Interview with Andrew Divoff
I recently had the chance to speak with the actor Andrew Divoff, who film and TV fans will be aware of from memorable roles in Wishmaster, Lost, 90s "Die Hard in a school" Toy Soldiers and most recently The Blacklist starring James Spader. In a career that's still going strong for the last four decades, this imposing but down to earth gentleman was an interesting experience to talk with during the madness of Wales Comic-Con's tenth anniversary celebrations.
Was acting a career path you wanted to go down?
When I came to the states from Venezuela at eight years old I apparently had a bit of an accent and I was held back in school by a grade which stigmatized me as a kid - and I was someone that had the desire to show off. I speak 8 languages and became obsessed with the learning of French and German to the extent where I wasn't paying attention in History, Math or whatever class - I was just driven.
When I was in high school I found myself at those parties where the kids' folks would go away on vacation and we'd end up taking over the house have a bit of a party on a Friday or Saturday night. I wanted to be a stunt man and would find myself falling down stairs which would make people gasp - which I got a kick out off.
The logical extension would be taking it to acting and in the early days of my career - where interestingly I hadn't realised yet what an asset my accent would be - until I did one episode of The Twilight Zone reboot in the 80s - it was serendipity from there, as all of the languages I learnt came to play.
Can you talk about your experience at beginning of your acting career working in the classic 80s television series The A Team?
I was an extra on this show at the time The A Team was very popular when I was starting out and it was the series that everyone wanted to get on.
I remember showing up for a reading, I went over to introduce myself to the cast and the director - I believe his name was Mordente - immediately got into the reading. Everyone looked over at me and I was caught off guard; I remember swallowing my Adam's apple thinking “Oh my goodness what is that line?”
When all of the main stars are looking at you waiting, essentially, for you to keel over and faint, there's a lot of pressure. However, the director just moved along and went to the next scene without waiting for me to do my line I thought “Oh my god I've ruined it, I'll never work again” but he was a little cranky and having a bad day.
I was definitely a fish learning to swim shall we say.
You have a small role in the ET rip off “Mac and Me”is this a film that ranks highly on your resume?
I was essentially a glorified extra I played Policeman #1 I was glad I wasn't #2! (he laughs). I have good memories of that, we were out in the desert as I recall waiting all night for them to blow up a car - I believe it was because the aliens attack it. Everybody was amazed to watch this pyrotechnic wonder and treated it like a bit of a party.
You worked with a favourite director of mine Walter Hill on Another 48 hours. What was the experience like working one of the masters of the action genre?
I consider myself lucky to have been a part of Another 48 Hours and of course Walter Hill did one of my favourite movies Hard Times with Charles Bronson. He was an action director that knew what he was doing and so for me, being in one of his films, was a big feather in my cap. It was so wonderful to be part of that show especially with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte.
It was my first experience really going around different locations and getting to play in them. We started out at Dumont Dunes in a town called Baker which is on the way to Las Vegas and, being out in the middle of nowhere, I was able to ride the Harley just like a rebel - it was wonderful.
The studio gave me a bike for 6 months, it was at a time where studio's were putting an effort in and willing to pay for a kid to ride around so he could learn how to do it and made sure he looked good doing it - makes you feel like that you've arrived.
Where you a fan of Action genre before working on them?
I was a huge fan of action, as you know I've spent most of my career split between the horror and action genres. It was because of my build and my love for action stories I pursue those types of roles. The easy thing for me to do was the fight scenes and on the other hand I'm a big fan of the horror genre, so I am quite pleased with the type of career I've had.
Which Horror films do you like?
I loved The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Lon Chaney as The Wolf Man and Boris Karloff's portrayal as Frankenstein was a favourite of mine growing up. It's good to hear that Universal horror films have that love that they are willing to remake and reboot them. I'm a friend of David McNaughton, or shall I say he's a friend of mine, and he appeared in An American Werewolf in London - which I think that's a classic in its own right.
Were there any fringe benefits from your appearance in Wishmaster?
My friendship with Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Reggie Bannister from appearing together in the film. There's no rivalry with us all as we understand we’re members of a very special group.
Do you ever get Starstruck with the people you've worked with over your career?
I was starstruck with Harrison Ford (Divoff appeared in Air Force and Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull) who was a gentleman and someone I'd watch on a set and learn from. It's not just the big A Listers, I respect all actors; what they go through to get where they are. There will be an upcoming actor that I can tell there's something special about them and I'll have that sort of reaction.
Are there any performances that where criminally overlooked and fans should track down?
There's a movie called Deadly Voyage (directed by John Mackenzie and is the true story of Kingsley Ofosu the sole survivor of a group of 9 stowaways discovered aboard the cargo ship MC Ruby in 1992 & were murdered by the ships crew) it's a performance I’m very proud of and the movie is hard to find. I believe one of the first films HBO did under their banner if you get a chance check that out.
What upcoming projects do you have in the pipeline?
I have a movie coming up called Vault that I finished 2 and a half weeks ago. It’s the true story of a heist by some fledgling mafia guys aren't getting the jobs and respect they deserve that decide to steal from the hand that feeds them. I'll leave it at that, I won't go into spoilers, it will be out sometime next year.
I would hope my career goes on for another couple of decades at least, at the end of that time I can look back with confidence thinking about how I've made people sitting in a dark theatre cringe, laugh & cry.
Other than movies what other interests do you have? In my research I found that environmental issues are important to you and that you brew beer.
I'm keeping my eyes open to environmental issues as I live in a mountain community and we are watching our trees die. There's a company Arrowhead Water that is basically working on a contract that expired 50 years ago and are stealing our water. It's that bad that when we have a drought they increase production. It's hurting our woods which gets me quite fired up.
I've been brewing a beer, Djinns Hellabrew, for the last 5 years for local charities up on the mountain. There's a foundation called The Mountain Film and Theatre Arts Committee for which we hand out scholarships and this will be our second year doing this. We try to make sure that the local high school kids who are interested in pursuing a career, especially in theatre arts, can do so and have support.
I think it's important to give back to the community that is my home and that's made me feel welcome. I also feel it's important to set a good example for kids coming up. It isn't all about greed and pulling in as much as you can; you live a life where you are not productive in a sense if you don't give back to you community - you live a hollow life.
*As a side note I conduct my interviews with a dual headed Lapel Microphone that plugs into my phone; at one point during the interview we had to stop due to queuing fans eager to meet Mr Divoff, so I went over to him to take it off and he gave me a look that was equally scary & cool considering his appearances in movies.