Ray Wise

American character actor Ray Wise was born in Portland, Oregon in 1947. He got his first acting break in 1970 on the soap opera Love of Life. After portraying the role of Jamie Rawlins for six years, he began landing guest appearances on TV shows including Charlie's Angels, before joining the cast of Dallas in 1982 as Blair Sullivan. After a year long stint on the show he appeared on shows including T.J. Hooker, Hart to Hart, The A-Team, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and L.A. Law. His movie credits include Wes Craven's The Swamp Thing (1982), The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) and Robocop (1987). In 1988, he was a regular on Knot's Landing before landing the role of Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks. This was a role he reprised in the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). In 1999, he volunteered his time to play the lead in Pennyweight, a short film by Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin. When the two young directors made their feature film debut with The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003), they cast Wise in a substantial role
- the same year he stared in Jeepers Creepers 2. Darren Rea spoke with him as Jeepers Creepers 2 was due to be released on DVD and video...

Darren Rea: When you were offered the role in Jeepers Creepers 2 were you apprehensive at all about being in a horror sequel? And had you seen the first movie?

Ray Wise: Yes, I saw the first movie and I liked it. I thought it was well done and the director Victor Salva is a director that I'd worked with before in a movie called Powder back in 1995. I respect Victor's work, I like the way he writes and I've read many of his scripts.

When he asked me to be involved with the movie he explained the story to Jeepers Creepers 2 and I immediately responded to it because he cast it in very heroic literary terms. He likened it to Melville's Moby Dick with my part as the kind of Captain Ahab character, going after that great white whale The Creeper. The obsession that Ahab had for the whale, I had for The Creeper. Victor cast it in terms that really appealed to me and whetted my appetite, so I was eager to do it.

DR: Victor Salva says that he was very upset that he had to cut your Moby Dick speech ("From Hell's heart I stab at thee") from the final cut of the movie, because the audiences didn't get the reference at the test screenings. Is that something that bothered you also?

RW: I wish they hadn't cut that. I like those little touches and it meant a lot at that moment to be able to say that.

DR: Salva expressed his concern that today's audience aren't as well read as they should be. Do you think this is a shame in today's society?

RW: Yes, I think so. I don't think that the movie going public, or the television viewing public, are as well read as we were in the past. There's not as many people that tend to read the great novels and plays that are available to them. I think there is a definite lack and deficiency in that today.

DR: Is it true that you were almost sent on fire during the filming of Jeepers Creepers 2?

RW: Yes. There were some sparks in a scene which set a little piece of cloth of fire [laughs]. But the stage crew were quick to jump in with their fire extinguishers and stopped it getting worse [laughs]. Yeah, there were little incidents like that.

My dog also managed to bite me in the leg on one scene. The dog does two things he barks or grabs you with his mouth. Apparently the trainer got her signals mixed up and I made a quick move and the dog made his move and grabbed my in the leg. It didn't hurt. I got some minor bruising during the making of the movie, there were a lot of stunts and I did a lot of them. It was a lot of fun. It was a good job I was in shape before I started making the movie.

DR: With the emergence of DVD viewers are expecting more from the actors. They want commentaries and behind the scene footage is this something that you embrace? Or once you've completed a movie do you just want to get on with the next project?

RW: I don't embrace it, no. I know it's enjoyable for the people who have the DVDs so that they can find out what goes on behind the scenes, but I like to reserve a lot of that for myself. I don't like to reveal everything - that's just a preference of mine. But, I'm not adverse to doing them, and if asked to be involved with a commentary I would probably contribute. It's just that I would prefer that they didn't do them and retain a little bit of the mystique and mystery about making films.

DR: Most people will recognise you when they see you, but won't pigeon hole you as the bad guy from Robocop, or the guy from Twin Peaks as they do with some actors. Is that something that you are pleased about?

RW: I'm very pleased about that. I've had the kind of low key career that is ideal for me. It's meant that I have been able to go back and forth between bad guys and good guys, playing the whole spectrum of characters all across the board. That's been a lot of fun.

Of all my roles, Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks [pictured left] was the one that had the biggest impact on the world, but even after that I wasn't typecast, so I feel very fortunate in the way my career has progressed.

DR: Do you ever worry when you accept a new role that it could be the part that typecasts you?

RW: No. I don't worry about that at all. The only thing I worry about is whether I like the role and the story. And if I like those two aspects then it's a go. Of course, liking the director is also important, but not really as much as liking the story and character. I like a good story, and if I play an interesting character in a good story that's all that's necessary for me.

DR: Which of your roles so far have been the most enjoyable for you?

RW: I loved playing Leland Palmer, because I did it over such a long period of time - all of the television episodes and then the movie. But, I really enjoyed my time on Robocop. We were just like kids, blowing up streets with guns. We just had a great time with Paul Verhoeven making that film.

I also enjoyed a film I made way back in 1984 called The Journey of Natty Gann for Walt Disney. It was set in Chicago during the depression of 1935 and I played a father who gets separated from his daughter, and she has to cross country to try and find me. That was a lot of fun to make.

But I enjoy a little bit about everything that I do, because that's one of the criteria that I hold dear - to have fun while I'm working. So I find something good in everything, just about.

DR: If you had your time again are there any roles that you wished you hadn't accepted, and any roles that you've turned down that you wished you'd accepted?

RW: There aren't any roles that I wish I hadn't taken, because I don't like to dwell on things in the past. And, as far as turning down things, I don't recall turning down anything that became that great that it would have made any difference. Again, for me, the main things are to get a job - that's an important thing, and have people to continue to want to use you in their projects is important. And then the next step is, as I said before, having a good story and character.

DR: You said you enjoyed your time on Twin Peaks because you played an ongoing character. How does that differ from the guest star roles you've had on Star Trek, Moonlighting or Charmed where there is already an established cast and you're the outsider coming in for a few days work?

RW: That can be difficult when you are in a situation where you are working with an established group of actors. I just find that it's best to just go in and do the best that you can and try and be as open and friendly as possible then they will most likely be friendly towards you too.

But you play the character and do a week's worth of work and it lasts on screen for an hour and then that character's finished. You never go back to it and you write it off and move on to the next thing. Whereas with Leland Palmer it was week after week and I got a reoccurring character who evolves over time. It was rather like living another life.

DR: Are you every worried that you'll end up having to do the Star Trek conventions?

RW: I haven't done that. They've asked me to do it on occasion and I've really not been that interested in it. I have been to a few of the Fangoria conventions, but always to promote a new project that I'm involved with in that genre. I was at the Fantasia Fest last summer in Montreal and I enjoyed that very much. And I was recently at the Savannah Festival where they played a film that I made this year called The Battle of Shaker Heights.

I like going to festivals, but I haven't been involved with the Star Trek conventions. That's not to say that I'm ruling them out in the future, but I really don't have a great desire to go.

DR: You've also been involved with playing characters for console games...

RW: Yes, that's true, I did the Red Alert series.

DR: How did that differ from your other work? Is there much difference?

RW: Well, you know, not a great deal. Acting is acting. There's a lot of live action in computer games now, and I played The President of the United States in those games and I really enjoyed it. They set up these little scenes, they had full sets and you're in costume. It's just like making a television show or movie and there you are in the game. I've played the games and I really like them and I enjoyed doing them.

DR: If you weren't an actor, do you have any hobbies or interests that you'd love to follow up as a career?

RW: I don't know. I really don't know. Nothing else really appeals to me. I've known since I was a young man that I wanted to be a professional actor. In fact in my junior high school year book - when I was about 13 years old - I believe under my picture it listed my goal in life as wanting to become an actor. So, that's what I've always wanted to do.

Since I've been acting I've played the King of England, a General of Spain, Emperor of Rome - I've done 85 plays professionally on stage - and I've been everything from a jet pilot to a brain surgeon to a lawyer to a farmer in Jeepers Creepers 2.

DR: Are there any actors or directors that you'd love to work with.

RW: Oh yes. A whole load of them. I would like to work with Francis Ford Coppola - he was my executive producer for Jeepers Creepers 2 too. I would like to work with Martin Scorsese, I almost did a long time ago, but it didn't work out. And I'd like to work with a bunch of the newer directors, like Sam Mendes. There are a whole bunch of actors that I'd like to work with including Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino.

DR: What about the future? Are there any projects that you are working on at the moment that you can talk about?

RW: I did a film about a month ago called The Rainmakers. It's an independent film and it should be coming out in three or four month's time.

It also look like I'll be involved with a film that is based on a new Stephen King short story. And also there are a couple of film makers that are developing scripts that have characters with me in mind.

So I'll wait for those to develop, but anything could come along at any time. But right now there are three or four projects that look promising for the future.

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Nina Criswick at DSA

Pathé Distribution Ltd's Jeepers Creepers 2 is released on DVD and video from the 19 January 2004

Order your copy on DVD for £11.99 (RRP: £15.99) by clicking here
Order your copy on video for £11.69 (RRP: £12.99) by clicking here

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