Hey action fans! Remember practical effects? Well, if you don’t, you can reacquaint yourself with them because Brian Skiba’s newest film, starring Ryan Phillippe (CRASH, CRUEL INTENTIONS) and Casper Van Dien (STARSHIP TROOPERS), has plenty of them. THE 2ND comes out September 1 on Digital and On Demand. I had great fun chatting with Casper Van Dien about the film.
How are you today?
“I'm doing great. How are you today?”
I'm doing really well; I'm talking to Johnny Rico!
(In character) “Hoorah! Do you want to live forever?”
So, how often do you still hear people just coming up to you and saying things like that, and how does that make you feel?
“I’m in quarantine right now, so not as much because I don’t go anywhere, but when I go out, almost every single time. Almost every single day that I go out, somebody will yell some Starship Troopers’ quote at me or say, “Johnny Rico, what are you doing here?” Or, “Hey can I get a picture with you? My dad and I went to this movie.” I love it because they always say it with such enthusiasm, and they're excited. It's not like they’re yelling at me and saying something bad. That would kind of suck. Because they liked it, they’re like “Johnny Rico!!!” When they say it like that, it just makes me explode inside with complete joy and gratitude for Edward Neumeier, who wrote STARSHIP TROOPERS and Paul Verhoeven who directed the movie. The book was written by Robert A. Heinlein, and I have gratitude towards that as well. There’s just so much excitement there.”
Of course, we're not here to talk about STARSHIP TROOPERS. You’re in a film called THE 2ND that's coming out September 1 on Digital and On Demand. How did you get involved in that, and what interested you about that project?
“I got interested in THE 2ND because Brian Skiba, who's my director in that, he called me up and was like, “Dude, I got a great role for you, and you'd go up against Ryan [Phillippe]. I know you guys met a long time ago.” We met in New York in the early '90's, and we were both on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. This is a time we get to go and fight. He told me all about it. This was a whole bunch of stunt guys and a cool action movie with action fights – a real tribute to the '80's and '90's action films, and I love it. It just sounded great to me.”
Your character Driver kind of intrigued me because he just seems so icy. I mean, who is this guy? What happened to him in the past, do you think, that made him this way?
“I don't know. He does survive so you might see him again, so we might learn what really drives him. And I have some ideas of what it is, but I don’t wanna give away all the secrets, but it is a lot of fun for him. And I’ll tell you this much. The director said, “Hey, I got the perfect role for you. It’s you, you can just go play it, so you're saying, "icy." That’s not usually what I get called, so maybe I have to look in the mirror a little bit and ask my wife a couple questions and see what’s going on there.”
I feel like there’s a little underlying bitterness there. Are you bitter? (Laughing)
“There must be something going on. I didn’t even know. I’ll have to ask him what he was talking about. He didn’t give me any direction. He just said, “Yeah, just be you, dude.” So, wait a minute. Icy?”
(Laughing) Maybe that's just me projecting something. I don't know.
“I'm gonna ask him now. I’m gonna say, “Barbara Kennedy said I was icy, and you told me this was me, and I wouldn’t have to do anything, so what are you trying to say?””
How would Driver deal with the aliens if he had to replace Johnny Rico?
"Well, I don't think anybody could ever replace Johnny Rico."
Not replace…if he were just filling in for a while.
“I think, you know, Johnny Rico’s intentions are really pure, and Driver’s are not. So I think when your intentions are pure, even when things go to hell in a handbasket, and sometimes you can still come out, even if you're a little bit scathed, you can still come out and learn something from it and grow and become better, but when you're not so clean, and you come out even more unscathed, as Driver, I don't know what happens there. I don't know where the Federation would be. There's enough darkness in the Federation without having Driver get in there. He might be a little bit more manipulative than Johnny Rico is. Johnny Rico is more of a yes ma'am, yes sir kind of guy, gonna follow the rules and do what he’s told. He’s a really good soldier, and Driver, I think, would be the kind of guy that would be the soldier that would be dealing drugs on the side and trying to make a buck for himself, you know, something like that. I don't think his intentions would be totally focused on the mission as per se. He might get the job done because he is pretty efficient, but he might also line up a couple of things that aren’t too legal.”
What’s the craziest or funniest thing that happened on set during the shoot?
“You know, I watched my stunt double playing me fall out of a window, and that was pretty intense. Seeing him do that on fire, seeing him do that stunt, and it was practical, so that's pretty amazing. And it’s a pretty high fall, and that impressed me.”
Was that done in just one take?
“Yeah, yeah, he did it in one take. Yeah, the thing is though, a lot of the fights we did, Ryan and I did. We did have stunt doubles that came in for when there was something that was not safe. Most of the fights [we did] stayed, and the reason we were able to do that was because they trained us. The stunt doubles there were training with us and going over it with us, going to the dojo and training. I also trained with different guys over my career, [like] one of my best friends, Garrett Warren, a stunt coordinator on AVATAR; he was on LOGAN as second unit director and stunt coordinator, and so many other movies. And then Mark Dacascos, my Muy Thai mixed martial arts guy – JOHN WICK 3, he was the bad guy in that. Then you get thrown in with all these stunt guys and then Brian [Skiba] is a pretty physical guy, too. We were throwing it down like we were back in the '80's and '90's. It was a lot of fun.”
Ahh, the '80's and '90's, good times.
“Yeah, it was. It was a good time. I mean. in the '80's I was still in military school, but in the nineties, when I went out to LA. I went out in ’89 actually to LA, but right after college, I got out there. Then we were doing these action movies.”
How did you make that jump from school to going to LA.?
“I was working at a gym in Florida, and you know, I was gonna go to my second year in college at Florida State University, and I was going to go to my fraternity. I’d been the president of my pledge class. I was gonna go do all this stuff, had a whole different thing. I was going try to become a doctor, but then I went to this modeling competition on the other coast because this guy said, “You should go with this guy over here,” so I went over there, and I won the competition in Miami for commercial talent and runway modeling, even though I was too short. Then this manager heard about me in LA, and he brought me out there.”
You’ve done some directing before. If you were directing this movie, what would you have done differently?
“Everybody is different in the way they direct. I don't know what I would do differently because I'm not Brian Skiba. I love working with him. I think he's a great director. I just would have to do my own preparation, so I don't know what I would do differently. I would never try to take a job away from one of my buddies, so I would not have been directing this because Brian’s a good buddy of mine. But, if I was to have something like this, I would just have a different team. I might even call somebody up like Dan or Garrett or my different friends to get their advice and stuff like that. I do a lot of research and work when I try to do things, and then you run and gun it. I mean my first film, I had to rewrite the script, which I wasn’t gonna get credit for it, they told me. I had three weeks to do that, and then I had thirteen days to shoot it. So, I had a couple days off here and there in between but just a thirteen-shooting-day schedule, which was insane. You have to trust your DP and trust everybody you get on board so you have people that work and know what kinda schedule you have. You know, I definitely want to have a stunt team like what Brian had on this, and the camera guys who are used to shooting stunts. Everything was pretty much practically done, so that was pretty intense. You have to be really prepared for something like this.”
What did you do during your downtime on set?
“My wife was on set, too. She worked on it, so I hung out with her. But we were doing a lot of rehearsing for fights and stuff like that so there wasn’t as much downtime. When we had the downtime, some guys were like, “Hey, let's go over this,” so we did a lot of that. Normally, you would allow a lot more time for the fights and everything, and we didn't have that benefit, so we would hang out in the dojo working for three hours at night and go on set and work all day long. We had like nine days before we started filming where we were fighting and training because they're choreographed like a dance almost. You have to know how to do everything to be able to perform it on time and make sure you don't hurt somebody. That that would just be the end of it right there if somebody got hurt.”
How many hours would you say goes into prepping for a fight scene?
“There's never enough as far as I'm concerned. You want to do as many days, weeks, months [as you can]. Back in the old days, when they were first acting, they used to train, and they go for six months, years sometimes. Keanu Reeves always prepared, same with Tom Cruise. I mean, those guys, they know how to do it, and they have the money and the time, and the budget’s behind it. When you don't have the benefit of what they have and the tools that they have - and they have the best - you try to surround yourself with the hungriest of the best that are out there right now that want it, want to obtain that. You try to train with them, try to work with them. There’s never enough time. You always want more, so I would do as much as I could. I’d just go for as long until they tell me, “Okay, time to go home and rest, Casper.” I just want to be better.”
I didn't have time to ask him about the Casper Fan Diens Club, but maybe next time. You can see Casper Van Dien, along with Ryan Phillippe, Jack Griffo, and Samaire Armstrong, in THE 2ND, starting September 1 on Digital and On Demand.