Vegas Outsider: As I understand it, your role in the film is a bit small but pretty integral to much of the plot’s development. What exactly are you doing in Sushi Girl to cause such a ruckus? Besides that, what was it about this role that appealed to your tastes as an actor?
David Dastmalchian: It’s a really cool little role, I love guys that are maybe a little off center and have some idiosyncrasies that you won’t find in your average character. The character’s name is Nelson and I really make a pretty brief appearance in the film when looking at the body of it; it’s somewhere around an hour and twenty minutes right now and I’m only in a couple of scenes. I’m the driver for this crew, a crew of pretty bad dudes and if the driver is really good at his job and does a good job, everything goes well.
Unfortunately, if the driver messes up then things can go south fast and needless to say when people see this movie, what happens in this film would not have happened if I hadn’t screwed shit up so bad (laughs). It was fun for me to be the cat that is responsible for some awful things and without giving away too much when I screw things up, I do it badly enough so that you really don’t see me much longer after that (laughs).
But as far as what appealed to me, I’m a theater guy; my background is in doing theater. In film, if you get a monologue it’s rare that you get an awesome one that’s longer than a paragraph and my character has about a 2 ½ to 3 page monologue. It’s pretty funny because my character has a ritual I go through before we pull a heist. Any time we do a job and that is about cleaing out his digestive system through taking a whole lot of laxatives so that just in case something bad happens you don’t end up on the 6 o’clock news with your bowels spilled all over the freeway.
It’s pretty hilarious and a very serious moment but you can’t play it too serious as an actor, you have to go at it with gusto. And it’s great because the things coming out of my mouth as Nelson, for me, were easy to believe like “do you know how important it is that you’ve cleaned everything out, because you don’t want to look like a fool.” It’s a legitimate argument but needless to say the rest of the crew doesn’t see things quite the same as me and treat me more as a goofball by making fun of me.
VO: I can see that but still, hearing it like that, the man does have a point that’s hard to argue with.
DD: (laughs) It’s choice writing man, when I read the script I was like “oh dude, I’m in. I want to do this so bad”. Then you have all these other characters too; quick segue, I was working on another film at the time and luckily the schedules worked out perfectly, but I was only in town for a couple of days. We were shooting down at Universal up in this hotel room set and I hadn’t been around so I hadn’t had a chance to meet the rest of the cast yet. It’s Mark Hamill, Noah Hathaway, Tony Todd, James Duval, and Andy Mackenzie.
We’re all in this very small hotel room, all in gear loading up this awesome weaponry and on top of that, they’ve been together for weeks now so have all pretty much bonded. It was terrifying walking into that room and all of a sudden you have to just show up and do a three-page monologue. It ended up being an amazing experience there were a lot of little improvs happening where they’d be trying to cut me off or make little jokes and the director just let the camera roll. We had a blast.
VO: I wanted to ask how it was like working with a pack of guys like that who are well-known genre actors, all have solid chops, and had already bonded for some time. And here you come along as the newb into the scene.
DD: It’s hard to wrap your head around, I mean try and imagine. I’m a horror hound, both the comics world and horror are what I grew up on so that’s probably why I have such a passion for film, that world of fantasy and being able to play make believe got me into acting. I grew up with Tony and Mark as idols and, on top of that, they are legitimately amazing actors. I do voiceover work as well, and in the voiceover world I’d heard great stories about Mark in the booth doing his Joker character. I remember a lot of people I’d met had worked with him and said “I wish people could see what he was doing in the booth because if they did they’d realize how terrifying his entire performance is, not just his voice.”
All of a sudden I’m standing in this room, having to deliver this monologue. The whole point of a monologue is to communicate something to the people around you, unlike a soliloquy where you’re just talking to yourself or a mirror, you’re really trying to say something to these guys. I’ve worked with some big people in my life and you’re always afraid if they’re going to be paying attention or not, are they going to go out and have a cigarette when it’s my time to be talking, are they even going to stick around? They were all in the room though man, giving it right back to me. I walked out after we did that final take and felt like I was ten feet off the ground.
VO: I’m curious to know then if you’ve had a chance to see a cut of the film then and how it looks to you so far?
DD: I have seen one that’s as close to final as possible. Dude, we went to AFI the other night, which hosted a screening for us. The cast was there, along with the director as well as some family that we brought along and it was an amazing experience. It is so fun, this movie, as dark and gnarly and twisted as it is. You know there are different kinds of movies and this to me is one of those where the audience responds vocally.
There were people in there too with no connection to the production, so you were getting some honest reactions from people who didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a blast. It looks gorgeous too, it’s visually stunning. Plus if you didn’t know who all these actors were, the performances are so stellar that it’s captivating. I think it gives the film that extra oomph where people can then be like “Holy Shit! That’s Frank from Donnie Darko!” or “That’s Luke Skywalker!” That’s amazing to me.