TROUBLE CITY

Clancy Brown Talks Science Fiction, Conventions and His Recent Film 'Supercon'

ArticlesAndrew HawkinsComment

Clancy Brown is a legend. The man is one of the most iconic character actors of the last 40 years, and his roles in film are always memorable. Whether you've loved him in prestige projects like Shawshank or grew up freaked out by his portrayal of Gus in Pet Sematary II, you've most definitely dug his work.

I was honored to have spoken with him earlier this year about one of his latest films Supercon. In it, he plays a hammy character the kind of which almost every convention-goer has encountered at least once in their lifetime. He's a showboat and a diva, and it's pretty damn hilarious.

Here is the discussion that we had for Supercon broken up into two parts. Due to some unfortunate connection errors, the first half of our conversation was unable to be transcribed for this article. Despite the technical issues, it was still an absolute blast talking with one of the greatest and most prolific actors working today. Enjoy!

Clancy Brown: Video games aren’t quite as fun as they used to be, because they’re— there’s not much character in them often, so you have to make up character along the way. I don’t know how to explain it. I did a couple that were story-driven, but you know, those are the cutscenes and they’re not the point of the thing. The point of the thing is the gameplay. You want to get the cutscenes to inspire the gameplay but the narrative isn’t the same as telling a story on film or tv, it’s different. It’s a different thing. You’ve just got to try and make it as enjoyable as you can. But it’s really up to the player. I’m trying to think of the one I did, I played a mage in something. And another one just came out. Shit, I can’t remember the name of it, where I did the dad. Yeah, I can’t remember the name of it. You’ve got it right there.

Hawkins: Yeah, whenever we see you pop up in video games, or whenever we see you play a small role in something, it’s always a standout. You always have presence that makes the scene and steals the show. One of my favorite roles of yours is in Starship Troopers and you’re playing Zim, and you have the whole save-the-day moment at the very end. How do you prepare for that? Have you always gotten that kind of feedback? Even on something like Bad Boys, you’re always the center of attention whenever you’re on camera, do you just kind of command that energy?

Clancy Brown: I have no idea what you’re talking about, Bad Boys was my very first movie, so I had no idea what I was doing. Starship Troopers is part of the classical sci-fi canon, man. If you don’t love that and want to play Sergeant Zim, you’ve got no sci-fi cred. So I was thrilled that they were making that movie. Maybe we could’ve made it a little bit better, but we were constrained by the technology of the time. But it was a good version— Paul Verhoeven wrote the (film) version of Starship Troopers which is not a bad version, I don’t think. Although no one knew it at the time, I think it was pretty subversive and true. You know, not in every detail, but maybe in tone. But I don’t know, I like Starship Troopers. How could you say no to it? It’d be like saying no to Dune or something. Maybe it’s not going to be close to the book, but you couldn’t say no to Neuromancer.

I just heard The Foundation has been optioned. If somebody comes to me and says, “Do you want to do Foundation?” Of course I’ll do Foundation. But how would they even do Foundation, you know? It’s like American Gods. I was so looking forward to that one. But it’s a great book, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great movie. As an actor and a fan who has enjoyed the book, how can you say no to a thing like that? You can’t. So I don’t really go into it thinking I’m going to be the center of attention, I’m just trying to serve the script, you know? Just trying to fill in where I need to fill in.

Hawkins: That makes complete sense, it really does. When you do those roles, we’re always looking out for you because your stuff is always just great. Talking about Foundation, talking about Dune, all of these great properties— are there any great books that haven’t been adapted yet that you would absolutely love to be a part of, even going to authors like Philip K. Dick? What would be your dream one to go to for an adaptation?

Clancy Brown: Oh, shit— all of them! But I don’t know how you would adapt them. I love Dune. John Harrison’s Dune is probably the best adaptation for sci-fi, but even that is flawed. I think they’ve been trying to do Stranger In A Strange Land forever. But I don’t know how you actually adapt that and make it work. But would I do it? At the drop of a hat, I’d do it. Absolutely. Even bringing a portion of that to life would be worthwhile. I don’t know. Maybe it takes a franchise like Star Wars to amalgamate all of those thematics and turn it into its own thing, to tell the stories in the canon proper. Dick is interesting, though. I like what they’re doing with Man In The High Castle, it’s like his short story. But his stories, like Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, they can become something cinematic, that’s not exactly like the book, but they’re built on the book, and that exactly what the foundation is laid for.

Hawkins: Like Blade Runner 2049, it’s huge! That just opens the door for so much more.

Clancy Brown: Right, but by then it’s Blade Runner, and not so much Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?.

At this point, we had to wrap up the initial discussion and come back later for a follow-up. Here is that second conversation about Supercon as well as Clancy Brown's opinions on attending and appearing at conventions himself. My favorite bit is when he questions the relevancy of cyberpunk.

Hawkins: I wanted to get back with you to go over a couple of things and ask you about some of your convention experiences. Do you have any stories you love and remember from all of the cons you went to?

Clancy Brown: I usually go to cons whenever I’m asked to by the show I’m on or promoting. I’ve been with the Spongebob crew before, and I went with Warcraft and I went with a Justice League group before. I actually haven’t gone as an independent contractor type of thing, I can never fit it into the schedule. You know, I’ve got kids and I’ve got older parents, and if I get a weekend I want to spend time with them. Eventually, I’ll probably be there with my own little table one of these days but I haven’t really done it. As for stories, when you’re with a group like that, they tend to shuffle you in and shuffle you out. That’s really my only story— in the beginning, you could walk the floor with the artists and have fun and interact, and now it’s been kind of co-opted by the marketing departments of big studios and distribution companies. So they tend to protect their product a lot so they surround you with big, beefy guys and don’t let you interact as much as you want to.

Hawkins: What kind of convention would you like to attend? Would you like to have your own booth at a horror convention or a much more general convention like Comic-Con? What kind of place would you like to do meet-and-greets with fans?

Clancy Brown: I don’t know. [Laughter] I don’t know, I mean I guess I’ll give them all a try, one of these days. Give me a few years to get my kid through college and take care of my parents, and then you’ll see me. I did meet David Prowse once at a convention, that was pretty cool. So yeah, maybe some Star Wars thing, that would be neat.

Hawkins: Yeah, and I think a lot of fans would like to see you somewhere you could talk about Star Wars, somewhere you could talk about Highlander, all of your films throughout your career because you’ve had a huge variety of roles from when you’ve started. We’ve talked about Bad Boys earlier to where you are now, you’re still working every year. What do you like the most? When you attend a convention, would you want to go to a sci-fi con? Would you want to go to something more genre?

Clancy Brown: Like I said, I don’t really know, I’ll try them all eventually. I can tell you— I don’t know what this product is that is me, in terms of those conventions--

Hawkins: Oh, I was talking about just as a fan.

Clancy Brown: As a fan, probably a sci-fi one, I think. I think I’d get a kick out of meeting the guys from The Expanse or something like that. I’d like to meet an author like William Gibson or Paolo Bacigalupi or someone like that, that would be cool.

Hawkins: Yeah, when you mentioned Neuromancer earlier, I was still thinking about that because you listed off all of these great books that could potentially be these adaptations and that one really stuck out because that’s a huge favorite for cyberpunk sci-fi fans and all of that.

Clancy Brown: Yeah, but is cyberpunk relevant anymore? You know, that world that he created? That existed in the 90’s but it really doesn’t exist anymore.

Hawkins: Yeah, it’s all nostalgia.

Clancy Brown: Right, it’s just nostalgia. I suppose there are still elements of it that are relevant. Yeah, I guess you could still do it.

Hawkins: Yeah, I think it would be great to see. I think it would be fun and timeless, just so fantastic. Digging into Supercon a little bit more, talking about the King, you have some pretty fun moments where you’re sort of doing these characters from this guy’s career, and I wanted to ask you: what did you have the most fun doing? Did you like getting into the sort of Flash Gordon getup for Captain of the Future Forest or—

Clancy Brown: Oh, totally. I liked the Future Forest guy, for sure. That was hilarious. I wanted to make sure I got in something that had a girdle. [Laughter] You know? We’ve got to be able to see the seams in the costume and the cheesy plastic of the gloves and the impression of some kind of a truss, that stuff is hilarious. Because I grew up on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica and they were fantastic to me, but they’re just campy now. But they were fun back in the day. [Laughter] There’s a monster that I punch through the door and he bumps his head on the way out, he doesn’t quite get out— [Laughter] Ahh, that’s a good sequence.

Hawkins: All the laser effects as he goes through the doorway, the lightning and the smoke—

Clancy Brown: Yeah, and he doesn’t quite make it out the door, he sort of bumps into the side of the door because he can’t really see out of the costume. [Laughter] The whole set shakes when he hits it accidentally.

Hawkins: It’s great, this film is kind of a love letter to the old classics where you could kind of see the seams a little bit. And it’s kind of a bit of satire where you’re playing this character we’ve talked about before, everyone’s worst nightmare for meeting their idols. The fun part about it is that you and all of the rest of the cast members look like they’re having a blast. Did you guys really have a great time on set making this movie?

Clancy Brown: Yeah, I think we had a pretty good time. They’re a lot younger, and another element is Adam King’s from a different time in TV and— even in cons, the stars of the cons should be the Russell Peters and the voiceover artists and the illustrators, stuff like that. Those are really the stars of the cons. The John Malkovich character, whose name escapes me right now.

Hawkins: Oh, Sid? The writer.

Clancy Brown: Yeah, Sid. Right, those are really the stars of the cons. Those aren’t really vehicles for stars. Cons have become more personal, and they should be. You can’t get away with the kind of shit that Adam King expects, the kind of treatment he expects. People are beyond that. People know; people are more savvy. He’s a throwback.

Hawkins: That’s kind of the moral of the story, too, where everyone grabs their phones and you just see him kind of have that meltdown. Did you dig in for any of that? Did you improv for that? Because he’s really going off the rails and it seems like the fall of a titan.

Clancy Brown: Yeah, we improv’d a lot of it. They had written some great stuff, and then Zak (Knutson) would come up and say, “Say you used to date Carrie Fisher. Say you were Warren Beatty’s wingman.” We were just coming up with crazy stuff.

Hawkins: Yeah, the J.J. Abrams and the Joss Whedon were too funny.

Clancy Brown: Right! [Laughter] We were off the cuff, we were having a good time. There was a lot of improv onstage too, but he had to cut a lot of that out. I kind of rambled on about— I don’t even remember. But Zak is a friend of Kevin Smith, so I sort of spun this Kevin Smith story about how I introduced him to hockey. That didn’t get in there, that’s okay, though.

Hawkins: Well, the Bruce Willis bit did, and that was funny. But I did want to ask you about one line that cracked me up, and that was, “Oh what fools these mortals be… or not to be.” Where did that come from?

Clancy Brown: [Laughter] I actually made that one up.

Hawkins: I figured, it was great.

Clancy Brown: Here’s the thing, a lot of actors got their start in theater and love the theater, a lot of them muse about their time when they were in the theater. I think I was working on some tv show and a couple of old actors were sitting around and talking about this and— they were in Richard III at that theater, and they did Henry V at that theater, and “I was Polonius in Hamlet,” actors just kind of do that. They kill time by talking about their past triumphs and stuff. I always thought, if you don’t have a perspective on stuff like that or a perspective on yourself and you’ve got this cute little girlfriend, what would he say to her? How would he impress her? Maybe he says something stupid like that because he’s a doofus. I don’t know, it just kind of came out.

Hawkins: That’s the thing, is that this movie has a lot of great moments, a lot of good humor, it pokes fun at a lot of stuff people who are familiar with conventions are definitely going to connect with. So I think this is going to be a fun one for people who check it out and get into it. But I want to say again, thank you so much for taking another second to talk with us. Is there anything you’d like to end on, anything you’d like to mention before we get going?

Clancy Brown: Just go see Supercon, you know? Go see it with a smile on your face, I hope you enjoy it. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, it’s just a fun little romp in a fun milieu. I know they can be tough audiences, those convention-goers, but we’re just trying to enjoy it as much as they do.

Hawkins: Very cool. Thank you, Clancy Brown. It’s been a pleasure today.

Clancy Brown: You bet.

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Supercon is currently available to watch on VOD, Digital HD and DVD.