While Dominic Purcell has been in the industry for years it was his roles in John Doe and Prison Break that made him most recognizable to American audiences. Since his hit run on Prison Break he has been tearing up the box office working along the likes of Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Tom Cruise, Robert DeNiro and more. I had the chance to sit down with him to discuss his latest Vikingdom that is looking to bring back the old school sword wielding action films of old.
Bobby: How did you initially get involved with Vikingdom?
Dominic: My agent called me up there is this interesting film, a Viking movie shot in Malaysia and started to laugh, but my agent said “No it’s for real”. I read the script, liked it and wanted to do it.
Bobby: This film instead of being a straight up Viking film had that feeling like those old films of the genre like Krull and those from the 80s and 90s, did you know that was the direction of the film before shooting?
Dominic: Yeah, the director Yusry wanted to bring back that old school Highlander kind of vibe.
Bobby: Right, it had that kind of cheesy element but was a lot of fun.
Dominic: Yeah and that was the intent. We never set out to make Braveheart or Rob Roy or anything like that. It was always meant to be more of a Highlander type of film.
Bobby: This film obviously has a lot of action sequences and they are well done, which is rare in a lower budget film like this. Did you have to do a lot of training for this film?
Dominic: It was physically very demanding. I was lifting weights, dieting, training, choreographing fight scenes and it was just a nightmare. We would get on set and do a certain choreographed fight sequence and then we would realize we needed about ten more so it all became very inprovational. The stunt guys were amazing, some extraordinary Australian stunt guys and without their help this movie wouldn’t have worked. They were crucial to this movie and went above and beyond the call of duty for this film.
Bobby: You will have a lot of people that like to complain that aspects are not correct for the mythology in a film like this, like the one character that is a martial artist. Was that written that way or was it just something added later?
Dominic: The film itself is based on a Norwegian poem, but we obviously have taken a lot of dramatic license to make it more fantastical.
Bobby: One of the most outlandish looks of the film was Thor. Do you know if it was always planned to give him that bright red beard and hair and was there a reason for that?
Dominic: Yes there was. Filmmakers, when they are making this kind of genre don’t have a desire to make a film look like that, it’s always done with more blue grey’s. So when Yusry wanted these bright obnoxious colors running through the film I didn’t know what to think about that. As the film progressed and I saw the dailies I was very excited because color isn’t something you see much anymore and it was cool to see Yusry bring color like that back to the screen.
Bobby: It made it pop, where the rest of the film is visually gloomy.
Dominic: Absouolutly, everything you see in Vikingdom is a deliberate attempt by Yusry. This is a 10 or 15 million dollar budget, it wasn’t a 200 million dollar film and I had seen Yusry’s smaller budgeted movies at like a million bucks and they looked like 3 million dollars. He is very talented at what he does and is a post guy who is a very visual director. His heroes are people like George Lucas so heavily influenced by people like that.
Bobby: With this film and numerous others you have done there are aspects of special effects. How hard is it as an actor to give those performances without always having something to act towards?
Dominic: The issue for me was wholly crap what am I doing. It didn’t look for me like it does on screen obviously. For instance, if you look at the village, I remember looking at it and it was built up against this huge green backdrop that just looks stupid, but when you see it on screen it looks amazing. It requires a lot of trust for the actor to let go and allow the process to evolve and not get in the way of it.
Bobby: Being someone in the martial arts I am always obsessed with the action aspect of films like this and you have done numerous sword fighting type action with films like Blade: Trinity and this, do you have any formal training?
Dominic: No, none whatsoever. My fighting style if you will is a combination of mimicking, cowboy films and boxing that I have done throughout my life. I have a basic technique, but it’s interesting, when I was doing Blade: Trinity with the sword work, I had played tennis my whole life and I just started incorporating tennis strokes into my sword play and I found that to be really helpful and the same thing on Vikingdom. I would use the back hand tennis stroke and do the exact same thing with the sword and it looks like I am trying to take off someone’s head, but it’s actually just that back hand.
Bobby: When shooting a lot of the films you do, they typically require an American accent, how hard is it to drop the accent and do you ever find yourself slipping back into it while filming?
Dominic: It’s not really that hard. I’ve been here for 12 years and it’s more of a transatlantic style with a bit of Australian and American, it’s not full on Austrialian with “How ya doin mate?” or anything like that. People have asked me why are Austrailians and Brits so good at American accents and it’s quite simple. We grew up listening to the American sound on our TV. That’s why American actors have a hard time with foreign accents. American TV was just American TV, at least when I was growing up. It didn’t really take in foreign content, so it wasn’t something that was constantly ringing in your head.
Bobby: You seem to do a lot of films; do you take anytime off or just work all the time and do you have anything coming up you would like to promote?
Dominic: I had a period there where I did a whole bunch of movies back to back and that lasted for about a year but appeared like I worked for the last ten years. The last two films I just completed for Sony the first is called Ice Soldiers that I am really proud of and then another called The Fighting Man, a boxing movie I did with Famke Janssen and James Caan I am very proud of that Damian Lee directed. It’s a really good movie. I have been fortunate with the last few films that I was able to do films that I wanted to do rather than being dictated by an economic situation or what have you. I am on a bit of a run right now doing films that resonate with me and off to Austrailia to do an intellectual, elevated, genre piece called the Running Man and couple other films that I am not sure I can leak anything on yet.
Bobby: The movie is a lot of fun and I am a huge fan of Prison Break and been following your career since then, so really appreciate you taking the time to do this and look forward to seeing what else you have coming up.
Dominic: Thanks buddy.
Don’t miss the fun epic action adventure Vikingdom available on DVD now.