Roundtable Interview With James Badge Dale On The Lone Ranger

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James Badge Dale. You may not know him by name, but you’re probably familiar with his face. Appearing in shows like 24, Rubicon and The Pacific, and films like Flight, The Grey and Shame, has given the actor an impressive career thus far. Now, with the Summer of 2013 upon us, James Badge Dale is about to gain a whole lot more exposure as he has already appeared in two major blockbusters (Iron Man 3 and World War Z) and has one more on the horizon: The Lone Ranger.

In his upcoming film, James Badge Dale plays Dan Reid, the brother of the titular ranger. Though it’s more of a supporting part, Dale brings his always reliable acting chops to the table and turns in a strong performance, one that helps him to stand out in a star studded cast that includes Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.

Last week, James Badge Dale was in Toronto to do some press for the film and we were lucky enough to participate in a brief, yet exciting roundtable interview with him. Among other things, Dale discussed what it was like working on such a big production, his experience working with movie mega stars like Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr., how many of the stunts he did himself and much more.

Check it out below.

This Summer has seen you take roles in some major blockbuster films. Iron Man 3, World War Z and now The Lone Ranger. Has this rise in exposure and increase in fame changed you at all? 

James Badge Dale: I think the change is in the facial hair. [laughs] It’s funny, when we were shooting The Lone Ranger, I was sitting on a flight and the stewardess asked me “what do you do for a living?” So I said, “well I’m an actor” and she says “well, what have you been in?” And that’s the hardest question for an actor to answer. I don’t understand what that means. Do you want me to start naming off my resume or something? Then you know what happens. You tell them what films you’ve done and they go “no I’ve never seen that.” [laughs]

On this plane ride though, it worked out well because when the stewardess asked me, I look up and on the screen they’re showing The Conspirator and the moment that I looked up I was actually on screen. So I tell the stewardess “look, that’s me right there!” She looks at the screen, looks at me, looks back at the screen and then back at me and goes “no it’s not.” [laughs] She looked at me as if I was a liar, with this accusatory look. So sometimes it’s best just not to be recognized.

Funny you say that because no matter what role I see you in, you always seem recognizable to me. Even when I go into a film not knowing that you’re in it, when you pop up I always know who you are.

James Badge Dale: Thank you! At least someone knows I’m working. [laugh]

We don’t get a lot of Westerns nowadays, especially not a lot of grand Westerns. What was it like with the sets, and the costumes and everything and just putting that all together.

James Badge Dale: It was wild! We built an entire town outside of Albuquerque. You have this enormous  living, breathing set and 5 miles of track wrapping around this town and all through the desert and two, working 1850′s style trains. Everything was right there for you. And that was one of the beautiful things about working on this film. Gore [Verbinski] insisted upon doing it right. With everything right there at our fingertips. He wanted us to feel the dirt, smell the horses and go through all these experiences. It was like a childhood fantasy come true. You grow up watching these Westerns and then suddenly you find yourself there.

Did you enjoy the costume? It’s a lot of leather. 

James Badge Dale: [laughs] It is a lot. You slip on the boots, you spur up and that does something to you. When you can walk and clink your spurs. I just love that sound. You feel real tough too, especially with the gun belt and everything. [laughs] There’s a lot of weight in the gun though, it changes the way you walk.

In the film, you play the leader of a bunch of lawmen. Is that the approach you took on set too? Did the other actors kind of look up to you or were they more like “yeah, he’s not really in charge.”

James Badge Dale: They were probably sitting there saying to themselves, “really? Badge is in charge? really?” [laughs] All those guys are great guys, seriously. There was a lot of passion for this project on set between all the actors, so that was nice. I’m not that guy though. [laughs] I wasn’t the leader. We all hung out together and lived together, so we did form a unit together. It wasn’t about being a leader or not being a leader, we were all treated equal.

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How many of the stunts did you do yourself? Was that really you in the train scene at the start?

James Badge Dale: Oh man, that was wild. Here we have this train, and we’re running on top of the train with Armie [Hammer] and Johnny [Depp] and Gore [Verbinski] is sitting there going “can we make this thing go faster?” And we were like “ah, well, 35 MPH is probably the safety limit.”

There was a lot of that scene that we could do ourselves but of course, at some points, the stunt guys had to step in. And they had worked on that sequence for months. It was a life or death stunt, no room for error, but they pulled it off. The train transfer scene that you see in the film, that’s actually a composite shot of two stuntmen and then myself. Those guys are incredible. What I love about this film is that there isn’t a lot of CG. The stunt guys were just so amazing and they did a lot of the stuff that you’ll see in the movie. Hats off to our stunt crew, they just really made this movie work.

What’s it like working with a mega movie star? Someone like Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt or Robert Downey Jr.?

James Badge Dale: It’s interesting. In my experience, the people who are difficult to work with aren’t movie stars. Johnny Depp is extremely humble and kind and giving and he’s always so well prepared. He loves his job. Same goes for Brad Pitt and same goes for Robert Downey Jr. They are professionals to the utmost degree. Denzel Washington too. These guys are the real deal and for a young actor like myself it’s a privilege to work with them. You sit down, you shut up and you learn from them and talk to them.

Tell us a bit about working with Gore Verbinski.

James Badge Dale: I love Gore, I’d go to the end of the earth for him, because he would do it for you. He’s so passionate and he understands the craft of film so well. He has an interesting way of talking to you too. At one point he came up to me and was like “Badge, just put a bit more sauce on it.” [laughs] They don’t teach you that in drama school. [laughs] I’m standing there like “sauce? what’s sauce?” But you know what, you get it, you just get it. You get what he’s saying and what he wants because we’re on the same page with the story. Everything you see in this film is Gore Verbinski to a T. He has his stamp on everything and that is the mark of a true filmmaker.

So you have three huge films that you shot back to back over the course of two years but did you get any downtime to just be by yourself?

James Badge Dale: Yeah, the last two years, they’ve been a sprint. This, right now, is the most downtime I’ve had in a while. I went from The Grey straight into Shame to have two months off to go into World War Z, then to lose weight while I was doing World War Z so I could do Flight. Then I had a moment to gain the weight back and learn how to ride a horse for The Lone Ranger and then I went off to do Iron Man 3. I’m a workhorse though, I don’t do well with time off. So that’s an actors dream, doing all these films. I love my work, and I’m lucky to do it.

All these roles you mentioned, they’re these really great character roles. Is that something you look for, character over story?

James Badge Dale: It’s a combination of both. The story has to work on one element but I enjoy strange characters. Sometimes movies come across my desk and everyone tells me I should do it but I just don’t see it, I’m not the right guy. An actor can’t be good at everything and sometimes, the part just won’t be for me.

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You were working on all these huge films at around the same time, so was there ever any instances of people trying to dig information out of you while on set. I mean, did Shane Black ever come up to you and be like “So what’s going on with The Lone Ranger?”

James Badge Dale: [laughs] No, it’s a bit of small world actually. Everyone kind of knows each other. You work with the same crews over and over again and everyone is really supportive. Besides, I don’t think anyone working on Iron Man 3 was worried about anyone else. [laughs] Let’s be honest.

You made your name in huge shows like 24 and The Pacific, so are you still taken aback when you step onto a huge set like The Lone Ranger?

James Badge Dale: Yeah, of course. You want to hold onto that, treat every job like your first and treat it like your last. The Lone Ranger is a special film. If I only get one western, this is the one I get and I’m very proud of it.

Do you ever see yourself going back to television?

James Badge Dale: It depends on the story and it depends on the character. I like stories that end though. The struggle in television is that it keeps going on and on, if you’re successful, so where’s the ending?  The great thing about film is that you get the story and this is it. You have the beginning, the middle and the climax and the end, and everything drives towards that. And that’s the way you are taught to tell stories, no matter what you do. But that being said, I don’t have any problem returning to television.

Do you have a dream character that you want to get to play?

James Badge Dale: Well there is one film, but you can’t remake it! I have a Scottish background and I walked Scotland a few years ago and I will admit, when I was by myself, just walking around, I may have re-enacted Braveheart. [laughs] It’s possible. [laughs] That’s one of my favorite films, it’s such a beautiful movie. No one should ever touch it though.

When you were talking about Scotland I thought you were going to say Highlander.

James Badge Dale: That’s a good one too! I shouldn’t step on anyone’s feet but I know that they’re still looking for a male lead for the remake. [laughs]

Our fingers are crossed for you.

James Badge Dale: Thank you! [laughs] I’d do it in a second. The original Highlander was such a great film, I loved it.

That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank James Badge Dale for talking with us. Be sure to check out The Lone Ranger when it rides into theatres this week.

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