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One on One with Mr. Hauser

Cole Hauser is one of those low profile actors that’s been surfing around Hollywood for the past ten years, working with high profile directors like John Singleton, Richard Linklater, Gus Van Sant, and Stephen Fears. Hauser has been seen in small parts in such films as Dazed and Confused, School Ties, Good Will Hunting, Higher Learning, and The Hi-Lo Country. But in his newest role as Johns in the film Pitch Black, just released on DVD, Hauser shows that he can be a leading man just as well as a supporting player.

We recently spoke with Hauser about his involvement in the Pitch Black project, his relationship with his father (Wings Hauser, whom he did not meet until age 11), the purpose of his film career, and if Joel Schumacher still has the gumption to shoot a successful feature film. (Hauser also appears in Schumacher’s Tigerland, in theaters now.)

How did you get involved with the Pitch Black project? What type of things interested you in the role of Johns?

Initially when I got involved with the project it was pretty early. I talked to David Twohy about the role and then he screen tested me. So, I went in and screen tested for the role over a couple days. It wasn’t an easy process but I read with a bunch of different actresses and actors.

What really interested me most about the project was the hero-to-villain metamorphosis – the different colors the character plays. I think in the DVD you will see more of those colors than in the theatrical release because it wasn’t explained completely — regarding the relationship with Vin Diesel’s character Riddick. The DVD version better displayd the evolution of my character Johns from hero to villain. The character gave me the chance to play the heroic role by getting all of the people off of the planet… and then he turns evil by wanting to save his own self by killing a child.

What was the experience like working with David Twohy?

It was good. He’s a great director to work with. He supported pretty much everything I did and he gave me a lot of freedom to make the character the way I envisioned. He was a good supporter of the actors and their own personal intentions for their roles.

So he is more of an actor’s director than a technical director?

Definitely. He’s kind of a quiet guy when you first meet him and he’s kind of shy, though he gets his points across where he wants them to get across for the most part. He hired us and saw that talent within us actors and gave us the freedom to do our own thing. We (the actors) rehearsed a lot before we actually filmed so there was pretty much nothing to talk about during the actual shooting day.

He does fall under the role of an actor’s director but he’s also a technical director. He’s got a vision because he wrote the movie as well, and you could pick his mind to find out what his idea for a certain scene would be. It was a benefit to have the writer and director there during the filming.

What was the best experience you had making the film?

Learning to use all of those weapons and looking like a professional mercenary. It’s always fun to play someone like an action hero that you always wanted to play as a child. I think every young boy loves that as a kid. An additional positive experience I had was visiting Australia and exposing myself to that part of the world.

Did Vin Diesel and you partake in training exercises for all of your combat scenes?

Vin and I worked hard on all of our action scenes because we didn’t want them to look like any ordinary fight scene. The character of Riddick (Vin Diesel) is much stronger than my character Johns and is much faster — like a cat. We wanted to make it as real as we could so we tried some new things out. The last scene between the characters of Riddick and Johns is pretty extensive, using the training we received. All the action scenes in the film I performed on my own, without a stunt double.

Hauser broods in Pitch Black.

Where you satisfied with the final product of Pitch Black?

Yes I was very satisfied with the final product. It’s always a bit scary to see what ends up in the final cut because of all of the reactions you must have to the sounds and creatures around you when there is really nothing there. You are always a bit hesitant during the first screening because you want the looks, the special effects, and the sound effects to all look authentic.

Overall, the film is a solid sci-fi piece that wasn’t done for a lot of money but appears to be a big-budget production. We succeeded in our acting and in our shock value as well as the visual effects.

When I was over in Europe, the response was tremendous — better than the American audiences. The Germans, the Austrians, the Swiss, and the French just loved the movie. The entertainment factor of the film was very strongly recognized over there and the simple storyline provided a broad universal appeal for those audiences.

What were the main catalysts for your desire to be an actor?

Initially I got into the business to do drama. I never really thought I would be doing sci-fi films. It’s like that old Warner Bros quote ‘Educate, enlighten, and entertain.’ My belief is that if I can achieve that level of entertainment by making the audience happy or sad or angry, then I have succeeded as an actor and have done my job. The profits and the fame as an actor will eventually surface but first and foremost comes the work as an actor.

I grew up watching Marlon Brando, Christopher Walken, Robert de Niro, and Al Pacino and even Robert Duvall and was impressed by their caliber of work.

Tell me a little about your experience working with Robert Duvall on your latest film A Shot at Glory and lessons you took from him.

One of the main things I learned is that he comes to work prepared everyday and he still cares about what he is doing after 45 years of an acting career. He doesn’t take a day off at all and I respect that because leading actors in films owe it to the audience to give 110% of their efforts towards the production of the film.

When you were growing up, did your father Wings Hauser’s acting career propel you to take on the profession of an actor or was it an independent choice? I am aware that you didn’t meet your father until you were 11.

When I was growing up, I never really knew my father. I didn’t get know my father until I was about 14 years old. When I was talking to him as a young actor starting out, I singled out great performances of his and talked to him about the business and how he was able to reach those performances and it gave me confidence to take on more challenging roles. It was difficult though, when I was young, because growing up away from a father figure, you develop your own ways of taking care of yourself. When the father figure comes back into your life and tries to guide you and tell you what to do, it’s a little weird and hard to handle at times.

To be honest, I would like to have a completely different career than his. He portrayed pretty much the heavy characters — the tough guy, the bad guy. He did a great job in those roles but I enjoy playing the hero as much as playing the bad guy. The bad guy roles are much more intriguing to an actor because you get to play a whole bunch of different levels and be able to showcase your talent as an actor. Sometimes the lea
ds and the supporting characters are the most boring people in a film and the adversary is a challenge to successfully portray.

I haven’t spoken to him in a long time but I love him to death and hope he is having a good time wherever he is.

For your newest film, Tigerland, you worked under the direction of Joel Schumacher. I’ve never been a fan of his work at all and was interested in what you learned working with him and your general impression of him as a director.

It was great working with him. He’s a dear man and is very genuine and a good-hearted person. His directing career has produced good stuff and other stuff that in the eyes of the public and media has failed. With this movie, he casts some amazing young actors that will probably be on the forefront of the next wave of leading mean in the next five to ten years. He did a wonderful job of giving the actors the freedom to express themselves and their characters motivations. In my part as Sergeant Cota, he gave me as much freedom as I’ve ever had from a director. He even let me write a scene for the movie, which ended up making the final cut of the film. I haven’t one thing negative to say about Mr. Schumacher.

Hauser takes aim.

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