Patrick Kilpatrick has had a long and successful career working opposite many of action cinema’s greatest stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal but he wasn’t always in movies and has had a colourful life which he talks about in his new book “DYING FOR LIVING: Sins & Confessions of a Hollywood Villain & Libertine Patriot”.
I got to chat with Patrick about his new book as well as discussing working on Black Water with JCVD and Dolph Lundgren.
When did you first decide that you wanted to write an autobiography?
It came about due to some very funny ways; when people would tell stories I always had a story to top theirs for craziness, or sadness or whatever it was. I didn’t like that experience of diminishing other people’s stories so I thought I needed to find a place to put these stories. I knew since I had been an embedded journalist for 170 film and television shows and also since my upbringing had been kind of unique that I had an interesting tale to tell. At the time I was really weary of raising money for producing and I really wanted something to do that I didn’t need large groups of people in order to carry it out. I could just do it on my own and I also was courting a woman (we’re engaged now actually) so I would write her a story a week and send it to her and that’s really how the first draft came about. I never actually calculated to write a memoir but I just realized I had a lot of cool stories to tell having been up close and personal with really the best talent in front of the camera and behind the scenes production talent for generations. So the second volume is all show business all the time and I’m really excited to bring that one out soon. I think you know writing has always been part of my life; I was either writing scripts or polishing scripts I was acting in or doing advertising or journalism. Most people don’t know that I started as a journalist and advertising writer.
How long did it take you to put Vol. 1 together?
Well I wrote the first draft of the book which has now become volume 1 and will become volume 2 but it ended up being about 600 pages and I felt that was too long for one book. That took me most of a year in between acting gigs then I was picked up by a bigtime literary agent in New York and we spent another year honing it for publication. I had to polish volume 1 so I guess you’re talking a year and a half but now I’m beginning to polish volume 2 with everything I learned from publishing volume 1. When I finish it’s probably going to be five years from start to finish.
What is your writing process like?
Sometimes I just start at the beginning and go; other times I’ll get some inspiration about a particular incident or particular time and I’ll write that section and I’ll plug it in later. So there’s really no rules; having been a professional writer I know when I sit down that things are going to flow out. Occasionally I’ll get sidetracked if it’s something interesting and could fit in someplace else. You end up stripping out quite a lot of things though. Certainly the agent impressed upon me keeping the narrative flow going from Point A – Point Z but I think modern audiences are able to take a little bit of deviation. So I’ll go someplace that doesn’t appear to be part of a narrative then I’ll pull it together at some point.
How are you enjoying the book tour?
Like most things it’s been glorious and debilitating (laughs). Some of it is extraordinary and I’ve learned a great deal; meeting people and chatting with them, revisiting the book with groups of people has been really rewarding. I now have a theory of book signing; in order for it to be economically viable I only do them if I’m going to a section of a country already, like the next set of book signings will be in the Rocky Mountains because I’m going there at the end of August to do some fly fishing as part of a vacation so I’m going to have a signing as party of a Film Festival on September 2nd and Denver on August 28th. For example, I’m heading down to Cartagena in Colombia with my fiancé and I think we’re going to get married down there so I’m going to do a signing at the English book store in Cartagena. So you wanna do them in exotic locations and in places you are already gonna travel to. You wanna lump them together so that it consolidates the expense of going to do them. They’re kind of remarkable; sometimes you’ll get a mob of people and sometimes you’ll have very few; I haven’t quite figured that out yet. When they’re in LA I invite actor friends so it becomes a bit more of a show but of course you can’t really afford to do that when you’re outside of LA. I wanna make sure that where I do a signing is something special and it’s someplace that I really wanna be. So that’s what I take from all of that; you know the world of book publishing is so toned down. Just the other day I found out that Samuel French the drama book store here which is really an institution is closing. So retail bookstores are really minimal as the majority of books are bought online so our effort is usually on ads like Amazon or targeted Facebook ads and getting the book into hands of reviewers and major newspapers in major urban areas; it’s an interesting time for book publishing. A lot of Barnes and Nobles are closing and experimenting with different concepts like having a full blown restaurant inside the bookstore. There are still going to be some book stores like I headlined a writer’s event at one of the largest Barnes and Nobles in the country in Manhattan, New York. That one is always going to do well but retail book sales is under assault by online purchasing.
What has fan reaction been like? Has anyone mentioned favourite stories? I know I have…
I’d love more reviews but I’ve had 100% 5 star reviews so the fan readership has been really extraordinary; you’ve pinpointed a really interesting aspect of the process because I’m really struck by the particular incident that resonates with particular individuals which I never would have thought were all that stand out but they can mean a great deal to individuals. I’m thinking of the moment I was at Time Incorporated and they asked me to stay I could have become creative director if I just would remain there but I looked out the window and said “I guess I’ll go” which was really the beginning of my career as an actor. I didn’t think that particularly was a moment that would resonate with a lot of people but it seems to have done so. There are a lot of moments that I’m struck and pleased by the fact that it connects with individuals. How did it connect with you?
One story in particular was Blonde Angel who appeared when you needed saving; being Irish I felt there was something almost supernatural about it…
I think that’s true and for me the journey of life and especially the journey of acting has been virtually packed with miracles big and small. That was certainly one of them that was miraculous. As I said it was a town where I knew everyone and yet I had never laid eyes on this being before. In volume 2 I have a whole section on paranormal experiences which I’ve had visited upon me. I’ve never been able to figure out why I was exposed to those things unless it was perhaps to influence my writing. I’ve been exposed to enough of that stuff to really think that the reality we find ourselves is but a single reality but behind that backdrop are many other dimensions. Now my ex-wife hates when I talk like this publicly because she thinks people will perceive me as I’m out of my mind but the truth is as a pragmatic journalistic person who is based in reality these experiences do happen. The miracles have happened big and small whether it’s a piece of wardrobe for a film that suddenly appears out of nowhere and has no explanation for why it’s there; I think if you are more open to it you’ll find our lives are more miraculous than we actually perceive. I wish I could cultivate more that aspect of my life but I’ve never been able to stimulate it if you will other than to remain open to whatever the universe is presenting. It’s a very small thing; like suppose you’re about to go in front of the camera and the make-up artist is applying the final touches before the camera roles and it’s really annoying because it’s interfering with your concentration. But then all of a sudden the camera rolls and you realize that sense of annoyance is exactly what you needed to take into the scene. Or you’re feeling particularly down and not much of an erotic person but all of a sudden there’s this beautiful person in front of you that supplies you with that sexual or erotic energy that’s exactly what you need to take into your acting. So I try to remain truly open to what the universe is presenting at that particular time good or bad because it’s generally exactly what you’re supposed to be getting either in a material world or an emotional light for your life at that particular time. That happens every second of every day so it’s a really interesting deal and it was clear to me when I first began acting that I was being told to become an actor because the universe was lining up and sending all those messages real or imagined right to me about it. It’s like when you’re putting together an artistic endeavor and the right people are there to make it become a reality; literally the phone rings and it’s the perfect person. It’s a magical world…
Yeah it can be easy to let cynicism take over…
Well cynicism can be a manifestation of something too and perhaps you’re supposed to be getting the cynicism because yes, you need to transform that into a joy which you can do through prayer or asking the universe to deliver your joy. Also that cynicism is an artistic impulse too and that can result in something that is truly wonderful. So whatever comes it’s best to just roll with it along with the universe. That is challenging sometimes especially when dealing with day to day challenges, like getting older, physical infirmities or assaults on our health but it’s kind of just the responsibility of life so I’m thinking to transform it into humour or something that will benefit other people.
You’ve had quite the life, including robbing a gas station, racing cars and crashing them, fighting; any regrets or do you consider them all learning experiences?
No I don’t even believe in the concept of negative events and mistakes; I talk about that in the book – breaking my back in the car accident and at least temporarily terminating my athletic life has all the makings of what we would call a negative event but in fact it became a blessing because I became a writer, I learned about rehabilitative exercise and so when I got my body back I had the mind of a writer and I had all the tools to resurrect myself after fighting or acting all day with all these action guys from Jean-Claude to Arnold or Steven Seagal. Negative events are only negative events if you don’t perceive them as God or the universe’s pivots towards your higher purpose. My regrets are creative if you would in a sense; I wish had taken more photographs on all the sets that I worked on. At the time I was very conscious that I felt like that energy would take away from the acting; if I was thinking about something else or twiddling with the camera I might be diminishing the focus that I was putting on that particular acting part. But I regret not taking photographs of all the women who actually make the film’s work; I’m not talking about the producers or the actors but the behind the scenes technical production people. Or having taken pictures behind the scenes of all the crews and things like that; not so much the celebrity stuff but the production things because I saw some amazing things. I admire someone like Dennis Hopper who took brilliant photographs during his career so he ended up with 3 or 4 masterful art books that carry with them a historical and emotional record of a long period of Hollywood. So those are regrets that I might have but I don’t really regret much; I move on.
What’s been the reaction from people in Hollywood to your book; would love to hear what James Cameron thought of it…
I’m not too sure a negative is possible to measure in Hollywood but those celebrities I’ve heard from have been very positive even if they felt like they might have been conveyed less than favourably. I haven’t heard from James Cameron; but it’s a good idea, maybe I should send a copy to him. I’ve heard from Sean Stone (Oliver’s son), in fact he and I have become very good friends and he actually agrees with me a lot about his dad (laughs). By the way, I have tremendous respect for his dad in fact I recently sent him a compliment for a documentary that he was an executive producer on which was about NSA intelligence gathering on people called A Good American. It’s something really worth seeing but it was about these guys in the NSA that developed programs to gather intelligence and they figured out how to do it without interfering with privacy rights of American citizens. Yet they were vilified and turned into scoundrels by the institutions of the NSA and the government. When somebody does something laudable I applaud them; whether I agree with them or not is another matter. I sent a message through Sean saying “please tell your dad I said thank you” and I did send Oliver an autographed copy but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet and I don’t know that he ever will.
How far on are you with volume 2?
It’s already written and I’m polishing it now; I’m on page 80 so I’m hard at work on all of that. Mostly it’s a process of making sure I haven’t repeated something that I utilized for volume 1 and also to make sure it’s brilliant because the moment in time moves along; politically we’re in a brand new era in Hollywood almost an exaggerated one in which I touched upon in volume 1. So you want to create something that has a lasting impact and at the same time has some contemporary power and value. That becomes the trick. My relationship with my parents has changed as my mother passed away last January so how I will discuss her is affecting. In fact I was just about to write them a thank you note despite the fact of all her difficulties and special mental challenges… it’s evolution. You want to tell the truth but you want to show that you’ve evolved to something that is meaningful and something that will exist for some length of time.
One of the main things that stood out about the book was your relationship with your mother which was very complicated…
Yeah when you’re writing something like this you’re looking for something like what I call legs which we endeavor to stand upon. One of the legs I wanted to examine was why I ended up playing so many villains and how did my politics evolve and its relationship to Hollywood? Clearly my relationship with my parents (both my mother and my father) plays into that. What was my relationship to women when I first started out and that was certainly influenced by my relationship with my mother and my father as it is with everyone. We’re all accountable for our own behavior but we all come out of somewhere. So I wanted to provide insights into the process of acting and being an action actor which you and I have talked about before. So all of that comes out of my background so the driving force for me is whatever comes out of my mind is to be as fine as it possibly can be in whatever way, shape or form I can do that. There’s no question my relationship with my mother and father was very complicated as it is for a lot of people. The process of this is sorting all of that out and of course we have to come to forgiveness and we also have to come to self-accountability from about the age of 21. I don’t care what background you come from you’re responsible for how you perceive it and how you exorcise your life. It’s kind of like Charlie Sheen at the end of Platoon. He says “our responsibility for those of us who survive is to find some meaning and some purpose and joy for the remainder of our life…” which by the way was from Oliver Stone (laughs)! I hope that someone like Oliver understands how I much I revere them as filmmakers even though I can differ from them in their conceptions of America or politics. I have the ability to appreciate other people‘s points of view and not demonize the other side or exclude them from our lives. Sean Stone and I have done a number of panels together and we both enjoy the discussion and the debate and that’s a wonderful thing. I think both of us think of each other as people of integrity and some intelligence so it’s interesting and sit down and bat the ball back and forth over the net.
That’s what I love about your book is that you are never afraid to be honest about your opinions.
Yeah I’ve had several occasions when I’m at the gym and someone will approach and say “I really appreciate your book; if I even open my mouth at work I’ll get fired.” I hope that by writing this to some extent I give people a little bit more courage to speak up their mind and a little bit of a zone of comfort to know that there are others who think as they do and that shouldn’t separate us.
The last time we spoke we discussed Active Shooter; what’s the status of that?
It’s very much still happening in the sense that just a little while ago I purchased $15,000 worth of editing equipment that’s right here and we’re waiting on the two monitors so we can begin to cut that footage. I can tell you that it’s either gonna be something brilliant and we’re basically going to have to write it in the editing process or it’s not gonna be released but I’m excited about that process. I have this editing system here now that will fly to the moon and back so we got a company that we’re dealing with for the two monitors which will help to supplement the ability of the system to do anything and everything. So it’s very much in the works. I had to actually earn the money to do the post-production; we had some distributors who were willing to give us the money and it wasn’t a lot of money for the first production but they wanted the worldwide rights so it’s essentially like giving away all the rights to the movie and I wasn’t willing to do that. So I waited until I was able to earn the money.
Although you will be going into your film career in Volume 2 I was wondering if you can give us any tidbits about working on Black Water where you reunite with Jean-Claude Van Damme?
Well there’s a whole chapter that’s going to be in there on it but it was a hilarious and tragic experience because I’ll say whatever character flaws Jean-Claude had have only been exacerbated by the passage of time. I tremendously enjoyed working on the film because it was on the USS Alabama which is a ship that covered my father during his experience in World War II as they were swimming ashore to islands in the Pacific. So that was memorable; that part of the country Mobile Alabama has exquisite beaches and restaurants and the group of people that were assembled for the film were really interesting. The tragedy lies in the brain damage that’s occurred to people over the passage of time. There were a lot of things about that movie that were unique but it was hilarious and tragic at the same time. I’ll just tell you I’m on my fourth movie where I’m working with a leading man who is incapable of learning his lines or using cue cards or repeating phrases that were uttered by the director or script supervisor off camera. I think you’ll agree I was ruthlessly candid in Volume 1 so expect the same in Volume 2. I think some of these movie stars have the ability to live in paradise but because of their own self destruction they don’t achieve that. I certainly address that in book 2.
When can we expect Volume 2?
I’m hoping to finish the polish before May 18th because I fly out to Cartagena and to an unnamed Caribbean island to get married and to rejuvenate; that’s the purpose of that trip, to recover from the polishing process. So I’m hoping in the next couple of months I’m gonna finish that then it’ll go to the publisher and they’ll decide the exact date. I’d like to get it out before the beach reading season but I don’t know that we’ll achieve that. If not then maybe Labour Day. I do know that it’ll be available and in print by September 2nd for sure. I hope people will continue to buy Volume 1 as I think it’s important to platform their enjoyment of Volume 2. It’s available on Amazon.com and all its forms. I’d love for people to write a review, like I said we’ve had 5 star reviews and I love to hear from people that way. If people can’t get to one of our signings then they can get an autographed copy by going to my website patrickkilpatrick.com and I’ll get them out a personal copy. It’s also available at Barnes and Nobles and their website. If someone writes a review and sends it back to me then we can use it in our ad campaign as we have done in the past.