Interview: Dennis Quaid of Pandorum
Tue, 22 Sep 2009 08:55:55
We're all afraid of the dark.
However, dark isn't just the absence of light. Sometimes, it's the unknown. Sometimes, it's something in your head. Sometimes, it's losing yourself—and that's the scariest thing of all. When that light inside of you shuts off, what's left? That's where Pandorum lives.
This futuristic horror flick examines the psychological torment that two space travelers experience after emerging from a deep sleep with no recollection of who they are, surrounded by some unfriendly noises outside. What results is an unforgettable ride to Hell and back.
It was a ride that Dennis Quaid had a blast taking though. The actor reveled in the darkness, testing his character's limits in the face of true evil. Quaid spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about Pandorum, fear of the dark, true sci-fi and getting to try his hand at Bill Clinton…
Would you say there are two levels of terror in Pandorum—the fear of being alone and the fear of the unknown?
Yeah, I think that all of us are afraid of that [Laughs]. We're all afraid of the dark, and the movie does capture that.
Losing your own identity is scarier than anything.
That's what Pandorum is. In our story, "Pandorum" is a syndrome induced by prolonged space travel. When it happens to someone, they lose their grip on reality. The story starts like that. Ben Foster and I are two crewmen on a spaceship, and we wake up from hyper-sleep at the beginning. We've been asleep for years, because there was no one there to wake us up. One of the effects of hyper-sleep is you can't remember who you are. We don't know who we are or what we're doing on this ship. We can't get anyone on the radio, and we can't get out of the room. Once we do get out of the room, that's when all hell breaks loose. The interesting part is we find out who we are along with audience. We learn what's going on as the viewers do.
How do you put yourself into that mindset? Is it tough to play a character who doesn't know his own identity?
Not really. You start out with a blank slate. It's an interesting person to play because as he starts to remember things, he thinks he knows who he is. But then, who he is, is not really who he thinks he is [Laughs].
What initially resonated with you about Payton when you first the script?
Well, it was really the entire script—the story as a whole—that grabbed my attention. That's how I choose scripts. The only time I have to be an audience member is when I read a script. It's the first time experience of that. Pandorum was a page-turner for me, and I couldn't put it down. I thought it was very unique and original, and I wanted to be part of it. It's a movie that I'd like to go see.
Was there something exhilarating about being on that set?
It was pretty cool! I attribute that to Christian Alvart [Director]. He was so detailed in his story, the way he wanted to tell it and the whole look of the movie and the spaceship. It was very fantastic, but at the same time it was very utilitarian. It asks the question, "If we were to go into long space travel, what would we need?" It was very well thought out.
Does that element of reality help you get into the character even in this sci-fi/fantasy world?
Yeah, it really did. I grew up with The Tingler for horror [Laughs]—those great old horror movies of the '50s. True sci-fi, for me, really started with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Pandorum is sci-fi, but it's also a psychological thriller with some aspects of horror in it.
The film also has that larger message of self-exploration and identity preservation. That'll make people come back.
Definitely! Are we who we think we are?
That's a question everyone can relate to—regardless of whether they're stuck on a spaceship or not.
We've all had mornings like that [Laughs].
Were you listening to any particular music while you were making Pandorum?
No, not really. I am musical though. I think rhythm has a lot to do with movies and dialogue, but I don't consciously try to find it there. It always comes through.
Did the set ever creep you out?
No, I don't really get freaked out too much [Laughs]. I did see the movie a couple of months ago, and when I saw it I thought it was really elevated from the script. It's a great script, and it's fantastic to watch—great ride!
Were you thinking about this world a lot after you did the movie?
I drop everything when I go home [Laughs]. I did G.I. JOE in March and April. Then I did Legion in June and July. Then I did Pandorum in late August, September and October. It's nice to do different projects.
Do they all make you access different skill sets?
I like to do as many different types of things as possible. That's what keeps it interesting for me because I personally like to go to all different kinds of movies. I don't like to limit myself. After Pandorum, I just finished playing Bill Clinton in a film, so it's been a pretty diverse year.
From being lost in space to Bill Clinton…
Well, he's lost in space sometimes too [Laughs].