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THE CROW's Eric Mabius, Part 2

Taking inspiration from James O'Barr, and tackling the

By Steve Biodrowski     September 16, 2000

In Part One of our interview with the star of The Crow: Salvation, actor Eric Mabius discussed a variety of topics: fans reactions to the film at convention screenings; the difference between his character and those seen in the previous two films; and working with the cast and crew to create something new out of the familiar franchise. In this installment, he talks about finding inspiration in the true life story of James O'Barr, who took his own personal tragedy (the loss of his fiancé) and transformed it into the raw material for the graphic novel The Crow, on which the films are based. But first, the 'Fear' Question...

THERE WERE A LOT OF STUNTS, PYROTECHNICS, AND SPECIAL EFFECTS IN THIS PRODUCTION...
Eric Mabius: Is this the 'Fear' Question?

I WAS BUILDING UP TO THAT, BUT FIRST I WAS MORE INTERESTED IN FEAR/CONCERN ABOUT NOT BEING DROWNED OUT BY THE FLASHKEPING THE CHARACTER CONNECTED TO THE AUDIENCE.
Again, I refer to...when I started this project, I didn't realize how true to life the essence of the Crow myth, the story, is. I saw some pictures of James [O'Barr, creator of the graphic novel The Crow] with his fiancé, going to the prom; it was quite a while ago, over ten years. To see him in the full bloom of his love for this woman... Rather than offing himself as a result, he set into motion what he did. When things at times ran the risk of becoming too fantastic, the reality of his tragedy is what kept me ground and provided a beacon for me. It's playing the simplest, most powerful, overwhelming moments I could conceive of. Only a lot of them I didn't have to fabricate for the sake of the character. These were, like I said, based in truth.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST PHYSICAL CHALLENGE OF THE FILM?
Waiting for the film to come out! Far more difficult than anything involved with the film.

There's a funny little story. I spent a couple days shooting the electrocution scene. It was difficult because I was literally yanking and jerking at those straps with all my strength, because I'm not going to try and sell somethingit's either believable, or it's not. I had pretty substantial bruises for several weeks after that, but while we were shooting that sequence, there were metal contact points in the faceplate of that mask, and that's in essence what has burned the scars into my [character's] face. Well, those are really metal. When they strapped me into the chair, they pulled the mask down over my head. The sequence starts. There are explosions, pyrotechnics going on about an inch from my head, and so on. There's a lot of noise, a lot of fake lightening, and the shutters were on the fritz so they were clanging. When I started jerking as a result of the electrocution, the metal bit had bent out slightly and jabbed itself into my eyelid, so I'm strapped in there and my face is covered. I can't scream for help. I can't stop the take unless I want to ruin it and have to go through the whole thing all over again. So I literally just finished doing the take and had to wait until everything was all done. But I didn't know if I was bleeding or how swollen the eye was. It turned out bejust a little ice and it went down. But silly little simple things like that can hold up shooting, sometimes for a long time.

This is the only Crow project, TV or film, that no one was ever really hurt. It's the only time it's happened. When I finished thisliterally the last take and the sun was rising up over the mountains in Salt Lakeit was one of the most beautiful mornings; I'll never forget that morning. It sounds like this was all fabricated in hindsight, but literally in the moment this was my experiencethat there was a shift that had occurred in me when I took the role on, and the shift occurred again when we finished the last take. I realized that I really didn't knowin some very deep place, some quiet place that I would never admit, couldn't have admittedthat I didn't know if I was going to get through the shooting or not. That had to be okay with me, because that was the only way I could barrel through with such abandon the scenes we tackled on the schedule we were on. Because there were a lot of explosions and a lot of effects that were erupting constantly.

I mean, there was one sequence where I had to wear this suit that was squibbed, and I had like eight entrance and eight exit bullet holesliterally, sixteen explosion, for one take, on my body, on top of the dust guns that they were shooting at me for effect, and the other pyrotechnics that were erupting, for the shoot-out sequence in the loft. It was intense. Again, it's that dream feeling. I as a human being had to go into those things with that kind of attitude, like 'I don't know.' I didn't know I was doing it at the moment. When it was all over, I was like 'Goddamn! I could have just died, any step of the way!'

We had the car explosions. The director ran over me and was giving me more direction as they were rolling because we really only had a few chances for all of that stuff. He's walking away, and there's this huge explosion. They're like, 'Relaxkeep going! It's just the pistons in the door popping. Don't worry about it.' But I guess it was the piston in the engine, because it expanded in the blockit sends it off like a rocket. It exploded with such force, and there was so much fire going on, that nobody saw the piston ejected, really. You see what I'm saying? There's so many variables; you can't possibly cover them all.

FINALLY, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO FANS OUT THERE WHO ARE PERHAPS STILL SKEPTICAL OR UNCERTAIN ABOUT THE THIRD CROW MOVIE?
Really, that I think the film is powerful and effective because it gets back to the basics, as opposed to just ripping off things that worked in the first one. It built upon elements that worked, without copying them, and it got rid of the fluff. It's really a pared-down, leaner type of film, I think. It's almost like doing independent action genre. It really felt like that, because we had such freedom to go and shoot the things, as opposed to having hundreds of millions of dollars and having a lot of waste. There was really an efficiency in this, especially working with such a sharp director [Bharat Nalluri] and D.P. [director of photography Carolyn Chen]. We saved a lot of time, because he knew what he wanted, but that gave us the freedom to explore things the way we wanted to.

I really hope that people judge the film on its own merits, as opposed to hearing what someone said about it or what the rumors are, because it delivers.

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