We’re rapidly turning into a surveillance society, and while some people think that it will help curb people’s bad instincts, control crime and prevent terrorism, one wonders what will happen when machines keep too much watch over us. That’s a thought that Eyeborgs seriously contemplates. Available on DVD and Blu-ray and premiering tonight on the Syfy Channel at 6:30 PM eastern time, the movie stars Adrian Paul as a hard-nosed Homeland Security agent who helped bring sentient, walking security cams into mainstream society, but when crime scene footage begins to be tampered with, he suspects a conspiracy afoot. While it falls in the sci-fi genre, Paul considers the film to be a political thriller with sci-fi elements. We call it a paranoid surveillance thriller. Either way, it’s smart, well made and a nice change of pace from the purposely cheesy monster fare that Syfy has been serving up on Saturday nights.
Active as a model, actor and dancer during the ’80s (remember him as the Russian dancer on The Colbys?), Paul achieved international fame through the Highlander television series of the ’90s and has done plenty of projects since then, including the Tracker TV series and movies including The Void (with Amanda Tapping), Merlin: The Return, The Breed and Séance, among many others. While plenty of fans will always associate him with the swashbuckling Duncan MacLeod, Paul has certainly showed he can tackle plenty of other roles, like Eyeborgs‘ tough but thoughtful federal agent R.J. “Gunner” Reynolds.
Paul spoke with A.D.D. yesterday about Eyeborgs, the reboot of the Highlander franchise and how he stays looking so young at age 51. Seriously, the man doesn’t age.
How’s your life going?
Pretty good. Looking after a one-year-old. That’s always fun.
I’ll bet that’s one of the biggest challenges in your life so far.
It is a fantastic challenge, but it is a challenge.
Eyeborgs envisions a future with roaming cameras watching us everywhere. You’re originally from London, so I’m curious as to what you think of all the electric eyes in that city today?
That’s part of the problem. In fact, this movie came from the fact that London has 85% of its roads covered by cameras, and there was a big public outcry. They’ve now removed some of them because of it. Then they were going to try to do it in larger U.S. cities as well; that was two or three years ago when this was being talked about in places like Chicago and New York. And there are cameras around. I actually got nabbed by one [traffic camera] yesterday going through a red light a bit too late. It’s part of our society, but is it good? I don’t know. Like anything, it’s a good idea to create something, and then it gets taken too far.
In parts of New York are plenty of cameras at traffic intersections now. I know they’re doing it because people are speeding and going through red lights, but it’s clearly a revenue generator.
Of course. It’s always about money.
You do the fighting in your movies, and I’m curious as to what it was like to fight machines that weren’t there while filming Eyeborgs. You’re great at fighting and coordinating fights with real people, but I imagine this must’ve been a different challenge.
I was fighting against absolutely nothing. What I had been given was photos or drawings of what the robots would look like. The director, stunt coordinator and I choreographed the fight — [determined] what damages them and what doesn’t — and tried to make something that was interesting. We literally mapped it out and told the modelmaker what we were aiming for so that he would understand what the geography of it was. We went in and shot it literally as if something was in front of me.
There’s more and more virtual stuff going on now in movies.
Much more. The game industry has changed that. I’ve gone up for some of these where the scripts have become much more like movies. The games that will be coming out in the next five years are all going to be like movies. The actors are going to be in there like they’re acting [in a film], and the writing’s not bad either. It’s fun, especially if you can be in the movie or be in the game itself. They’re integrating two genres in a sense.
Have you worked on video games before?
I was going to do a couple actually. I’ve done animated films. One of them is about to come out, War Of The Worlds. I have been up for them [games], and one of the ones I was up for was Call Of Duty 7, but they put that on hold. They had me in doing all the movements and all that stuff. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far, and I’ve tested with some of the other ones, so I can see where they’re going with the movement.
You’ve done many action movies over the years, and I was wondering what you think of the clumsy, fast-paced editing we’re seeing in more and more action movies? A good action sequence will make you feel the violence at least mentally, but something like the climax to Batman Begins was so fast with some of the jump cuts that it didn’t work for me.
It’s interesting that you picked that out because I think fast cuts sometimes give you a sense of pace but don’t give you a sense of content. It really depends on how the editors or the producers or the studio have decided to produce that particular segment. You’ll have a cut, and the producers will go, “No, no, no, it’s too slow. We need fast action.” So they’ll cut things out that may have been there in the first place. Who knows. Then there are other films that do it very well and that make you feel the blows, as you say.
“I was at [Paris] Comic Con a year or two ago, and the amount of people that were still interested in Highlander shocked me. I didn’t expect it.”
Recent movies of yours like Eyeborgs or Highlander: The Source have that kind of fast-paced editing, but I can tell they try to keep longer cuts so that people could see the moves you were doing. Have you watched any of your recent movies and felt like some of the action scenes were cut too fast or that they didn’t capture what you were doing?
I’ve never looked at it that way, to be honest. I used to be get involved in a lot of the editing and stuff, but in the past year I haven’t because it’s a different ball game, or because I wasn’t around to do that and as an actor it’s not my place to tell them how to edit. That’s why movies are successful or not successful, because in general any decent movie takes a million man-hours, and it takes the editors, the actors, the writers, directors and everyone to be in sync. You just don’t know what the end result is going to be.
What’s impressive about the current wave of digital movie effects is that sometimes you don’t need a lot of people to create them. I believe you had one main visual FX supervisor who worked on most Eyeborgs, correct?
That was the interesting thing about Eyeborgs. There are sequences [in movies] that require a model maker, a colorist, a shading person, a movement person. It could be 10 or 20 or 30 people working on one sequence. Eyeborgs had one guy until they got to the very end, and then they outsourced it to the company that did the last 10% to 15% of the effects. It was a great feat to be able to do that.
I look back to all of those direct-to-video movies that were done in the ’80s and ’90s, and what we expected from low budget movies then was different than what we have today. The effects in Eyeborgs are pretty good, although there are still a lot of low budget sci-fi films that have blatantly low-grade visual effects, and the filmmakers don’t do much to hide that fact.
The [Eyeborgs] producers believed in the project. They saw it through and worked on it for about three years, and I always tip my hat off to people that have that type of diligence in doing something and have passion for it. I hope this does very well for them because they deserve it.
It seems like this film was being set up for a sequel. Is there a chance that that will happen?
There is talk about a sequel and/or a possible series. Somebody mentioned it. It depends on how well it does on Syfy as to whether they can move it forward to another level. We’ll see.
Does the prospect of getting back into a science fiction series excite you?
I am looking to do another series. I think would be good because some of the series [today] are written very well. In fact, think there are a lot of series that are better written than a lot of the movies that you get. As an actor it’s always good to have good material, and now, which is something different than the ’80s and ’90s, if you’re on a successful TV show you’re going to get film offers. Period. That’s how it works. It’s a different era, and therefore as an actor doing another series is not harmful to me anymore. In fact, it’s probably beneficial.
A lot of actors are saying these days that the better roles are on television now.
They can be.
When action stars hit middle age they tend to start losing their looks and/or physique. That doesn’t seem to be happening with you. You look very young and healthy. What’s Adrian Paul’s anti-aging secret?
[laughs] Drink a lot of water basically. I’m a firm believer in that, and also I take care of my skin. I moisturize, I go for facials. It keeps you healthy. I think keeping the right vitamins in your system is a good thing. And also training. I haven’t trained in the past four months, because of traveling so much and my daughter, so I’ve got to get back into it. I do enjoy the physical part of it, and for me personally — it’s not for everybody — going to the gym or going to work out or doing martial arts is something that keeps my brain active, and I think [keeping] your brain active helps keep you healthy and younger looking. It’s hard, life gets in the way. If you’re a TV star or an action star, when you’re younger you’re not married, you don’t have kids and don’t have a successful career yet. You’re hungry, you need to be out there, you need to look your best, you need to compete. As you get older, those things kind of disappear. You get yourself a house, get yourself a wife, your priorities change. Therefore you don’t have to compete as much, you don’t have to go to the gym as much; that’s what happens to people. I think that’s a mistake, to a degree, because people have to constantly keep on their toes if it is something that made them who they are. I think it’s always good to continue that.
I hear they’re rebooting the Highlander franchise. You’re just as iconic as Christopher Lambert in the series. What do you think of this?
I think the franchise has the ability to go on for a long time if they’re careful with it because, just as you’re asking about why I keep looking so young, that’s what people do. We’re so concerned with Botox and facelifts and being younger and staying young, that’s part of our makeup. That’s what we want. Together with the fact that history is [filled with] swords and weapons, and this idea is part of our makeup over the last several thousand years, it’s in our genes, so the concept of Highlander is really within us all. It just depends if you can create a story that is interesting to the younger generation, and that’s what they’re trying to do now. The Highlander story started with the films in 1985, and then the [television] series in ’91, so you’re talking about 25-year-old franchise, and there are people who never saw the original and never saw some of the films or the series. So now if they come out with something [good] they will have new fans because [of the way] they’re delivering it, something that the youth of today will think is cool.
I’m cynical about reboots.
So am I. I’ve seen them before and seen them be very damaging. It’s very hard. They’ve already thrown out two scripts and have a third writer now writing it. They’re very excited about what they’ve done with the new writer.
Will you be involved with this, or are they going to completely recast people?
They’re basically going to reboot the first idea. I’m pretty sure they will use a whole new cast.
Are you comfortable with the character of Duncan MacLeod being such a big part of your career? Do you still go to a lot of the conventions that they have?
Yeah, I do, but they’re not pure Highlander conventions anymore. They’re sci-fi or anime or that type of convention. I was at [Paris] Comic Con a year or two ago, and the amount of people that were still interested in Highlander shocked me. I didn’t expect it. I agree, whenever people see something new, they’ll always compare it to the original. But take the Batman franchise. I think they did a fantastic job with the new film, I think it really rebooted the franchise. The same thing they did with the Bond franchise. The first film Casino Royale was really good. I didn’t see the second, but I heard it wasn’t as good.
Have you seen that YouTube montage culling scenes from your shows and films to give people an idea of what it would’ve been like if you had played James Bond? It includes everything from romance scenes to action clips.
No, I haven’t. That’s hysterical.
There were rumors a few years ago when they were recasting the role that you were being considered. Was that true?
There was a lot of talk online about people pushing for me and the idea of who was going to be the next Bond. I didn’t actually meet the people. I understood that I was kind of considered, but I never got to meet the people there.
“I like films like Amelie and Chocolat. That’s stuff I actually like to watch. I like the acting and love those stories.”
Do you still dance regularly?
No, not really. I still train in martial arts. I don’t have time.
But dancing definitely informed a lot of your combat skills, didn’t it?
Yeah, movement has always been in my life. I’ve always been very physical, whether I was playing soccer or playing rugby or dancing or choreographing. All of that stuff [and] martial arts is all about movement, it’s been part of my life. I don’t think that will ever change.
You’ve done modeling, dancing and acting. Is there any sort of dream project or something different you’d like to take on?
Not really. I’ve got my own production company, Film Blips, so we take projects that we like and stuff that I would like to do. It really depends on the scripts, and I think now there’s some great ideas that people have. You just have to find the one that works for you. Highlander was interesting to me, because at the time my accent was half British and half American, and I was having a problem getting jobs because I couldn’t do a really good American accent. I didn’t have the money to get a vocal coach to help with auditions. I would do what I did, and Highlander became the role that was good for me because I was supposed to be kind of American but kind of not.
We’re doing a revamp on the script at the moment. It’s a fantastic little story [“Basile’s Legacy”] about a village in Italy where the mayor promises he will save the village from dying and is not having very much luck doing it. Then a stranger comes into town and basically gives them the idea that they should try regrowing the vineyard. So it’s about their struggle to make that happen and save the village. It’s a drama/comedy, a lovely little story, and we’ve just got to get the script right. It’s exactly the type of film I personally like. I like films like Amelie and Chocolat. That’s stuff I actually like to watch. I like the acting and love those stories, and it’s fun to watch those them.
What do you think is your most underrated performance?
I actually did a film a little while ago called Nine Miles Down which I think worked very well. The story was a tad problematic, but I think my work was actually pretty clear in that and it had an arc that worked well. I actually liked The Breed. It was another thing that worked well [for me] as an actor. I made choices and stuck with them, and in the end I got good reviews on it.
So after all of these years, is there something that you think your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m sure there is, but I’ll save it. [laughs] I have no idea. The interesting thing is that I don’t think fans need to know everything about you. I was having this discussion with some friends the other day — the interesting thing about [classic] movie stars was that there was something you couldn’t touch about them, there’s something you didn’t know, there’s a mystery about them. The mystery has disappeared now with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. You know everything there is to know about them; where they’re moving, what they’re doing, when. People believe they know people better than they actually do, and sometimes I like keeping some things to myself.