|Stargate Information Archive's Linz and Abbey were lucky enough to chat with Stargate Atlantis actor David Hewlett about wrapping up Stargate Atlantis (as well as SG-1!) for the season and his new and upcoming movie A Dog's Breakfast in which he talks about his directorial debut and all that comes with it, the distribution process and how fun it is to watch co-star Paul McGillion get hit over the head multiple times.
This interview was conducted on October 6, 2006. This is part one of two. Part two is here.
Update: The audio recording of this part is now available. (QuickTime required.)
After greeting David Hewlett, Abbey (moderator Kuwdora) and myself (Linz) got into the questions.
Linz: Is there anything about season 3 of Stargate Atlantis that we haven't seen yet, in the second half, that you can tell us.
David Hewlett: *laughs* Everyone wants to know what's going on in season 3 for some reason. It's really bizarre, nobody wants to watch the show, they want me to explain it instead. Things that I can say? Well what episode are you up to now?
Abbey: "The Return Part One"
DH: Well I can tell you that there is a "Return Part Two" *laughs* I think everyone will be thrilled to hear that there will be a part two. I don't know what I'm allowed to tell. What do you want to know?
Linz & Abbey: Well, there are terrible rumors about Dr. Beckett going around. In fact there is a savecarsonbeckett.com already.
DH: I actually saw that. That is of course one of the things I'm not allowed to talk about. I think that there are a few rumors going on right now and that you guys are going to be very very surprised when you get the truth.
L: Good surprise or bad surprise?
DH: That is up to the fans. I think everyone will be very very surprised with how everything works out.
L: Since we heard season 4 (of Atlantis) was renewed, you are signed on for that, right?
DH: No. I am dead. McKay is going to die in the last episode and will not be in season 4.
*silence* from Linz and Abbey
DH: *laughter* I thought I'd start a rumor myself. Start the rumor that Dr. McKay will not be in season 4.
L: Now you know after this interview goes online, that there will be a saverodneymckay.com site.
A: Fans are pretty quick like that.
A: If Rodney dies, that mean it would free you up to do other stuff, right?
DH: Well, then I would probably go over to Doctor Who. That seems to be most of the peoples suggestions on what I should be doing with my off time
L: Are you looking forward to series three? (of Doctor Who)
DH: Oh, you mean there are other shows on television?
L: Well you did mention it, so you must watch it.
DH: I have been watching it. We (Jane and I) have been watching it. We haven't seen Tennant yet. I'm very very jealous of David Tennant (who currently plays the Doctor) I must say.
L: So if you could play a doctor, what would you have his outfit be?
DH: I'd probably ripoff Tom Baker (the fourth doctor) with the scarf. No, you know what? I'd like to go back to the old Jon Pertwee days (the third doctor) with his nice velvet jacket and ruffled shirt. He could be like a 1980's new romantic doctor. I would look like something out of Duran Duran. I'd be like the Simon Le Bon of the Doctors. No wait, probably more like Nick Rhodes. No. John Taylor was the cool guy of the time.
L: I haven't seen many pictures of Duran Duran.
DH: Oh, Duran Duran was long before you were around I'm sure (*Linz note* not completely true!)
A: Hey, Duran Duran is some good stuff. (*Linz note* she's younger than I am!)
L: It's good stuff. I just haven't seen many pictures. Not sure I want to.
DH: We have family shots growing up that look like album covers. I have three younger sisters, two step --- so five younger sisters and I think at the time during the 80's I probably wore more makeup than all of them put together. The 80's were not kind.
L: Speaking of your sister, how was it working with her on Stargate Atlantis? (His real life sister Kate, played his sister in "McKay and Mrs. Miller")
DH: It was great. It was amazing. I had just cast her in a movie and then had to work with her, the bloody woman, for three weeks with her staying in the basement. So by choice, I work with her. The fact that she actually gets paid and brought out and actually treated like an actor as opposed to just a little sister who is really annoying, is probably like a breath of fresh air for her. I loved it. It was amazing, if you want to start evil rumors, we may be seeing some more of her.
L: That's great. The fan reaction to "McKay and Mrs. Miller", well I think that was one of the best episodes of the season.
A: A fan favorite for sure.
DH: That was a great show. To me that was like, whenever you get the two Martins on an episode, Martin Wood and Martin Gero and you throw in Amanda Tapping and in this case my sister as well and you've got a hit. That's like a triple threat. You cannot possibly lose on an episode like that. "McKay and Mrs. Miller", its funny because the most people have talked to me about that episode of anything, its the one that people bring up most.
L: Yeah, we've all been reading Kate's blog as well that she's been writing in frequently, it's great. I think everybody loves that. If she wrote a part for you in one her stage plays, would you do it?
DH: Not a chance in hell.
L & A: *laugh*
L: So you aren't a stage actor, huh?
DH: I used to do stage. I stopped doing stage because I found it so incredibly nerve racking. I was so nervous I was throwing up before I went on stage every single night. The beautiful thing about acting on film and television is that you can get it right. You can go, "Rewind that." When you're on the stage you're like, "Oh! Let's just stop the play, let's redo that part I just did." and you can't do that really so, I think in stage there is an incredible amount of talent and technique involved. The other problem I have is that I'm like some kind of little MTV freak. I don't have the attention span for plays anymore. The process of having to rehearse and go over and over things and then have to do the play over and over again. I love the immediacy of film and television. You get to sort of do the scene and just capture it and that to me is the beauty of it. Its like a moment captured that you'll never ever get again. There it is and that's it and then you have a choice of which one to choose.
L: Which is the one you look best in I'm sure.
DH: Exactly. That was the biggest eye-opening thing in directing for the first time this year doing the film was the editing process where you get in there and you go, "Wow! I can totally change this. I can make Paul (McGillion) look so bad."
DH: Just by choosing all the wrong bits of a take and stuff. It's just amazing how you can create storylines and change everything just by what you choose to show and not show. Take out all of the great parts of a performance and you have a very mediocre performance but you throw in those moments of brilliance and all of a sudden it just changes everything.
L: So about A Dog's Breakfast...
DH: ... but Kate sucks cause I've cut out all of her good scenes.
L: Oh no! Well if I do an interview with her, I'll have to let her know. See what she has to say.
DH: She probably knows it already. *laugh* I think I was one of the first postings on her blog where I said, "Why would anyone want to hear about you and your stupid cat?" *laughs*
L: Aw, I like hearing about her giant cat!
DH: I think I was anonymous but I was heckling her from the web and thousands of miles away. You like hearing about her cat?
L: I think her cat has some definite character. Her cat could be a comic strip.
DH: She can't even keep a cat. I mean the last cat gets knocked off and gets replaced in like a week by some large fat animal.
L: So speaking of directing the movie and the eye-opening experience, you're going to be working on the distribution now?
DH: Yeah, we've got a bunch of different ideas for that now. We're going down to la-la land (Los Angeles) next week I think it is. Yeah, end of next week we're going to LA and talk to some people there about doing the sort of official distribution route. Seeing what the traditional distribution companies have to offer. We have a few people we want to talk to there. But I am, despite the fact that everyone keeps telling me I'm crazy, very eager to see what it would be like to do self-distribution.
L: That would be a really interesting route to see the movie go. I think just the core Stargate fans could help get it out into the mainstream.
DH: Exactly. And to me the whole beauty of the internet is it gets rid of the middleman. And right now, distribution deals for emerging filmmakers, I love the term emerging filmmakers, like they've been hiding for a long time. And they get their first film out there and all of a sudden, its every single first film seems to be like a lost leader for anyone's career. Like the film can go and do very well but its very rare that the actual filmmaker makes any actual money off it. And again, I'm not, and I understand that because this is our first film and has nothing to do with making money. But I wanted to try directing and writing and I wanted to work with my sister and Paul and Jane and so it was all about that. But the reality is we have a whole crew there who deferred all their wages. Deferrals usually mean you don't see the money. Most people, and I've done this for like 20 years or something, and everything I've ever deferred, I've never made a penny on. And you know that going in and you just assume that its not going to happen. I very much want to be one of those films that's an exception to that rule. The crew worked like dogs the entire time. Pardon the pun. I don't know if you've ever been to Vancouver but when it's cold and wet, its really quite miserable in January, it's not as bad as Toronto, so for me it was like I was on vacation but not for people who live here. You're in two feet of mud, you've got some crazy actor moron running around pretending to direct a movie and they were fantastic. They worked 12 hour days. I was very strict about keeping it at 12 hours -- well Jane was very strict. Jane was strict and I just sort of nodded when I got told.
L: So Jane was really the "man behind the... man"?
D: Yes, Jane pretty well runs everything, I don't know if you noticed that or not. *laughs* I sort of wander around with a lost look on my face. She was in charge of getting everything up and running. And then she brought John Lenic on, who works on SG-1 (Producer) and so we had a lot of the SG-1 crew come on and they were just amazing. So to me, if you get into a distribution deal where you are giving away a large chunk of the first money in, its money going to a distribution company and not to the guys who made the movie. So I'm just very eager to change that. Cause I think that's wrong. I don't think you need the same kind of distribution channels that have existed up until now. Up until now you couldn't print your own DVDs, you couldn't broadcast, there was no YouTube. There was no Google video or any of that.
L: Yeah, I think the (A Dog's Breakfast) clip you posted got like 40,000 hits or something?
DH: it's getting up there. I think the last time I looked, it was in the high 30s.
L: Yeah, everybody linked that around the internet. You saw it everywhere for about a week straight with everyone saying, "Go look at this!"
DH: Here's a little known fact, here ya go, here's a spoiler for you: Everyone go back, watch it again and listen to the voice of the computer and you may recognize that voice now having spoken to Jane. You know how in the background, there's the doors closing and all that stuff, that's actually poor Jane, in a sound studio, being told to sound like a computer. Because for some reason, and I don't know where this truth came from, it might have been me who said it, somebody said, "Well all computers are British." so for some reason Jane is the British voice of the computer.
L: Well that's cool, she gets to have her little cameo voiceover.
DH: She has the best voice. Often when Jane's talking, I just close my eyes and listen to the sounds. I don't know what she's saying exactly, its more just the sound of that British accent.
L: *laugh* Uh oh, I hope she's not listening.
DH: Yeah, she's wielding cutlery right now.
L & A: *laughing*
DH: So yeah, the distribution thing, I would love --- you know what an ideal situation would be a combination of the two. Perhaps some of the international distribution looked after by a distribution company and we would look after maybe North America and England.
L: Right, and then it would probably be incredibly rewarding to be able to pay back the crew and cast and everything else.
DH: Yeah, there are just people that I would love to see get checks.
L: That seems very cool.
DH: Well, and I don't mean sound so altruistic, it's just I want to work with them again, I want to use these people until they drop dead and the only way to do that is if I can send them money once in a while.
L: Yes, because money does make the world go round and all.
A: It helps.
DH: It makes it a lot easier for crews to show up in the morning. That and a good breakfast, which luckily Jane was very smart and focused and a lot of our money went to feeding the crew. And it's amazing how pliable and how they can be twisted to your will when they've had a good meal. Jane got onto that pretty quickly, I think possibly cause it works on me.
A: Ah, well use the strategies you know.
DH: Indeed. So she supplied it (breakfast) on a crew like level and there you go, we've got a movie.
L: What were the hardest things about directing?
DH: The bloody actors!
L & A: *laughter*
DH: I'm being completely serious here, the hardest thing I've found in directing was the actors, because you draw these little things--- I drew all these little terrible drawings, stick figures, I have completely no artistic skill in that regard. So I drew these intelligible little drawings of what I wanted to happen, these storyboards, of what I wanted each shot to do, not each shot but in each scene I had a few different ideas that I wanted to make sure were in there and then some of it you just sort of have to wing it as you get in there because you don't know where or how things are going to work out. And the problem is actors don't bend the same way little drawings do. I did my utmost in this film to sort of twist and fall and smack people in the heads and do all these sorts of things that I thought were so funny in my head when I was drawing them. And people just don't move like that. That was the hardest thing for me, so I mean the big joke was that I probably should have just gotten puppets or animated --- bendy animals would have been good.
A: I'm pretty sure people would have come and seen it if you used puppets.
DH: Who knows? Maybe there's a whole market for that, maybe we're on to something. Well are you going to want a percentage of that?
L & A: *laughter*
A: I won't tell if you won't.
DH: It was funny and luckily I had a great bunch of actors obviously. Like we sat down and we did a whole read through, we taped this read through which should be quite funny. Maybe we'll include that on the DVD or something, watch people sit down and read. Kate wasn't there, she couldn't be there, so we had a friend read instead but it just kind of funny to see everyone laugh at the bits and then sort of go "Ooo that didn't work," to some other ones. We had this huge nice read through and then we all went through scenes and talked about stuff and Kate wanted to change everything.
L: *jokingly* Well she is one of the leads, she's got to have her demands, and they have to be me.
DH: She had a whole bunch. And what's so irritating about it is that they were very funny. The things she added, added laughs and I find myself going like "Oh but what about the other parts? They're funny too". So she's got a very good sense about that kind of stuff and of course Paulie (Paul McGillion), poor Paulie, he goes from working with me on (Stargate) Atlantis to suddenly being sort of moved around the set. Like I made him do this scene where he gets hit in the head. We made him do it like... 25 takes and BamBam (stunt coordinator James Bamford) tried hitting him and then I tried hitting him and the poor guy just had to keep getting smacked in the face and then falling backwards. And then i kept going like, "No, you didn't bend right. I want to see your feet." So it was that kind of stuff, poor Paul was incredibly patient and understanding in that regard. Then Chris Judge who, well I know the guy, I've not really worked with him that much on Stargate (SG-1) cause every time I show up, he's stuck in the gate or something. In fact there were rumors for a long time that Chris Judge and I are in fact the same person because we're never seen on film together.
L: *sarcastically* Oh. You guys look just alike.
DH: Yeah, we're very similar. I have the same kind of physical prowess as him. Just not quite as dark a tan. He was kind enough to come in and do the movie but I was a little nervous because he's an impressive guy, he's got a very big personality and then the crew said like "Well, he'll come in and need at least half an hour to say hello to the crew," and I'm like "Oh my god, we don't have half an hour," so we call him in early and he comes in and he's just this amazing presence that I've never--- we wanted somebody who was going to sort of stand out, who was going be like, this door opens and there's this guy. And Chris Judge just leapt to mind. But then you have to direct him. And you're like "Um... would you mind if uhh...?" He was just so--- well i didn't even have to direct him that much cause he pretty much hit it right off the bat. And him and Kate got along way too well. So I'm like, "Stop hitting on my sister. Stop flirting." It was quite amusing.
L: What is his (Chris Judge) part in the movie?
DH: This is the other thing that made me laugh. I wrote this part for a loser who can't get a date. The idea of Chris Judge playing a loser who can't get a date I found very funny. I mean I shouldn't say loser because he actually ends up being much cooler than certainly my character is, but he is just this guy who keeps getting stood up on dates. He's just very funny cause who the hell would stand Chris up on a date?
L: Probably no one. I sure can't think of anyone.
DH: So it was just kind of fun and we had Amanda Byrum, who is a friend of Jane's and who is just ridiculously good looking.
L& A: *laugh*
DH: And ridiculously cool as well. So yeah, I think that was like one of her first films, so that was interesting too. In fact it was her first film, so there ya go. I think I've added a couple of links to the adogsbreakfastmovie.com website with some photos and interviews of her cause she doesn't get talked about much cause she's not in the Stargate world... yet.
L: *laughs* Yet.
DH: Well who knows? Eventually my goal is to hire my entire family and friends, somehow get them dragged on.
A: it's always who you know...
DH: Yeah, I guess in a way. You know what it is? It's who you work with and if you know they work well, you want to work with them again. And by not being too incredibly annoying to work with, I think that's how I've managed to work for a while.
L: I really want to see this movie.
A: All the fans do.
L: Talking about getting it in our cities. People are running out to theaters and talking to try to get it in a theatre.
DH: I mean I'm really not trying to lead people on, we just have to get the numbers together, so we can go and talk to people and say, "Look. Here's the deal. We're going to need your theatre for one night or two nights or a night and/or afternoon so we can do some Q&A's." I don't go to the movie theaters a lot unless it's an event, so to me the appeal of doing a kind of book tour with it would suit my sensibility. The idea of being able to go and talk about the movie and explain things and talk to people who want to make movies and talk to people who want to act as well as the Stargate stuff. Not just the Stargate stuff but sometimes it makes it more of an event out of the movie. Otherwise, just rent the DVD.
L: They did that with a science fiction show Firefly and when they came out with the movie Serenity they did pre-screenings with Q&As and made it a big event to get it a lot of press for a bigger weekend.
DH: So imagine our film with one-millionth the budget and that's where we are. Although we did shoot in HD too!
L: HD is very nice. Very pretty.
DH: *laughs* It is surprisingly pretty. I didn't think a movie that I'd be in would be that pretty. And I'm amazed that given the short amount of time we had what a great job everyone did. Like Jim Menard, who's one of the cinematographers on SG-1, in fact I worked with him yesterday. We had the last day of SG-1 yesterday, the last day of shooting. And as it turns out, we had to catch up on a scene from a previous SG-1 that we started shooting and the only day they could schedule me in because the only day I was available was after I wrapped on Atlantis. So I wrapped Atlantis, everyone's all sad, well mainly just drunk and then everyone's like, "Hey, come on and have a drink David!" and I'm like, "Some of us have to work." So I wandered across the lot and went and saw SG-1 and its the last day of shooting and then there's Jim and half the crew I worked with on A Dog's Breakfast.
L: But then after that, you get to go and have a drink.
DH: We had a little mini Atlantis cast party. It was just some of the cast. Jason had overdone it the night before so he wasn't available. Joe was I think, heading to the airport while he shot his last scene.
(Jane is laughing the background)
L & A: *laughing*
DH: And so it was me, Paul, Torri and Rach. And oh, Jim was there too. Ok, so what else you got for me?