Interview with Mandy star Bill Duke
review by Bobby Blakey
There are those actors that are not only recognizable and great in everything they do, but also transcend just the world of acting and put their marks behind the camera as well. Writer, Director and actor Bill Duke is one of those people. He has had a ton of memorable on screen work including the original Predator and so much more, but also an impressive resume in the director’s seat on films like Deep Cover, Sister Act 2, and Hoodlum to name a few. Now he is in the latest film Mandy starring Nicolas Cage from director Panos Cosmatos. I had the chance to sit down to speak with this icon in the industry to discuss his work on Mandy and film in general.
Bobby: How did you get involved with Mandy?
Bill: My agent sent me the script, I loved it and wanted to work with them.
Bobby: You do so many things both in front and behind the camera. How do you prepare for these different roles?
Bill: That’s a great question because I think people believe acting is just acting and doing lines. It’s a craft where you get the script and memorize the lines, but then you have to surrender to it. It’s kind of hard to explain, but as a writer you know start to write and then the pen takes over and it pours out of you. Acting is the same thing. You run the lines, but you also collaborate with something within yourself that takes you into who that character is. Not just saying the lines, but living the lines.
Bobby: When you get a role like this one do you get some freedom to do your own thing with it or do you like to try and stick to what was written?
Bill: It really depends on the director you are working with. Panos is a director that gives the actors all the freedom that they want. We sat down to lunch and I would ask him what he thought and he would ask me what I felt. He was trying to understand my input and vision. That collaboration really helped because he was very supportive in that way.
Bobby: As someone has established them as a director as well with some pretty great films how hard is it to not shift into that directing mode sometimes when you are just a member of the cast of actors?
Bill: When I’m acting man, I cut off my directing hat altogether. I have respect for the director and I do not work for everybody only those I respect. I wouldn’t do a role at all if I didn’t respect both the director and the script. If I am hired as an actor I deliver my lines and develop my character. It’s their vision and I respect it.
Bobby: You have taken on so many different kinds of roles in your career, what do you look for in script on the acting side?
Bill: It could be a horror film, a love story or whatever, but there has to be something about the human being that I can connect with. I’m looking for those nuggets where it doesn’t matter the genre of the film. There are very few action films where you really care about anybody. You care about the explosions and car chases, but do you care about anyone in the car? I like those when you care about who is in the car.
Bobby: As an actor does it matter to you how big the role itself is or is it just more about how interesting it is and what you can bring to it?