I recently got the chance to talk to Dan Braverman about his role in ‘Stolen’. Here, Dan talks about how he got involved in the project and about his trailer catching fire on-set…
Hey Dan. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Stolen’.
Matt, thank you for asking! I had a great time making the film, and think some of the critics are just jealous.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘Stolen’ is ostensibly a heist film, but it centers on a father trying to reunite with his estranged daughter. Nic Cage is a master thief who gets caught and comes out of prison a reformed man. His bitter ex-partner kidnaps his daughter and compels him to “go back to wrong” to save her. Really though, at its heart, this is a pure, unapologetic, adrenaline-fix action movie. Pass the buttered popcorn.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I am Rene Lefleur, dispatcher at Medallion Cab Company, in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am a Creole, I am perpetually hung over, I don’t put up with shit, and I have a lisp. I am crotchety, but I am basically a fair and honest guy.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
My agents, at the wonderful Acclaim Talent, got me the audition. I had auditioned for Simon West before (for ‘The Mechanic’), but this time I got a call-back. I knew Simon’s work, and I had read a bit of the script. I didn’t know much about it, but I did know the villain was a one-legged cabbie; the very last guy you’d expect to be a professional driver. I thought to myself: okay, who’s the very last guy you’d expect to be a dispatcher? And the answer was: a guy with a speech impediment. My clever ploy worked.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
I would say that this film is a throwback to action films of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s a nostalgic homage to a bygone genre. Danny Huston – (FBI Agent Harland) sports the narrow tie and pork pie hat of Popeye Doyle in ‘The French Connection’ and the soundtrack would have suited a ‘Dirty Harry’ movie. There are little homages scattered throughout, from Josh Lucas saying “I know what you’re thinking” to West throwing in cinematic nods to ‘Terminator’, ‘Friday The 13th’, ‘Cape Fear’ and his own ‘Con Air’.
The film stars Nicolas Cage, Josh Lucas, Danny Huston, Malin Akerman, Sami Gayle, Edrick Browne, Mark Valley, Barry Shabaka Henley and M.C. Gainey – with Simon West onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Damn it, Matt! This could take some time. Fortunately, I have time and a lot of beer.
I had worked with some of these people before. Edrick and I both appeared in ‘Blonde Ambition’, and some of the ‘Stolen’ crew knew me from ‘Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night’, which was also shot in New Orleans. Mark Valley is a genuinely nice guy and Danny Huston is the consummate professional; which is not to say Valley is less professional than Huston or Huston less nice than Valley; just that I don’t want to describe them both with the same adjectives.
The best anecdote from the shoot is this one: When I arrived on set, I was shown to my trailer. I went in and immediately switched on the lights. There was a fizzle and a pop, the light fixture burst into flames and the trailer started to fill with smoke. They had, it seems, run the wrong voltage to my trailer. Anyway, they put out the fire and opened the windows to air it out. From that point on, my posh movie star accommodations were naught but the steps in front of a burned-out trailer. Nice enough steps, but not posh enough for a personage of my repute.
I shot the first scene; the one in which I’m talking to Bertrand (Eyez) and Will (Cage) over the radio. No problem. Then Simon started setting up for my next scene, the one in which I’m being questioned by the FBI guys. I did not know anything about this scene, as it was added late in the game, and said so. The first AD seemed pissed, and said the sides were on the table in my damn trailer. I replied that I couldn’t get into my damn trailer because it had caught fire, and that I hadn’t seen the sides – (I think Simon was snickering while all this was going on, but I couldn’t swear to it). Anyway, long story short, Simon started orchestrating a reset to shoot another scene and give me a couple of hours to learn my lines for the add-in FBI scene.
Not wanting to appear the wuss, I demanded the appropriate pages and five minutes to learn my lines. The first AD loaned me his script.
Five minutes later I was ready and we shot it. And it was good. I’m really rather proud of that.
Let’s talk a bit about you Dan. What made you want to get into the acting industry in the first place?
I’ve always needed to be on stage; not wanted, but needed. I don’t know why. I started in community theater, I fronted a rock band for ten years, went into professional theater, then finally into TV and movies. My Dad was always a wallflower; never wanted to be the center of attention. I suppose I’ve always been rebelling against my Dad, though I have always loved him.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Three things: 1. Start NOW. 2. Learn all aspects of the business; acting, directing, technology, etc. 3. Be sure that whatever your day job is, it doesn’t ever become your first priority.
You’ve been in a number of films and TV projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
I haven’t worked with many people I’ve disliked, though there have been a few. What I’ve found is that most of the actors who have been unpleasant or difficult to work with are those with the least talent and the least potential, and who probably were trying to compensate for their shortcomings by being prima donnas.
As to my favourites, they would be the ones who challenge me and push me to get the best from myself and pull off performances I never thought I could do. I have worked with some great people. I had the honour of doing a movie with Charles Durning, I have worked with Antonio Banderas, Meg Ryan, Colin Hanks and pop diva Jessica Simpson, who was as innocent and full of folksy charm as you might imagine.
I have a good story to share with you to illustrate what I feel great acting is about, and it isn’t from movies, but from theater. I played Ernst Ludwig, the Nazi villain, in a couple of productions of ‘Cabaret’ in Galveston, Texas. Anybody who has seen this show knows that it fluctuates between the real world of pre-war Berlin and the fantasy world of what is happening in the mind of Sally Bowles. The Emcee is the only character to bridge the real and surreal. There is a scene change in which Ernst exits, after having his thugs beat up Cliff, the protagonist. As he exits, the Emcee, in drag and smoking a cigarette, enters to sing “I Don’t Care Much”. By this point, the audience has bought into the paradigm shift in the story, and knows that REALITY has exited and METAPHOR has entered. But one night, the Emcee, played by my friend, the incomparable Kevin Daugherty, entered with a cigarette that had gone out. He tottered toward me as I was exiting, I turned around, took out my period 1920’s lighter and lit his cigarette before exiting. The audience gasped audibly. The real and surreal had become one, and the lesson of ‘Cabaret’ had been hammered home like a coffin nail. Not a word had been spoke nor a look shared to accomplish it.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
Hell, I’m so old-school I still carry a Sony Walkman! I love punk and old metal stuff, but lately, I have been listening to The Gourds rendition of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”, a lot of The Pogues, and I have been going back to The Who, because there is a chance I will be making a movie later this year with Roger Daltry.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Karen Carpenter, Gandhi and Twiggy, because there would be a lot more food left for me.
No, really I would pick, hmm, this is tough! See, the problem is that I have to think about how they would get along with each other; not just how they would get along with me. You don’t make it easy, Matt! Okay, how about this: Mark Twain, Marilyn Monroe and Groucho Marx. My reasoning is that with Twain and Marx trying to out-clever each other I could make my move on Marilyn.
No, really, in all seriousness, it would be my dad, Len, my wife’s dad, Hal and my wife, Holly. And I would get to cook. Both our fathers have passed on and they never really had a chance to warm up to each other.
Which film was your favourite of 2012 and why?
Of the films I saw in 2012, I think I liked ‘Argo’ best, because I remember what I was doing at the time that movie was set. I was in the U.S. Army and was trying to get stationed in Iran, because I had just seen the Sean Connery/Michael Caine film ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, and wanted to get stationed somewhere more exotic than Schwabach, West Germany. I liked a lot of other films last year, but ‘Argo’ managed to combine escapism with history better than others I saw.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
I have four films opening this year: ‘Lars The Emo Kid’, ‘Flutter’, ‘The Hours Till Daylight’ and ‘Sons Of Liberty’, which opens in U.S. theaters on June 15. I will also be shooting a few features and shorts this year. So far, I know I’ll be working on: ‘Holy Galileo’, ‘Twisted’, ‘Kate’s Balloons’ and ‘Urban Shakedown’.
Thanks for the interview!