Archive for January, 2015

I’m something of a fan of Ray Wise. He’s not that widely known, but when he does appear he has great screen presence, and his turn as the devil in Reaper was brilliant. This interview was done off the back of the film Infestation. You can read reviews of both by clicking of the links. From Death Ray #21, the very last issue.

Better The Devil You Know

Ray Wise, the player behind telefantasy’s best recent character, um, the Devil! Smooth and sharp, he’s our kind of guy.

Forty years in the crazy business of Tinseltown and still going strong, if you need a lawyer, president, or murderous father, Ray Wise is your man. Often attracted to horror projects, (you can see him in Dead End and Jeepers Creepers II, for example) Wise has played not one but three diabolical creatures: The Devil in Reaper, Ludlow the Demon in Charmed, and Leland Palmer in David Lynch’s frankly disturbing TV classic Twin Peaks.

Recently appearing in Kyle Rankin’s big bug movie Infestation, Wise talked with Death Ray via transatlantic satellite.

Death Ray: Infestation: We enjoyed it. Notice you have done a lot of SF and horror, what attracts you to that kind of project?

Ray Wise: I like to be frightened along with everybody else. I like to feel that titillation, that adrenaline rush when I think that something really frightening is going to happen. I like the anticipation of it, even more than seeing the actual event. Except that so much of the horror today is so… volumes of blood and ripping and slicing and cutting and tearing. It’s not frightening any more, it’s just gory. I prefer the old school horror.

DR: Infestation, like a lot of your movies, contains a certain degree of humour. One thing we really like about your acting is that you have a fantastic sense of comic timing. Where does that come from in you?

RW: Thank you. I really couldn’t say. I’ve always had that sense of humour, ever since I was a little child. I couldn’t explain it, except that that’s the way I view the world, it’s slightly askew, and it makes me laugh a lot.

DR: Whenever you’re on screen you’ve got such a little twinkle in your eye, like when you were playing the Devil in Reaper.

RW: That little twinkle is important. When you watch an actor on film, the eyes can tell you everything. If you’re not thinking the right thoughts, you’re not going to convey to the audience what you want them to feel. The eyes are windows to the soul, right?

DR: So what kind of thoughts were you thinking when you were playing your version of the Devil, then?

RW: Oh, devilish thoughts, you know! Haha. I have an incredible imagination, and I’m able to fabricate little scenarios in my mind that can back up any acting situation that I might find myself in.

DR: Can that be emotionally draining? We think of your turn in Twin Peaks, it must have been distressing playing Leland Palmer, who kills his own daughter…

RW: Totally distressing! You had to get your head in the right place to be able to portray that scene properly, so it can be stressful. I’ve learned over the years that downtime in between scenes I’m able to relax, and joke around with the people on the set. We try to keep it as light as possible when we’re doing heavy stuff like that. David Lynch kept a very laid back set.

DR: Like tunes, the Devil had all the best lines, our favourite has to be ‘I’m not a carjacker Sam, I’m the Devil!’

RW: Right! I had so many good lines and I enjoyed saying every single one of them. In my mind the Devil was a cross between a really good games show host and a used car salesman. He’s sartorially resplendent, and he has a kind of smooth way about him, and he’s able to cajole and talk you into just about anything. That’s the Devil to me.

DR: If we include old Leland in there, this is the third time you’ve played some sort of diabolical entity. Have you carved out a niche in the market?

RW: Yeah, I think so. I think Leland was the perfect prep for leading to the Devil in Reaper. I still watch those episodes today, and I’m still blown away by them. And Ludlow, another demon. He was pretty spectacular. And Charmed is a lovely show. Yeah, so I have a short short history in demonology.

DR: A lot of your other characters seem to be authority figures, vice-presidents, presidents, fathers, that kind of thing. What do you think the overlap is between the demon characters that you play and that sort of politician/ dad type character?

RW: Hahaha, well, I think the big overlap is the actor playing the characters! But there’s a little bit of demon in every good father, and certainly in every politician. I don’t see much difference between some vice presidents that we’ve had and the Devil in Reaper.

DR: The devil has a better suit…

RW: That’s for sure!

DR: And you also got the impression that he wasn’t all bad either. He was in a weird way a mentor to Sam…

RW: There are certain aspects of good and evil in every character. I try to keep that in mind, you have to find the good in the bad and the bad in the good it, seems to me. Yes, he was a mentor, and adviser, he was like a big brother… He wanted to see the kid blossom, though he would prefer that the kid would come his way. I don’t think the Devil has to be all bad all the time. I think he likes mixing it up with the humans here on Earth and having a good time with them. And that entails having some good things happen. Don’t forget good and evil is all a matter of choice anyway isn’t it?

DR: In Infestation and Reaper and others you are often paired off with younger actors. Do you find yourself performing that sort of devilish mentor role for the younger actors?

RW: Yeah, I think so. With younger actors, I am mentorish. And of course I have my own children too, well, they’re grown adults now, but I went through the same process with them. I like passing on what I know to the next generation. It gives you another reason to be on this planet. It ties you in a little bit more to everything in life. It’s a wonderful thing.


This review of season one of The Clone Wars was printed after the release of the DVD. There’s a longer piece laying out my opinion of the show and of Star Wars here. From Death Ray #19.

 War in the stars, it’s – The Clone Wars! Er, hang on…

The first season of The Clone Wars is over, but don’t worry, there’s another four to go, or thereabouts.

Season one ends in true Star Wars style, with a big war in the stars. A three part story set on and around the Twi’lek home planet of Ryloth sees Asoka, Anakin and Mace Windu attempting to liberate the tail-headed aliens from the droid army of the Trade Federation. There’s a hint of the horrors of real war with our half-starved Twi’lek civilians huddled by artillery, coerced into being living shields, the ruins of their bombed out cities visible in the background. But mostly war is depicted as a big old lark. That the droid enemy is on top comedy form and the only real casualties half-humanised clones doesn’t really help. For all its spectacle, the Ryloth trilogy leaves an odd and not entirely agreeable taste. It’s fun to fight robots, but people get killed, you know?

Far better is the finale story, ‘Hostage Crisis’, which introduces the Neimoudian bounty hunter Bane. His successful attempt to bust Zero the Hutt out of jail brings us neatly back to the beginning of the series, when the space slug was incarcerated, and sets up the next season in which Bane is due to play a major part. This kind of small-scale caper where real characters are in peril is what Star Wars does second best (best of course being massive space battles). As usual success is guaranteed our heroes – though in this last episode it is deferred – and everything is reduced to the monochrome of a child’s morality. Whether this is a good thing, and actually such fare helps the kiddies work their way up to a more complex understanding of the world, is open to debate. But this show is fun and pretty, at the least.

An interview with Jamie Bamber (Apollo) conducted just after the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica for Death Ray #21.

The End of the Affair

Actor Jamie Bamber, lately multi-talented space jock Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama, talks philosophically about the end of the very much brilliant (and very much lamented) Battlestar Galactica.

Pilot, captain, lawyer, politician… but some of Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama’s jobs on the Galactica. The career of the actor who portrayed him, US/English Jamie Bamber, is less diverse, being mostly restricted to actor, but we could add the label ‘environmentalist’ to him. For Bamber, BSG was a grand allegory for the problems facing us right now on our dear old Earth. Ask him what the show’s greatest achievement was, and he’ll say ‘relevance’. (more…)

I am so close to the end of my Death Ray archive now. This interview comes from Death Ray #20. It’s with Rachel Luttrell, who played Teyla in SG: Atlantis.

For some reason, a lot of actors insist they are shy. And while that’s probably true of some, it’s hard to equate the bubbly Rachel Lutrell with a shrinking violet. She portrays Teyla in SG: Atlantis, one of the only characters who made it all the way from season one to season five, and one of only two humans on the regular team who were actually from the Pegasus Galaxy, where the series was set. It’s all over now, though a TV movie is coming our way soon. She tells us this as she chats easily away and laughs down the phone. We’re not buying the shy line.

“It’s true!” she protests, “I don’t trust very easily and so there’s only a certain aspect of myself that I will share. But I’ve gotten to a point where I’m more comfortable talking to people that I don’t know immediately, and I enjoy that.” Well, she’s doing just fine right now. We’re not getting any kind of stand-offish vibe here. Right now, she’s feeding her young son Caden, whom she had while on the show. It’s like ringing your sister.

DR: You’ve said you empathise with Teyla because she’s an outsider – she’s human but she’s not from Earth, she’s telepathic so she doesn’t really fit in with her own kind. Do you feel like an outsider yourself?

RL: Not now, but I was born in Tanzania, and my mum is from a very small village When we first moved to Canada, yeah I certainly did feel a little like an outsider. Thankfully in this day and age coming from a bi-racial family is like: ‘So what? me too.’ But back then it was a bit more unusual. My father is from Louisiana, he grew up with a lot of racism.

DR: Talking to my mum, she says that my dad was always harassed by Tanzanian men for taking their woman, it’s so silly! But he was very welcomed over there by her family, with the exception that occassionally a small child who had not seen somebody as fair as him would run screaming, they’d think that he was a man without any skin! When I was in Louisiana there was a lot of staring and ‘You know, what’s going on there?’ But not so much any more. I don’t want to paint Louisiana as a place that’s horribly backward! But there was a feeling from a certain element there, shall I say. So, you know, I don’t feel like an outsider, but I can empathise with Teyla.

DR: Obviously Atlantis the series is over, but you just appeared in a TV movie. Do you think your role as Teyla is going to run and run and it’ll be a nice pension fund?

RL: Hahaha! Oh God! If that happens, I certainly wouldn’t say no, I mean, why would I? But I have no idea, there may be just the one movie and everything might be neatly tied up… I’m not sure what their plans are to tell you the truth, but we’ll see. I would very much like to do my own thing as well, but if there does end up being more movies I would love to do them, because I adore Teyla.

DR: Were you a big SF fan before this?

RL: Yes, yes, yes! I love it. My family and I will always be the first in line for big blockbuster science fiction action. My father instilled that in us way back. He’s a big fan, and he just devours science fiction novels, and I’m that kind of a person now too. I couldn’t wait to see the new Star Trek movie.

DR: Would you like to do a Stargate movie like that?

RL: Oh please! That would be fantastic! And I think the fans would love it. In a way I think it’s a missed opportunity that they haven’t done it. And I think if they don’t do it, then in twenty years, someone else will.

DR: How was it when the show ended?

RL: It was a mixed bag, but it was sad. I think none of us were really expecting season five to be the last season, we were all anticipating that it wouldn’t have gone beyond six, but for it to all of a sudden come to an end like that, I was quite saddened by it.

DR: Do you know that that was going to be it then when you were filming that last scene?

RL: Filming the last episode we all knew. We had all been told about a month before. Maybe I’m exaggerating, maybe it was just three weeks, but we all knew that, okay this is going to be my last scene. we were all so keenly aware of it. And when it came time for my last scene I was so scared that I was going to lose it that I was just kind of steely , until they announced: ‘Alright, this is a series wrap’ and then oh, I just wept, and everybody was hugging everybody. It was very emotional, it was a big deal, a huge, huge part of our lives.

DR: Everything comes to an end eventually.

RL: Yeah, but do you know what? Change is a good thing.

An interview, with me

Posted: January 24, 2015 in Interviews

Hello. A brief public service announcement. There’s an interview with me on Manuscript’s Don’t Burn, conducted by Steve Kozeniewski, where I talk a bit more about The Rise of the Horned Rat, and writing in general. Check it out. That is all.

I watched Lucy last weekend, primarily on the recommendation of The Week‘s mini-review, which called it “Ludicrous but highly entertaining.” I agree with the first part of that sentence.

Owing to the criminal machinations of stereotypically wicked yellow people and a stereotypically dastardly Englishman, a young white woman living in Taiwan (the eponymous Lucy, played by Scarlett Johanssen) absorbs a huge amount of drugs that allow her to unlock the 90% of her brain we don’t use. There are some unlikely fights, a car chase in Paris, and a soulful French gendarme as she is pursued by the criminal gang to France. Then there is some sketchy stuff about God. I think. And Morgan Freeman  (he’s not God in this one, okay? Okay).

I’ve seen very entertaining films with slimmer premises. This was poor on all fronts.

That we only use 10% of our brains is a myth that has become pervasive enough to be used in advertising campaigns. A beloved science fictional truth, it was the basis for the whole “psi” craze that gripped SF in the mid-20th Century. I can be a bit of bore about scientific veracity in SF, however, there’s nothing wrong with using bad science to create an action premise or for the purposes of allegory. We all like superheroes. Fair enough.

But Lucy does not do that.

Writer/Director Luc Besson has fallen in love with this idea, so much so that large, indigestible chunks of the film are taken up by Morgan Freeman (here playing earnest, gravel-voiced scientist) lecturing us about the Earth-shattering implications of this truth, which would be earth-shattering if it were true and not a fallacy, over footage of animals shagging. You sit down to watch an action flick, and find yourself instead being bombarded by some fringe New Age cult’s recruitment message.

The pacing of the film is lousy. The long, confused preamble segues into a muddy plot spiked with bad exposition and action sequences that are lacklustre and fake looking. Unlikely things keep happening to kick the moribund story along. Apparently one can wander into a Taiwanese hospital and shoot someone with no reaction from the authorities until it is narratively expedient (though, I hasten to add, this sort of thing is a problem in nearly all action films. Like Taken. Hang on, that’s also Luc Besson).

Lucy is also a fine example of geek culture’s odd relationship with girls. In geek land, when a woman becomes hyper-intelligent, she becomes yet another tedious Kick Ass Heroine™, a sex object who can break a man’s neck. Lucy starts off as a warm hearted tart (a tart nonetheless) but becomes cold and otherworldly. Compare this to the effects on men in movies with similar themes – the John Travolta vehicle Fire in the Sky or Limitless, with Bradley Cooper, for example. The men in that become warm and super-smart. Violence is a part of their repertoire, but not the larger part. To create their drama, I suppose these films go against perceived gender traits, adding emotion to men and removing it from women. Still, Lucy leaves us with the uncomfortable feeling that empowered women are dangerous in the same way that scorpions are dangerous. Mixed into that is a kind of maternal weirdness. Once Lucy disappears and states via text message “I am EVERYWHERE”, the rest of the almost entirely male cast stand around looking sheepish, like their mother has caught them doing something they’ve been told not to a hundred times.

Bah. That’s enough. Bogus philosophy off the back of bogus science makes for a bad movie. Rubbish.