Movies fans have seen many sides of Dermot Mulroney through the years and this charismatic actor has proved time and time again that he is capable of tackling any role — large or small. In his latest big-screen role, the elements proved to be just as challenging as the material! Written and directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc), THE GREY, stars an ensemble cast featuring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns, J. Edgar, Big Miracle), Frank Grillo (Warrior), Dallas Roberts (“The Good Wife,” 3:10 To Yuma), Joe Anderson (upcoming ABC’s “The River,” Across The Universe), James Badge Dale (World War Z, The Conspirator, HBO’s “The Pacific”), and Nonso Anozie (HBO’s “Game Of Thrones,” Conan The Barbarian, RocknRolla). It centers on Liam Neeson’s character who leads an unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks when their plane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Battling mortal injuries and merciless weather, the survivors have only a few days to escape the icy elements – and a vicious pack of rogue wolves on the hunt – before their time runs out. Just in time for it’s January 27th nationwide release from Open Road Films, Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Dermot Mulroney to get the scoop of the making of this thrilling film, his time on set with the very diverse cast and the challenges that presented themselves along the way.
You have been in some many great projects through the years. They say that tackling a career in the entertainment is often not for the faint of heart. What drove you to pursue a career as an actor?
Ya know, I stumbled into a couple of things as a kid in community theater and then in high school. To be honest with you, it is something that I have always done. When I got to college, I thought it would be a bad idea to become an actor! Basically, it seemed so impossible and like a goal that was too far to reach. As I continued to pursue it as a student, got a lucky break with an agent. I went straight from college into a professional career. So the answer is really that I have always had a passion for acting, since I was six or seven years old and now, however many years later, forty or so, I am still loving it!
Who would you cite as your biggest professional influence and why?
Boy, let’s see. Well, I had the privilege of working with Paul Newman and number of years ago. That was one of my great high points! Mainly because previous to working with him, he had been one of my favorite actors, since I was a kid really. I learned quite a lot about how things work from him on set and as an actor. He was such an honorable version of a gentleman in all his dealings with people. He had a beautiful family and wife. He was a good friend. It was an honor to be part of one of his last tasks. He was a good guy and I really miss him.
Your latest project is ‘The Grey’. What was it about the script or the character in particular that drew you to your role in the film?
This script came out of being a screenplay and into production and casting as white hot material! A lot of people knew about it and wanted to be involved. It reads just as good as it looks, so what I am saying is that it is a great screenplay with Liam Neeson in the kick-ass lead part, so what’s not to like! Not only myself and the rest of the cast that is in the movie but a lot off other guys were trying to get these roles!
I can imagine! There were a lot elements at play in this film. What was the biggest challenge in making this film as an actor?
For me, I had just come off of shooting another picture in Anchorage, Alaska in October and November of 2010, so I had just done a cold weather movie. Obviously, the conditions weren’t quite as extreme as they were on ‘The Grey’, where we shot in Smithers, British Columbia. I knew what I was getting into! [laughs] These other guys imagined it but I had just come from those extreme weather conditions in Anchorage and I knew what I was in for! I basically went back to back. We even ended up traveling further north to Vancouver to shoot the exteriors of the plane crash. Because we were being put into authentic conditions, we weren’t faking anything! In a lot of ways, I could say that it was an easy job! Obviously, the conditions were challenging and even getting to the set took a certain amount of time and effort to get up onto the hill! The harder parts were actually when some of the film was shot on an interior set where the have created a chunk of the crashed airplane scenario inside! Suddenly, we find ourselves working in temperate conditions in arctic gear, so the hard part became not sweating in a couple of scenes in this movie because we were overdressed! [laughs] That was definitely something that I did not expect to happen! Outside, in 40 degree below zero weather, no problem! Inside, in wardrobe made to withstand 40 degree below zero weather, that’s when it got tough!
Director Joe Carnahan is a seasoned veteran of film at this point, especially when it comes to action. What was it like working with him and what do you think he brought to the table on a project like this?
Joe Carnahan is a really interesting guy and you recognize it the minute that you meet him! He sorta gives you a confusing impression when you first meet him because he looks and acts like a “big fat guy” type or a bully or a sports fan but inside all of that brash exterior is this really caring and poetic soul. He is a strange paradoxical character but you get a sense of it right away. If you take that personality and put it on to the amazing screenplay that you just read, which has some of those same qualities — balls out, kick-ass action that every once and a while slows down for either a touch of humor or these very deep moments where men are driven to the point where they actually talk to each other about life — you have something very special, ya know? Those are rare combinations and you see it in Joe Carnahan and you can see it in ‘The Grey’.
Each project seems to be a learning experience for an actor. What did you learn from your time on this film?
Well, in a way, if twenty five plus years of not getting roles on a frequent basis didn’t turn me into a modest actor, [laughs] this job would have! This was a situation where, even without being told, each of us knew instinctively to check our ego — leave it at the foot of the mountain! Everybody suffered and endured the same extreme weather conditions. No one got special treatment or extra food or a better place to sit. Liam, myself, Nonso Anozie, Frank Grillo and everybody else in the cast were all sitting in the same weather, watching ice crystals form on our eyelashes! That’s just how this one was! And we couldn’t have had more fun doing it!
You 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?
Oh, I have plenty of them! I haven’t done any type of extraterrestrial work or even a war movie, right? So, I have got plenty of stuff left to do and I find that really exciting. Whether it is science fiction or horror, there are a ton of movies and genres that I would love to have a shake at!
I know you recently stepped behind the camera to direct a film as well. Is that something we might see you doing more of in the future?
Maybe! That was a very challenging job and I always like to be put to the test! In my opinion, that one didn’t come out so well but at least the experience was a good one to have. If the opportunity does present itself again, I would hope it is a better one and I would do it for sure!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on a career in the film industry?
That is a tough one! The way that I got in when I was just starting out was just stumbling luck, so I couldn’t tell you there is a clear path to take. Anyone would tell you that you definitely have to train up, study hard and pay attention but if you really want to become and actor and see great acting, in realistic circumstances to an extent that is hard to find, they should go see ‘The Grey’.
Agreed! You guys did a fantastic job. Thanks for your time, Dermot. We look forward to spreading the word.
Fantastic! Thanks a lot, man!
Check out the official website for ‘The Grey’ at www.thegreythemovie.com. While you are at it, you can check out the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheGreyMovie and connect on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheGreyMovie.