William Devane Interview
This is a transcript of a press conference I participated in with William Devane about his role in a SyFy movie.
So how did you get involved in the show?
William Devane: Well, I’ve done a couple of things that play on Syfy. So they’re one of the few people still know I’m alive and so they gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to do it. It looked like a lot of fun and I watched Drew’s stuff on You Tube a few times. He’s really a talented director so I was happy to – it’s always kind of fun to work with a young talented, you know.
Could maybe tell us a little bit about your character in the movie and also maybe what you enjoyed most about playing him.
William Devane: Well, the nice thing about a project like this is that nothing is set in stone when you’re on the page, when you’re looking at the paper. So we had a lot of freedom to create these characters. Both Billy and I and Courtney, we had a lot of freedom so. So basically when you have a lot of freedom in a situation like that, it’s always fun to create that character. So that whole idea of my guy with, the hat and this jacket and stuff, everybody agreed that that really would work, you know. And then Billy coined the phrase (leprecop) so we decided we were (leprecops) which was great, yes.
You had mentioned the director Drew could you perhaps if you wouldn’t mind expand a little bit on working with Drew Daywalt on the project and again maybe what you and Drew (had) most about that particular experience.
William Devane: Well, for a guy who hasn’t done a lot of big time stuff like this, this is like his first movie. Exactly professional, very mature guy and that’s always a pleasure when you’re working with younger guys that, you know. Usually you run into a lot of arrogance in that situation and basically I didn’t do that. He was working a lot of pressure, trying to make a picture like this with the amount of money we had and the amount of time we had was really, really stressful, you know. And he hung in there very well and we had a lot of fun.It was always fun, you know. Every time we tried to get a little tongue and cheek with it, everybody was happier, you know. It was a little difficult to take it really, really, really, really seriously, you know what I mean? And so it took a tongue and cheek kind of approach to it and I think it worked out really good.
Did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
William Devane: No I really never had anything else in mind. I come from a big Irish background and, my mother always cooked for all the big things at the church and the school and my uncles were tanners and they always sang in all the shows and so I was around it since I’m little kid, you know. My brother had his own television show when he was like nine years old, a local television. And so I’ve always kind of been around it. I’ve always been interested in it so I never really, I worked construction and stuff like that when I was going through high school but basically I went right into it. I never even went to college.
What did you like most about working with Billy Zane? Did you guys know each other beforehand?
William Devane: No, I never knew him and really wonderful guy. Really delightful guy and we had a lot of fun actually. And we traveled – Zane’s one of those guys that’s well let’s go to a plantation on the weekend. So we’d go to a plantation. Or let’s go, I know a button shop and so we’d get in the car and go to a button shop. So he’s really, really a wonderful guy and we had a lot of fun.
Since this is a certain type of horror movie I’m curious to know what was the most significant thing that you learned way back from Hitchcock that made it easier to step into movies like this?
William Devane: Oh well, Hitch is like the quintessential television director. You go to work at 9:00 and you’re out of there at 4:30. Knows exactly what he’s doing. And very extremely professional. Eastwood’s like that. When you show up he’s ready to go, everybody’s ready to go and there’s no dicking around. There’s no 15-hour days and 16-hour days and all of that nonsense, you know. You know what you need to do and you do it and you learn that from Hitchcock right away. He was hysterical.
Could talk about some of the particulars of doing it. Where did you actually film this? Was this in the States or overseas somewhere?
William Devane: Yes, we did it all in Baton Rouge, Louisiana- outside of Baton Rouge, all around in that general area. And at one time we were going to do all of the, we were going to blue screen stuff in a lot of, stuff like that in Bulgaria but that got changed at the end. I think it had to do with, didn’t have enough dough to do all of that. But we got it done down there. It was all done around Baton Rouge.
How long were you guys actually on the set and actually working there?
William Devane: Well we had a 15-day shoot which is – yes exactly especially with a picture like this, you know. But Drew has a lot of really hard core professional crew people, you know. The guys who made the monster, not made the monster made the leprechaun. the rubber suit and stuff. All those guys are hard core Hollywoodpros, who came down to help him out. And so in every area you had somebody with a lot of experience. Nobody was getting paid but they were, they had a lot of experience and they were stepping up for a guy like Drew which is really, turned out to be great. Everybody there hard core professionals and that’s what actually made the thing work.
The stress at the time and the low budget and filming outside of L.A., at different places I understand, is that kind of what brings the cast together? I mean it sounds like you and Billy really had a great experience working together with – is that what it is or what is it that…
William Devane: Well, Louisiana is a really big time film state right now. So you have a lot of really, really, really good crew people that are all local. they just wrapped a Bruce Willis film down inNew Orleansand a lot of those guys came up and worked on the picture and stunt guys and like that. So, it’s like if you’re a fireman and you went to a fire house. They’re fireman; they’re just like (you). It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re inItalyor you’re in Franceor wherever the hell you are. Firemen are firemen. Well it’s the same thing with this, you know.Crew guys are crew guys, you know. Actors are actors. It’s pretty much is not a problem for everybody to mesh together, you know. And when you got somebody like Drew who’s really positive and really relaxed about it, it’s real easy.
The Syfy channel has a knack for making these films that almost feel like throwbacks to old drive-in movies of another era that were kind of cheap and kind of cheesy and kind of schlocky, but they were also fun and creepy and sometimes genuinely scary. Did this movie put you in the mind of that kind of film? Did it feel like you were making that kind of a movie?
William Devane: We approached it exactly as you’ve just described. That’s exactly how we looked at it, that’s how we approached it. We know we didn’t have a lot of dough, we knew we didn’t have a lot of time so that we had to go. We had to go, go, go and we wanted to keep it light and we wanted to keep it, (schlocky)’s a great word.And it should be scary also, you know. I think it accomplished all of those things. when you go to the theater and you’re looking at movies that cost $230 million – the Lone Ranger, $230 million or something like that to make that movie, you know. The Lone Ranger was made (unintelligible) for 20 cents, you know.And it’s probably a lot more fun.
What did you think of the finished product of the Leprechaun? How he looked and…
William Devane: Oh yes. It’s like, I had no idea. you’re thinking leprechaun, you’re thinking a little green hat and that kind of stuff. This thing is really unique. Fabulous, you know. And the guy’s – he’s a jock, I’m sorry I can’t remember his name at the moment but, he was a jockey. Fabulous, real athlete, you know. So he’s able to move it around and have a real kind of interesting almost mime like movement to it. This was great.
Tony Tellado: Hi Mr. Devane. I’ve been a big fan of many, many years.
William Devane: Thank you Tony.
Tony Tellado: If it is cheesy and all that as an actor do you kind of have to reign yourself in from going too much over the top when you’re doing something like this?
William Devane: Well, that’s the thing. That’s what that third eye is. The third eye is that director, who kind of has a sense of the overall feel of the piece, you know. So if you get out of line or you get kind of off it, he’s there to remind you that you might be going a little too far there or maybe you’re not going far enough, you know. So that’s what the director does. He really helps you in that area.
Tony Tellado: You’ve played, real presidents – John F. Kennedy very brilliantly I might add and also a fictional president. How do you kind of approach either, both sides of that coin to make it real?
William Devane: Well, it’s hard. I get stuck playing all these, because of the Kennedy thing years ago I play a lot of those kind of stiffs, you know. And it’s hard to make them interesting, you know. I mean it wasn’t hard to make the Kennedy thing interesting because that’s interesting. But down the line when you keep going on, and on, and on playing that same guy it becomes hard, you know. I like to make them all a little devious because they’re all obviously sociopaths so I just play that.
You’ve done some others of that Sci-Fi type films and TV, how do you actually read or watch science fiction movies? Did it just happen to come along for you to play in these movies?
William Devane: Yes it just happened to come along. I don’t really – I’m not a Sci-Fi guy, you know. I’m not totally into it. I mean I always kind of have trouble like kind of start laughing when I’m doing those things so. And this one I was allowed to laugh so it was fun.
Mr. Devane since you grew up Irish at what point did you hear about leprechauns when you were very little, did you ever believe in them, and did you ever find them scary until now?
William Devane: None of the above. I don’t, I have no idea when I first heard of leprechauns, because you grow up in the neighborhood, half of the guys think they’re leprechauns. I mean I don’t think that yes I’ve ever even thought of them as being, scary. They’ve always been kind of fun. Aren’t they supposed to be fun?
You were offered this project did you think how is it, they’re leprechauns, they’re cute, they’re funny. How are they going to make it scary or did you just go I trust them, they’ll make it scary?
William Devane: Oh yes. No, I watched like some of Drew’s stuff on You Tube and stuff and saw that’s basically what, you just get a feel for somebody’s work. and you figure yes this is going to be fun, you know so.
And are you relieved that they did it practically instead of the green screen?
William Devane: Yes, yes. I’m not sure. I mean this is the way I’m used to working and obviously I’ve done some blue screen stuff. But I don’t know, you know. Obviously if you have a ton of dough it can be a lot scary when you use modern technology obviously. But it was great the way we did it. I mean I don’t – it hard for me to relate to the other thing because we didn’t do it that way, but it was, it was great the way we did it.
You’ve obviously had a lot of different roles over the years. Do you have a role or type or role that you still would love to be able to do that you haven’t? Or if not maybe somebody specific you want to work with yet?
William Devane: Well, I’m basically the guy, who graduated from high school with nine shop credits, never went to college but I keep playing these guys from Harvard andTrenton. I would like to play a blue-collared guy like I am and I don’t really get many opportunities for that because you basically the business is about type casting, you know. So in a sense in this movie I have a chance to play a blue-collar guy, and it’s really nice so.But overall, I don’t even get considered for roles like that, you know. They just – I’m type cast into this. You don’t realize that until you get older and then you wonder why you can’t get these parts. Well they don’t see you that way, you know. They have their image of who you are. It has nothing to do with who you are.
Are you ever interested in writing or directing again?
William Devane: Yes I’m working on a piece now that hopefully I’ll get done in the next few months, you know. I procrastinate a lot but… who knows. I might get it done.
What’s something that people might be surprised to know about you – your fans?
William Devane: Oh God, I don’t know, Jesus. Well it’s certainly not I’m nothing like the guys I play.
As a longtime fan as a little girl of Knots Landing, I really was really impressed with the role you brought you and the dynamics. Since you was such an iconic character what do you think made him so?
William Devane: Yes when you’re doing a weekly show like that, you’re basically playing real close to the best, you know. You don’t create a lot of character stuff. Most of the people you see on television that’s what they’re like, so. You try – I try to get humor into everything I do. It doesn’t make any difference what it is, you want to have that humor. You want to have the audience laughing even if they’re sad so. I don’t know if that answers your question.
What three components do you bring to the character in Leprechaun’s Revenge of your own?
William Devane: Oh sense of humor, my age, and I think that I wore – the shoes and the pants were mine because they had a very low budget so we brought our own clothes.
What do you think is missing from today’s horror and Sci Fi movies that may have been an advantage making such a classic?
William Devane: Oh well it’s always the writing, you know. All those things are based on structure. If the structure is correct, you’re going to scare people and going to keep them interested and that’s the hardest thing to get done. The hardest thing is (building) is the architecture of really good films. Really, really, really difficult. Touchy stuff. Obviously if – there’d be a lot more of them if people really knew how to do it, you know. It’s really good stuff.
Are you a fan of the Twilight Series and Rod Serling?
William Devane: I haven’t watched a lot of those. I wasn’t a real big time television watcher when I was a kid so I’m always kind of at a loss in those conversations when people who watch television on a regular basis, because I never followed that. I can one remember years ago with Gig Young and Robert Redford who were card players and just vaguely remember that. I think that was a Hitchcock or it might have been a Twilight Zone, I can’t remember. But, I don’t have a real – I have my eye on the horizon not the past.
Tony Tellado: You certainly have been a series regular and also guest starred on series. As an actor how do you approach that?
William Devane: Oh well I mean it’s nice to be on something on a regular basis, like Knots Landing is an ongoing situation so the character can evolve, you know. A lot of times the character is the exact same person for – I think it’s comforting for the audience to realize that if at ten years Ted Danson looks exactly like he did ten years ago. You know what I mean? It’s like time has not gone by, when you’re in those series and stuff. acting is acting. It’s not a ten-year script. You like the script say yes let’s go ahead and do it, you know. And hopefully you’re in a really good professional situation. Everybody knows what they’re doing and you go to work so you can be on the offense not on the defense…when it’s not professional then you’re…in a defensive position.
Tony Tellado: As far as doing another series is that something you would consider doing?
William Devane: Yes if I could find a character to play that’s interesting, you know. It’s – I don’t know a lot of – not a lot of guys my age with interesting characters on television, you know. you’re basically somebody’s grandfather or something, you know. So those aren’t characters that are being developed week to week. They’re developing, 25-year olds. So it’s hard to find an ongoing character that could be fun, you know?
You were just saying when you were talking about how yes if you’re a little older, you’re stuck playing a grandpa or an uncle or something like that. And this is one of my pet peeves is that everything is at 18 to 49 demographic, and everybody’s going for that. I guess those are the people they think are out buying stuff but…
William Devane: Well I mean I think that most you get to a certain age and people go down and, get on the bus and head out of town. But I enjoy the work and I live close, I live close to Los Angeles so if something comes up or, you know. I mean I’m interested in working all the time. But most of the writers are real young, when you get to be older as a writer they’ll use you as an consultant from time to time. But I mean I understand. it is what it is.I mean it’s the people who are going to – I mean look at the condition of movies today. I mean it’s unbelievable. These big huge kinds of pictures, you know. It’s like I don’t know. Old people are old people. They’ve always been in a slot, and that’s the way it is. I don’t think it’s going to change.
Do you have any feature Sci Fi projects lined up? And if not what other projects do you have on the horizon?
William Devane: Well at the moment I don’t have anything on horizon. I got something that’s going to be on Lifetime in I don’t know some time in May I think. I know that Jesse Stone is going to be on in May.And just looking around for projects to do, you know.And while I’m looking I’m going to go fishing.
You talked earlier about the scary movies and all that. Is there a movie that you can remember growing up that like really scared you or did that kind of stuff not phase you?
William Devane: Oh no I’m not – I mean and basically it scared me so much, I’m not a fan of it. I don’t like to go – I don’t like to be scared. So I mean it’s like I’m sure there was something when I was a kid that scared me, movies, you know. But like I said I don’t go to the Thrasher or whatever these astoundingly successful Sci Fi or horror pictures or whatever, you know. I haven’t gone to a lot of them so. But I get really scared in the movie theater when stuff like that happens, you know.
Do you think that if you weren’t in this film and it was in the theater do you think you’d go see it or you’d be too scared?
William Devane: Well, I probably wouldn’t go see it, no. I mean I just don’t, like I said I go to Woody Allen stuff because I know how good they’re going to be. I’ll go to Clint’s stuff because I know how good it’s going to be. It just depends. But I don’t, you know. I missed Game Change…Saturday night. I forgot it was. But thankfully that HBO repeats their stuff all the time so I should be able…to see it some time this week.
Special thanks To The SyFy Channel for this transcript.