WORLD WAR Z's James Badge Dale Interview: Man of a Thousand Faces


This summer alone, actor James Badge Dale steals Iron Man’s suit in the biggest movie of the year, battles zombies in World War Z and rides into the sunset with The Lone Ranger, but don’t be surprised if you don’t realize it’s the same actor.  CineMovie talked to the chameleon to discuss his three tent pole films and the behind the scenes action on the sets.

You may recognize the name, but don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize the face. James Badge Dale’s many looks this summer include going bald as Mandarin’s henchman in Iron Man 3, to full macho with a bushy beard as a commando in Brad Pitt’s World War Z and then shaving part of that facial hair to form the handlebar moustache for Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger.

The New York City native first came to notice with roles in The Pacific, Rubicon and shooting Leonardo DiCaprio dead in Martin Scorsese' The Departed. Now the character actor make take the world record for appearing in the most summer blockbusters this year.

CineMovie spoke with James Badge Dale by phone in our one-on-one interview.

James-Badge-Dale-World-War-Z-premiereCM:  Well, congratulations.  You’re having a great summer this year.

JBD: Thank you. Yeah.  It’s been a fun summer so far.

CM: Three big movies. Now starting with World War Z, what was the experience like on-set? How many days did you shoot?

JBD: I would say it was about a month.  I was in the London leg of it and it was about a month of shooting.  We did all the interiors in about a week, as far as the scene work goes, and then we did about three weeks of stunt work.

CM: Was that outside for the fighting zombies scenes?

JBD: Outside, at night, in the rain.

CM: Oh, gosh.

JBD: I love stuff like that.  I had such a great time.  I like getting dirty.  And, and the ironic thing is London is fairly rainy as it is, but you can’t shoot in the real rain because it messes with the lights.  So, we have all these rain towers and it would start raining naturally and we would have to shut down and wait for it to stop raining so we could turn on our own rain.

CM: That’s hilarious.

JBD: Yeah.  You’re just never dry.  But, it was a great time.

CM: Were they all-night shoots?

JBD: When we were doing exteriors, yes.

CM: I’ve always wondered how hard is that to stay awake the whole night.  Or is it easy because you have all the lights and commotion going on?

JBD: It is a scientific experiment in caffeination.  I have routines.  I can have a cup of coffee and that’ll kind of get me through to lunch, which will be about midnight, one in the morning.  Then you kind of, go for another coffee.  If you have too much you’ll crash and you’ll start to feel weird.  So, it’s just balancing, a balancing act.

CM: So, no sleeping in the days because you’re hyped…

JBD: I mean there’s nothing worse; you get off work at seven a.m. and you go back to the hotel and as you’re eating dinner everyone is going to work.  Then you can’t get to sleep.  Um, it’s a terrible feeling.  But, you have to do it.  You do it.  Blackout shades become your best friend.

CM: So, Brad Pitt was a producer as well as being your co-star.  Did you see him in the producer role or was he strictly focused on being the actor?

JBD: He was focused on being the actor, but he cares about the story.  He cares about the overall.  And most lead actors do that also in my experience.  He went to work.  He was just very humble and funny guy to work with.


CM: I read that he did this movie for his two boys because they are a fan of zombies.  Were they ever on set?

JBD: If they were I never met them, so…

CM: And then working with Mark, the director, what was it like working with him?

JBD: Mark’s great.   Mark is a great guy.  I’ve been a fan of his for years so it was a real pleasure to get to work with him, and he’s very much an actor’s director.  He likes the scene work and stuff.  So, I think, having Mark Forster around five hundred zombies, he would kind of turn to me.  I’d say, “Hey Mark, how you doing?”  He’d just look at me like … “this is unreal.”  We were in new territory.  All of us were.

CM: Zombies and rain.  Sounds like fun.

JBD: Zombies and rain, I love it, on a Friday night.

CM: Now what kind of zombie training did you have, or I guess it would be more military?

JBD: Yeah, zombie training.  What is zombie training?

CM: What kind of training did go through for the role?  I mean, you’re a military person but you have to kill these walking dead, basically.

JBD: Right.  Right.  You know, our military advisor Freddy Joe Farnsworth was actually a military advisor with us on "The Pacific" also.  So, we knew each other.  They did a boot camp for World War Z.  Freddy Joe got me a get of jail free card.  He said , “This kid has been through more boot camp than anyone should go through.  I think he’ll be okay.” I shy away from military roles but this is one I just had to do. I’m a fan of the zombie genre.  You know.  I wish there was some sort of zombie boot camp I could have gone through.  I’m a big fan of the genre.  And so, it was… you know, opportunities like this come up once in a lifetime.  You gotta jump on them.

CM: So you wouldn’t pass up a role where perhaps you have play a zombie?  Then you can go to zombie boot camp.

JBD: Right.  Right.  Zombie.  Zombie boot camp… does that mean you have to be in make-up the entire boot camp?

CM: I think so.  Unless you’re in "Warm Bodies," Part two. [ laughs] I don’t know if you saw that movie.

JBD: I didn’t.  I know what you’re talking about though.  That’s when the zombie, the kid, falls in love.

CM: Yeah.  And they start transforming back into human once they figure how to.

JBD: Yes.  That sounds like my love life.

CM: It’s a cute film. [ laughs]

JBD: You know, I need a boot camp for that also.

CM: Now as far as your three big tent pole movies, which one was the hardest to shoot and which one was the easiest?

JBD: Oh, that’s really hard to answer.

CM: Yeah.

JBD: There’s a different set of problems on every film and every day you’re battling new obstacles. I mean, keeping your wits about you at five in the morning , driving an eighteen-ton truck around stunt guys dressed as zombies.  That was, that’s difficult, that’s hard, you know, because I mean, people are really trusting you and people can get hurt. And in the Lone Ranger, you’re out there, and there are dust storms and you are on top of horses and moving trains. And then on Iron Man, the biggest obstacle is working with green screen.  It’s working with things that are going to placed there later.  You know, everything is different but I love the challenges.  You know all three of these films have provided really wonderful obstacles to go to work, and try to overcome every day.

CM: So, maybe this is an easier question. Out of all the actors you’ve worked with who is the most fun on the set?

JBD: [ laughs]  They’re all fun.

CM: They’re all fun.

JBD: Everyone’s fun.  I wish I had, you know nobody has that story, you know, let me tell you who’s not fun.  Hey, I’m the guy who is not fun.  Everyone else is fun and I’m just really not fun to work with.  I will say Brad, Brad has a very surprising, quick wit.  He is a funny guy and when he opens up to ya, it’s… I just about fell over a few times at three in the morning.

CM: That’s good.  Laughter keeps you up.  And as far going from film to film, you’re a chameleon. Do you like changing up your look for each film?  I mean, you’re almost unrecognizable sometimes.

JBD: I do.  I do.  I enjoy it.  I actually have someone who I work with business-wise who doesn’t enjoy it so much.  [ laughs]  He said, “You’re in this huge movie and you grew a beard, who does that?, I can’t see your face,” but I enjoy it.  I love my work and I try to do what’s right for the story and for the character and if that requires changing, change.

CM: Now does that help as far as your public persona?  People don’t recognize you because you’re so different in every film.  Do people, do fans recognize you or do they kind of look at you thinking, “I know this guy.”?

JBD: [ laughs] I know that… “didn’t we go to high school together?”  I’m lucky. I get away with walking down the street.  You know, I still live in New York.  When people see me, they recognize me occasionally because they just know me from the neighborhood.

I was on a plane once, and I’m sitting up there.  Actually I think it was during "The Lone Ranger" so I had this huge moustache, man.  And I’m on the plane and there’s a guy next to me, and I’m talking to the stewardess, and there’s a movie playing and they asked me what I did for a living.  I told them I’m an actor.  And they went, “Uh huh, yeah right, what have we seen you in?” I mean,  I couldn’t have looked dirtier.  And the movie playing was actually the movie "Conspirator," the Robert Redford movie that I was in.  And I said, and it is just happy coincidence because there’s nothing worse than listing your resume to people.  I said, ”Well, I’m in this, that’s me right there.” And they looked at screen, and they looked at me and then they looked at the screen and they turned to me and they said, “That’s not you.”


CM: [ laughs]

JBD: And they were mad.  They looked at me as if I was a liar.  I’m lying to them.  Look, sometimes you can’t win.  But, being able to walk down the street and go to a restaurant and feel like you have a normal life and privacy is.. is very important to me and it’s a beautiful thing when you have it.

CM: Your next film is Parkland and it deals again with the JFK assassination.  Why do you think people are so obsessed with that, with that event?

JBD: It’s an event that touched all of us in a way that we hadn’t… it’s almost the end of innocence to have some assassinated publically.  We all saw it.  Everyone remembers where they were.

CM: Yes.

JBD: And everyone had an opinion of that man.  That man was… truth be told he was very polarizing.  People either loved him or they hated him.  But he really brought out a lot of emotion in a lot of people.  You know, the people in this country… it changed us.  It changed our psyche.  I think.  And that is what the movie is about.  Our movie isn’t a conspiracy theory movie.  Our movies doesn’t deal with the aftermath.  It deals with the forty-eight hours when it happened.  It spans from when he was shot to when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot.  It’s more of a story about the human interactions around those circumstances.

CM: And who do you play in the movie?

JBD: I play Robert Oswald, Lee Harvey’s older brother.

CM: Interesting.

JBD:  The film follows probably about four different groups of people. I read the script, and they said, “Take a look at it, see what you like.” And one of the groups of people was Robert Oswald and their mother, Marguerite Oswald.  And I loved it.  I loved the writing.  I loved the character.  I loved the dynamic.  And Jackie Weaver had signed on to play Marguerite Oswald and I really wanted to work with Jackie.

And I was on the phone with the director Peter Landesman.  And I just said, he was bringing up other roles and I said, “It’s Robert.  It’s Robert Oswald.  Let me do it.  Let me do it.  I.. I... I’ll do you right man.  I’ll do your movie right.  I get what he is and what he represents in the story as a whole.”   And it’s a great cast and I love that film.  And I hope we did something special.  I hope we honored that material.

CM: I can’t wait to see it. You’ve obviously done tv.  With 24 returning and you did "Rubicon," would you ever consider coming back to a series or do you like movies more?

JBD: Yeah.  What I like about film is that stories end.  It’s very nice playing characters that have an end and a story where you drive towards the end.  But I’m open to… I love good material.  I’ve been really blessed that I’ve done… the television I’ve done was very good. From 24 to, you know, the "The Pacific" and "Rubicon." If it’s the right job, it’s the right project, it’s the right story, it’s the right role, doesn’t matter what the medium is.











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