In The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, directed by David Cunningham and written by John Hodge, Ian McShane plays Merriman Lyan, a mentor to a young boy, Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig), the "chosen one", who must travel through time to find six sclues which would unlock a special power to defeat the forces of the Dark before the Dark forces destroy the Earth. Based on the novel The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. Ian McShane has recently starred in movies made for the big screen such as Hot Rod, We Are Marshall and Scoop. He also starred in the hit television series on HBO called Deadwood and will be seen in the upcoming film Case 39. I had the privilege to interview him.
FoxWalden releases The Seeker: The Dark is Rising on October 5th, 2007.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you choose this role?
IM: It was something different for me to doó[part] fantasy, fable and special effects. It was nice to do something that my grandchildren could see. Director [David Cunningham] tried to do the special effects as practical as possible. Thatís why he filmed it in Bucharest, Romania with six sound stages. A couple of sets were built into water tanks and they could fill it with water and take it out again without using special effects. The designer, David Lee, did a great job.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you know to trust director David Cunningham?
IM: Well, otherwise my wife would be a very rich widow. [laughs] Every director is different. He didnít have a studio peering over his shoulder. They werenít there all the time. He worked with full cameras for most shots, so he got the maximum coverage on everything he needed to. Coming from a documentary background, it was interesting [for him]. We usually shot in three or four takes. It was very easy with minimal rehearsal. We knew what we were doing.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How familiar were you with the book The Dark is Rising?
IM: Not familiar at all. By the time these books came out, they were preaching to an audience that I wasnít part of anymore. I never really heard of them. When I read them, I realized that that one book wasnít going to be much help [to understand] the character. John Hodge adapted the novel in a much more modern manner than the books were written. So, what we had to mainly do was to be faithful to the spirit of the books, like a lot of books that get translated onto the screen. They [usually] change them enormously. Theyíre not always filmable the way theyíre written on the page.
NYC MOVIE GURU: In what ways was your character different in the book?
IM: The character was really different in the book. He was much less appealingómuch more dictatorial. What John Hodge and I tried to do was to bring more levity to it, more humor to the entire scenario because this isnít [an adaptation of the first book]; itís an adaptation of the second book. Some of the script was written in more archaic form. I tried to make it more natural. Director David Cunningham and I didnít change the script, [but] just added a little touch here, a little touch there.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like working with Alexander Ludwig
IM: Heís a sweetheart. Itís his first big movie. He wasnít nervous; he was merely excited about doing it. Working with young people, they bring enormous enthusiasm to it, so it was a lot of fun. He comes from a very solid family. His mother was [on the set] and, when she went back to Vancouver, his father would come. He had a good acting coach and threw himself into it with gusto and enthusiasm.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you believe in the supernatural?
IM: Iím not a believer in the supernatural. Iím far too practical for that kind of stuff. I like seeing it now and again if itís well done. Itís funny, Iím in another supernatural movie, a psychodrama, coming out called Case 39 with Renťe Zellwegger.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you prefer playing a good guy or a bad guy?
IM: With this, I had a good time, because heís not a bad guy, but heís an interesting good guy. Heís, sort of, very quirky and demanding and brisk with Will Stanton. Overall, the devil gets the best chance, so Iíd [rather play] the bad guy.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you balance your career with starring in films made for television and the big screen along with theater?
IM: I think itís important to spice up your chops every few years. Theater gives you that concentration on your craft. Films are very exciting and lucrative. I must say that with Deadwood, you have the best of both worlds. Every day was like a new adventure. It wasnít like doing any TV Iíve ever done before.