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WesternSFA
Interview with Adrian Paul
January 2014
by Chris R Paige
Actor Adrian Paul was the Media Guest of Honor at DarkCon 2014. He attended VIP Meet and Greet events, hosted two Q & A sessions, and lead a poker tournament that raised money for The PEACE Fund, the nonprofit organization he started in 1997 that helps children and families around the world.

Adrian Paul is best known for his leading role in the Highlander TV series, but he has also acted in such films as Love Potion No. 9 with Sandra Bullock and the SF thriller Eyeborgs.

The following interview derives from the Q&A sessions, which were quite lively. Friday we were invaded by diminutive swashbucklers, and Saturday’s conversation included some very funny personal stories and straight talk about what it’s like to be an actor. I cannot adequately reproduce it all, nor can I do justice to how personable Adrian Paul is.  But if you go online you can look up his scheduled appearances, like the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo in April. Late spring is a lovely time of year to visit Canada .

Q: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
AP: When I found it at age 15, I loved The Iliad. My favorite when I was younger was Pinocchio.

Q: What have you acted in recently?
AP: Last year I did Black Rose, Deadly Descent, and Apocalypse Earth. I also did a voice role in an animated film called War of the Worlds: Goliath that hasn’t come out yet. It’s steampunk! I saw it for the first time at ComicCon, and it was good. It’s actually a Malaysian product. A lot of companies that do FX are in this country, but they outsource, and now other countries are learning and starting their own production companies. And I’m in a movie called Pompeii Apocalypse. Originally the title was Obsidian, which I think is a better title, but they wanted to use Apocalypse, to follow up on Apocalypse Earth, which makes sense from a marketing point of view, so I understand. It’s about a family that goes to Pompeii because the father is working for a security company. Then the volcano erupts and he has to get his family out.

Q: Did you enjoy making the movie?
AP: Yes, I did. I got to work with John Rhys Davies. He’s so nice. It’s all about the actors, who you get to work with.

Q: What was Pompeii like?
AP: I never actually got to go. A few guys with cameras were sent there to film the locales and background shots. My scenes were all shot with green screen.

Q: Do you do all your own stunts?
AP: I used to do all my own stunts, and I’m paying for it. No broken bones, but lots of strains and sprains, and I’ve landed on my head twice. On the set of The Breed, we were shooting in Hungary . All the local actors and stuntmen spoke Hungarian, which is the 3rd hardest dialect in the world to learn, so communications were a bit iffy. I’ve done some gymnastics, and I wanted to do a back handspring, take my guns out and fire. This would be wire work, and we went to the gym to practice. The stunt guy got in the harness and eventually the stunt was performed perfectly. Then it was my turn. I got in the harness, and I heard the stunt coordinator say something. Now, the whole purpose of practice is to get it right, and then do it exactly the same way each time after that, so I figured he was saying something like, “Great, just do what you did last time.” I started the back flip, and I fell straight back and landed on my head. It turns out what he had told the guy was, “Don’t pull him, because he knows how to do a back handspring.” I guess I learned to double check things when working on a foreign country.

My background was soccer, dancing, and martial arts. On Highlander, the swordfights were always interesting because each week I’d meet someone new; also, for the first two years we had Bob Anderson as our fight choreographer, and he was an artist. Each person’s style was very different. I had to adjust. Braun did karate. He moved like this: [very formal and blocky demo]. Other fighters came from Tai Chi and Kendo traditions, and were more fluid. [A much faster demo.] And you were dealing with blades that broke, or people who were overzealous, or drunk. There were a lot of reasons why a sword fight could get out of control. With a single parry an emotion can change, or the adrenaline can kick in.

I got this scar while directing one episode, “Modern Prometheus”. In the middle of the fight the guy had a cane in one hand and a sword in the other. I was supposed to parry and step in, but I missed, and I got hit here. The reason I missed was a light was on that shone riiiight in my eyes. The shows were on a tight schedule, so I cleaned up and we kept going. But from then on I’m in all the shots like this – at an angle – because my eye was swollen.

Q: Do you miss doing your own stunts?
AP: Sometimes. When we did The Source there’s a scene when I’m jumping off a roof. I’m on a wire about 60 feet up and my wife comes in and says, “My God, what are you doing up there?” I waved and said, “Hi, honey!”

Q: How do you stay in shape? Do you still do martial arts?
AP: This is not in shape! I’m trying to get back in shape. Acupuncture helps, and chi gong.

Q: What projects have you underway now?
AP: I am right now in the funding stages of 3 to 4 projects. When you put things together as a producer, one action can lead to everything else. You have to establish your equity base, and your one piece of equity kicks everything else off: other investments, tax credits, deferments. That first piece is the hardest to find, unless people really commit to investing. One project is a mini-series.  If I told you the name you would know it, but it’s still up in the air, so I won’t. 

The film I want to do next year is Beneath the Shadows. There was this building in Hungary used from 1944-1956 as a secret place to interrogate prisoners. Out story is told through the eyes of a journalist who goes there to uncover the truth. I wrote it, I’m rewriting it now and waiting to get it back from the people I sent it to. 

Q: With these new projects, will you be acting or behind the camera?
AP: Mainly behind the camera, but occasionally I get to act. Sometimes I’m directing, other times I’m the producer. I’m focused on making it happen.

Q: It sounds like you love being at the producing end.
AP: I love all of it! I love acting, but I want to understand all of it: how the producing and directing and filming and acting go together, how to deal with every aspect that’s part of bringing something new to film. I love being creative.

Q: When will Tracker come out on DVD? Do you own it?
AP: I don’t own Tracker, Lionsgate owns that. It fell between the cracks, in part because it was made at a time when the syndication market dropped.

Q: How was Tracker supposed to end?
AP: I don’t know! I wasn’t one of the writers at that point. I had created the bible for it, but that was not adhered to.

Q: If you could do anything, absolutely any show, what project would you like to do?
AP: Did you say …. Casanova? I’m too old to play young Casanova, but his autobiography is 13 books long; it tells his life from when he was born to when he dies, and he did so much! I could play the older Casanova.

Q: What can we do to get you in more movies and shows?
AP: If you want to see me in a role, you can look up the IMDb: the international movie data base, and contact the producer. Let them know.

Q: How did you meet your wife?
AP: I was shooting The Breed in Hungary and I was invited to be a judge in a Miss Hungary competition; I was going, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to do this, but I was prevailed upon and eventually said yes. Then on the day of the contest, the shoot took a long time to wrap and I was late, but they waited for me. They waited, like, 3 hours to begin. So the contest begins, the ladies walk out, and I’m practically blinded there’s so many pheromones in the room.

Now, between the sets they have events: a band played, there was a presentation on costumes. During one of the intervals I’m looking around and I see this young lady seated behind me, next to her mother. One of the organizers came up to me and asked, “Do you want to meet any of the girls?” And I said, “Yeah, that one!”

I finish judging the contest, and all the while she’s sitting behind me. I turn around and I’m looking, like this: [intense gaze]. Later I look and she’s gone. I figure, darn, I lost my chance, I’ll probably never see her again. But I go backstage, and there she is!

I had been given a bouquet of flowers, roses, for being a judge, and I walk up to her and say, “Hi, I’m Adrian. These are for you.” Then I proceed to say just about the worst thing you can say to a lady you are meeting for the first time. I said, “Are you Filipino? My ex-wife is Filipino.”

Q: Did she know who you were?
AP: She swears she didn’t, and she was really ticked off with me for showing up so late. She had been waiting in back with her mom, saying, “Why do I have to be here, why are we waiting?” It was not an auspicious meeting! The second time went better.

Q: This is going way back, but what was it like to be on the Murder She Wrote set?
AP: [Laughs] That’s my wife’s least favorite. She hates my performance in that. 
Q: Well, you’re playing a temperamental, self-centered choreographer who’s the villain of the story, so that’s understandable.
AP: As opposed to being a temperamental, self-centered choreographer, yeah. Angela Lansbury was wonderful, very kind and gracious. It’s nice to work on these shows that have a very fast tempo with good actors. You develop friendships that transfer to other projects. For example, I was on one episode of Beauty and the Beast, and then we had Ron Perlman on Highlander; I had danced in a Sheena Easton video and years later we had her on the show. It’s a lot of fun.

Q: How did you come to start the PEACE project, and what does it stand for?
AP: During filming of the Highlander series, I would get mobbed by kids, and they’d tell me their stories. I always knew I was going to do something to help kids, and what I heard just convinced me it was time. It stands for Protect, Educate and Aid Children Everywhere, and that’s what it’s about.  We now are turning it into a social media platform for charities. To that end we have created a radio show called Peace Fund Radio. On the radio show we interview celebrities who are philanthropic, discuss many charitable issues that affect our communities, as well as highlight young kids who’ve done amazing things. One 15-year-old kid found the early warning system for pancreatic cancer, one protein!  God bless him, he went to 198 doctors, asking if he could show them his work. 197 said no, or didn’t reply; one said bring in your research, and he did. We want more people to know what kids are capable of accomplishing, and what they need.

Q: Can you give an example of what PEACE does?
AP: In 2004 my brother and his family were living in Thailand, and when the tsunami hit I thought they were all dead. Days later I heard from him, and he described what it had been like. He had a shop; the whole family worked in it. He’d been outside, and when he realized what was happening, he literally grabbed his wife and kids and they ran up the hill. Once they were safe, he went back down to see what had happened. The wave had swept through and everything was devastated. He heard people screaming, but then the wave retreated; he had to jump on the roof of his shop, and when it passed the people who had been screaming weren’t screaming any more… We were able to raise $60,000 dollars for relief. If you go online to http://www.thepeacefund.org you can see what we’re doing now.

Q: What work are you proudest of?
AP: My career hasn’t gone exactly the way I thought I wanted when I was young, but you make choices along the way, and those choices change the directions of your life.  Now I have a manager who used to be my agent, and we’re doing great things together. I look for good roles, and good projects to develop. And maybe this path is what I was meant to follow, not the glitz and glamour I thought I wanted. Maybe the PEACE project is what I’m here for.  And having two kids now, whoa, they’re much more important than my career.

Who I am really comes from my parents. Parents are very important in a child’s life. It doesn’t matter where you are. When I moved to Hollywood and I was working as a choreographer and got a job on The Colbys, I called and said, “Mom, Mom! I got this job! I’m going to be on a show and they’ll pay me $2,500 a week!” And she said, “You be careful; I know what it’s like over there.” She didn’t get excited by the success. She brought me back to myself, to who I am. 

– Chris R. Paige

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