Dylan McDermott is a star. He's one of the more recognizable faces in Hollywood and lately, he's been busy expanding his resume across several different genres. A Golden Globe winner in 1997 for his lead role in TV's "The Practice," he has recently starred in the first two seasons of the popular "American Horror Story" series, he showed up on the big screen as Logan Lerman's dad in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," and he tried to manage Zach Galifianakis in the comedy "The Campaign." I spoke with him recently to promote his latest film, "Olympus Has Fallen."
In "Olympus Has Fallen," Dylan plays one of the film's most intriguing characters, Forbes, whose actions in the film have a major impact on the story. Dylan is a busy guy, with multiple projects in the works who also has time to squeeze in rounds of golf with "God" himself, Morgan Freeman.
Here is my exclusive interview with Dylan McDermott (some minor plot spoilers to follow):
Tom Santilli, Detroit Movie Examiner: Hi Dylan!
Dylan McDermott: Hello Tom! How's it going?
It's going great! Thanks for taking the time to talk, I'm a big fan of yours so it's a pleasure to speak with you.
Oh my God, thank you! I've got one left (laughs).
(Laughs) So let's start off talking about your latest film role in a film opening very soon, "Olympus Has Fallen." How did you get involved in this project?
Well I had really wanted to work with Antoine (Fuqua, the director of "Olympus Has Fallen"), that was number one. I'm a big fan of his and I loved "Training Day." I just had an instinct to work with him and it was the correct instinct because we're going to work again in the future. He allowed me to improv my role and talked at great length about Denzel ("Training Day"), and how they worked together. We were able to work in a similar fashion and I had a lot of fun working with him. He was one of those few directors who just let me go.
What sort of things did you improvise in the movie?
Well, that whole speech about globalization and buying the Presidency. That whole thing. The line about how, "I never voted for you." So a lot of stuff we were able to just riff. There was a framework there for the character but it was a little thin on the page. But we were able to sort of fill it in, with Antoine's help of course, to come up with this guy.
I did want to ask you about that speech in the film, it's sort of a pivotal scene that really explains where your character is coming from and also represents this disillusionment that many Americans feel today. What was the film or what were you trying to say with your character?
I'm sure there are a whole faction of people that are disillusioned with America. Here's my character, who had dedicated his life to the Secret Service, to Washington and to the country. He's seen it go down a path that he wasn't happy with. It made him vulnerable to the splinter group of North Korean rebels . He was disillusioned, like you said. In his mind, he was like, OK, I'm done. Although I'm sure they paid him quite a lot of money, I'm sure that he was vulnerable to this rebel faction, who was maybe going to come in and change America, for the better, in his own mind.
Recently especially, you've been doing a lot of diverse work, from comedy ("The Campaign"), to horror with TV's "American Horror Story" to now action movies with "Olympus Has Fallen." Good characters, bad characters...is that by design or do you just follow your instincts?
I do really try to be able to do it all. I think that people for a long time just thought that I was that guy from "The Practice." I'm certainly not that guy, as you've seen recently. I can do comedy. I love doing comedy. I did stand-up in New York when I was a kid. I love action movies, I love dramas, I love TV, movies, theater. I try to push myself to do it all and recently I've had that opportunity to do it all and it's been fun. And that's what it's all about. Pushing yourself to change and grow and evolve and become. All of those things that I want to do as an actor.
Do you prefer television over film?
Nor really. I think now it's just all entertainment. I think that the lines have been blurred. So it's just really what the project is all about, who is involved with it, what the character is. That's what really interests me now.
You've mentioned that you love to do comedy and digging into your background a bit I have a question for you: Will we ever see your Funny Or Die character, John Douche, resurface again?
My God, John Douche! (Laughs) I don't know. I think we may have...I don't know. Maybe. I don't like to say never, but certainly, he's left his mark in history (laughs).
Now that whole sketch, you wrote and directed it. Do you have any aspirations in those areas of film, or in anything else? Is there anything other than acting that you haven't yet done?
I did write a script that I'm trying to get financed. That would be a dream of mine, to make that movie. I'm working diligently to get that done.
Anything you'd like to share on that project?
It's sort of a personal account of my childhood. So I'm working on that, hopefully you'll see that in the next couple of years.
Getting back to "Olympus Has Fallen," watching it, I was reminded a lot of movies like "Die Hard" and also the TV series "24." What do you think it is about this plot, of the lone rebel sort of character taking on impossible odds and fighting things like terrorism and corruption, that appeals with mass audiences?
I think that we're all searching for a hero, to tell you the truth. It's hard to find heroes in life. The heroes in life are school teachers and firemen and they're your dad and your mom, you know what I mean? Those are the real heroes in life. Movies in many ways, are sort of a metaphor for heroes. I think that we are all searching for someone to believe in. Movies kind of help us believe in people. In life it's more complex. A movie is simple. You sit in your seat and eat your popcorn and you watch somebody for an hour and a half do things that are extraordinary. But really the extraordinary things in life come from everyday people.
Who are some of your heroes?
My heroes, wow. My biggest hero in my life would be my adopted mom, Eve Ensler, who created "The Vagina Monologues" and has an organization called "V Day." I went to Congo and Kenya with her and she set up a safe house for women and girls in both locations. Plus the work she does in New Orleans, Haiti, and her foundation, V-Day, does extraordinary work. So I'd say that she's my big hero in life, for sure.
Now in "Olympus Has Fallen," you work alongside a pretty awesome cast including Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman. What was it like working with these other actors?
Morgan Freeman and I...this is our second film together, we golf together, and he's just extraordinary. He's bigger than the camera. You know, there is only a few actors that I've worked with, like Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jodie Foster. There's only a few actors along the way like that...I mean, this cast is extraordinary though, with Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett...the cast goes on and on with incredible actors. With Gerard, of course, as the centerpiece. So an action movie that has that sort of caliber of actors in it is quite amazing.
So are you a better golfer than Morgan Freeman?
Absolutely not (laughs). He plays with one hand, the guy's incredible. I don't know how he does it. Well, he represents God right now doesn't he? He's been cast as God enough (laughs).
I know some actors differ, but do you enjoy watching yourself in movies or in TV shows?
Funny enough, I was just talking about that with Aaron (Eckhart) because he doesn't watch himself, but I do. There are some movies that I haven't seen but for the most part I do watch them. Do I enjoy it? Well...sometimes I enjoy it. I enjoyed watching "Olympus Has Fallen." But most of the time I enjoy making the movie more than watching it.
What kind of audience do you think should see "Olympus Has Fallen?"
If you love action movies, this is a movie for you. There is a lot of action in this movie. I like that because you can just escape for a while.
What's next for you?
Right now I have a movie called "Behaving Badly" with Selena Gomez, which is coming out. Then I have a movie called "The Freezer," where a Russian Mob locks me in a freezer. Then I'm doing a pilot right now with Toni Collette.
You can find Dylan McDermott on Twitter, @dylanmcdermott.
Watch Dylan McDermott as dancer John Douche in Funny or Die's "The Douche."
Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 3 p.m. EST on MYTV20 in Detroit.
"Olympus Has Fallen" hits theaters on Friday, March 22, 2013. Check back then for my full review of the film.