I first saw Michael Pare’ when he appeared on television’s “The Greatest American Hero,” but it was his performance as Eddie Wilson in the film “Eddie and the Cruisers” that cemented him in my mind as an actor to watch. While on his way to Nevada to shoot his latest project Mr. Pare’ took time out to talk to me about his latest film – “Once Upon a Time in Deadwood” – his aspirations to be a chef and how Rick Springfield almost ended up playing Eddie Wilson. (I should also note that this interview is posting on his birthday so, from all of us at Media Mikes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL!”
MIKE SMITH: You studied to be a chef. Was that your original career goal?
MICHAEL PARE’: Yes. When I was in high school, my first job where I had to pay taxes, social security and everything was in a fast food restaurant. Then I got on at a regular restaurant that served steaks and everything else. I was pretty good at it and I liked the life. So in my junior year I heard from a co-worker about the Culinary Institute of America. I got a recommendation from my boss and I applied and got in. At the time it was known as the best cooking school in the United States. I attended for a year and was given an internship at Tavern on the Green in New York. They eventually offered me a full-time, six days a week job. So I moved to Manhattan, which is where I was discovered.
MS: Do you ever give the Craft Services people on set any pointers?
MP: (laughs) No, but there are a few directors I’ve cooked with. Uwe Boll and I used to have a sauerbraten contest every time we worked. Cooking is something that a lot of people share. In all of the arts food becomes an important part of your life.
MS: How did you get into acting? What took you from the kitchen to the soundstage?
MP: I got discovered by an agent. There was a bar where my girlfriend waitressed at that was kind of a show business bar. It was right across from where they broadcast the news for ABC. A lot of people in the business hung out there. The agent noticed me and asked me if I was an actor or a dancer. I told her I was in the restaurant business. She kind of pursued it and talked me into taking a few classes. I did and I liked it a lot. My first classes were at Carnegie Hall. I’d go to class during the day and work the night shift at the restaurant. I studied for two years and then auditioned for ABC’s talent development program and I got it. They brought me out to Hollywood and put me on “The Greatest American Hero.”
MS: You made your feature film debut as Eddie Wilson in “Eddie and the Cruisers.” How did you get the role?
MP: Marty Davidson, the director, called my agent and asked me to come in and meet him. That was it. I met with him about four or five times. Marty was a very artistic guy. He put the cast together and we had two weeks of improve and then we shot it. I did it on hiatus from “The Greatest American Hero.”
MS: Is it true that Martin Davidson would threaten to replace you with Rick Springfield?
MP: (laughs) Yes, but he only had to do it once!
MS: I like Rick Springfield (Ok, I’ve seen him in concert a dozen times so I REALLY like Rick Springfield) but I don’t think he would have been a good Eddie.
MP: It would have been a different movie.
MS: Exactly. Did you know while you were making the film that it was going to be regarded the way it is now?
MP: No. At that time I was still a young actor and didn’t know the potential of things. I had only done two seasons of “The Greatest American Hero” and a movie of the week, so it was all like a dreamland. I didn’t even think about marketing. When I was back on “The Greatest American Hero” I was telling another actor about the film and he told me “you don’t have nothing without distribution.” I had no idea what that meant. I told him, “well, I shot it and they’re happy…that’s all I can say.”
MS: Anyone ever ask you to sing “On the Dark Side” at karaoke?
MP: (laughs) If I do karaoke it’s Johnny Cash.
MS: What drew you to your latest role in “Once Upon a Time in Deadwood?”
MP: I’ve done a few westerns so when Jeff Miller (the film’s co-producer/co-writer) called me up and said he had an interesting project with this guy named Robert Bronzi I called up Danny Baldwin. I knew he had worked with Robert and I asked him what he was like. He said that Jeff and his team were very creative… very open minded. So I said “ok.” And then when I met Rene’ (director Rene’ Perez) he was surprised as he expected to meet someone who was a little more “beat up.” I’m a pretty healthy guy. That was it. We shot in a little western town in central California up near the Sequoias. We used blanks and squibs as opposed to all of the CGI stuff that is so popular now on low budget movies. It was a great experience. Nice cast. Rene’ is very creative. He’s the DP and the director.
MS: Do you enjoy the genre’? Do you have a favorite role-type?
MP: I like all of them. If you do it so long you play everything. And you hope one of the roles will be successful, you know?
MS: What are you working on now?
MP: It’s called “Bridge of Doom” We’re shooting in Caliente’, Nevada. It’s the military reaction to the Zombie Apocalypse. When I heard that I was like, “great…we never hear about that part. It’s always about the civilians out in the middle of nowhere.