Interview date: 04/23/2008
Run date: 05/06/2008
When "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" premiered on ABC in 1992, the young gentleman playing the teenaged version of the character was stepping into some pretty famous shoes, but Sean Patrick Flanery was up to the challenge. Since then, Flanery has rarely been out of the public eye, popping up on various TV series (including a recurring role as Greg Stilson on "The Dead Zone") and earning major plaudits for his film work in "Powder," "Suicide Kings," and "Boondock Saints." Bullz-Eye spoke with Flanery about his various roles, why he prefers character work over leading-man roles, and whether or not we're ever going to get that long-rumored sequel to "Boondock Saints."
Bullz-Eye: Hey, Sean, how's it going?
Sean Patrick Flanery: Good, man. How are you?
BE: I'm good. So do you remember the first thing that ran through your mind when you were offered the role of Young Indiana Jones?
SPF: Yes, I do.
BE: (laughs) What was it?
SPF: You know, actually, I thought the information was forthcoming…not that I thought I would get it, but that it would be "yea" or "nay." And I was dead asleep, and I got a phone call in the morning, and it was kind of…y'know, I'd never done a job that big, so it was monumental.
BE: Was it something that you'd auditioned for, or did they come to you?
SPF: Oh, no, no, no. I was a nobody. I went through all the rounds of auditioning.
BE: Is it fair to say that you were a fan of the films before you got the gig?
SPF: Yeah. I think I was 13 when that came out, and it was the epitome of an action film. I mean, it blew everything away when it came out; whatever action film was in second place was a mile away from it. It really was. From the credits onto the boulder rolling to outrunning the spears, it was just…mind-boggling.
BE: Lord knows you visited plenty of countries during the course of the show, but did you have any particular favorites?
SPF: Yeah. Prague, Czechoslovakia.
BE: Oh, really? What was it that particularly stood out?
SPF: Well, if it wasn't the disproportionate number of stunningly gorgeous women, the architecture didn't hurt, and the fact that you could look down any street and see nothing indicative of it being the 20th century. Nothing at all. It was like it was completely frozen in time.
BE: Did you have a favorite guest star?
SPF: Um…probably Friedrich von Thun. He's a German actor, and he played Albert Schweitzer.
BE: So how interested in history were you when you took on the role?
SPF: As interested as anybody. Well, probably a little more interested than most people, but I certainly wasn't a history buff. But that's where the greatest stories in the world come from: the real-life past.
BE: Were you at all overwhelmed by the amount of historical information that was being thrown at you?
SPF: No, not overwhelmed, but it definitely opened a new door for me. I mean, the past teaches you about the future, et cetera, so it was definitely an eye-opening experience and an educational process as well. Those years shooting "Young Indy" far surpassed any university lesson.
BE: I don't know if you have kids or not, but what were your thoughts about the way they played up the educational aspect of the series with all of these additional featurettes?
SPF: Oh, I think it's great, with the interactive timelines and the documentaries. It's one of those things where…there are so few opportunities to do something that you're proud of, that stands the test of time, where you look at it 10 years later and go, "Damn! Wow! I can't believe I did that!" And this is one of them, so I'm super-excited.
BE: I said in my review of the first set that it needs to be a staple of libraries across the country.
SPF: I agree.
BE: Not that you ever had any scenes with him, but do you think that George Hall got the shaft with these DVD releases? (Writer's note: He was the gentleman who played the elderly Indiana Jones in the bookend sequences that were subsequently excised for the video release.)
SPF: Um…you know, I don't know. It's…he was certainly a wonderful guy, and I enjoyed him on the show. I don't know if was because of time restraints, or maybe they thought the transition was too abrupt. I don't know.
BE: Well, I'd heard that they removed them in order to make them feel more like stand-alone movies, but I still figured they'd end up on the DVD as a bonus feature.
SPF: (apologetically) I don't know.
BE: Fair enough. When I told my wife I was interviewing "the guy who played Young Indiana Jones," she countered by asking, "You mean the guy who played Powder?"
BE: I loved that film. Even for all the controversy people wanted to stir up about (director) Victor Salva, I loved it when I first saw it, and I still do.
SPF: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you.
BE: Is that one that you regularly have fans bring up?
SPF: No, no, not at all. Nobody really…I mean, when people find out that that's also on my list of things I've done, they're surprised. That's not really one they know me from. Plenty of people are fans of the film, but nobody really associates me with the film. I don't know why.
BE: Well, you're not readily recognizable, I guess.
SPF: Yeah, yeah, I think that's the case. I mean, people that are really fans of mine, they know my resume, but most people have no idea. When they find out, they're, like, "Really? That was you?" But, again, that's a movie role that you get into the business for. You're lucky if you get one movie role like that, and that certainly was a great role. Even amidst all of the controversy, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Absolutely. I mean, that's why you get into the business.
BE: Would you have ever imagined the producers and writers of "The Dead Zone" could've done as much with the character of Greg Stillson as they did, and for as long as they did?
SPF: (laughs) No, actually, because Lloyd Segan called…we did "Boondock Saints" together…and said, "Hey, man, I want you to come up to Vancouver and shoot this role. It's really fun, and we're going to have a good time, and there are great restaurants." And I was, like, "Uh, okay, yeah, I'll do it," never knowing that six years later the character would still be wreaking havoc in the world. But we're good friends, I like everybody up there, and I had a great time doing it. I like those characters. I really like character work more so than leading man. It's much more interesting to me. So roles like Greg Stillson, I just relish those.
BE: So now that you've brought up "Boondock Saints," what's the status of the long-rumored "All Saints Day?"
SPF: (hesitates) Well, the rumor is…well, I'm not officially supposed to say anything, because Sony doesn't…they want to make their own announcement, so I'll let them. But, uh, I think just me saying that they're going to be making an announcement kinda gives you your answer!
BE: (laughs) Do you and Norman Reedus keep in touch? I mean, did you indeed bond as brothers during that film?
SPF: Yeah, we had a great time. He's on the east coast and I'm on the west coast, but, yeah, we catch up every time we can.
BE: Can you tell me a little bit about "Sunshine Superman?"
SPF: It's based on…well, it's autobiographical, and I've written for a number of years under a pseudonym, and it's probably only the first or second piece that I signed my name to. It was a piece I wrote for "Jane" magazine back in…probably 1999 or something like that. And a couple of companies came out of the woodwork and wanted to procure the rights to it and make a film. It's something I'd always wanted to write in script form myself, so I politely declined and said that I'd approach them in the order that they approached me whenever I got it prepared. And so I did get it into script form, and I've set it up now, and we're getting ready to make the movie. We're just waiting on the actor's strike, to see what transpires with that.
BE: So am I!
SPF: Yeah, we're ready to make pay-or-play offers, but we really can't until we know what's going to happen with the strike, because I can't make somebody an offer until I know the exact days I'm going to need them for, so at this point we're kind of waiting. But this is kind of a de facto strike, I think. Hopefully, it'll rectify itself on June 30, which is the deadline, I think.
BE: You've done a couple of one-off roles on shows like "Charmed" and "Stargate: SG-1," but do you have a favorite amongst the TV appearances that you've done?
SPF: Y'know, Alyssa Milano is a dear friend of mine, so, again, just like Lloyd Segan, she called and I went and had fun for a day, and I had a ball doing it. Let's see (pauses) It's all been people that I know. Richard Dean Anderson, I raced cars with. I actually like them all. And I actually like doing those, because I do a lot of independent, smaller-budget things, so whenever you go on an established TV show, it's like the 5-star treatment. You're, like, "Wow, this is the catering truck? It's huge!" It's just really kind of neat. It makes you feel good.
BE: Of those independent films you've done, is there one in particular that you feel didn't get the love it deserved?
SPF: "Into the Fire." I really, really liked that fire. It's kind of a melodic sort of…I mean, I hate comparisons, and I certainly don't want to compare it to something that someone thinks is amazing, and then they think I'm tooting too much of a horn. But it's kind of a poetic piece, I think, along the lines of "The Thin Red Line." Kind of like that. And I liked that film. Lots of people hated it, but I loved it. And "Into the Fire"…not to compare it, because I don't want to get in trouble by doing that, but it has the same kind of poetic, melodic cadence to it, and I really enjoy the film. I really do.
BE: You've been in several…I guess you'd call them "cult films." But with those films, has there ever been a point where you actually became aware of their cult growing? I mean, there's "Boondock Saints" or even "Suicide Kings."
SPF: Really just "Boondock Saints." That's what most people know me and recognize me for.
BE: I guess what I'm asking, though, is if there was a certain point when you realized that their popularity was growing, that audiences were finally taking them to heart.
SPF: Yeah. Yeah, specifically "Boondock Saints." It's really just a weird cult phenomenon, but people really flip out for that movie. And I enjoyed it as well, but I had no idea that it would make, like, a $190 million on DVD! It's crazy!
BE: You've also done a lot of ensemble flicks, like "Body Shots." Do you prefer to be in ensembles, or do you steer yourself toward the lead roles if you can get them?
SPF: No, y'know, like I said, I like character work the best, actually. It really gives me something to sink my teeth into. Leading man is…you're kind of vanilla, y'know? And I enjoy it all, but I really like to do character work. That's what I love to do.
BE: What are some of the films you're currently working on? I saw a couple on IMDB that are in the works.
SPF: Oh, well, I just finished "To Live and Die." We shot that in Albuquerque; it's an MGM film, and we're in post right now, so we should have that locked pretty soon. In six months, that ought to be out. And we're in pre-production on "Sunshine," so that's pretty much it.
BE: I see that, on "To Live and Die," you co-starred with Joey Pants (Joe Pantaliano).
BE: What's he like to work with?
SPF: Just like what you would think. He's a hoot, he's a scream, he's funny as hell. He picks great restaurants (laughs) and his dog got along with my dog!
BE: And, lastly, several of the films that you've worked on have, to put it politely, bypassed theaters. Are you an actor who just thinks, "A job is a job is a job?"
SPF: Y'know, it's funny, people don't realize how drastically films can change. You can go in and see a film with Meg Ryan in it and think, "What the hell is this?" And, really, it's a substantially budgeted film, but you never know how things can change. You can get a script and think, "Wow, this could be really interesting," but…I mean, case and point, with one of my favorite films, "Powder," if you read that script, that could've been something so funkily ridiculous…
SPF: …that it would've been laughable. But they hit it out of the park, in my opinion. It was directed so perfectly, the nuances were so perfectly delivered, that they made it into a wonderful film. But, y'know, even if the make-up had been done wrong, it would've been laughable. It really would have. And that's the difference which people just don't understand. You never see an absurd script and say, "Oh, yeah, let's make this!" But then you start getting rewrites, and you're, like, "Wow, that really changes it a lot." And then the director has a completely different vision because he got a phone call from his third mistress who said, "I really see them all in pink thongs on the beach." For whatever reason, you just see it turning in the wrong direction, and you're just praying that someone can fix it. But, no, you certainly don't read a script that's obviously a pile of horse manure and say, "Yeah, let me attach myself to that!" It just sort of finds itself in that direction, unfortunately.
BE: And not to name any names, but I presume there have been some productions which eventually came out that you looked at and were, like, "Oh, man, this is absolutely not what it seemed like at the time."
SPF: Of course. Yes. YES. Without question. And that's putting it lightly. (laughs) I actually would've used some expletives.