Mac McDonald


Mac McDonald has been seen in Aliens: The Special Edition, Batman, Superman III and Red Dwarf. His latest role will see him portraying the role of Captain Hollister of the ill-fated Red Dwarf in the new movie. Darren Rea met up with Mac to find out more about the man who was responsible for putting Sigourney Weaver's life at risk, as well as being caught on camera gooning around with Jack Nicholson...

Darren Rea: How are the read through's going for the new movie? Are you doing any thing special to get you in the right frame of mind?

MM: It's sort of like at school, I would never do any revision for my exams. I'm, unfortunately, one of those people who either really excel at something or are crap at it. If I don't have a natural talent for it then I can't bear to spend ages trying to work it out. I'm a singer, I sing and I always have sung but I tried to learn how to play the guitar when I was about fourteen or fifteen, realised it was going to take more than an hour to master, so as a consequence I can't play guitar. To sing you don't have to learn anything really, its just there. So if it's all there I'm ok, but if it has to be learned I can't be bothered really - I suppose I'm lazy to an extent.

DR: Didn't you sing in Fungus the Bogeyman a few years ago?

MM: (Laughs) Yeah. Now that was a lot of fun. I did that in Coventry. Have you ever seen the Fungus The Bogeyman book? Its a picture story book, more for adults than for kids, written by Raymond Briggs who also wrote The Snowman. The whole think is all about Bogeydom, which is where the Bogeyman lives. During the night he works on the surface of the Earth and then during the day time he goes back to his home and family in Bogeydom. The whole place is slimy and covered in snot - the idea of the thing is that everything is really disgusting, the more so the better. Obviously the next natural commercial step after books, handkerchiefs and souvenirs snot, was to turn this thing into an Opera. That's a fairly natural progression isn't it? Because the music was written in minor keys making it very lugubrious and strange sounding, and as there weren't a whole lot of jokes in it they decided to get somebody weird to direct it. Ken Cambell was finally chosen. Ken is a complete and utter maniac. He did that incredible series on Channel 4 called Reality on the Rocks, which explained the cosmos to the Layman. He also used to be the leader of the Science Fiction Theatre in Liverpool. He is a great guy.

DR: You're always playing jerks or ogres. What would you ideally like to portray on film?

MM: I always wanted to be in a Western. Its always been my dream that a movie company will come over here to the UK and invest a lot of money in a really good Western, casting it with Americans that live in England, because there are so many good American actors here. It could be filmed in Spain and we'd get to ride horses and shoot guns all day for about fourteen weeks. The closest I got to my dream was when I did the Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones for six weeks in Kenya and that's just what we did there - ride horses and shoot guns. But I think it would be even better if we just flew out to Spain and got pissed for fourteen weeks. Well, that's my idea of a good time.

DR: What about your idea of a bad time?

MM: The opposite of that, in other words not my idea of a good time, was a play that I was in that was set outside the gates of Hiroshima. There was only about three proper parts in it and then there were about eight dead bodies. I was playing one of these dead bodies and I thought 'if I'm gonna play a dead body, I'm gonna be the best dead body there ever was'. There was one act which lasted for about twenty five minutes and so I arranged myself over the lip of the stage, with my eyes open, my tongue hanging out and my arms just hanging down. I thought this would be an actors exercise and it was murder. What would happen every night was that I'd start weeping and the tears would run up through my eyebrows into my hairline and then onto the floor. So, I never did that again.

DR: Playing a corpse sounds pretty low! Is there any level to which you won't stoop? Where your agent will ask you to go for a part that is beneath you?

MM: (Laughs) Oh sure. I turned down Jeremy Beadle twice, once for Game for a Laugh and once for Beadles About and I also turned down Noel Edmond's for his Late Late Breakfast Show. So, I do have my levels beneath which I will not go. Luckily I've never done anything I regret. I've done lots of stuff just for the money. I did Batman for the money. I didn't actually start off doing it for the money, but as time went by I realised that was the only reason I was doing it. In Tim Burton's first Batman movie I played one of the Joker's goons.

We were told by Burton that we would be working with Jack Nicholson, who would really be into improvising. Burton told me: "You're a great improviser, Mac and you're just going to be great with Jack - he's gonna love you. You guy's are going to make these great scenes up. I know there's not a lot of words on the page, but you'll make up a whole lot more". And in the end what actually happened was: "Alright Mac, run over to your mark over there and fire your machine gun." It was so boring. It was all night shoots and it was just such a depressing experience - although the money was fabulous. I'd get picked up at my house at four in the afternoon, drive down to Pinewood for a nights shoot and get home by about 3.30 in the afternoon.

Some nights we wouldn't even be needed on set, so we just sat around playing scrabble till the small hours. Jack Nicholson was only on the set for about 11 days. Most of the shots you see of him are distant shots, or filmed over his shoulder and you can bet your arse that's one of his many doubles. We were supposed to be introduced to him on the first day and they brought us up to the sound stage all dressed in our goon costumes. There were about 25 of us and only three of us had lines. Jack came out and walked down the lines, surveyed the troups and said: "Yes, very nice". And that was it! Then we went and shot a scene and I'm thinking 'that was crazy!" They could have at least introduced us to him personally and told him that we were actors and not stuntmen or general background goons, but they didn't.

While they were setting up the next scene I found myself sitting about ten feet away from Jack and I thought I'd go and introduce myself to him. So I got up, I went over to him and I said "Hi Jack, I'm Mac I'm gonna be gooning for you for the next seven weeks." He looked up just marginally, raised his eyebrows and said "Goon on, Mac." So I stood there like a lemon for about 30 seconds and then I walked away. He never spoke to me again, although he talked to everybody else. People said to me later that you really shouldn't introduce yourself to the stars in LA. So, excuse me for living, you know. Anyway, that was my experience with Jack.

DR: Where can we expect to see you in the future?

MM: Future projects include the role of Captain in the Red Dwarf movie, as you already know. They're also trying to get another series of Glam Metal Detectives for next year which will be fun. I don't mind what I'm doing as long as it pays the bills.

DR: Thank you for your time.