Wheels here with an interview with a genre great,
There is no question that Clancy Brown is geek movie royalty. The number of projects he has been a part of that are beloved by the geek community is simply staggering. Here’s just a brief list:
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED
RICK & MORTY
… and that’s just a fraction of Brown’s lengthy filmography. He is an actor who is always working and turning in memorable performances every time.
He can currently be seen in theaters in the film CHAPPAQUIDDICK, as well.
I sat down with Clancy Brown to discuss his latest project though, the comedy SUPERCON. SUPERCON is the newest directorial effort from Zak Knutson (director of the excellent documentary MILLIUS). The film tells the story of a heist attempt at a SDCC-esque comic book convention. Brown plays “Adam King”, a television and film star attending the con as a celebrity guest. He’s the villain of the piece and gets to square off with a cast that includes John Malkovich (IN THE LINE OF FIRE), Maggie Grace (LOST), Russell Peters (THE JUNGLE BOOK), and Ryan Kwanten (RED HILL). Hijinks ensue.
In the course of our chat we discuss a wide range of topics and I was pleasantly surprised by his candor and warmth. Well, that’s enough of an introduction, please enjoy this sit down with genre great Clancy Brown!
Let’s get started, I saw the new film last night and enjoyed it. How did you become involved in SUPERCON?
I was actually serving on the jury of the Edenborough Film Festival, which is a great film festival but it’s very “European”. So, there were a lot of serious and depressing films being done and I got sent this script and if you are on a jury you spend your whole time in a dark room watching movies and I get sent this script and it just made me laugh out loud and I think I needed to laugh pretty hard after being on those juries and seeing those films.
I said, “this is great! What’s going on with it?” and they said well you’ve got to leave. You’ve got to go directly to New Orleans [laughs] … to get started. Then I found out John [Malkovich] was in it. I’ve know John since we were both in Chicago. Zak and Andy [Sipe, screen writer] come at this from a sincere place. They’ve lived these stories.
So, it was really great to… I’ve read a lot of “[comic] con” movie [scripts] and seen a lot of “con” movies and they never quite get it right … It’s such a specific thing but it’s so important to the industry. I usually don’t like movies about “showbiz” but this one really tickled me and there’s lots of “Easter eggs” in it and there’s lots of references. You know, even down to the characters that they had. They had a voice-over guy. They had a [comic book] creator. They had an animator. They had an 80’s TV star. I mean just really fun stuff!
I play this big asshole TV star [laughs] but you know, there’s a couple of those out there all though the character’s not anything specific to anybody. People try to draw parallels between… probably [William] Shatner or somebody like that but you know it’s not [meant to be] Shatner. Shatner’s actually really sweet to the fans and stuff. Zack explained that Adam King is kind of the conglomeration of all the horrible stories that have happened. None of them are specific to anybody in particular, any one person in particular. Just every now and then somebody doesn’t know how … isn’t familiar with the decorum [of comic cons], isn’t familiar with the protocols and [laughs] screws up! I think that happens every now and then.
I think that –
… It’s handled with a lot of love.
It shows and that’s the one thing I responded to most about it, it was very faithful to fandom and “con” culture. It felt authentic in that respect.
Yeah. Yeah! Everybody’s having fun and if you’re not having fun you get to be stolen from! [laughs]
Tell me about working with John Malkovich. You said you were friends, but what was it like getting to share scenes with him?
Well, we’ve never actually worked together. I was in college when [the theare group] STEPPENWOLF was still [putting on shows] in the basement of a church and [I] was doing theater in Chicago. I was [still] in college in Chicago and [John and I] we’d all go around and see all these shows in Chicago. It was a very energetic theater scene back then in the late 70’s – early 80’s. STEPPENWOLF, they were pretty close to our age. They were maybe five to six years older. They were such a great ensemble and they were really tight and really pushing the envelope and you could tell they were doing the things that they wanted to do. That was not unusual. … Now all these guys are old stalwarts, but back then they were all young turks.
John… I remember, I actually did work with John once sort of. We were in the same episode of some TV show that was shooting in Chicago. He was like the crazy bad guy and I was just some standby cop. [*Author’s Note: I searched extensively to try to determine what television show Clancy was referring to here and came up empty-handed. If any our readers know the title of the program. Please let me know.]
We were sitting around, waiting to be called to be called to work, just bored out of our minds both of us. [However], both of us [were] just shocked at how much money we were making, hundreds of dollars. The next time I saw him was during the [Chicago Nazi] protest. We were the anti-Nazi protestors at the Nazi protest in Skokie.
Well, we weren’t really anti-protesting. We were kind of watching it. [laughs] We just kind of ran into it. We were kind of tourists, I guess “protest tourists”, at the time. I ran into [John] there. Then STEPPENWOLF took off and I graduated college. I came out to L. A. and starting working and I hadn’t seen him really too much since. It was good to see him again. I’ve always liked John so much and admired his acting so much. Ya know, he’s a one of a kind dude. We had fun working and reminiscing. We’re a couple of old men by then. We were talking about our kids and reminiscing about Michael Jordan’s heyday. We were just like two old guys, sitting on a porch. [laughs loudly] It was fun.
That came through very well in your scenes together. You could sense the connection there. Moving over to some more general questions. As I stated earlier [before we began the interview], You’ve been in so many films that have gone on to be really important to people and pop culture in general. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, BUCKAROO BANZAI, HIGHLANDER, and STARSHIP TROOPERS to just name a few. What goes into choosing those projects. What do you look for? What makes you think, “this is a Clancy Brown role”?
I don’t look for anything. If they are willing to hire me, that makes it a “Clancy Brown part!”
I don’t really look for anything. You just read the script. Ya know, I’m not a good enough actor to pretend to be something that I’m not responding to… to pretend to like something. I’ve tried that a couple of times. I just can’t do it. I’m not good enough to be good at something I don’t connect with. So, usually it’s just a script that I think is terrific and I’ve picked some bad ones too that I’ve responded too. Everybody loves SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, that was just a terrific script. BUCKAROO was just completely weird and it tickled me so much. I had no idea what was going on but I just found it so stimulating to read and so interesting and funny. I don’t even know why. Then they got that group of people together and that took it to another level. Uhh… What was the other one you mentioned?
Highlander. [pause] Highlander was a brilliant script that had a brilliant director, [Russell Mulcahy], and succeeded in spite of the people behind it, I think. Greg [Gregory Widen, author of the original screenplay] really created… he had such a great premise. He created such a great secret world and then [producers] Panzer and Davis took it over and just completely fucked it up. They weren’t able to fuck up the original one too much because they were leaving it to Russell and they had to make Sean Connery happy. They had to make Christopher [Lambert] happy. They didn’t have to make me happy which they didn’t even bother to try and do. But we were young and having a good time. I think the first one worked out pretty well. Oddly, I think the TV show is pretty good but …boy if they could do a remake and take another swing, take another bite at that apple. That is a franchise waiting to happen. They did not make that franchise work but it could, …it really could.
I completely agree. I’m a huge fan of the original film. Just a couple more questions before we wrap up. What was one role you had that really meant a lot to you that didn’t really connect with audiences, at the time, that you would like people to discover?
I don’t know. I know I’m always the kind of actor, that I know the part I take and where it fits. I try to make it fit. There’s a couple things I’ve done that have been trimmed but I understand those and there’s a couple things I’ve done that have been trimmed that probably shouldn’t have been trimmed. You never know until the audience sees it. There’s elements in stories, usually true stories, that when you do research you find out, “Wow! This is much more interesting than what they are showing in this movie.” The movie’s about another aspect of the story. So, maybe someday they’ll make more of that other aspect [of the story]. CHAPPAQUIDDICK was like that. In that room with all those guys. All those guys have all written books. They all have their own interesting stories but you couldn’t get into that and tell the Ted Kennedy CHAPPAQUIDDICK story. You had to just sort of have them there [in the background]. You couldn’t get really into who they were and what they were about, which I understand but boy, that was a really interesting part of their lives, that weekend and the place in their lives when CHAPPAQUIDDICK happened, in America too. That would be an interesting thing. What was everybody doing on July 25th1969 when the men landed on the moon? That’s a more interesting story than Ted Kennedy! [laughs] But, that’s just me. What happened in those big moments in history? Where was everybody else. What was Nixon doing then? Where was Ronald Reagan? What was Bill Clinton doing July 25th 1969? I mean… I don’t know if that answers your question. I wouldn’t diss my filmmakers. I think they all do things for their reasons. It’s their prerogative. I don’t second guess that.
Returning to SUPERCON for a moment, the scene at the end of the film where you are ranting at the crowd in the parking lot; was that scripted out? Did you improvise it? Tell me about shooting that scene.
[laughs] Yeah, Zak and Andy had written a few great lines so I kicked ‘em out and then Zack just comes over with a little grin on his face and goes, “just go ahead and say whatever you want to say”. So, I think one of the improvised lines was something about … um I said something about Princess Leia… something…
It was Carrie Fisher.
Yeah! It was Carrie Fisher! “I made out with Carrie Fisher” or something like that! [laughs] We were just sort of throwing all sorts of crazy stuff in. A couple of times, I got specific with certain people who were in the crowd. Which was sort of funny at the time but it was a little bit too mean for the spirit of the movie, ya know?
The people were all great. They were all really terrific and they were probably happy to be singled out but I think we took that stuff out because it was just a little too ferocious and scrappy. [laughs] We stuck with all the funny stuff.
I think the scene works wonderfully and it’s a great way to cap off the film. Well Mr. Brown, I won’t take up anymore of your time. I greatly appreciate you taking the time and talking with me.
I appreciate you asking.
Any time! We would love to have you back for anything you want to talk about. Maybe a longer piece, a career retrospective. You have a lot of fans among our readers. Our audience loves your work.
Maybe an obituary!
Well, let’s hope not! Not for a very long time anyway!
[loud laughter] … Alright. Fair enough.
Thank you so much. It’s been an honor.
Thank you, [Wheels].
SUPERCON opens in limited theatrical release and on all VOD platforms April 27th!
A big thank you to Josh Tatarsky (katrinawanpr.com) for helping put this interview opportunity together and to Brian Parker (BelieveInWonder.com) for the beautiful illustration that closes the article.