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THE CROW: SALVATION - Eric Mabius

By Steve Biodrowski     September 14, 2000

James O'Barr's comic book creation The Crow flies again in the form of The Crow: Salvationat least in Spokane, Washington. The third film in the franchise, which began with the ill-fated 1994 production starring Brandon Lee, has been sitting on the shelf while Dimension (Miramax's genre division) decides whether to release it theatrically or send it straight to video. After some promotional screenings at fan conventions (e.g., San Diego Comic Con, Dragon Con), the film will receive a one-week test run at the AMC River Park Square Theatre, which will determine whether or not it receives further theatrical distribution. Star Eric Mabius (Cruel Intentions) will appear at the premiere on Friday from 6-8 p.m. He will also sign autographs on Saturday from 7-9 p.m. and will be involved in a question-and-answer session on Saturday after the 9 p.m. screening of the movie.

The original graphic novel was born out of the pain of writer-artist O'Barr's loss of his fiancée. That tragedy was eerily echoed in the first film, when star Brandon Lee was killed in an onset accident. When the film was released, it became a success, and Dimension wanted to turn it into a franchise, but when The Crow: City of Angels was being prepared, a decision was made not to recast Lee's character. Instead, the sequels would adopt an anthology approach, taking different characters and placing them in the familiar situation. (There was also a television series starring Mark Dacascos.)

The Crow: Salvation follows this pattern. In it, Mabius plays the executed Alex Corvis, who like Eric Draven and Ashe Corven before him, is brought back from the dead by the mysterious black bird of the title (harbinger of death, transporter of souls to the netherworld), so that he may avenge both his own execution and the murder for which he was wrongly convicted. Bharat Nalluri (Killing Time) directed from a script by Chip Johannessen (TV's Millennium). Co-starring are Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire), Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, William Atherton (Ghostbusters), and Fred Ward (Tremors).

FANDOM: WHAT HAS FAN REACTION BEEN TO THE SCREENINGS SO FAR?
Eric Mabius: Well, everyone wants to at least see what we've done with the third film, and the one's the weren't open to anyone other than Brandon [Lee] weren't open to seeing me, and a lot of them walk out of the theatre with their minds changed, because they started to see what we were trying to do, which was create something separate from the others. I think there was a bit of a mistake, in my opinion, of casting Mark [Dacascos] in the TV show and Vincent [Perez], because they're too similar to Brandon [Lee], so it seems as if he was trying to be replaced.

The fan response has been overwhelming. The thing has tested through the roof. I'm really pleased and excited. I mean, they tested it in some of the toughest markets in the country, Santa Monica and areas around Southern California, where the people they usually get are out-of-work actors or frustrated out-of-work filmmakers, so they want to get their digs in when they can. They really, despite that, have been so positive. I think the biggest compliment I was paid was, 'He just seems like one of our friends that we'd be hanging out with,' and that's exactly what I wanted to get across. I think that allows an audience to inject itself into the perspective of the protagonist. As opposed to people that come back to life and have superpowers bestowed upon them as if they expected them. There's nothing more ridiculous. I find that so distracting when I watch genre films like that.

It landed at least with some of the fans. It made the work worthwhile. It's unfortunate they're still trying to figure out whether they're gong to allow us a release or not. That's what's driving a lot of us crazy.

IT MUST BE NICE TO COME IN AND PLAY A NEW CHARACTER, AS OPPOSED TO STEPPING IN THE SHOES OF ANOTHER ACTOR AND PLAYING THEIR CHARACTER.
Absolutely. There's a story I always talk about: I really only had six weeks to train intensivelymartial arts trainingbefore we went into production. I worked as hard as I could as much as I could. A few weeks in, I was really frustrated, because as I started to progress I realized the more that I was learning, the more that I didn't know. I wanted to be far better than I was; I really like to over-prepare for thingsthat's just the way I am. I went to the director and voiced my concernsdidn't know what to do; I was really bummed out, because the first film was so important to me. I went to the director and said, 'There's no way I'm going to be where I want to be for this.' He said, 'You need to relax. The first script played to Brandon's strengths; this one plays to yours. That's why you were hired: it's a character-driven piece, and we're not even going to try and compete with martial arts sequences we see in John Woo film and The Matrix and Jet Li films.' Less is more, in this case. It is about the pain of loss and the tragedy of violence, of a love affair that's struck down just as it's starting to blossom.

Which is the thing that grounded me. Hearing Bharat [Nalluri] tell me that, I was free to get on with the work, and there were some circumstances where the physical training really saved us a lot of time and a lot of money. Because this fight trainer, Dave Lee, is so amazing. He did Batman 1 and 2, and Judge Dredda lot of Sylvester Stallone stuff; he taught Ashley Judd how to kickbox for Kiss the Girls. He as quickly as possible tries to get you to think for yourself, and in a lot of cases that saved us, when certain stunt rigs didn't work and I had to sort of improvise and make things up. It also impressed peoplemade it seem like I knew what I was doing. [laughs]

HAVING BEEN ESTABLISHED BY BRANDON LEE IN THE FIRST CROW MOVIE, IS MARTIAL ARTS NOW DE RIGEUR FOR THE FRANCHISE?
Well, a lot of that stuff didn't end up in the film, but there are sequences when my girlfriend in the film, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, is still alive and we're clowning around, doing some of the chop-socky stances. There was a bit more of it in a script, but it's meant to infer that I come back...you see there's a childlike buoyancy in the character and discovery as I start to learn what's going on. These things have occurred; I don't know why they've occurred, but they happen; thought and action are simultaneous. So when I go to jump off a building, I don't know I'm not going to die; it's just something I do. I liken it to being in a dream, and you're in a house and you're able to discover new worlds and passageways, and you're able to fly and control your dream, and you're trying to get as far as you can in the dream before you wake up. That's literally what was the barometer for my character in those sequences. So, as opposed to 'Now I'm going to employ my martial arts prowess,' it's like these things just occur. Which helped a lot.

THE CHARACTER FIGURES IT OUT AS HE GOES ALONG, AND HOPEFULLY THE AUDIENCES COMES ALONG FOR THE RIDE.
And also the role for the crow being more significant as a guide in this strange new world, reallythat was something we tried to impart.

DO YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH THE BIRD A LOT?
There's a fair amount of time spent with the bird, but also, just in the interest of time, they would have B-camera units set up, because the bird just sometimes doesn't feel like cooperating. If we did that all the time on A-camera, we'd eat a lot of time and a lot of film.

THAT MUST HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT. USUALLY YOU'RE USED TO WORKING WITH OTHER ACTORS WHO KNOW THEIR CUES.
Well, there are definitely situations where those birds where better actors than some people I've worked with! Not in this film, certainly. You usually walk away from a project knowing that there will be one or two people that you'll keep in solid touch with, if you're lucky. I finished this film quite a while ago, and I walked away with an entire new family. We always talk on the phone, and we always get together and party and run around town. There were friendships born out of the film set that really transcended that. They're wonderful peoplethe best group of people I've ever worked with: seasoned veterans, old school actors like Fred Ward and Bill Atherton that we grew up watching, and then the next generation, Kirsten Dunst and Jodi Lynnit was fantastic. And boy, Kirsten's a gem; she really is.

YOU HAD SOME DIFFICULT DRAMATIC SCENES WITH HER, COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD AND TRYING TO CONVINCE HER OF WHO YOU ARE.
I liken it again to the analogy of a dream. I think that from the moment I was accused of the crime, there was a mode I shifted into of pure incredulousnessthis horrible nightmare that I didn't understandhow it happened or why it was occurring. The time in jailin those scenes my character kept expecting to wake from this thing, because of the double punching of a pain where my character lost the first woman he'd truly fallen in love withnot only lost her, but to lose her in such a violent wayand on top of it, to be accused of committing the act. It's inconceivable. I can't possibly understand what that would be like. That really occurred to me, but my job is to try and get as close as I can to that. It's sort of like an added step to the tragedy that befell James O'Barr.

His specific tragedy that gave birth to the Crow mythologyhe was able to turn such pain into such catharsis for millions of people. The fact that the ripple effect has still continued is an indication of just how powerful and deep-seated the elements he addressed from the outset really are. It was very difficult, some of the stuff we were tackling. To be filled with such despair, so many hours of the day, really required that we let loose at the end of the daywhich is not an easy thing to do in Salt Lake City! But as the saying goes, 'Where there's a will...'

HOW DOES YOUR CHARACTER DIFFER FROM THE TWO SEEN IN THE PREVIOUS FILMS?
I think the only way that they're similar is that there is a loss of love. From that point on, they really diverge. I'm significantly younger than the other characters were, so in a lot of ways it was more rawthe unfiltered teen-age passion that one feels at that age. Eric Draven was shot in the first one; I was sort of tortured and emotionally maimed for a couple years before they decided to do me in the electric chair. I think the glee of vengeance ends up ringing similar at times, but there was a desire from the very beginning to separate it from the other films. As opposed to having mime makeup that was painted on, it was a permanent scarringa different, asymmetrical set of scars on my face. I can heal from anything except the original injustice, which was the botched electrocution.

It took at least three hours a day in the chair to apply those prosthetics and cover them with six layers of airbrushing and blend it all in, and every night they used medical adhesive remover to get the stuff off. At the end of the shoot, my face started to revolt. For probably six to eight weeks after we wrapped, whenever I'd go out in the sun the marks would pop out on my face. It was wild.

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