Today’s interview is with legendary action star Patrick Kilpatrick. He’s “The Sandman” in Death Warrant, starred alongside Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing and battled Steven Seagal in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.
He has also appeared alongside Chow Yun-fat in Replacement Killers, Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Caan in Eraser and the Spielberg sc-fi classic Minority Report opposite Tom Cruise.
Mr. Kilpatrick is also the CEO of Uncommon Dialogue Films.
Eoin: First of all I’d just like to say that “The Sandman” in Death Warrant scared the hell out of me and even now he is still a great villain. What are the key elements to creating a character that is a memorable villain?
Patrick: It’s interesting, I’ve read all the books on serial killers and people like that. Playing them is very different than doing the research. I always, believe it or not, inject some element of sensuality or fun into it. It depends on the style of the movie but I feel that it should actually arouse people. Almost psychosexually and at the same time if you’re scaring them, then you’ve succeeded a lot.
Each one of them is a very different person and you have to approach it very individually, I don’t consider The Sandman like any of the other villains I’ve played. He was clearly psychotic… you know 95% of these people have been abused sexually or physically while growing up. Perhaps even chromosome damage. We tried to create that with the hair by shaving certain sections of my head and bleaching out my eyebrows which creates this very weird look. I would put menthol drops in my eyes so they were always wet and glistening and of course caffeine and sugar plays a big part too.
There’s a whole bunch of tricks to it and you try not to use the tricks more than once. Then you want to do something different all the time. I was very physical at the time; it wasn’t surprising that I ended up with that role. They actually had me read for another part, the guard who was eventually played by Art LaFleur and I actually learned how to use a billy club and all that stuff in preparation for that role, then they tried me for The Sandman.
It’s really interesting that role, when I was growing up Frankenstein was the Boogeyman. What age are you?
Eoin: Thirty three.
Patrick: So you were actually pretty young when you saw the movie the first time. It’s very interesting and gratifying in a sort of way to enter people’s growing up consciousness like that. To this day I will be driving on the freeway with sunglasses and a ball cap on with people shouting “The Sandman, the Sandman!”
Whatever it was that was in that role, still is recognisable in me now even though it’s like 22 years later. On some level I wouldn’t think that I look like that guy anymore but I do, so I guess that’s where working out has its advantages.
Eoin: You were trained by Navy SEAL and LAPD pros. Which role was that for?
Patrick: I call that movie black belt, a long time ago I started playing with guns because they were always shoving them in my hands. So I started training with the LAPD, Navy SEALS trainers and instructors, I found that I really liked it and it sort of became my recreational golf. So I’ve been through shotguns, pistols, long range sniping and urban carbines. The teachers are usually ex-law enforcement or ex-Navy SEALS. I’m actually going to be playing the head of SEAL Team 6 in a movie in April and in fact, my dad was a Navy SEAL in WWII, they were called Underwater Demolition Teams so maybe it’s in my DNA a little bit too.
So we’re developing a big movie about the birth of the Navy SEALS in WWII, again they weren’t called SEALS until 1962, they were called Beach Jumpers, Scouts & Raiders or Underwater Demolition Teams. I honestly think it’s in my blood at some level. My earliest memories were of swimming underwater with my father, I was always a strong swimmer. I just try to find the best people to study with, whether it’s for a Scottish accent or long distance rifles or pistols.
I recently (for a hunting show) shot an Elk from 120 yards with a pistol, so I worked with John Pride, a guy who was 4 times world pistol champion, virtually a living Wyatt Earp. I’d worked with him since prior to Death Warrant. I worked with him for the law enforcement baton work and it just went on from there.
Eoin: What is your most vivid memory about working with Steven Spielberg on Minority Report?
Patrick: There were many, the whole experience was extremely vivid. This is a real Hollywood moment but I didn’t actually have to meet Spielberg to get hired. He saw me in the James Cameron show called Dark Angel; they just called my agency and hired me so I didn’t have to audition for him or meet him and that in itself was extremely remarkable. My agent called me to come over to the office and I thought I’d done something really bad or something, and he said “Sit down, Steven Spielberg has hired you for four months”. I guess he’s a fan of James Cameron’s work and he was watching Dark Angel and he saw me work on there.
I remember everything about Spielberg, he tells really interesting stories about directors like John Ford… he smokes cigars and he’s a very genial guy. I remember that he believed that you should always keep the camera moving during an action movie, I’m sure there’s an exception to that rule some place. Generally he kept the camera moving at all times. They invented stuff cinematically and photographically for the movie. Janusz Kaminski, his DP, is an extraordinary genius, one of the most profane people on the planet. He’s the sort of madman to Steven’s quiet, sort of Mensch personality.
I remember Kate Capshaw (Mrs. Steven Spielberg) who I starred in a movie with in 1984, coming on the set. I came up to her, actually a little bit of back-story. In 1984 I did a western with Sam Elliott and Kate Capshaw came on the set. She was incredibly beautiful so I immediately called her up and asked her out and she said “NO!”and hung up the phone. She was then incredibly cold to me for the whole movie, so I thought “Oh well, I guess you just have to be standoffish to be a professional actress sometimes.”
So 17 years later on Minority Report, she comes walking on the set and I went up to her and said “Ms. Capshaw, you may not remember but we did a movie together many years ago.” She turned and said “Yeah and we had a thing for each other on that movie.” Steven was about five feet away and I certainly didn’t want to offend him so I’m very proud of myself, I said “Yeah, I had the good taste to ask you out and you had the very good sense not to go.” She said “Well I was being faithful to my married lover at the time.” Steven went “KATE!” but he was laughing the whole time.
I remember the food being extraordinary on set, and we actually took over every studio in town because the sets were so monumentally huge. I certainly remember everything about the experience of working with Tom Cruise, he’s a very enthusiastic guy, and he does most of his own stunts. He’s also a very generous guy, my kids would come on set and he’d make sure they had a good place to sit; Steven would let them call “Action”. It was just a great experience, really wonderful and a terrific movie to work on. It’s the big time when you’re working with Steven Spielberg.
On the first day of filming they gave Steven and Tom a Lexus each. I’ll tell you something really interesting about that movie; it was a tremendous product placement movie. They integrated American Express and Guinness Beer and Lexus right into the story. They were able to mitigate some of their production budget by doing that and I took that to heart. I have a film company and with every movie, we try to craft and develop, I’m always looking for places where I cannot just place a Coke can in the movie but to use the products in some way that they can be integrated into the story. Obviously that’s important as film financing is so challenging and you’ve just got to get money from everywhere. So, I’d say that’s one of the highest examples of product integration I’ve ever seen.
Eoin: You worked as a journalist and advertising writer before getting into movies, didn’t you?
Patrick: Yeah, I worked for a few magazines in New York and ad agencies. I would say I have an advertising edge somewhere and it kept me in good stead as a producer. I can sort of see the link-up between things and it’s all about making a better communication with the film. Product placement can be a craven pig if it’s just product placements but if you can find really interesting ways to integrate it into either the visual tapestry or the story tapestry of the movie then I think audiences actually appreciate that. If you think about those future ads in Minority Report, that was a laugh as well as adding to the suspense as they talked to Tom Cruise while he was trying to avoid detection.
Eoin: It’s funny, back then it was science fiction but already a lot of those types of ads are becoming a reality.
Patrick: It was very prophetic, perhaps not quite as prophetic as Blade Runner, pretty much all of Sunset Boulevard looks exactly like Blade Runner now. I remember working with Samantha Morton and really appreciated working with her, a very sensitive and brilliant actress and I liked her very much.
There are very interesting character actors in Minority Report actually. Peter Stormare and Lois Smith to name two. Both are quite brilliant Neal McDonough played a fellow cop; I’ve worked with him several times. He’s an old friend. I got to meet Colin Farrell, I’ve seen him periodically over the years. At the time he said “fuck” more than any person I’ve ever met in my entire life. Initially I was put off by it, not that I’m any kind of prude but then I realised that’s just how he talks. Enjoyable guy, I liked him very much as well.
When I write a script I go out of my way to strip all the F-bombs out of the script, I attempt to rein it in. In the late 50’s/60’s there were so many conventions that needed to be broken down but now we live in a time where they have largely been broken. Of course I really appreciate movies like Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas where it has an almost profane poetry in that kind of sense. But I generally look at it as a lack of creativity unless it’s in the hands of a master like Scorsese or some of those other people.
Eoin: In New York, you wrote and directed the off-Broadway play Zone of Bell/Room of Seesaws. Do you have any plans to work in the theatre again?
Patrick: Wow, you really DID do you research going back so far. I certainly would, I’m very grateful for the beginnings in theatre and having worked with guys like Tony Richardson who was an Academy Award winning film director. In my down time I’m always writing and raising money for films. For other actors’ down times they are doing a play some place. I always felt I that I was moving more towards producing and directing rather than doing the theatre thing. Some actors just can’t live without that.
I would do it again but I think the universe has just wanted me to do other things. There’s the West End of London, The Edinburgh Festival, Broadway and even L.A. which are important places potentially for your career.
In L.A. mostly people don’t go to the theatre too much; it’s just never been much of a theatre town. It was more so when I started out and I’d do it again. I haven’t auditioned for anything like that for such a long time and I’ve spent so much time writing films or trying to get money for them or working as a producer’s consultant for them or acting. In L.A. the repertory system is to guest star in television so you’re constantly doing that in-between other things, in my case action films.
Eoin: The Annual Hollywood Sporting Clays Event takes place on June 11th this year. Can you tell us about the event and what inspired you to get involved?
Patrick: I got inspired because I was so annoyed with what I consider the anti-second amendment, anti-military, anti-hunting, fishing and archery energy and PR that was coming out of Los Angeles. Again, as I said before shooting has kind of been my recreation for a number of decades. I think what tipped the scales for me was the anti-military stuff. I really do revere our nation’s warriors, so I was familiar with Los Angeles events and the shooting world having gone to charity and celebrity shooting events over many years. I think I was the right person to put that together. I’ve done it twice but I don’t think I’m going to do it again. I think the culture has changed enough with shows like “Sons of Guns” and “American Trigger” and that kind of thing, so the negative energy has been blunted by that and the culture has changed.
The other thing is it was such an enormous expenditure of energy and right now I’m really focusing on the film stuff, like producing. That’s really where my true aspirations lie.
I’m very grateful; we had two really successful events and didn’t get into any financial problems. We raised money for charity, nobody got hurt and we brought a lot of new people to the shooting sports.
I just felt like it wasn’t a career but something I’d do for a short period of time. For me its purpose has been served but I hope somebody else takes it up and I’d be happy to help them out. I still give my energy to Veterans’ events periodically, but again I have to structure time management with film and getting ready to direct a film called Quick and acting.
The other reason that has stopped me from proceeding is the range costs have gotten so expensive that it became increasingly difficult to actually get more than a pittance for the charities. The ranges didn’t really honour the concept that we were bringing new shooters to the sport, so they would just charge us and the costs would go up and up and up.
I might do it again sometimes but for now it really isn’t on my horizon.
Eoin: Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Patrick: I’m currently working on a movie called Quick where I play a Scottish gangster, which I actually wrote. It’s a love story set in a crime venue. A Scottish gangster’s son gets murdered and he goes to avenge him. Vinnie Jones is actually in talks to play the English gangster. It’s a duel of wits between the Scottish and the English gangsters concerning this couple.
Eoin: That sounds about right, the Scottish and English rivalries.
Patrick: Yeah, I actually used to be married to a British woman and I sometimes make a joke that my relationship with my ex-wife is like the classic relationship between the Scots and the English. She steals from me and tries to oppress me and I rebel (laughs).
It’s set in L.A. but it’s actually true to life as the Scottish mob is actually trying to make in-roads in America and Canada and places like that.
I also just finished a movie called The Zombinator which is a real low budget film shot in Ohio. It’s a zombie film, a lot of fun; we’ve got the whole town involved playing zombies.
Eoin: It sounds cool; I joined the Facebook page for it the other day and looks like a lot of fun.
Patrick: Oh yeah, they actually contacted me through Facebook and that’s how I ended up getting involved.
Eoin: So to finish up, who do you think will be President in November?
Patrick: As far as the Republicans go, I really haven’t made up my mind. It’s unfortunate that they can’t seem to put together a Kennedy type or something. What I think is sorely missing from the campaign is vision. It’s a much needed quality in politics, life and in film. Vision coupled with common sense. The conversations that are being had are really not the conversations that I think need to be had. There’s not a lot of solution orientated dialogue going on. For example, take the illegal alien question. Anybody who has been here for a long time, sure give them a clear path to citizenship but how about a fine of $5,000 to be paid over 10 years?
By some accounts we’ve got 10-20 million undocumented people in this country, so $5000 a piece over 10 years, that’s 100 Billion dollars towards the deficit. So you’re killing two birds with one stone. That’s the kind of solution we need and I’ve actually written a blog with a solution minded program to that whole situation. I don’t see those solutions coming from any candidate. Maybe that’s the way of the world and we’re never going to get that. I actually voted for Barack Obama because I felt that he had the most vision, even though I revered John McCain’s war service. I have not found his vision to be visited upon us the way that I had hoped, so I would not vote for him again.
Of the people that are there, with all of his baggage Newt Gingrich is the only person that has actually done some of things that we need to get done here with the Contract with America.
The reason we had a surplus at one time was because Gingrich swept into power in congress with the Republican revolution in the 90’s. Clinton, who was a very smart politician with a lot of vision and common sense, was able to embody and absorb their ideas and make it something. I don’t see Barack Obama absorbing these clever ideas and creating something, it’s just a constant spending program and frankly it’s over.
The biggest problems we have now are we’re not collecting revenues where we should and we’re way over spending. So the conversation is not even close to what it should be.
I mean, I don’t know why we aren’t getting a deep discount for oil so that Iraq can pay for about 50% of their own liberation. But instead we dropped a trillion dollars there and wasted blood there and yet we got no economic benefit from it. The same is true with Afghanistan, eventually, with their mineral rights they ought to participate in their own liberation. Let’s say my son wants to buy a car, I’ll say “I‘ll help you son but you’ve got to contribute to it” and I think then they’ll value it more.
This goes back to WWII where this country has not collected revenues where it should and it’s over spent. Common sense and vision dictates that you’ve got to do both. Newt Gingrich, I think is the only person who has the experience but I wish Giuliani had gotten in there because I watched him transform New York City from a crack infested hellhole into a dynamic, cleaned up and renovated city. So I’m looking for people who have done something.
I don’t see that happening with Barack Obama and I don’t see that with some of the other candidates. I would definitely vote for Mitt Romney before I’d vote for Obama again. You get a shot and he got a shot, he got my vote. I voted for Bush twice and I voted for Clinton twice, so I’ll aim for who I think will do the best for the country.
Basically right now, if it was down to Gingrich and Barack Obama I’d vote Gingrich. I’d also vote Romney, because we just cannot keep doing what we’re doing and yet I don’t see Barack Obama changing his mental outlook or his philosophical drive. He’s a wonderful speaker and I think he’s a thoughtful man but I think he’s too rooted in the concept of government spending their way out of things. If I ran my business like the Federal government runs its business then I’d be out of business within a month. We have not got the money to spend for this stuff and I fear for the nation if we don’t bring these things into line.
Here`s the conversation that nobody is having, if we do the right things (revenues and collection) we have the money to do the social security, the Medicare, Medicaid or the space program. We have the money to have a safety net, to have a program where people can get a responsible pathway to Citizenship. We need to have the money to do that. That`s the conversation that`s not being had, it`s become either cut, cut, cut or spend, spend, spend and that`s not going to get us there.