Casper Van Dien exploded onto screens around the world in the 90s and quickly established himself as on of Hollywood’s most versatile young actors. It was that versatility that landed him his breakthrough role as “Johnny Rico” in Paul Verhoeven’s science-fiction adventure, ‘Starship Troopers’. It was during that time that he laid the groundwork for what would blossom into one of the most unique careers in the entertainment industry. Never afraid to experiment or to follow his keen instincts when it comes to a role, Casper Van Dien continues to surprise his fans with each new project. One of the most approachable and down-to-earth stars that one can encounter, Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Casper Van Dien during his appearance at one of horror’s premiere fan events, Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It was there that the two discussed Van Dien’s professional influences, his role in upcoming film ‘Shiver’ where he stars alongside genre favorite Danielle Harris, his memories of being part of ‘Starship Troopers’ and much more!
The entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart. When did you decide to pursue a career as an actor as opposed to going in a different direction?
I guess when I was a little kid would be the time that I first fell in love with it but it was at Florida State that I fell in love with the theater program. That is when I realized that I really wanted to be an actor. I guess you can blame it on my parents and wanting to meet girls! [laughs]
There is nothing wrong with that! It definitely seems to be working out for you from what I can tell!
Yeah, you could say that. [laughs]
If you had to cite one person as a professional influence, as you were coming up, who would it be?
Paul Verhoeven (Director of “Robocop,” “Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct,” “Showgirls” and “Starship Troopers”) would probably be my greatest professional influence that I have had because first he hired me but it was there where I came to see his work ethic. He was always the first one on the set and the last one to leave. He is the type of person that always has his creative juices flowing. He is always doing something and his mind is always going. It was a really intense experience to watch him. Paul and screenwriter Ed Neumeier, who wrote “Starship Troopers” have probably had the biggest effect on my career.
You have had have so many diverse characters in many different genres. What is your typical process for bringing a character from the script to the screen?
I think that it varies on every project. The process keeps evolving and getting a little bit better for me. It is a matter of learning as much as I can about the character, the role and what went into it. Then I may go to my acting coach and try to feel what it is like to be in the shoes of the person that I am portraying.
One of the films that we are most excited about seeing you in is “Shiver” with Danielle Harris (“Halloween 4,” “Halloween 5”, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween,” “Stakeland”). What attracted you to that project and what can you tell us about the role?
It is a passion piece for the producer. He wrote it a long time ago and has really been fighting to get it made. So that was really intriguing. It is based on a best-selling book that sold over a million copies and the character’s name (Detective Sebastian Delgado) is really cool! [laughs] I liked that. I thought that the director, Julian Richards, had done some really interesting work and I was thrilled to get a shot at working with him. Then I met Danielle Harris, who is just unbelievably amazing! She is the one that got me to come to Monster Mania, she is the one that got me on Twitter and Facebook as well. She was like, “Why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you doing that? You should be doing this!” There are a lot of things that I wouldn’t be doing if it wasn’t for her influence. She is an amazing actress, wonderfully talented and to watch her do her thing on set was phenomenal. She is phenomenal to work with and I loved every moment. In the film, I play Officer Sebastian Delgado, the cop, the good guy.
Do you find yourself drawn to darker films these days?
Darker films? I don’t know. I like a lot of different types of films but I would say that some of the darker ones have certainly appealed to me, which isn’t to say that I don’t like comedy as well. “True Romance” is one of my favorite films, a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s films are in there for me. I love a big variety of films. “Blade Runner” for example has a certain dark aspect to it that I find appealing and I loved “Robocop” too, which is dark and perverted in a way.
Will we see you stepping behind the camera for a directorial role in the future?
I would like to. We have a film that we wrote and we were close to getting produced and directed last year, we were close. Now, we are back into the funding side of things and trying to get that done. But yes, I am looking forward to that.
Your wife, Catherine Oxenberg, is going to potentially be a part of that film. Are you looking forward to working alongside her?
Absolutely, my wife is my favorite actress, bar none. She is the funniest person that I know and always challenges me to be a better man.
One of your most recognizable characters is that of Johnny Rico from “Starship Troopers.” What are your fondest memories of that experience?
Wow! Well, we shot the film in Casper, Wyoming. I remember that being kind of hysterical at the time, seeing everything named “Casper.” I enjoyed that! [laughs]
Did any street signs or anything like that go missing mysteriously during your stay there? [laughs]
No, no! [laughs] Too many morals for that! [laughs] But seriously, I remember sitting there each day, looking out onto the set and thinking, “Oh my God, I am so lucky.” I think that is one of the greatest moments for me, looking out onto that set with 1,400 extras in uniforms, the cast, the crew, everybody buzzing around and thinking, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that we are really doing this!” I remember one scene where Paul Verhoeven was shooting from Zulu and the Arachnids were coming over the bunker, all the Zulus were coming over their bunker. It was different shots like that that really blew me away! Getting an opportunity to watch a master filmmaker was a really incredible process.
What was it like to to return to the role of Johnny Rico, years later, in “Starship Troopers 3: Marauder?”
I loved it! As I said, I love Edward Neumeier and he got his directorial debut. When he called me up and asked me if I would take part in the project, I said, “Ed, I would do anything for you!” It was a real thrill to be part of it and to put that uniform on again was awesome! The crew’s reaction to the film was really positive as well, it seemed like everyone wanted to take a picture with me! It was a lot of fun from start to finish.
Any chance we might see you reprise that role in the future? Any rumblings about the fate of Johnny Rico?
They just asked me to be involved with “Starship Troopers” anime, as a producer or an ambassador, so we will see. There are always rumblings of a possible television series and I would totally be up for it! The ball is in there court. I am ready!
Your career has been and continues to be very diverse. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
I would like to get a good horror movie. I would like to get a good Academy Award winning type of film, I certainly would like to be involved with something like that. I would love to do some more art house stuff and some more studio blockbusters. The future is wide open!
How do you feel that you have evolved as an actor over the years?
I think that with age and maturity comes a certain sense of growth. Life experience changes us and I have definitely had a lot of different life experiences.
Do you think that there are any misconceptions out there about yourself that you can dispel?
I don’t live too much by misconceptions or people’s judgements. I think it is interesting when people make judgments on other people and sometimes I think that it is all that they have to do, maybe to make themselves feel better about themselves. That in itself is judgmental, but it is sometimes hard when someone makes an assumption on you without really taking a good look.
Any plans on capturing the life experiences that you mentioned in the form of an autobiography at some point?
I don’t know if I am ready for that yet but we will see! [laughs]
You mentioned Danielle Harris and her turning you on to Facebook and Twitter. How satisfying is it to be able to connect with your fans instantly?
It has actually been a lot more fun than I ever thought that it would be. I really enjoy the connection and their reactions to what I put up. I really enjoy the people’s excitement and their dedication, it is cool to be connected to that and be more present and aware of it. Where as before, if you aren’t looking, you might not know as much. It is interesting, on Facebook a lot of the fan groups have named me as an administrator of their Johnny Rico or “Starship Troopers” pages, which is really fantastic to be a part of.
We are catching up with you today at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where a lot of fans have come out to meet you. Is this one of your first conventions and how are you enjoying the experience so far?
This is one of my first. I had done one before in Florida and one out in LA but this is my first time out here and my first horror convention. I like Monster Mania a lot! This place is full of interesting people and I love getting a chance to see some of the people that I have worked with over the years. It is a very positive experience and I hope to make it out here again in the future.
Anything that you would like to say to your fans and the legions of “Starship Troopers” fans out there?
NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER SURRENDER! It’s a quote from “Galaxy Quest.” You have to pay your respects! It’s a great quote and words to live by!
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Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.