Paul Reiser Q&A  


JamesCameronOnline had a great pleasure in conducting a Q&A with Paul Reiser about his role in Aliens as Carter Burke. We spoke about the character , on-the-set stories and the overall experience of working with James Cameron. Paul Reiser is an American comedian, actor, television personality and writer, author and musician. He is most widely known for his role in the 1990s TV sitcom Mad About You, and starred in such hits as Beverly Hills Cop I & II and The Marrying Man.  Visit / for all the latest from Paul

JAMESCAMERONONLINE: How did you get involved with Aliens?
PAUL REISER: Through the most conventional way - an agent submitted my name and I guess Jim Cameron was interested. I remember there was a loooong wait between auditioning and being told I got the part. Like 4 months. because they had to satisfy British actor union requirements and prove that they had looked at " every single actor in the UK but could not find a suitable talent" and just HAD to go with the American kid. I know they were looking to go against type - so to play a guy that turns out to be a corporate bad guy, I think they were looking for someone who people wouldn't immediately suspect. And to whatever extent I was known, it was as a comic, so I think the thinking was the audience would not be automatically ascribing ulterior motives to my character . ( But to be honest with you, I think they did anyway.)

JCO: Were you a fan of the original Alien and science fiction in general?
PR: I loved the first Alien but no, I've never been a particularly big fan of sci -fi. I never really understood it. It always felt - excuse the pun - kind of alien to me. I never understood stuff that was out of space or altered universe or anything too far from reality. I needed things to take place on Earth, and involve things I knew actually happen in real life. Or at least things I would want to have happen. I was the only kid who never watched a single episode of Star trek or a Star war film. Go figure.

JCO: There have been a lot of stories about animosity of the British crew towards Jim Cameron and Gale Hurd, do you recall any heated moments on the set?
PR: No, not animosity. I do recall that the British crew seemed to be a bit more "traditional" - whatever that means. Polite? reserved? Different pace? They were terrific but I think that to them, a 30 year old American wunderkind like Jim who knows exactly what he wants - and how to get it - might have been initially off-putting. But I think everyone involved knew that this was a great film in the making, and that Jim had all the chops and credentials to back up his very ambitious plan.

JCO: Burke wanted to quietly snatch up the profit and rights to the
alien life form from the beginning, sending Jorden family to investigate the possible location of an alien derelict ship, but later on he was even willing to sacrifice lives. From a character standpoint, do you think Burke was a bad guy from the get go, or was he “seduced by the dark side” during their stay on LV 426 when he saw the financial potential of bringing the organism back?
PR: I always say that Burke wasn't bad - just "misunderstood". But, yeah, I think the character was drawn from more than enough precedents in the real world. People who are not demonic or evil, but have a flexible moral compass. And when you get separated from your reality and your safety net - as everyone on board was - it can be easier to lose your way. I never thought he set out with murder on his mind, or even
intent to harm" . But you can totally see how a low-level management guy like him gets blinded by the mission, the corporate agenda - and in the process, start making some horrendous decisions. Or, as he said, "It was a bad call, Ripley. A bad call."

JCO: Would you say the stories about James Cameron’s temper are true?
PR:I never saw anything like that. All I saw was perhaps the hardest-working man in show business. He knew every angle of that script and the production, and knew how to do almost everyone's job. ( well, maybe not act.. ) but he is so exacting and so tireless in the pursuit of what he wants... I mean, think about it. Here's a guy who not only deferred his own salary and profit points so he could put the money into the production, but also someone who invents technology when he needs to. The cameras he needs don't exist? He invents them. The underwater shooting systems he needs don't exist? He invents them. I mean, it's a staggering brain he's got, a staggering imagination, combined with this unrelenting work ethic. So, if on occasion he missed a few "pleases" and "thank yous", it's pretty understandable. And forgivable. I don't see anybody today saying " Yeah, that mozart was good, but you know.. he sure could be cranky!"

JCO: How do you look back on the experience of working on Aliens, what were the highlights for you?
PR: Well for me it was a thrill from the minute I got the script to read. I had never read anything like it. I don't just mean the subject, but the style of Jim Cameron's writing. The script itself was written so concisely and paced so quickly - with shorthand descriptions of machines, actions, sounds, ... you could actually see the movie just from reading the script. It was the first time I ever got out of breath reading. There were some sequences so intense - just to read! - that I had to put the script down and go outside for a minute. So I know from the get-go that this was going to be a great movie. And I had never been involved with a film of that scope before. So just to show up in England and see all the sound stages where work was going on, the sets, the " creatures", the miniatures... it was breathtaking.
And it was such a great group of actors. I remember feeling a little left out when the troops were doing their 2 week "boot camp". Burke didn't get to play. They all had their cool guns and gear and I had a little black notebook. Not quite the same thing. But every day was an adventure. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

JCO: Have you been asked to participate in 2003’s Alien Quadrilogy set documentaries?
PR: Not that I remember, but that doesn't mean anything - I forget a lot.

JCO:  Any upcoming projects you want to share?
PR: I did a recurring role on a new Fx show called "Married" which premieres in July - which was a lot of fun - with a great cast - Jenny Slate, Nat Faxon Judy Greere
Just did a fun movie called " 6 Miranda Drive" with my friend Kevin Bacon - which was a lot of fun - hadn't worked with him since diner over 30 years ago.

And 2 movies I did last summer are coming out soon - "Life After Beth" a great romantic/comedy/zombie/drama ( or rom/com/zom/dram as we like to call it) with Aubrey Plaza Dane DeHaan and John C. Reilly comes out in August, and "Whiplash" - which won the Sundance Audience award this past winter, comes out in the fall. Great movie with Miles teller and JT Simmons.


We want to thank Paul for taking his time to answer our questions and wish him good luck in future projects!

June 2014