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A Chat with Adrian Paul (“Highlander: The Source”)

Although he’s been bouncing around Hollywood as far back as 1987, when he played Kolya ‘Nikolai’ Rostov on the “Dynasty” spin-off, “The Colbys,” it’s fair to say that Adrian Paul is more often remembered for his role as Duncan McLeod in the “Highlander” saga. After quite a few episodes of the TV series and a feature film, Paul took a break from the “Highlander” universe for several years, but he returned at long last for last year’s “Highlander: The Source,” which turned up on the Sci-Fi Channel and has recently seen DVD release. We spoken to Paul about his experiences in making the film (and whether there’ll be any more), his thoughts on longtime “Highlander” producer Bill Panzer, why his other sci-fi series, “Tracker,” never really took off, and what he’s been working on recently.

Adrian Paul: Hi Will.

Bullz-Eye: Hey Adrian, how’s it going?

AP: Good, good.

BE: So how hard was it to step back into the shoes of Duncan MacLeod after a few years?

AP: It was interesting. It was a different time, too, you know, and they wanted a slightly different type of character; you know, a little darker. But, you know, it’s fine, and you can do that because you know the values of the character; you kind of step back into it and try and find new stuff. So what with the old and the new stuff, you hopefully have a character with some new twists.

BE: Was it painful to lose your katana after all these years?

AP: (Laughs) No. The thing was, I think nothing’s lost, y’know? I mean, we know where it’s buried! But I love the katana. I love tai chi and working with the katana; I find it a very malleable type of weapon. But I do like using other weapons, too, and we wanted to sort of give it a whole different type of flavor. So we tried it, and even though a lot of the fights were sped up…which wasn’t my idea…we had some really interesting fights. The thing was that we actually tried a whole bunch of different types of weapons and stuff so that we’d have a roundabout look on it, but we didn’t know what we were facing when it comes to visual effects. That was an unknown quantity to us, so all we could do was choreograph it and hope for the best.

BE: Peter Wingfield and Jim Byrnes return for the adventure, although I don’t guess we’ll be seeing Jim again, except possibly in flashback.

AP: (Laughs) Yeah, he did have a little problem, didn’t he?

BE: Was it good to work with them again?

AP: Yeah, I love working with them. It’s, like, you work with somebody for so long you kind of get to know them better than you know some of your best friends. Therefore, it’s easy to get in the swing of things. We all still keep in contact, you know. We meet up on occasions when we’re in the same city; we run into each other at conventions. So we’re kind of bound at the hip in a strange way.

BE: There’s a report on IMDb that the original version of the script for “The Source” had Duncan living in a gas station in the middle of the desert with a pet monkey, wearing cowboy boots and smoking a lot.

AP: (Laughs) I didn’t know about that one. There were other versions, and I think…this script was not the one I expected to shoot at first. I thought it was going to get written by David Abramowitz, and it wasn’t; it was written by somebody else. I think David had some interesting takes on it. He came in to try and help us fix the structural problems we were having in the script on the second version, though.

BE: There’s a very nice tribute to Bill Panzer on the DVD. Would it be fair to say that “Highlander” would not have been the success it has become without him?

AP: Yeah, I mean, Bill started it all. He was the guy who really believed in it, who started it. He and Peter Davis really sort of got their backbones behind it and pushed it, you know. I think he had some great input in the series. I think he was a good guy and he basically wanted everything to be…he loved the “Highlander” world, he really did. I think the success of it is partly due to him, but I also think it’s partly due to the other people, because I don’t think you can make a success of anything singlehandedly. I think you can defiantly push it along its way, which is what Bill did, and then he was smart to actually get other people that he trusted around him: good directors, good editors, good writers and such, that were able to sort of keep the concept and the story lines interesting and that had the sense of style and history and romance to them.

BE: What are your feelings about the end result of “The Source”? Because it seems like it took awhile to get rolling, as far as the production.

AP: Yeah, it did. I think it was confusing at the end. I think the film worked for the first, like, three quarters. And then I think there were certain visual effects problems with it. I think the characters were well-worked in the sense that, with what they were given, the characters went well together. There were certain plot holes for me. I think we should have seen…well, for somebody who didn’t know what the film was about, they wouldn’t know what the Duncan/Dawson relationship was, so who cares? There are certain things like that that I would have liked to have seen fleshed out a little bit more, perhaps. I think the end was a little confusing, as to what was going to happen and what The Source was about. I think that was a problematic thing we were facing all the way through, and it never really got resolved. Other than that, I think it was another really good work. I think it looked really good; it was a huge-looking film for what we shot it for. So, basically, I think there are some good things in there, and some stuff that could have been improved.

BE: I know there had been talk that it was going to be part of a trilogy. Is that still on the books as a possibility, or have you not heard?

AP: I have no idea. With Bill not around anymore, I don’t know what they are going to want to do with it, so I can’t answer that question.

BE: If there were to be another film…well, Brent Spiner said he wanted to stop playing Data because he was aging where an android wasn’t supposed to, so how long do you think you can get away with playing an immortal?

AP: Well, I think as long as I can look the part, fine. I’ve been doing so many other things, and I really enjoy playing other characters, that to go back to it…? Maybe in a different way. Maybe I go back in the Sean Connery role, or be what Christopher Lambert was for me in the film. But I don’t know the answer to that. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been doing it. I mean, I’ve done two films and 117 episodes in the series, so it’s a big part of my career, and now I like to sort of think, “Okay, I can move on to something else.” Which I have been doing. I mean, I did three films last year, I’m in the middle of one film this year, and I’ve got another after this and maybe another later on. So it’s kind of…I think you have to move on at some point. Although I would never cross it off as to my involvement with it, because I really want to give it thanks for what it gave me in my career and my life.

BE: As far as other roles you’ve played, did you think that your series “Tracker” was going to be a bigger success than it was?

AP: “Tracker” was…the concept of “Tracker,” I thought, was really interesting at first. It was the idea of seeing human beings from another perspective, somebody else looking at us. And it didn’t turn out to be that. It turned out to be a little bit more “let’s catch the alien of the week,” and I think that was, as well as the syndicated market slowing down greatly at that time, one of the reasons why it wasn’t successful. I think it had some really cool stuff in it; I think there’s some good relationship stuff in it, and I think the characters worked well together. But I think, again, the mistake with any series is that it is pushed towards “let’s see how cool we can be” and “let’s push how many aliens we can get or how many bad guys we can get.” And that’s not why people watch series. They watch a series to see the development between people and the interesting relationships each week. That’s why soaps last for so long; they want to see people’s relationships. It’s not about the story…or, rather, it’s not all about the story. And I think some mistake can be made in that sense.

BE: What’s your favorite film that you’ve worked on in recent years? As you say, you’ve done plenty besides “Highlander.”

AP: Well, I’ll tell you what: I had a fantastic time doing “Sir Francis Drake.” But it hasn’t come out yet. It’s basically a Sci-Fi (Channel) movie of the week. And the one I’m doing right now, I mean, this one is going to be…this one’s a really good acting piece for me to do. It’s a tough role that I’ve got to do.

BE: Is that “Nine Miles Down”?

AP: Yeah, “Nine Miles Down.” I think it’s going to be great. And he’s done some really good stuff, the director (Anthony Waller). So those are the two that I would pick, and… (Laughs) …I’m quite happy that those were my last two projects!

BE: And, lastly, have you ever had to endure drinking the cocktail that was named after Duncan MacLeod?

AP: No, I haven’t.

BE: Are you familiar with what it is?

AP: I know there’s a menu somewhere…

BE: It’s Coca-cola, whiskey and sake.

AP: (Vaguely horrified) Oh, well, that would knock you out!

BE: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you Adrian.

AP: All right, you take care!

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