Interview with Mark Rolston
I had the opportunity to have a sit down, in between photo shoots and autograph signings, at the Film and Comic Con, Braehead Arena, with Hollywood character actor Mark Rolston. You're bound to have seen him on television guest starring on shows such as Star Trek Discovery, CSI Miami and Supernatural but he's mostly known for his roles in the 1986 sci-fi blockbuster Aliens, The Departed co-starring with Leo Dicaprio, and his effectively creepy role as doomed prisoner Boggs in the timeless classic The Shawshank Redemption. He also works in the video games voice-over world in the Injustice beat em up series as Lex Luthor. He may play bad guys on screen but he's far from that face to face; He was a funny and extremely interesting man to interview.
Was acting always a career path you wanted to go down and what kind of training did you do
When I was six, seven years old I used to watch a Saturday afternoon movie series called The Bowery Boys and, one day, I ran down to my father's office saying “Dad! Dad! I know what I wanna be!”
He goes "what's that?" My dad was a computer programmer.
I said “I want to be a movie actor.”
He fell out of his chair laughing.
I didn't act while I was a kid. It wasn't until I went to University that I caught the bug again. Whilst I was there I saw a display for a junior year abroad programme in London and in the prospectus it said I could train at The Royal Academy Of Dramatic Arts, which was a total lie but it got me over to England.
I met Anton Rodgers (British TV/Stage Actor) who took me under his wing and directed me in some Chekhov one acts. At the end of the play's run he said “What are you going to do when you finish?”
I said “ I guess I'll go back to the States"
He said “No way! you are a real actor, you are going to stay here and train in England” and that's what ended up happening.
What was your first movie, after this time in the theatre?
My first credit was “Daryll” where I was a blip on screen (he laughs)
Can you tell me about your experience of auditioning for Aliens?
I just did a movie, Revolution, with Hugh Hudson, the famous director of Chariots of Fire, that starred Al Pacino and it was a horrible flop. I met with Gail Ann Hurd, who was the producer of Aliens and James Cameron's first wife, she asked me what I had been doing and so I made up this complete lie about Revolution - I made it sound like I had a supporting role to Al Pacino - that got me to the next process, where I met Jim Cameron. I read for Jim and it lead to them saying I had the role nut only if I agreed to getting in the gym pumping up and to put on some weight. I ended up putting on 35lbs.
What was the experience for you working with James Cameron and working with the British crew on Aliens?
There was some tension. It was mainly between Jim and the famous Assistant Director Derek Cracknell. It was really two big egos that clashed, it wasn't American against British, it wasn't anything like that. I think Jim Cameron wasn't really up to speed on the daily schedule and in England people stop for tea where as in America they just go go go. Jim Cameron is a great guy, he's a genius and Derek Cracknell, he's passed away now, I worked with him a number of times and he was great too. They ended up ironing things out after the movie was done.
You had a small role on Lethal Weapon 2 directed by a favourite of mine Richard “Dick”Donner what was his style of working with you?
Dick Donner is old fashioned Hollywood, he's a very big personality with a huge voice. I remember, when I was doing my opening driving scene, he goes “Ok kid take the car, go up that ramp and when you get to the top turn left”
I said “Ok”
Then he said “Go fast! don't worry, the guy's at the top are going to be holding traffic for you."
So I got to the very top and I looked at the guys that were supposed to be holding traffic and they weren't looking, they where talking to each other.
I was like “oh” so I slow down, pump the brakes a little bit and came back down on the ramp.
Donner came running up to the car “What the hell? I told you to make the turn, what are you hitting your brakes for?"
I said "the guys weren't watching, just talking to each other."
Donner got on the mic and said “You guys have gotta be watching!”
The next time I made sure I turned the corner. I almost fishtailed I turned so hard but it was such a powerful BMW car that it swerved out. Then I felt the back end smack me right up the butt.
When I came back down, Donner said “Alright kid, you did it!”
Another sequel you appeared in around this time was RoboCop 2, how was that experience?
RoboCop 2 was fun. The sad part, and I shouldn't probably say this, but Nancy Allen (Officer Lewis), she ruined it for me because she was so bad in the movie. I had all my scenes with her, she mostly got cut out of the movie, so I was cut along with her. It was a bad experience.
When you appeared in The Shawshank Redemption where you aware of the potential success that it would have with audiences?
The only inkling we had was when we did the cast read - held in the former mess hall. It was a huge, half dome, tin building and when Morgan Freeman started to read the narration at the beginning - he has that low miraculous voice - it reverberated softly around the mess hall. That's when we all just got goosebumps hearing his voice.
But we had no idea what it would do, quite frankly. When it opened at the box office it was poor. Thank god for VHS and DVD because that's where we had our own “redemption” of sorts.
I'm a fan of your role in The Departed what's it like auditioning for Martin Scorsese in this Oscar winning movie?
Scorsese is an icon and it was a pretty exhaustive audition process, where I read & taped five times for the role of Delahunt. For the final audition I went to the Beverly Hills Hotel to meet him - it's down on Sunset and it's bungalows in a canyon. I pull in and my petrol meter goes to empty. I go, “Oh fuck sake I don't have gas in the car”. I have to park because I'm on time, I can't go back and get gas or I'll be late.
I said to the parking guy, I gave him $40, I say ”dude can you please put some gas in the car and park it for me I'm so sorry.”
He said “No problem, it will be there for you when you get out”
I go into the audition and Scorsese meets me at the door. He's very dapper dresser. I shake his hand and we sit down. He's a small man and when he sat down his feet were one foot off the floor - I almost lost it I swear to you - I bit my lip so hard because I thought “oh don't you laugh, you'll blow this." I got through the audition and then half an hour later I get the call saying I've got the part.
Do you have any stories about Jack Nicholson?
Now with Jack Nicholson, the story I'd most like to tell is my first day on set. My co-star Ray Winston had been working with Jack - I guess they were becoming pals & whatnot - but we came onto the set and Ray was saying “Oh Jack come over here let me introduce you to the fellas, this is David O'Hara -" and he goes to introduce me when Jack Nicholson stops
“Oh no no” he says “I know who Mark is”
I go “Wow! Jack Nicholson knows who I am” and the dude has the biggest hand he's thick like a bull. I remember shaking hands with him and thinking I'd never want to be in a street fight with this guy, he'd choke you out and I've got decent sized hands.
And finally what projects do you have coming up?
I'm doing my own movie called “Me and Mike” it's inspired by true events in my life, about a homeless man who's been living out the back of my house - not in my property but behind the wall for the last six years - and we've become friends. I'm going to tell our story.
You can support the film "Me and Michael" and help it get made by clicking here.
The filmmakers want to put a face to homelessness in America, raise awareness, raise the profile and raise some money to help key organizations affiliated to the project.