In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, a "good" Lex Luthor arrives from an alternate universe to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League. What ensues is the ultimate battle of good versus evil in a war that threatens both planets and puts the balance of all existence in peril. Davison's President Wilson is caught in the middle of the battle, attempting to find a balance between leading the human citizens of the parallel Earth and not being crushed by the powerful Crime Syndicate.
Davison's credits stretch through film and television to the tune of 160 different movies and series roles, catching the world's attention in 1971 as the title character in the benchmark rat-attack thriller Willard. He has since been a regular on primetime series, covering the gamut from The Waltons to Lost. Davison's film career has featured memorable and critically acclaimed roles in X-Men and Longtime Companion, the latter performance garnering an Academy Award nomination, a Golden Globe Award, an Independent Spirit Award, and top honors from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. Though he has recorded numerous books-on-tape, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths represents Davison's first foray into the animated world.
During his recording session, Davison had a few minutes to discuss his inaugural animated role, his personal history with super heroes, an early adoration for EC Comics, and his ascent up the fictional political ladder. We'll let his words take it from here ...
What's it like being one of two characters without super powers in an all-super hero movie?
Bruce Davison: Well, it's par for the course. In X-Men, I played Senator Kelly and, as my son likes to say, I didn't really have any powers - I just melted. It's tough when your action figure can't stand up. I had to stick it in a glass of water because it didn't have any feet, just this sort of drippy stuff off the bottom (he laughs). So I'm used to not having any real strength powers. But President Wilson is a pretty macho guy, which is great.
And you've got a nice progression here. Marvel makes you a senator, DC makes you President...
Bruce Davison: Yes, I AM the President (he laughs). And I actually have feet in this one, plus an eye-patch. So I'm definitely moving up in the super hero world.
How did you enjoy your maiden voyage into animation voiceovers?
Bruce Davison: I've done books-on-tape, including a Stephen King book and a few other things. But it's really interesting to be a character that will then be created as opposed to trying to fit in. I've spent a lifetime voicing over (looping) myself in films over the years. But it's a lot easier to just create something and then let the animators put it together. Oh, and it's just a blast doing the recording - it's like being six years old again.
Were you picturing the character in your head while recording, or just focusing on conveying certain emotions?
Did super heroes play a role in your youth?
Bruce Davison: I hate to date myself, but my earliest memories are Flash Gordon. I would love playing Flash Gordon in the neighborhood. We lived outside of Philadelphia in Drexel Hill, and I would be Flash Gordon and my friend was Dr. Zarkov - and we'd get beat up by the Catholic kids, who were the clay people, on the way home from school. And then we'd have auditions for Dale Arden. So that was sort of my childhood fantasy.
Do you remember any first experiences with Superman or Batman?
Bruce Davison: Oh, yeah - George Reeves working with "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" - you know, in the '50s when there were just three channels on the TV, and you watched the Indian on the Test Pattern until nine when things started coming on. I did have a cape and I did jump off my stairs - and survived (laugh). I really loved running around the hill, trying to do the whole "Truth, Justice and the American Way" thing (hums the theme song). I'd try to take off just like he did, and end up sliding on my face down the hill. But that was always off camera for me and I figured they didn't see that part, just the great take off (laughs).
How did comic books influence your upbringing?
Bruce Davison: I was a major EC Comic freak. I just loved them all. "Tales Of The Crypt," "Weird Science" ... all of the older stuff. I just really loved the artwork - Wally Wood and all of those great artists. But they scared the bejesus out of me as a kid. I remember one very vivid comic in which a baseball player would spike people, sliding into everybody, so they cut him all up and played baseball with his head and used his legs as the bats. I think they used his trunk as home plate. That really scared me (he laughs). It was a really interesting time. They used to run articles in the comics about how people in Congress were trying to make it a Commie plot to ban EC. I found that really interesting - that was really the dawning of my first understanding of politics and censorship.
Why are superheroes important for us?
Bruce Davison: I think it gives us a sense of idealism and strength that we don't have but we wish we did. It's like, why do we create religion? Because we need super heroes to take care of us, to live up to.
You've done so many different things. What do people most often recognize you for?
Bruce Davison: Well, if they're my age, probably Willard, because that was an impressionable movie when you're young. The younger people know me from X-Men. And then if you're 12, it's Knight Rider. It's as though every few years something comes along and then I'm sort of remembered for that. But people don't really know that I can do anything else until the next time.
Did you learn anything from your first animation voiceover experience?
Bruce Davison: I learned it's a lot of fun. It really is. And you just have to sort of wing it with the other actors. You do have to work within the iambic pentameter of the technical world of the medium. You can't pop things and you can't get too close to the microphone and you can't get too breathy. You really have to sort of create a character vocally within a framework of technology. So you can't step out of it in order to do something that maybe you would do as an actor on film or on stage. When you're on stage, even a whisper, you have to reach very far away. In film, you can be much more intimate. But just using your voice, you have to create something that's somewhere in the middle so that it paints a picture and yet it's not intimate enough to get lost.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths arrives on both DVD and Blu-ray February 23, 2010.