY:
It just happened. Don't ask me how. My agent called me one day and said they needed a stand in for Bruce. I got a script several hours later and had to learn his lines by the next morning. I got very little sleep that night. A runner picked me up several hours later about 6:00 a.m. (I remember because it fell at EXACTLY the same moment I had landed in New Zealand two years earlier.) We drove about an hour south of Auckland to an area called the Hunua Ranges where we'd film the exterior shots for the camp ground scenes. Anything Bruce had to do in the episode I did first, even the fall from the picnic table.

So you got to work with most of the series regulars all in one episode! Tell us about that week; it must have been incredible.

[93] COOLEY:
I was really touched and impressed with Hudson Leick. She went out of her way to come over to me and introduce herself. That's so rare in this industry. Because there were so many people being shuffled around in between scenes, by the end of the week Bruce had me standing in for and running EVERYONE'S lines.

I also gather you had a time of it in VANISHING ACT (66/320), when you tore Bruce Campbell's eyepatch off.

[95] COOLEY:
Oh yeah, believe it or not, I experienced some stress while filming that scene. Hard to believe, huh?!? I had been looking forward to it because Autolycus is my favorite character, and it was cool just being in a scene with him, not to mention being able to unmask him. We'd had a long day, and it was roasting on the set with all the extras and blazing torches. All I had to do was reach out and take Autolycus' eyepatch off. Seemed simple enough! When we shot our first take, a stage hand hadn't loosened the knot to the eye patch properly so when I went to pull it off, I nearly took Bruce's face off. He was, understandably, a little upset. (That's an understatement - he was really p*ssed off, and I don't blame him, but it wasn't my fault). Bruce just wanted to get out of there and go home since it was his last shot for the day. Then, the second take we shot didn't work either! By the third take, I was really freaking out because I didn't want Bruce to flip out on me. Much to my relief, it came off easily.

How about Ted Raimi? Is he a big wisecracker? Does he ad lib?

[97] COOLEY:
I don't want to speak for everything he does, but the few scenes I saw him film I honestly think he ad libbed most of the lines. Your favorite line was a complete ad lib:

"Ok, then its settled. We're a team. Joxer the Mighty, and his mighty band of mighty men. Girls. Joxer the Mighty and his fighting mighty women fighters. Fighting."

[98] Also, his telling the Scythian Army about his cooking experience was an ad lib.

Do Lucy and Renee indeed have a very different acting style as I've read?

[100] COOLEY:
Definitely. All actors do.

[101] KRICKEL:
How about Joel Tobeck in the new Hercules episode?

[102] COOLEY:
Acting with Joel in LOVE AMAZON STYLE (H105/602) was an adventure. I knew nothing about the Deimos character before we filmed, so when they yelled "Action" I got a bit of a fright. I wasn't quite sure how to respond sometimes because Joel did something completely different with each take. Deimos is so manic and unpredictable. Also, usually when I see something I've been in, my favorite moments always involve other characters. This is the first time where my favorite moment involves Vargus. It's the moment where he realizes that the Amazons are going to rip him to shreds.

In Bed Bidding and The Vertical Limits

[103] KRICKEL:
That moment is hilarious! You do a sort of nervous half- giggle - it cracked me up! OK, moving on to the future beyond Xena and Hercules - you were in a commercial recently?

[104] COOLEY:
I was only seen for a second, but it was a commercial I filmed for an Australian company called Sold.Com.Au. The commercial features a couple fooling around in a bed when the guy comments he's selling his model of the Millennium Falcon. Suddenly eleven people pop out from under the sheets to make a bid on it. I'm one of the bidders.

[105] KRICKEL:
And then most recently, you just worked on a big budget feature, in Queenstown.

[INTERVIEWER NOTE: This was The Vertical Limit (Martin Campbell, 2000), a mountain-climbing action adventure movie starring Chris O'Donnell of Batman And Robin (Joel Schumacher, 1997) fame, Bill Paxton [Aliens (James Cameron, 1986), Twister (Jan de Bont, 1996)], Robin Tunney [The Craft (Andrew Fleming, 1996), End Of Days (Peter Hyams, 1999)], and Alexander Siddig [Dr. Bashir of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (TV, 1993- 99)]. It is set for release in the third quarter of this year. Cooley plays a weather technician.]

[106] COOLEY:
The storm and the rescue scenes should be spectacular. I got to see the storyboards, and it should have the audience gripping the arms of their chairs - especially one scene involving a second avalanche and a canister of nitroglycerin. Some of the climbing shots will probably make a few people (myself included) ill just seeing how high up they are.

[107] I'm in scenes with just about all of the main actors, but I'm usually in the background (though it's easy to spot me). The few lines that I do have are in the Majestic Base Camp tent with other technicians.

[108] KRICKEL:
That's a pretty high-profile cast there, and the movie has already been generating some advance buzz this past fall. I read some interviews with several of the principals. What were they like to work with?

[109] COOLEY:
Everyone was great! Bill Paxton was hilarious, and Deep Space Nine fans will hardly recognize Alexander Siddig. We all had a great time! My only disappointment with the experience was that I was supposed to fly back and film a commercial a few days after my scheduled return date, when Queenstown was hit with the worst flooding in 120 years. Consequently I was trapped and couldn't leave, so I missed out on filming it.

The Future

[110] KRICKEL:
What type of roles would you like to do in the future?

[111] COOLEY:
If I could have a recurring character on a Sci Fi series. I'd love to have a role like Jeffrey Combs has on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He plays two separate characters (Weyoun and Brunt), each being rather complex in personality.

[112] In a movie situation, I'd love to play a character like Hans Gruber From Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988). However, my absolute dream role would be to play a lawyer who goes up against Bobby Donnell's law firm in The Practice (TV, 1997- ), my absolute favorite show!

[113] KRICKEL:
Any aspiration to write or direct?

[114] COOLEY:
A year ago, I actually wrote a script for a Xena episode and offered it to PacRen for free if they wanted it. I don't mind saying that it's an AWESOME STORY but regretfully, PacRen wouldn't look at it because they refuse unsolicited scripts. I've also written a screenplay for a short film, which I hope to direct soon, and I'm working on another short film script as we speak.

[115] KRICKEL:
When they film Campbell Cooley: The Complete Story - who would play you?

[116] COOLEY:
A guy named Tom who ran the first singing telegram company I ever worked for. (Yes, I've worked for more than one believe it or not.) Working for his company profoundly impacted my sense of humor and ability to ad lib. He kind of reminded me of Peter Pan, a boy who wouldn't grow up. I can also do a decent impersonation of his laugh.

Off the Wall

[117] KRICKEL:
OK, more off-the-wall questions: what's the role most unlike yourself that you've ever played?

[118] COOLEY:
Probably the weather technician I just played in The Vertical Limit (assuming they don't edit either of my lines). He works for a billionaire and basically is glued to his computer. I've never worked well for corporations. My mind is definitely programmed for 'starving artist' mode.

[119] KRICKEL:
Desert Island question: What books do you take with you, what cd's, and what cast member of Xena or Hercules?

[120] COOLEY:
Assuming I could only take two of each category, I'd take the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible. Music, the complete works of Bach and Billy Joel. If I had to have one companion from either Xena or Hercules, it'd be Hercules. He's a great guy and strong enough to do all the manual labor while I work on my tan, sip coconut milk, and listen to Bach.

[121] KRICKEL:
And finally, what has been the biggest culture shock about New Zealand? Anything that the average American would never guess?

[122] COOLEY:
I had one major shock and another one that wasn't based on culture. Shock #1: Everything is 2-3 times more expensive! Shock #2: Seeing the moon SUDDENLY upside down. That was REALLY disorienting!

[123] New Zealand literally has everything you could want to see all within driving distance: mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, magnificent forests, deserts, everything! It's absolutely beautiful, (except when it's raining which is mostly in Winter). My favorite feature, though, are the trees! There's one specific type of gum tree that looks like trees you'd see in a Dr. Seuss book! I adapted rather quickly to the lingo and could pretty much figure out what everyone was saying, BUT there were two occasions where I said something that earned me some stares. I thought I was saying one thing and it meant something QUITE different! I won't repeat the words though.

[124] KRICKEL:
Thank you so much for your time - this has been really informative and enjoyable!

[125] COOLEY:
As they say down here, "No worries mate!" My pleasure.

Campbell Cooley, still an actor, but younger.
Courtesy of The Official Website of Campbell Cooley


August Krickel August Krickel
August Krickel is the real name, believe it or not, of a native South Carolinian who is often seen on the net as "Joxerfan." A fan of mythology since reading a comic book version of the Iliad as a little boy, August went on to study Classics at Vanderbilt U., at the U. of Georgia, and the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, and currently works in university administration. Over the past 20 years, however, he has had a second career as free-lance actor, director, and drama critic, working/studying with Oscar winners Ben Kingsley and Delbert Mann, and appearing most recently as the narrator of the touring WWII-themed stage show, "The Road to Victory." This double interest in myth and drama has made XWP his favorite show, and he's honored to make his debut in Whoosh!
First XWP seen: The Titans
Favorite episode: The Price, A Good Day
Favorite Line: From "In Sickness and In Hell:" Joxer: "Ok, then its settled. We're a team. Joxer the Mighty, and his mighty band of mighty men. Girls. Joxer the Mighty and his fighting mighty women fighters. Fighting."
Least Favorite Episode: Little Problems, King Con

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