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HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME - Adrian Paul Part I
The actor discusses returning to the role of Duncan MacLeod, making the leap to the big screen and teaming with original Highlander Christopher Lambert.
By Matthew F. Saunders
September 01, 2000
It's never easy stepping into someone else's shoes. And while he didn't take over the role of Connor MacLeod from Christopher Lambert, that's exactly what Adrian Paul did in 1992 when he signed on as the lead in the Highlander
TV series, a spinoff of the 1986 feature film. As Duncan MacLeod, Connor's younger cousin, Paul replaced the popular Lambert and endeavored to turn the popular cult movie--and faltering film series after the misfire of Highlander II: The Quickening
--into a hugely popular franchise.
And that he did. After five-and-a-half seasons and more than a 100 episodes, Paul's Duncan won over established fans and new viewers alike, and in many ways became more closely identified with Highlander
than his predecessor. An international co-production, the TV show placed him on not just millions of American TV sets each week, but in the homes of millions of adoring European fans, as well. Increased exposure led to increased familiarity, and the success of the TV series even opened the doors for a third film starring Lambert, Highlander: The Final Dimension
, in 1994.
Now, life has come full circle for the martial artist-turned-actor. For the first time since the series pilot, when Lambert guest-starred as Connor to help kick off the series, the duo are starring together again in Highlander: Endgame
, the first feature to combine elements from both the movie and TV series. Wary of giving the ending away, Paul is careful not to say whether this is the final 'passing of the torch' from Connor to Duncan, a turning of the film series over to him. But Paul sat down with Fandom in the first of a two-part interview to discuss the new film, his return to the role after an almost three-year hiatus and the big-screen team-up between the two immortal Highlanders.FANDOM:
THIS IS THE FIRST MOVIE STARRING BOTH HIGHLANDER LEADS. WHAT'S THE STORY ABOUT?Adrian Paul:
The story is about redemption. It's about two guys, Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod, who haven't seen each other in a long time. By the intervention of another immortal, which is Jacob Kell, played by Bruce Payne, they are forced into a situation of actually trying to find redemption for something that happened to them in the past. And the only way that they can find this, and to actually try and defeat this entity that has come in front of them, is by joining forces in a way and becoming one, with both their equal knowledge in different areas and their abilities in different areas. It creates the whole, like the yin and yang of martial arts, and with that whole they have the strength to come up against Kell. That's kind of it in a nutshell.
WHAT'S KELL'S GOAL? TAKING OVER THE WORLD?
It's not taking over the world as a bad immortal. It's basically revenge. It's revenge to Connor MacLeod, and he uses that revenge in different ways. I think he's a good actor and he's gonna be a good villain.
IS THIS THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE TV SERIES' PILOT EPISODE, 'THE GATHERING,' THAT DUNCAN'S SEEN CONNOR?
It's been ten years since Connor has actually seen Duncan. Duncan is kind of linked to Connor and feels that something is not right right now. So Duncan tries to find where he is and finds the answers to that. Duncan at the end of the TV series basically left, and in the past two years has been, I would say, in a form of finding himself and finding his path. And by doing that, and doing the meditation and the self-seeking, he kind of finds that link to Connor and realizes that something is amiss.
WHAT NEW THINGS DO WE LEARN ABOUT DUNCAN IN THE MOVIE?
Well, first of all, you learn about his relationship with Connor MacLeod. You find out how he first met Connor, how he was trained by Connor and how they became brothers. We also find out one of the things we've never mentioned before, which is the thing he's trying to redeem himself for--an action that he caused in the past, that he regrets and would want to change. And like so many of us in real life, if you like, we never have the guts to stand up to the things we do in error. So, that's what we learn about Duncan in this.
DUNCAN WENT THROUGH A LOT OF CHANGES DURING THE SERIES. WILL FANS GAIN A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON HIM BASED ON THIS?
I think it's a part of his history. I don't think it's as much of a different perspective as to an added perspective as to who he is.
YOU AND CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT HAD GREAT CHEMISTRY IN THE PILOT. WERE YOU ABLE TO PICK THAT UP AGAIN YEARS LATER?
Oh yeah. Basically we're just like two big kids. We enjoy what we do and we enjoy our characters. Both of us are hard workers and have things we both want to achieve, so we came up with a lot of stuff, which is the relationship between the two of us [in the movie]. In fact, Chris said to me last week, when I went to dinner with him, that it's rare that you have that type of chemistry with another actor immediately. Him and I had that in the series, and it was very easy to pick up afterwards, because we've known each other for that amount of time now. We bump into each other from time to time, as he's always traveling, as am I, and when we do we just pick up where we left off and have a lot of fun. And I think that translated onto the screen.
WHAT'S DUNCAN'S RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH METHOS AND JOE DAWSON IN THE FILM?
They're not in the film a lot. They pass on the information to MacLeod and Dawson actually gets him out of trouble again. It's worth having the series characters in there for that amount of time. But the story really revolves around Duncan, Connor, Kell and Faith.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT DUNCAN'S RELATIONSHIP WITH FAITH?
Well, Faith, or Kate as Duncan knows her, they met in 1745--they may have changed that date by the time I see the final cut--in Ireland and fell in love and got married. But it wasn't a happy event. Basically he was not certain he made the right decision and has regretted it ever since. And now in the present, it's an interesting thing. It's like watching two people who know they should have been together, but because of the circumstances, could never be.
HOW DOES THIS RELATIONSHIP COMPARE TO DUNCAN'S OTHER GREAT LOVE INTERESTS, TESSA AND AMANDA?
The difference is that Tessa was in Duncan's life, and she was a very important part of his life. He was with her for 12 years constantly. He was in love with Tessa, and didn't want to be with any other woman. With Amanda it was a different subject, where he was in love Amanda, but not in the same way. He was in love with her, because she brought a certain spark to his life. Duncan comes from a mixed background, and I think her escapades always interested him. She became more like a, I wouldn't say a sister, but it was a really close relationship. It was one of those that would never end up with them being together because they're immortal, and they know that at some point, one of them is going to die, if not both of them.
Now Faith, on the other hand, was a moment in his life that could've gone the way it had gone with Tessa, but it was never allowed to go into that space. So, they're three different relationships. [Plus], she's involved with Kell in the present, and that's what brings both our problems to a head. She's involved with him, the problem Connor has is with Kell and my problem is with her, so they come together.
THE TV SERIES HAD SORT OF AN ABBREVIATED FINAL SEASON. WERE YOU DISAPPOINTED WITH THE WAY IT ALL ENDED?
The last season was definitely not the best season. The reason for that was because they were trying to test out these new immortal characters for the Highlander: The Raven
[spin-off series], and trying to create stories around them. And that was a little weak.
SO, WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED TO END THE SERIES ON A DIFFERENT NOTE?
Not really. I think the last two episodes, which were 'To Be' and 'Not to Be,' were a good finale, as such. Originally, the one thing the producers wanted the cast to do in the final sequence was to turn around and cheer the audience. But I said, 'No, this is not the end. You've got to go on to something else here.' Duncan MacLeod is a mythical character. He's not a guy that's going to cheer the audience. You need to say a statement as to what it is these two last episodes were all about.
Basically, that's why the ending ended up as it was, which is in one of the last scenes when I say, 'Not again.' And 'not again' basically meant, 'Not again will I involve you guys in my fights and my troubles, because I'm tired of having my friends die around me because of me.' And Duncan walking into the distance is where he went to after that statement, and after saying goodbye to his friends. And now two years later, we pick him up after he's been in that state of finding himself and meditation, and trying to figure out a lot of other things in his life. So it is a continuation of where that left off.
DID YOU ENJOY COMING BACK TO THE CHARACTER AFTER A SEVERAL-YEAR BREAK?
Well, I didn't really have a break in a way, because I knew it was going to come back [with the movie]. It was kind of on my mind. The interesting thing was I did acting classes again. I got back down to the basic level of acting, and I kind of found some new things to bring to Duncan, because you have to kind of change him for the big screen. It's been a long process. This past year has just been on and on and on. And it gets tiring after a while.
AS THE MOVIE WAS DEVELOPED, THERE WERE LOTS OF RUMORS THAT CHRISTOPHER WASN'T GOING TO BE IN IT VERY MUCH, THAT IT WAS MORE YOUR MOVIE. CAN YOU SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON THAT?
It is a little bit more my movie, although there is a lot of Christopher in it. I wouldn't say it's an equal section, but there is a lot of Chris in it, and it's not just solely my movie.
IS THIS A 'PASSING OF THE TORCH' FILM, THEN? IS IT GOING TO LEAD INTO A SERIES OF DUNCAN-FOCUSED MOVIES FROM THIS POINT ON?
Well, you're going to have to see who wins in the end to get me to answer that question!
WELL, THIS HAS ALSO BEEN BILLED AS 'THE FINAL CHAPTER.' IS THIS REALLY THE END?
This has an ending that, to me, is not an American ending. Let's put it like that. I saw the ending. The American endings, they always tend to wrap up things very nicely and neatly and everything else. This one leaves you going, 'Oh my god. That's a bummer.' [Laughs
] And I like that, because that's what this is about! Immortality is not about living a jolly life a lot of the time. It's an entirely different thing.
SO IS THERE TALK OF MORE AFTER THIS?
Well, there's always talk if a movie's gonna do well. It's interesting because I watched Scary Movie
, and the sequel to Scary Movie
was never going to happen. And I know the deal has just been done. Actually, I watched an interview with the Wayans brothers a little while ago, and that question came up, 'Is there going to be a sequel, even though on the posters it said 'No sequel'?' Well, they said, you know what, if they pay us enough money, we lied. [Laughs
] So, who knows what will happen.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT GO ON?
Well, for me it's the same. It just depends. I'm personally happy to just go on to whatever I have to do. It's a job to me. And I enjoy my job. And if I get brought back into doing something like this, then I'll do it willingly, because I enjoy that character.
ARE YOU STILL INVOLVED A LOT WITH HIGHLANDER
FANS AND GOING TO THE CONVENTIONS?
Well, I haven't been to conventions lately. I'm not sure if I will go to many more. I tend to not go to too many, because you don't want to go to too many conventions anyhow. It's a lot of work actually--two days of doing a lot of talking and smiling and greeting and writing, and there's a lot of energy that gets sucked away from you. So, I do them from time to time, and I tend to do ones that may not have been done before, so different people can see you. I've done some on the East Coast, some on the West. I've done one in London. It just depends on my timing. Sometimes I can't do them because I'm working.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ABOUT THE HIGHLANDER
MYTHOS THAT KEEPS PEOPLE COMING BACK AND HAS ALLOWED IT TO ENDURE FOR GOING ON 15 YEARS NOW?
There are two reasons, I think. One is because we look in the mirror everyday, and we realize we're not immortal. We're getting older, we get wrinkles, things happen to us, we can't change, or we do change and we would like that not to be. I think that's one of things, the idea of somebody being able to see everything an immortal has scene throughout his lifetime. The second thing is, I think, an immortal is very much a Renaissance man. Connor or Duncan are very much Renaissance men. They speak many languages. They're multi-cultural. They've traveled, they're lovers, they're fighters. They run the gamut of what a Renaissance man is. And I think that's very interesting to a lot of people.