Pop-Culturalist Chats with Casper Van Dien
Casper Van Dien is one of the hardest working actors in showbiz. Since his breakout performance in Starship Troopers, he’s added 90 additional credits to his name. For him, being on set is where he feels most alive, and being an actor has helped him grow as a person. Pop-Culturalist was lucky enough to chat with Casper about his new film, Showdown in Manila, why it was such a passion project for him, and why he feels so lucky to be an actor.
P-C: Tell us about Showdown in Manila and your character.
Casper: I got introduced to this film by Mark Dacascos, who’s a good friend of mine. People may not know this, but he’s also my Muay Thai instructor. He told me that he wanted me to meet Alexander Nevsky, who’s the producer of the film, because he actually had his writer, Craig Hamann, create this character with me in mind. When I read it, I was like, “what the heck is he talking about?” He must have a different view of who I am [laughs]. It was really funny, but he told me that he wanted to add some comedy to the film. My character, Charlie, gets to be the comedic relief in the movie. It was so much fun to play and I got to work with a lot of people that I respect. Charlie’s an investigator who’s has issues, and he’s trying to solve this case with his buddy, Nick, played by Alexander Nevsky.
P-C: How does your character evolve throughout the film?
Casper: You see his struggles and everything that he’s gone through and it’s clear he has some issues. You get to see his relationship with his partner, Nick, develop and also how he changes as more characters are introduced. There’s a lot of chaos that happens and it was a ton of fun to shoot.
P-C: How did you and Alexander build your friendship and chemistry?
Casper: It was really easy! When we started shooting scenes together, we riffed off each other. We got to do a little improv. I felt like we had a great chemistry from the start. He’s an incredibly intelligent man and I really enjoyed getting to know him. Plus, Mark really enjoyed our banter, which was really good because he’s the director of the film.
P-C: What was the collaboration like with Mark. He’s making his directorial debut with the film?
Casper: I’ve known Mark for about 25 years and I have a great amount of respect for him. He’s a martial arts expert and we got to work with each other on Mortal Kombat: Legacy season two. He’s a really interesting guy. He’s super smart, speaks all these different languages, he’s an expert at a lot of things, quotes Shakespeare on a whim, and he’s just on top of his game in so many different areas. I felt so comfortable with his guidance. He brought in a lot of his friends, who are action stars, and it was just a ton of fun. I trained with Olivier Gruner a while back and also worked with Tia Carrere, so it was nice to work with them again (and everyone else, of course). Each person came on set to do their best for Mark and for Alexander.
P-C: Was the preparation different because you knew the cast and crew?
Casper: As an actor, you try and do as much preparation as you can for any role. Going into this one, it was more about knowing that you’d also be the guy that would be doing your own stunts. A lot of these guys had tons of experience in action and combat, which is why I trained with them so extensively coming in as an actor. I wanted to look like I could fight like them, but I never pretended that anything I did would look anything like what they did [laughs]. If I actually had to fight one of them, I would run so fast [laughs].
P-C: The film takes place in the Philippines. What are some of the major challenges of working on a project overseas as opposed to the States?
Casper: It’s amazing. I’ve worked all over the world. I’ve worked in the Philippines before and with a lot of these same people. One of the biggest challenges is the language barrier. Sometimes you just don’t speak the same dialect, but we’re still able to get the film made—it always amazes me. Even when you do speak the same language, it’s difficult to get a film made, but you still get it done. When there is that language barrier, you find different ways to communicate. Those challenges are exciting and it makes it a little more fun.
P-C: If you had to pick one scene that you’re most excited for fans to see, what would it be and why?
Casper: I have a scene with Hazel Faith Dela Cruz, who plays Kiki. She’s a phenomenal Filipino actress. We were doing some improv and at the end of the scene she told us, Alexander and me, what Kiki means in Filipino, and let’s just say it means a female body part. Alexander and I were so embarrassed, and then we found out that Mark knew too, and we were like, “why didn’t you tell us?” [laughs]. We were so embarrassed because we’ve been calling her Kiki up to that point and it meant something completely different than what we thought. You get to see our reaction in one of the early scenes. I think they kept it in the film, and it’s because of that moment.
P-C: As an actor is there a particular genre that you gravitate towards?
Casper: don’t think I have a particular genre. For me, I just love being on set. I feel more alive on set than anywhere else. It feeds my soul and allows me to be the man I need to and should be when I come home. When I feel like that, I’m more present for my family. I think, at least I hope, that it helps me improve who I am as a man because I get to meet more people, get to work with different cultures, get to experience more things, and I hope it’s improving who I am as a person.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Casper: I love watching This is Us, but I don’t think that’s a guilty pleasure. I also like The Walking Dead, but again I don’t think that’s guilty either.
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
Casper: True Romance? Does that count as a guilty pleasure?
P-C: I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen that.
Casper: What?! Oh my god. You have to! It has Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, Patricia Arquette, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, it’s an incredible film. It’s also written by Quentin Tarantino! I highly recommend it. It’s my favorite film of all time.
P-C: Favorite book?
Casper: I like Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It use to be Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.
P-C: A band or artist that fans would be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Casper: I love Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks and Van Halen. I love Rock ‘n’ Roll, Country, and Jazz.
P-C: Favorite play or musical?
Casper: My favorite musical of all time is West Side Story—the original one. I saw an off-Broadway version that my dad did. It made me want to be an actor.
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
Casper: I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but I’m not really great at social media. I love meeting cool people on there.
P-C: Hidden talent?
Casper: I like to think I’m a koi master. I can put my fish to sleep with some oil and wake them back up.