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Adrian Paul: The Highlander that never lost his head

A box of sour nerds, a glass of lumpy Nesquik and a sedentary evening of all the low-budget Sci-Fi that Sky One had to offer.  A classic late-90s night in. For much of the mid-20s generation, Buffy, Relic Hunter and Dark Skies were all part of a staple diet, or maybe just an amuse bouche for the 6 o’clock Simpsons.  But of all the fantasy series classics, it was Highlander was the one that left so many palates divided. Back in those carefree days of 1997, there were two schools of awkward pre-teens, those who followed Highlander, and those who tolerated it after the closing credits of Quantum Leap.

Even if you were part of the latter, the one thing you will remember is Adrian Paul, with his wet look hair and errie resemblance to a young Sean Connery. To the horror of Lambert fanboys across the board, Paul, an ex-dancer with an aptitude for stunts and cocky swashbuckling, took the Highlander torch for the TV edition. Despite the jibes of cosplaying haters, Paul held his own for a 5 year residence as troubled immortal,  Duncan MacLeod.

Sadly, not everyone viewed the fantasy resurgence in a positive light. By the time we hit 2000, countless spin offs had clouded the genre with shameless dialogue and mid market special effects (not to mention providing an endless outlet for Creed’s post-grunge horrors). As the the dust gathered the giant VHS box sets, many of Sky One’s supernatural heros were left chomping at the bit for work.

Perhaps hardened by his years as rough-and-tumble Macloud, Adrian Paul found his own way of keeping his head above water. Though his acting roles have been dominated by Sci-Fi, including the blithely titled EYEBORGS (yes, that would be cyborgs shaped like eyes) Paul has proved himself to be an eclectic producer and soon to be director of his first feature film, Basile’s Legacy.

For a man who spent the bulk of his career beheading supernatural demons, his tastes seem remarkably minimalist. His latest production, At 2:15 has the narrative of a gentle portmanteau and his directorial début will explore the degeneration of rural life in a small Italian village.

In a garbled conference call to THN, Paul discussed the meandering path of his post-Highlander career and just why he would choose to receive ‘The Quickening’ from his holiness the Dalai Lama.

THN: Can we call you Adrian?
Adrian: Absolutely, no problem

THN: So, Adrian, in reality it’s going to be impossible to get through this interview and not talk about the Highlander series, does that bother you?
Adrian: No, I mean, it’s 20 years since I started it, in 1991. In that time, it’s never gone away, people often say to me, don’t you think you get type cast? But it’s a thing people remember you with. It was the first show to ever do a co-production of over 100 episodes, a Europe-American co production that is. It had major stars in it, people have gone on to massive careers since they played in it. So really, you can’t help but talk about it.

THN: Along with a lot of other fantasy series of the 90s, like Xena, Buffy, it’s an implicit part of a lot of people’s childhoods, do you ever get hassled by the mid-20s generation?
Adrian: Oh yeah, all the time, the funny thing is, but because it does dozens and dozens of reruns, there are new fans that are constantly coming out. That’s kind of strange in a sense, people say ‘oh my ten year old is watching it now’. So, there’s a new film which Summit Entertainment are doing which is a revamp of the first Highlander, so that’s going to be a huge $70-$80 million dollar production which is supposed to revamp the franchise.

THN: Would you ever revisit it?
Adrian: Maybe, maybe not. I’m not sure.

THN: Since Duncan Jones has received so much recognition, British Sci Fi has had a bit of life breathed into it, is it an area you are a fan of?
Adrian: Em, not really. As an actor, you go out there to get paid so sometimes when someone says ‘hey there’s a series that’s going to run for X amount of time’ and there’s a possibility of doing that, well that’s work. And believe me, I like to work. It depends, that genre’s an interesting genre. In the 90s, Sci-Fi was kind of looked down on in a sense. Then it started getting all these HUGE productions, and now Sci-Fi has taken over. All the big movies now, Transformers, it’s not looked down on so much any more. (THN: Perhaps a debatable point, given the recent Transformer 3 reviews

THN: So, Basile’s Legacy won’t be your first directorial experience, we remember you once took on an episode of Highlander?
Adrian: Actually, yeah that was great because it ended up being voted one of the top ten favourite episodes by all the fans (Revelation 6:8). It’s nice to have that kind of credit.

THN: Can you tell us any more about the projects you are producing at the moment?
Adrian: Em, well there’s three we are in the process of doing. One is called Five, and that is basically Deliverance with a young cast. It’s about five kids go to Alaska on a trip and find a dead ranger attacked by a bear but later on find out that it’s not and they accidentally kill this trapper, the trapper’s father then hunts them down one by one.

Then Basile’s Legacy is about a small Italian village which is dying. It’s very similar to Cinema Paradiso/Cholocat, it’s a romantic fairy-tale in a sense that this Mayor brings back the village by growing wine and it’s the struggle they have to bring water into the village before it is taken over and create something before the village is destroyed and taken over by industrialists. A special angel comes in and helps them out that type of thing, so that’s almost a romantic fairytale.

THN: Can you reveal who is attached to any of those films?
No, I don’t have letters from them yet, verbal agreements. (Thankfully, Mr.Paul has underestimated the Google generation. A swift check on imdb revealed that Melaine Griffiths (last seen doing voice overs for Robot chicken) and intimidating 70s film veteran Nick Holte (Thin Red Line) are rumoured be starring in the film At 2:15.)

THN: Are you moving away from acting at the moment or are you just experimenting with new things?
Adrian: No, not at all. You see as an actor, you work for seven months and then it’s dead for like a year and a half. That’s how it is. Unless you’re in theatre which in the states is a little harder to do that. I like to see the projects I might be interested in doing. I mean, take Tom Hanks, he’s coming out with a huge film with Julia Roberts right now, acting in it, but he’s directed some of the biggest films around. A lot of actors do that.

I think as a director or a producer you can get involved in things you’re really interested in doing. A lot of actors have production companies. However, as an actor your agents don’t like it so much because they don’t make as much of commission.

THN: It seems a more common trend recently and I do wonder is that indicative of a an industry decline, is there just not enough acting work to go around?
Adrian: You know, the past two or three years have really been very hard. Because of the economy and so the amount of series being made in the past two years or so has probably halved. And so, as an actor, that means you’ve got major stars doing series, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be working. It’s really a chain reaction, everything is effected by it.

THN: You’ve been in the industry a long time, is there any particular project you look back on really fondly?
Adrian: Em, obviously Highlander was a very long stretch of my career, it was five years, 6 seasons so I do look back on that fondly, I met some great people and had some great times doing it. I mean, people send you a new script, series can get monotonous but it never got monotonous.

THN: I read a story once that a thief ran through the Highlander set and you sat on him to catch him, is that true?
Adrian: Yeah. I was in my trailer, and I suddenly heard screaming so I ran to grab the guy and got him down to the ground and held him there. He’d been trying to steal a camera from one of the tourists on set. He pulled a screwdriver out of his pocket, so we were lucky he wasn’t waving that around.

THN: A Bit of life imitating art?
Adrian: Yeah, we had all these swords lying around, luckily we didn’t have to use any.

THN: Ok, one last question before we let you go. And yes, it’s Highlander-centric. If you were to behead anyone and receive ‘The Quickening’ who would it be?
Adrian: Whose head would I want to chop off? Oh god it would have to be someone a bit more spiritual as that’s what I would want for myself, a little bit more Karma. It’s just such a gruesome way of doing it though!

THN: Well for now, just imagine that head would grow back.
Adrian: Well, in that case it would have to be the Dalai Lama. The amount of stuff I could get through him in terms of spirituality, I’d choose him.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Danny

    Nov 25, 2016 at 8:52 am

    John Motson

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