Interviews: Vernon Wells - Star of The Horde, The Road Warrior, And Commando

The Movie Sleuth had a chance to talk to Vernon Wells, iconic '80s baddie and star of the new release, The Horde

TMS: You've been keeping really busy from what I see here online. 

VW: Yeah, I try to keep myself out of mischief. (laughter)

TMS:  You've got about twenty movies that are either in post or pre-production right now. That's insane. How do you keep up with that?

VW: I have a really good calendar. And I always hope that people are smart enough to contact me occasionally to tell me what's going on. (laughter)

TMS: With everything you've got going on, how do you pick a role now? You've done some huge movies, some smaller stuff, some indie do you decide which ones to pick? 

VW: I pick roles now that intrigue me, ones that I can bring something to. Ones that I'll actually be allowed to contribute. So, that's really where I am with it these days. I'm just wanting to do the best I can with the roles I'm given. I seem to be lucky that a lot of the stuff I'm given is pretty good. An occasional bummer comes into it, but you can't win 'em all. 

TMS: Obviously you've played a lot of villains and have done other stuff too. What would you say drives you to play a villain? What's the ambition behind playing a bad guy?

VW: I never really wanted to be playing the bad guy. That all came about because of The Road Warrior and the fact we were able to create this iconic character that seems to have lasted longer than the movie. It was just the sheer fact of who I was working with, the situation were were working in, the story, and we worked on it for a week before we started filming so we all understood our characters. We went into that film with a whole world that we created and how we would react in that world. 

The thing I'm always amazed at is that when you look at Road Warrior today and then you read the headlines on the internet you go 'Uh-huh. What was George Miller taking when he did that film?' because it's more relevant now in the situation we all face than it was when we made it. 

Can you smell what Vernon is cooking?

TMS: There was a lot of vision there. He could see the future and what might come as our environment starts to deplete. 

VW:  He was so right on the fact that people would start to fight over the things that keep them alive which Fury Road has that much stronger because now it's a very real thing. And that's water: the one thing on earth that we can't synthesize is water.  You've got to have water, the real water. You can't just run around and put a couple chemicals in a jar and shake it up and hope to goodness you can drink it. It doesn't work like that. Water is the basis of all life so of course that's what everything is starting to come down to. Oil we can get along without because we can make other things to do the same thing as oil. But water, nope. 

George in his own way was trying to get people to understand if we continued on the way we were going that we'd end up where we are now. 

TMS: Considering that you had this iconic role in The Road Warrior (undoubtedly one of the greatest villains of all time), what are your thoughts on Fury Road?

VW: I thought that was a visual spectacle. That's what we do films for. It's a visual art. It's what we see, what goes into our brain that stimulates us. Nothing like it has ever been done. It was just a mind blowing experience to go and see all the pieces that he put together and the way he put them together to just stimulate every sense you had from revulsion to cheering to fear to everything else. That's what George is the master at. I can see where, if he does the next two, where they'd fit into the trilogy and how it'll all play out. 

I still feel The Road Warrior as a movie, as a visual concept came together so perfectly that it just can't be beaten. Everything came together like this beautiful puzzle. It's one of those things that people look at and go 'they just can't do that anymore'. It's the truth. They can't. We did it at a time when you got away with a lot of things you couldn't get away with today. 

TMS:  Well, the '80s were magical. There was so much great stuff going on. We don't get movies like Commando anymore. It was an extremely basic action movie but it was also visceral and never took itself too seriously. Yeah, there was a little bit of cheese in there. But the villains were great. 

VW: It was a really really top end popcorn movie. 

TMS: I notice you do a lot of fan shows and comic cons and stuff like that. How do you deal with overzealous fans or is that not really a thing?

VW: The funny thing is that I've been so lucky. The people that come up to see me at these shows are just amazingly polite. They just want to come up to me and shake my hand and have their photograph taken with me. Never in all the time I've been doing these shows ever had a fan come up that's been abusive or been pushy about something. I have a lot of fans that want to come up and give me a lot of shit, which I love.  I just give it back to them and they just love it. I've never had someone come up and say 'Hey, you're not as tough as you think you are.' 

I had that once after Road Warrior in Australia. Believe it or not, the guy just walked up beside me and said 'Hey! You're not as tough as you think you are' and he cold cocked me and knocked me out. That was the first and only time it happened. 

TMS: I'm gonna ask you a question I ask a lot of people. I always get a different answer. You're going to have a good grasp on it because you've been around for the changes in the industry. What do you think of the the way movies are going right now and how advanced technology is changing the way we make and see movies?

VW: I think we all have to accept the fact that technology is going to change what we do. There's nothing we can do about it.  You either accept it and embrace it or sit on the sidewalk and twiddle your thumbs. I remember when the digital revolution was first starting. I was doing a film. They were actually doing an offline edit and they still had people editing film because it was being shot on film. They didn't trust this new procedure of offline editing. The editors totally were like 'it wouldn't work' that 'it would die a miserable death'. If they couldn't grasp it they were in big trouble because that's what became the norm. 

Do I like it? No. I think it's done a lot to hurt our business because everyone that has twenty dollars and an HD camera can run out and shoot a movie and say they're a filmmaker. Some of those are brilliant. And it's a great way for people to start learning this business if they want to be in it. It's a great way to learn. Unfortunately, giving the general public all the things that they do while they're learning is not such a good idea. I think we have to be careful.

The other side of it is unless we embrace it, we're doomed. And we can do so much more now. We don't have to put people's lives at risk by doing theses huge stunts. We can actually do it now as computer generated green screen design. Also, you can shoot some amazing films by using green screen and making the backgrounds just brilliant. Avatar, things like that. On the other scale, you've got George Miller doing Fury Road and 5 percent of it was computer. We've got to keep looking at everything and we've got to mix and match. There's still a place for things that are done practical. We've got to embrace it. I love the fact that we keep on going ahead but I also think we have to temper that with how big of steps we take. 

TMS: Do you think if The Road Warrior or Commando came out now they would be as big?
Or do you think they'd fall under the radar because we get too many movies now?

VW:  I think they would be accepted. I think Road Warrior would probably claw its way out of the heap. Commando being such a kitsch movie may get lost in all of the other things. I think both those films and quite a few of the other films I made like Weird Science and Innerspace were all made at the right time. They were made when that type of movie was the thing. The '80s and early '90s were that amazing era where we had all these wonderful, wonderful movies were made just before we changed over to high def. Those movies succeeded purely because there's something about shooting on film that gives it character. We lose a little of that when we use high def and use computers to enhance. 

I still love it when someone rings me and says 'Yo dude! We're filming this movie and we're gonna use film.' You forget that it's not that long ago that we were using actual film to make films. 

TMS: What do you want people to know about The Horde?

VW: It is a wonderful film. They should watch it definitely. From about fifteen minutes in until the end of that movie, it grabs you by the balls and does not let go. It has a great twist. All the actors are wonderful. I love the actor I play. He is just so out of control. I was allowed to just play. It's not often people say to me 'do what you think it should be'. I got to have fun with it. I still enjoy what I do. The whole crew was wonderful. I really really really enjoyed doing it. 

TMS: When and where can people see it?

VW: I believe it comes out on about five of six different platforms today. And it's also coming out on DVD. 

TMS: This is going to be a compliment. Someone on a message board I visited called you the Best Action Baddie ever. How do you like hearing things like that?

VW: I could never understand that but I take it and I love it. I am so happy that people think that. Last year they did a worldwide survey on film and they wanted to find who was the best villain of the last 25 years by fan voting. Believe it or not, I got to be the top boy. So, I was kind of blown away with that. I think some of the stuff I do just resonates with people. They hang on to it. A lot of it is because I'm nothing like the characters. I don't look like the characters. I don't act like the characters. Therefore, people can associate with me and can come up and happily talk to me. 

Listen, you Austrian muscle head, I'm not going anywhere near those steaming pipes back there.

TMS: There's a humor in what you do. There's an edge to what you do. Your hook is that you've got that evil glare in your eye but there's a sense of humor too. In Commando, Bennett was smiling half the time when he's doing evil things. That's pretty cool. It adds a twist to the bad character. 

VW: I try to base them in reality. And I don't care what the character is. Because if you can't base the character in reality, whether it's the character's reality or the reality of the situation, people don't believe you. In The Horde, The Butcher I based in reality. To me, he was a failed master chef. In his mind, he was the best that ever lived and he could cook the thigh of a 14 year old girl better than anybody on the planet. He was a master chef. That was his reality. And people buy into that. They buy into the fact that he knew what he was talking about. That is terrifyingly, mortifyingly scary. 
If you do it as a cardboard cutout, people would go 'eh, that was pretty boring.'

TMS: If there was one role you could pick or something you've never done before, what would it be?

VW: It would be either Shelley's Frankenstein (the monster). I would love to play that. Or it would be the original Dracula. 

TMS: I can see you pulling either of those off really well. They're in your wheelhouse. 

VW: My friend said to me he's writing a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and he doesn't want anyone but me to play the captain of the Nautilus. 

TMS: One last question. What other projects to you have coming up?

VW: Ahh, yes. I'm flying to Australia at the end of June to start filming Land's End, which is a story about 7 people trapped in a house during a hurricane. Three of them are bank robbers. Two of them own the house. And two of them are cops. One of the cops is a pretty bad dude. 

I have a Western which will shoot soon. We shot twenty five minutes. It was supposed to be twenty five minutes. But someone very influential saw it and said it needs to be an hour and a half. It's brilliant. So they're writing another hour. It's a wonderful Western. And I've got a little film called Ewan's Gold. 

TMS: Man, I don't know how you keep on top of it. 

VW: I enjoy it. It's fun to me. It's what I do. I wouldn't give it up for the world. 

Dude. Vernon Wells. We are so pleased that we got to talk to him. He's not evil after all and never kidnapped our daughter. In fact, he's a gentlemen and a total riot to talk to. We thank him for taking the time. 


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