The new William Stryker talks about the prequel, the online film leak and getting back into the director's chair as well
There has been a trend developing over the last decade or so with actors taking the leap into directing, with such notable A-listers as George Clooney and Denzel Washington making the move to the helm. The funny thing about Danny Huston is, he took the opposite route. The son of the legendary director John Hutson (his Western The Magnificent Seven is one of the very best in the genre), Danny Huston got his start directing in the late 80s and early 90s before catching the acting bug with a small part as a bartender in Leaving Las Vegas. He's been in front of the camera ever since, with notable roles in such films as 21 Grams, The Constant Gardener and prominent roles in two of the most underrated films of 2007, The Kingdom and 30 Days of Night, where he played the lead vampire, Marlow. Huston returns to the silver screen in the highly-anticipated X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which hits theaters nationwide on May 1, and sees Huston stepping into role of William Stryker. I had the chance to speak with Huston over the phone, and here's what he had to say.
First of all, were you a big fan of the comic books or the film franchise when you first came on, and how were you first approached to portray William Stryker?
Danny Huston:Well, I've never been a really big fan of the franchise, but I knew it. I loved the whole mythology aspects of it. At times, I find this characters somewhat like demigods and the stories and the plot is like Cain and Abel, so it has this great, grand, biblical scale to it. In regards to my character Stryker, I had, unfortunately, a great performance by Bryan Cox, who portrayed Stryker in a great way, and really, I had to somewhat ignore that and return to the source material and base my Stryker on the maverick character, who is this evangelical man who is on this crusade and has this love-hate for mutants.
So you're fairly well-known for your different accents and different use of dialects in your various roles, so was there anything special you brought to this, in that form of the dialects?
Danny Huston: With the dialects, not so much. What I figured out pretty quickly was that these mutants are physically, without doubt, stronger than I can ever be, so the only way that Stryker can manipulate them is gently, quietly and in a kind of seductive manner. He's got a sort of gentle way of speaking.
You said you went back to the source, so what kinds of stories did you really take to when you were preparing for this role?
Danny Huston: The main thing with Stryker is that his son murdered his mother, my wife, so he has this, as I said, this love-hate thing for mutants. He truly understands them and despises them. He harnesses their power the way, I suppose, a horse trainer with some sort of spectacular thoroughbred, and manipulates them because he knows them. That's really, primarily, the first degrees that I understood of the basics of Stryker's character.
There's a really great cast in this, of course with Hugh (Jackman) reprising his role, but there are so many others with Liev Schrieber, Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, Kevin Durand and Taylor Kitsch looks like he's going to get a huge bump from this. What did you really enjoy about working with this really diverse cast?
Danny Huston: Oh, it's like having a whole bunch of demigods around you (Laughs). They're just spectacular characters and working on a film of such grand scale. At times it's difficult because you have the green-screen and you're kind of having to imagine the world you're inhabiting, but it's so defined that it's really exciting to be acting and kind of playing in this wonderful palette of colors and actors' sensibilities.
Gavin Hood has had experience both acting and directing, like yourself, so did you really find that he was more of an actor's director on this film?
Danny Huston: Yes, very much. I think our main objective was to make it grittier, more realistic, if that's even a word that one could use for Wolverine (Laughs), but to really base it from an emotional standpoint, so that the big action sequences really stem from some kind of truth. There's this wonderful sort of Cain and Abel battle going on with Liev Schrieber's character and Hugh Jackman's character, which is very dramatic and Gavin was very insightful and helpful from that acting point of view. He was also able to do some pretty cool action sequences, without turning it too operatic.
It seemed like they filmed this really all over the place - Vancouver, Australia, New Zealand. What was it like just filming in all these locations for the film?
Danny Huston: Well, Australia is a great location and Fox has a fantastic studio there, and then we did some additional scenes in Canada, in Vancouver. Really, it's been a very stage-driven film, so it's mainly about sets. The stuff that we did in New Zealand was with exteriors in the forest. So yeah, like I said earlier, there's just a wonderful palette of locations, colors and characters.
So, what was your first reaction when you first heard about the leaked workprint of the film, and everything that surrounded it?
Danny Huston: As you know, piracy is kind of the norm, so it's not all that surprising when films are thrown about, but what was really disappointing, in this particular case, was that it wasn't finished. To show it not in its best shape, is terribly sad and frustrating for the filmmakers and it was a great shame.
Have you had any reactions from the fans yourself, maybe just on the street, after this print was released?
Danny Huston: Actually, prior to the print's release, more with the trailer. They were very excited people looking forward to seeing the film, because it has such a great fanbase, and we hope not to disappoint them.
There was a report that was released a few days ago that there might be a silver lining for the leak, because it seems that it's still tracking really well and it might get people to see it even more, maybe because it is unfinished.
Danny Huston: Well, I suppose, now more people are aware of the film, but I don't think that anybody wanted to get publicity this way.
Yeah, that's true. I wasn't insinuating anything like that, but it does seem that the buzz around it is still good.
Danny Huston: Yeah, yeah. It's very high, from what I understand.
You directed a number of projects before getting into acting, so is that something that you're looking to get back into anytime soon?
Danny Huston: Yeah. I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle and directing again, I really am. I'm kind of itching to do that. I had no ambitions to become an actor, whatsoever. I was just waiting for my films to get made and some friends of mine, out of the kindness of their hearts, because I was sitting around doing nothing, started casting me in small roles and the roles got bigger.
So is there anything that you're actively pursuing or developing right now that you can talk about?
Danny Huston: Yes. I'm developing a dusty tale set south of the border in Tijuana, with some rather interesting, seedy characters. I'm putting it together slowly and hopefully it will come together soon, but there's no great hurry.
Is this something you're writing as well then?
Danny Huston: Yes. It's based on a book called Day of the Dead.
Danny Huston: Yes, well Edge of Darkness is directed by Martin Campbell with Mel Gibson and Boogie Woogie is about the art world. I play a character called Art Spindle, who's an art dealer. And Warrior is with Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush. It's of a war, spaghetti western with a few other ingredients thrown in.
Nice. Are those all set to be released this year then?
Danny Huston: Yeah. I actually think they will all be released this year.
Finally, we're nearing the film's release, so how do you think the fans will react to this new film, and is there anything you'd like to say to those who've supported this film throughout all the controversy?
Danny Huston: Well, I hope the fans will enjoy it. As you know, it's a prequel, so, in a sense, you don't have to necessarily have to be knowledgeable with the other pictures, but if you are, there certainly will be some plots that will be joined, especially the creation of adamantium and stuff like that. And, for those who have supported us, I think it's fantastic and, from a filmmaking standpoint, really appreciate it, that the people have resisted temptation. It's kind of like Pandora's Box, it's hard not to take a peek.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, Danny. Thanks so much for your time, and the best of luck with your new projects.
Danny Huston: Thank you. Thank you very much.
You can see Danny Huston as William Stryker alongside Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch, Kevin Durand, Will.i.am and many more when X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens in theaters nationwide on May 1.