Michael Ironside. When you hear that name, you either go into hiding or you go into shock.
That’s proof right there that Michael Ironside is getting the job done by portraying characters that have a long lasting impact. You’ve seen him play crazy, you’ve seen him rough people up and you’ve seen him as the guy people are afraid to challenge.
Some actors don’t want to be typecast and some do. Why is there such a split view on being typecast?
Michael Ironside weighs in on the typecast debate below.
On Christmas Day, Michael’s new film, The Harrowing, will be released on demand. Jon Keeyes, writer and director of the film, says “We’ve carefully crafted an intelligent, suspenseful, tense thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats while driving them down a road of psychological twists and turns. Right out of the gate, we pull them in with an explosive opening sequence, and then keep them guessing as the mystery unfolds until we blow their minds in the final moments. Being able to construct such an intricate puzzle like this – that is both entertaining and thought provoking – has been a joy.”
How did you become involved in The Harrowing?
Jon Keeyes, is a fun, talented friend. He sent the script … I found it interesting and agreed to come play.
As an actor, what differences or similarities are there in working on a VOD film vs. a theater film such as Total Recall?
Acting is acting …
Gives us a little behind the scenes story from The Harrowing.
Behind the scenes is private.
Do you think you’ve been typecast throughout your career as the tough guy?
I’m a working actor and have been for over 40 years. And I’m very grateful for that fact … especially when there are so many, talented, deserving performers out there that never get a chance to step up and show what incredible abilities they’ve been gifted with.
As far as being cast … nobody twists my arm and makes me sign a contract. If I find something interesting in a character … that’s being offered … a trait or emotional nuance that interests me, I’ll accept the opportunity.
Is being typecast a good or bad thing? Why?
Getting the opportunity to practice ones trade is a good thing.
If an actor feels they’ve been typecast but wants to break out of that mold, how do they do it? How can they get Casting Directors, Agents, Managers, Directors, Writers and Producers to realize they can do more than just that one type of role?
For me … training and acquiring the ability to (honestly attempt to) create characters of depth … characters of emotional spiritual depth … is, what I believe “it’s all about”. If I’m aware of being type cast … then I have to ask myself … “what’s my part in this?”
I don’t believe in “molds”. I’m not another “clay pot” on an assembly line. Work is an opportunity to practice my craft and hopefully create something of “weight and authenticity”. Do that … do it well … and I’ll probably get the opportunity to do it again.
Having been in the business for a long time, do Directors still direct you?
Directors direct. Actors act. Directors are story tellers. Actors are elements in the stories they’re telling.
As a child … my father used to say to me … “Don’t just blindly do as I say … try and understand what I mean … then get on with it.” I think that’s good advice in all affairs.
What are your objectives as an actor now versus when you were at the beginning of your career?
They’ve pretty much stayed the same. Be organically correct and do my best to truly be in the moment … and do this without making my work methods a hindrance or difficulty to anyone else I’m working with.
“Desire” … LOL … I write all the time, more than ever … now that I’m “not a young man”. Creativity is … a “desire”. Acting, Writing … the Arts … without desire … they just get predictable, flat, untrue and … eventually nobody bothers to stop and look.
Why do you use the name “Michael” instead of your given name Frederick Reginald ? At what point did you decide on Michael?
My given name is “Frederick Reginald’ … and my families’ nickname pour moi isn’t “Michael” … it’s “Mike” … (and the why of “Mike” … is a long and … arduous private familial story).
But … Mike v.s. Michael … I will say this…
There are actually a few projects out there from the early 70’s that are credited to “Mike Ironside”. And … One day, (back in the 70’s) … while at the Actors Union Office in Toronto, I had our oldest daughter, Adrienne, with me (she was not quite five years old then) and I had placed her on the counter next to some paperwork I was filling out. She asked what I was doing and I told her. She then asked “why” I was using the name “Mike Ironside” on the documents. I paternally smiled and told her that “Mike” was my acting name. She shifted over on the counter, conspiratorially leaned in and in a private, respectful voice, said to me … “Dad, Mike is a “Hockey Player’s” name, not an actor’s name. “Michael” is an “Actor’s” name.” … then while holding eye contact with me, leaned back out and gave me a wise, all knowing nod.
I took her direction and since that day have gone by the name Michael Ironside.
No I didn’t audition.
Brian Taggert (a wonderful talented writer on “V”) and I had done a film together called “Visiting Hours”. As far as I’ve been told, producers, Dan Blatt and Bob Singer were interested in me for this character called “Ham” … but, with me being Canadian and not in LA at the time, they were having trouble getting in touch with me. Brian, stepped up, called me … and I … think … I flew in from somewhere, someplace for a meeting with Dan and Bob.
The original character was an ex-military commando type who’s spine had been damaged and who now existed in a wheelchair. I respectfully told them … I thought the character was rather … cliché and unimportant in the scheme of things … and … with him being in a wheelchair … I’d rather not take on the part. They were confused by this … I explained that this character “Ham” being in a wheelchair and with my last name being “Ironside” … ran in conflict with … at that time, Raymond Burr’s “Hit Show” – “Ironside” about a successful attorney in a wheelchair.
They laughed and agreed that was a problem. After some creative discussion, they sent Brian Taggert and me out to Palm Springs for a few days to re-create the character … and that’s where “Ham Tyler” as we now know him, came from.
Ham’s … isolationist tendencies and his entering an already structured situation … worked hand in hand when it came to the writing. As for the acting … as always it’s a process.
Here’s what your “V” co-worker Faye Grant recently said about you in an interview. What are your thoughts on her?
Faye Grant was and is a talented actress and a joy to work with. We haven’t talked in years.
Mickey and I met on the set of “V”.
His genuine Texas integrity and many many years out there touring worldwide as a musician … made him a professional’s professional. His personality and work ethic were a joy to embrace. We became great friends.
He was best man at our wedding in 1986. I miss him terribly …
What advice do you have for people choosing acting as a second career later in life?
LOL … learn how to do it.
Michael Ironside’s credits include: V: The Final Battle, Top Gun, Total Recall, This is Us, Splinter Cell, Turbo Kid, X-Men: First Class, Starship Troopers, Visiting Hours, Scanners, The Alienist, The Flash, Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Desperate Housewives, Seaquest DSV, Tales from the Crypt, The A-Team.