This Interview is Courtesy of SciFiTalk.com
September of 1998, Labor Day Weekend..New York City. I was hosting the Media
Connection Expo with a great line of guests, Kari Wurher of Sliders, Denise
Crosby of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Richard Biggs of Babylon Five.
Brion James was on the list as well. This engaging actor has had incredible
career . I got the chance briefly to talk to him outside our hotel before
taking our ride to the con that day. We talked about New York and his early
experiences there. He was a wonderful guest and seemed like a great guy. He
sadly passed away not even a year later. I mourn his loss but as this
interview transcript from his appearance indicates, I also celebrate his
Back on that day in 1998, I had read the long list of his many acting credits
as part of his intro prior to his arriving on stage. Our sound man played
"Bad to The Bone" but this gentleman was hardly "bad" . He seemed like a
Tony Tellado: I've been a big fan of yours for a long time.
Brion James: Well. I should hope so.
T2: I didn't mention Enemy Mine but it was a small part, a Brion James kinda
BJ: Well It works.
T2: You have played a lot of heavies is that something you enjoy or does it
bother you that you can't play the good guy occasionally ?
BJ: I get paid for it so how can it bother me ? The bad guys are the best
T2: You were a good guy in one movie.
BJ: The Fifth Element.
T2: Also in 48 Hours
BJ: The first one I was but the second one I became the bad guy again. I also
do a lot of comedy and play good guys. I crossed over in a movie called The
Player as the studio head. After that I could play both. I'm big and a lot of
the stars are smaller so if you're big and mean looking, you play bad guys.
After Blade Runner, I was the meanest guy in Hollywood.
T2: Blade Runner what a great part. That has to be one of your career
BJ: Blade Runner helped make my career. Every body was in it. Who knew ? We
knew that it was special when we did it but now it's known all over the world.
T2: That scene at the beginning of the film, where Leon is being interogated
with what I call the fibulator going.
BJ: The void kempf test. I was in Hollywood for almost nine years and yet I
got to open that film which set the tone for the whole film. So you never
know what show is going to change your life. That scene made a lot of
difference in my life.
T2: How did you approach to play an android with a limited life span.
BJ: I got drunk a lot. (Laughter) Actually, the best thing about Sci-Fi which
is my favorite genre is that there are no rules for behavior. So you can do
anything you want. There are any replicants yet so anything I wanted to
invent that the director buys I can do. Ridley Scott was a director who is
probably one best visualist directors that we ever had. He was over stuffed
with ideas. He loved to try different things. He knew that film was cheap and
he also operated the camera once in a while. So we shot all the rehearsals,
we filmed everything. We spent three days in that opening scene. He's the
first director that I let come into my head and play because I trusted him
and he said do what you want try something else. One afternoon I was sitting
at this table for six hours with being able to get up because the lights were
set a certain way. They had a fly wrangler underneath the table. Ridley
thought it would be a good idea to have a fly crawling around me. The
wrangler had flies in a bowl of milk and sugar so they would be drugged out.
So they put a colorless sugar trail on my face. So I'm sitting there in the
scene and the guy underneath the table would take a Q tip and put the fly on
my face. They would start stumbling up, walking along and I can't pay
attention to them. So it took a couple of takes before I could keep my eyes
off them. The fly would get to a certain point and then fall off. They would
yell cut cut cut. Then they'd get another fly and star again. We did that for
about six hours one day. It was wild. We could do a television series of all
of the stuff that we shot in Blade Runner. Over eighty five hours of film. It
was an editing nightmare. It took him over a year to edit because he had so
much stuff. In those days, you couldn't do a three hour movie. It was unreal.
There are so many things that Leon did were in the final film because it
would have changed a lot of things. I am a purist and am very dissatisfied
with the studio added narration and taking outtakes from The Shining for the
ending was a horrible thing to do. But that what studios do in Hollywood. I
could talk about Blade Runner forever.
T2: It's one of my favorite films. I have always felt that it was one of the
top science fiction films. In your scene with Harrison Ford, that was very
BJ: Yeah..I took a lot of drugs for that. It was a night scene. We spent
three or four nights doing that scene. Since very early in my career, I have
always did my own stunt fighting. Gil Combs was Harrision Ford's stunt man
and we were getting ready to do the wide shot. Harrison say me in there and
said, you do everything yourself. And I said sure. When he realized that I
was going to do it, then he did it too. There's an interesting thing that
happens when your'e doing film. You get caught up in that moment because we
were not really sure how to end that fight. I somehow came up with the energy
and the adrenalin was going, so I threw Harrison on the car window and then
picked him up with one hand and then slammed him down. He weighed 135 pounds.
So I was supposed to pick him up then put him down and then slap him. We
didn't know how to end the scene so I said, look I've almost beaten this guy
to death so let me wake him up and tell him that I'm going to kill him.
Therefore the line came out of me, "Wake Up, Time To Die." They had this
patch on my forehead with monofilament which pulls off so you can see the
inside of my head when I got shot. The first time we did it, it didn't get
pulled at the right moment. It took an hour and half to redo the make up. We
did it four times until we used number eight gauge fishing wire hooked up to
me. It was invisible in film. So we finally got it but I had to tone down the
fall because Darryl Hannah had a more physical scene. It was a fun night.
T2: Any other film or television role that stands out for you ?
BJ: I have had so many wonderful experiences. I can tell you about a bad
experience in a movie called Flesh And Blood which was a Paul Verhoven film.
It was his last international film before he came to America to do Robocop.
It was with Rutger Hauer again. It was fifteen weeks of living Hell in
Spain.I had met Paul Verhoven in America and thought that he was a great guy.
And when I started doing the film, I realized I had signed on with a smiling
demon. This guy was out of his mind. He would kill you to get a shot. We all
had to do our own stunts like sword fight and drive these big wagons. The
film takes place in the fifteenth century during the plague. It was one of
the most graphic depictions of the fifteenth century on film. It was one of
those films where most of the actors wanted to quit because of the six to
eight week schedule with long hours. In Holland, where he grew up, they
treated actors like puppets. So I did 23 takes of everything. So imagine
picking up a sword at three o'clock in the morning and you had to do that
three times. He would get on you. It was a Dutch Crew mixed with Americans,
Australians, Spaniards and English men. Verhoven was such a control freak
that he punched out the producer in front of three hundred people. However,
I do love the film itself.
T2: You also were in Silverado.
BJ: It was a great western. We shot for five months in Santa Fe for three
seasons. We did a lot of waiting around. I was part of the wagon train part
of the story and it had to be cut down because there was so much movie there.
Larry Kasdan is a great director. It was a lot of fun. Westerns was why I got
into the business. I grew up on a small farm town in California and I ever
wanted to do was to play gangsters and cowboys in movies. My dad had a movie
theater so I was there every night. I went from New York to LA. I did one day
on one of the last Gunsmokes. That was like a dream. To be in the Long Branch
Saloon. I was the guy who picked a fight with Robert Urich. Then Westerns
went out then Cops and Robbers came in. I just finished The Magnificent
Seven. Tim Thomerson and I were on a few weeks ago.
T2: You mentioned Tim Thomerson. I understand you were in the Marines
BJ: The Army. We were cooks in the Army. We were in a tank company. We were
fortunate that we didn't have to go to Vietnam. We came to New York and
studied acting. Just a couple of kids that wanted to be in movies. Some how
we did it. It's our first time back in New York in about five years.
T2: You have worked with some incredible people in your career.
BJ: I worked with all of the big guys because I play a good villain And the
better villain, I am , the better they look. In Tango And Cash, We had a
Russian Director and I asked him if I could do a cockney accent for the
character because I do accents. Stallone and Russell picked up on that and it
worked. It helped me be in the whole film. Politically you learn how to lobby
once you get on a big show like that. I did fourteen weeks on the film and it
made a lot of money. It was the biggest pirated film in the history of
Russia. We did a lot of laughing on that show.
Brion later told us on stage after good friend, Tim Thomerson joined us,
being in movies was like most movie people, "a gypsy always moving around and
living out of a suitcase".
Eric Lopkin wrote a nice piece on his Media Connection site indicating that
Brion cared about actors who had addiction problems to drugs and alcohol
because of his own problems. He tried to help them through their nightmares
because he had survived his. I hope through this interview, the reader gets a
glimpse of the man that was Brion James. Even when he played the villain in
the film, it was almost comfortable to see him because you knew he would
always give a good performance. This convention had a lot of great memories
working with some fantastic people. Meeting Brion James was one of those
highlights. Thanks to Eric and Mindy Lopkin for use of this interview.
Thank you Brion, from one of your fans. - Tony Tellado