James Badge Dale talks about taking on the role of Coldblood in Iron Man 3, currently playing in theaters everywhere
After making his film debut at just 12 years of age in 1990's Lord of the Flies, James Badge Dale returned to the craft with a string of roles in the early 2000s, appearing on 24 as Chase Edmunds, Rescue Me as Timo Gavin, and The Black Donnellys as Samson. He had a breakout year in 2010, starring in the HBO mini-series The Pacific and the brilliant but short-lived AMC show Rubicon, which lead to impressive turns in The Conspirator, Shame, The Grey, and Flight. This versatile actor returns to the big screen once again in Iron Man 3 as the villainous Eric Savin a.k.a. Coldblood, the Extremis-enhanced soldier who does the dirty work for Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian. I recently had the chance to speak with James Badge Dale about his bad-ass bald look, working for director Shane Black, a lost episode of Rubicon, and much more. Take a look at what he had to say.
I've got to say, the bald look is rather bad-ass for you. Were you ever thinking about possibly keeping that look after seeing yourself as Coldblood?
James Badge Dale: (Laughs) It's summer time now, I've got to resist the urge to shave my head again. I don't want to scare any kids walking down the street.
You have a very diverse filmography. Was a superhero film something you have always wanted to do, and how familiar were you with this universe before signing on?
James Badge Dale: I wasn't very familiar with it. I actually kind of shied away from it, for various different reasons, but if ever I was going to do a superhero movie, this is the movie, and this is the character. I read the script and I said, 'This is the guy. I can play with this guy.'
The character is so cool, and there are so many subtle nuances where you can tell there is a lot going on with this guy. He has all this power, but, to me, I could be wrong, but it seemed like he was kind of annoyed that he was harnessed and was Killian's underling, especially with this power he could wield. Would you say that's a fair assessment?
James Badge Dale: (Laughs) Right. I haven't told anybody this, so you're the only one. In the 90s, Nas had this song ("I Gave You Power") that was from the first-person perspective of being a gun, and that was the theme song for Eric Savin. The idea that he's a killer, but he's not the one who pulls the trigger. He's waiting for someone to tell him to go kill, to tell him to wreck things. That's what I kept in mind with him, that he's an instrument. What he really, really enjoys, more than anything in the world, is when someone points him in the direction, and focuses all his energy.
That's awesome. This cast is just huge, and you interact with quite a lot of them, from Stephanie Szostak to Jon Favreau. The Jon Favreau scenes were great, shooting outside the Chinese Theater. That must have been quite a thrill.
James Badge Dale: Every day was something new. You never knew what was happening. It was always something different, and everyone was so game. You need to get a good night's sleep, and show up, because it works on a very high level. You have to be able to play, because that script is constantly moving and changing. It takes all of you, to be there with them and be able to change things up and play on that level.
With a director like Shane Black coming in, a lot of times Marvel goes with what seem to be perhaps peculiar choices, on paper. I love Shane Black's work, but he's never done a superhero movie before, even though he's written so many amazing action movies. This is only the second movie he directed, so can you talk about his style coming into this, and what you really took away from working with him?
James Badge Dale: What I loved about working with Shane is there's one point towards the beginning of the film, I went up to him and said, 'Shane, am I getting too weird? Are we being too weird?' Shane just looks at me and says, 'You can't get too weird' (Laughs). It was beautiful. There was no leash, no reins, just go for it. He said he'd pull you back if you needed to be pulled back.
You talked about being this instrument, but you have this power from Extremis inside you. I know most of it is done in special effects, but were there things you had to look into, about when you get to harness this power, and how you wanted it to look?
James Badge Dale: Ah, that's a really good question. There were so many effects guys who were showing me what they were thinking they were going to do in post, but the truth is, a lot of it, they said, they're going to base it off what we do. We are the template. It's strange, because we're playing something that doesn't really exist. I didn't really rip out a water tower, but they asked me what I would do if I were tearing it down, so for about a half hour, I sat there playing around with it, as if I were tearing it down. They went in and put the water tower coming down based on those different movements. It's crazy, because you're playing with things that aren't there.
There are so many insane moments in this film. Did you have a moment, when you actually saw this, that blew you away, or something that you weren't really sure how it would come off on film?
James Badge Dale: Well, the whole Air Force One sequence with the skydiving. The whole thing was beautiful. It's always strange, for an actor, to go see a film, after you've done it, because our experience is always different. It's not an actor's medium, it's a director's medium. We're there, very much in these isolated circumstances, and then someone goes in a dark room for six months to a year and edit everything together. This one, was especially different, because not only are they editing it all together, but they're putting all this other stuff in. I was blown away by it. I've never done something where I could be in the theater and listen to people cheering and booing and hissing. It's cool to be a part of something where the audience participates.
Is there anything you have coming up that you can talk about? Are you shooting anything this summer at all?
James Badge Dale: I've got The Lone Ranger coming out later this summer and there's movie coming out later this year called Parkland. It's about the 48 hours between when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. It follows different groups of people, almost in real time. It's written by Peter Landesman, who is a former New York Times journalist, and there are things in this movie that I don't think anybody has ever seen before. There are things in this movie that no one knew about, and it's a brilliant piece of writing. I'm really proud and excited about that film.
Can you say who you actually play in that?
James Badge Dale: There are several different groups of people it follows, and one of those groups is Lee Harvey Oswald's family, his brother and his mother. Jacki Weaver is playing the mother and I'm playing the brother, Robert Oswald. It's one of the best times, creatively, I've ever had. Jacki Weaver is just an amazing woman.
Yeah. I talked to her for Animal Kingdom, and she just blew me away in that.
James Badge Dale: I know! In Animal Kingdom, she's such a frightening character, and she's quite frightening in our film too. She is the sweetest, nicest, most open, fun woman you'll ever meet in your life. I love Jacki.
I was a big fan of Rubicon. Would you be interested in going back to TV, if you found the right material? Or are you primarily focused on movies now?
James Badge Dale: Yeah, of course. It's all about the script and it's all about the story. I got spoiled, a little bit, in television. The Pacific was such a special job. Rubicon was such a special job. I really do have to read something that sparks my interest, in the way that those projects did. Rubicon, it was short-lived but I was very close to that show. There is a lost episode of Rubicon. It was an episode we weren't allowed to shoot that cleared up everything, and it was a really brilliant piece of writing. I think Rubicon fans would love to see it, some day.
Obviously, the word is definitely out about Iron Man 3, but what would you say to the fans who have come out thus far?
James Badge Dale: Yeah, I'd just like to say to everyone who saw Iron Man 3, thanks for supporting independent cinema (Laughs).
(Laughs) Thank you, James. That's my time.
James Badge Dale: Thank you, man. I appreciate it.
You can watch James Badge Dale as the bald baddie Coldblood in Iron Man 3, currently playing in theaters nationwide.