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 /www.paulreiser.com
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
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
JCO: Have you been asked to participate in 2003’s Alien Quadrilogy set
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
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!