Exclusive Interview: Drew Powell from STRAW DOGS Talks Remake, Playing A Mean Character and True Blood Fans
The remake of the very controversial 1971 movie Straw Dogs is set to be released this Friday. The movie stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as David and Amy Sumner, a Hollywood couple going back south to arrange Amy’s father’s funeral. True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård also stars as Charlie, Amy’s ex-boyfriend who is not very welcoming to say the least.
Drew Powell plays the rôle of Bic, one of Charlie’s friends who participates in the brutal and senseless acts that occur later in the movie. Daemon’s Movies had a chance to talk to the very interesting Drew about his character, working with Alexander Skarsgård as True Blood was taking off and also about the differences between TV work and Movie work.
Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss the release of the movie Straw Dogs this Friday September 16 2011 at a theater near you.
How did you get involved in the upcoming remake of ‘Straw Dogs’?
Drew Powell: Well, it was kind of a unique way that I got involved in that. They had another actor, as I understand, in mind for the role and then it didn’t work out at the last minute. So, I was actually home in Indiana visiting my parents, where I am now actually, and I got a call from my manager, saying, ‘Put yourself on tape ASAP and get it over.’ So, I did. I emailed it over and basically got the job while I was here. Then I landed on L.A. and then ended up hopping on a plane the next day to shoot in Shreveport where I went. We were shooting there for three months. So, it was kind of a whirlwind.
Had you seen the original movie before?
Drew Powell: I hadn’t at that time, and then when I got to Shreveport that night I borrowed a copy from somebody in the production office. I watched it and was pretty blown away. I’d heard of it and of course knew who [Sam] Peckinpah was, but I hadn’t scene the actual film. So, it was pretty intense to watch that thing. I remember watching it in my hotel room in Shreveport and thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is some kind of film.’
Talk about your character Bic.
Drew Powell: As you know, Bic wasn’t in the original. Rod [Lurie] added that character, but what I love about Bic is that he’s kind of the comic relief in an otherwise intense film. That doesn’t mean that he’s jolly. He’s still a mean guy like the rest of them, but I got a chance to do some funny stuff. That was fun.
How do you approach a character like that, someone that you’re not like at all?
Drew Powell: It’s a challenge, definitely, but I think really at the end of the day that that’s what fun about acting, that you get someone else for a minute. Rod Lurie, the director, was worried because I’m generally a kind of jolly, happy go lucky guy and he was like, ‘I need to make you mean. ‘I need the audience to not like you.’ So, he found little ways to try and make my character even more kind of unlikable and we worked on that. Really, look, everybody has a light and a dark side and every once in a while you’ve got to tap into that dark side to make it believable.
And you’re working with an amazing cast. Alexander Skarsgard plays Charlie, right?
Drew Powell: That’s right, yeah. It’s funny, we shot this in 2009 and we started right at the time that ‘True Blood‘, the second season, was airing and as I understand it – I don’t watch the show -he wasn’t in much of the first season, but then took a major role in the second season. So, that was kind of all happening as we were shooting the film.
It was funny to see how there were more and more fans waiting in the lobby for him after we’d work. Rod Lurie called him Boiling Frog because if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly raise the temperature he’ll die because he doesn’t realize how hot he’s getting. If you put a frog in boiling water he’ll jump out. So, that’s what he was saying, that Alex at the time didn’t know what he was getting himself into, that he was just slowly getting hotter and hotter as time wore on.
And the good news to that is that there will be a built in audience who’ll go see the movie because of him, right?
Drew Powell: That’s right, and I have to say for the record that he’s a friend of mine and he couldn’t be a nicer guy. He’s one of my favorite people that I’ve worked with. We really got along well and have remained friends. The four of us have really remained friends, the four Straw Dogs. I have nothing but good things to say about Alex.
How do you think the new version compares to the original?
Drew Powell: I think it’s more of a complete movie. The original one was really herky-jerky which he probably wanted, by design to keep the audience off balance, but it didn’t have much of a through line. It didn’t have much of a story, and I feel like this one, Rod’s version, really stays true in a lot of ways to the original. He’s managed to make more of a palatable storyline for an audience who’s used to having a story and a plot and characters kind of fully developed. I feel like his version is kind of like an enhanced version of the original. I’m not saying that it’s better, but I’m saying that it’s maybe more complete.
You’ve done a lot of film and television, including ‘Malcolm in the Middle’. I loved your character, Cadet Drew. What’s the difference in working on a film set as opposed to a television set?
Drew Powell: I appreciate that, first of all. That was my first gig, ‘Malcolm in the Middle’. That’s the job that got me my SAG card. I started out as Tough Cadet Number One and a couple of episodes had graduated to Cadet Drew. I assume that was because they didn’t think I’d understand any other character name. I had so much fun with that experience because it was my first experience and working with Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek and those guys, Frankie [Muniz] and all the kids, it was really a blast.
TV and film are very different animals in a lot of respects. On the one hand, in TV you’re churning it out. I just did an episode, reprised my role as Jack Hurley on ‘Leverage’, and so I just got back from Portland about a week and a half ago where I shot that. We shot an hour’s worth of TV in seven days. We shot an hour and a half, two hours worth of a movie in three months. So, right there you’ve got the difference, but I’m not going to tell you that one is better than the other because if you’re a regular on a TV series you get a character that you get to develop sometimes over many, many years. Whereas on a movie you get three months and it’s done.
But on a movie you’ve got a longer period of time to allow that character to germinate. So, really, as I’ve said many times, as an actor I’m happy to work. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s TV or film. Truly, I don’t have a preference. They’re both different. I feel like my movie career is really beginning to blossom and I have a few of these things that are starting to come out. So, I really am enjoying that. I feel like also with movies that they allow you more leeway.
Sometimes in TV series networks are locked into a specific type of person, a specific type of body type that a character has to be. Whereas movies often times, a director will be able to say, ‘No, I can’t think outside the box for what that character might look like and what he might be.’ I do appreciate that about film.
If you had to choose between only doing movies for the rest of your life or TV shows for the rest of your life – a fictional gun to your head on this one – which one would it be?
Drew Powell: That’s a tough question. It’s a good question. I always love the hypothetical because it makes you consider.
Here’s the thing, as an actor with a wife and a baby I love the steady work and I love the steadiness of a TV job. My friends that are on series, like when I was on a series, you know where your paycheck is coming from for the foreseeable future. I worked with Brad Dourif. I don’t know if you know who that is, but he played Billy Bibbit in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, the stuttering guy. He was also in ‘Deadwood’. He was the doctor on ‘Deadwood’ and he’d never done a TV series before we did ‘The Ponderosa’. He came in and he was on this prequel ‘The Ponderosa’. And he was so excited. He’s an Oscar nominated guy. He did ‘Mississippi Burning’, all these different things, but he was so excited to have a TV job where he could have a steady gig for a while. That really made an impact on me. I was like, ‘Wow, here’s this guy who never would have to work in TV if he didn’t want to, but he liked that idea.’ I still haven’t answered your question. I would say ultimately if I had to choose one or the other I would choose film.
Aside from ‘Straw Dogs’, do you have anything else coming up?
Drew Powell: I’ve got this movie ‘Touchback’ that comes out hopefully in November that I’m really proud. I think it’s going to be a good one. That stars Kurt Russell. It’s kind of a football movie, kind of a ‘Hoosiers’ meets ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ film. I play a similar character to Bic in ‘Straw Dogs’, but a nice PG version.
If you could work with any director or actor that you wanted who would it be?
Drew Powell: I think about this all the time, how I would answer that question. Then the question comes and it’s still hard to say. For me, I would like to work with Christopher Nolan. I think he’s a great director, someone that I admire greatly.
As an actor, I really like Tom Hanks. It’s funny because I think that’s probably not an answer that hip, cool, edgy actors would say because he’s more mainstream, but he’s got that quality that I really admire that he brings to his films. He’s so likeable which really translates, and this movie that he’s got coming out right now (Larry Crowne), I probably won’t go see it in the theater, but I can tell you from just the little bit I’ve seen I’m still drawn to him. If he’s on a talk show I’m going to watch it. There’s something about that guy, even more so from a personal standpoint.
I’m also a huge fan of Ben Kingsley. He’s right there. That guy to me is the epitome of the chameleon actor. That was solidified for me in ‘Sexy Beast’. When I saw him in that as that frightening bald headed gangster after being Gandhi I thought, ‘There’s nothing this guy can’t do.’
If you could guest star on any TV show, your pick of the litter, which one would it be?
Drew Powell: Right now I would say that it’s a toss up between ’30 Rock’ and ‘Mad Men’.
Those are very different.
Drew Powell: I know, exactly. One is a comedy and one is a drama. I was up for a recurring role on ‘Mad Men‘ last season and it was between me and this other guy. It killed me when I didn’t get it because I just think that show is amazing, and also, you don’t get an opportunity that much to be on a show like that which is period, so specifically period. I think that Matt Weiner does such a great job about being specific. I love that. So, I was a little heart broken when I didn’t get that role, but there’s still time for me to get a role there. And ‘30 Rock‘, that’s just great comedy.