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Bruce Campbell and Chase Masterson save the world in Terminal Invasion
By Resa Nelson
Bruce Campbell and Chase Masterson star in Terminal Invasion, slated to premiere on Sept. 14, 2002 in a made-for-SCI FI TV movie. Chances are you know Campbell from his starring role in Army of Darkness and other Evil Dead movies, while you'll recognize Masterson as Leeta from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Terminal Invasion is the brainchild of director/executive producer Sean Cunningham, a Hollywood veteran known best for Friday the 13th. Masterson plays Cathy Garrett, a pilot stranded at a small, isolated municipal airport with her passengers, waiting out a winter blizzard. Campbell plays Jack Edwards, a convicted murderer who ends up at the same tiny airport. Add to the mix a spaceship of hostile aliens landing nearby, and you've got a handful of humans who battle to save themselves—when they aren't at each other's throats.
What can you tell me about the story of Terminal Invasion and the characters you play?
Campbell: It all takes place in a small municipal airport, kind of in a North Dakota sort of place. My character's being transported. Yeah, he's a rough, mean mama-jama. He gets derailed by this inclement weather. Everyone, because of this weather, gets held into this small municipal airport.
At first, my character is very much on the attack, when he finally gets freed up. And yet, as the movie goes on, he becomes the guy that you really kind of need.
He's not afraid of anything. He's a guy who's seen many things that he would no longer be afraid of. He's a good guy to have up front, because he doesn't get afraid easily.
Masterson: I'm a pilot. I run a charter service. I'm described as the alpha female. I'm pretty straightforward, no-holds-barred, very True Grit kind of gal. I've really enjoyed playing this role, because of that. It's very different than a lot of stuff that I've done. It was all a good thing.
Chase, considering Bruce's character is a convicted murderer, is it safe to say your character takes her responsibility to her passengers seriously?
Masterson: I definitely do. These people's lives are in my hands. And I'm the kind of person to take responsibility seriously anyway, but placed in a dire situation I think anyone's true colors come out. Garrett's colors come on out. She rises to the occasion.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this movie?
Campbell: I think sometimes actors love to make fun of the genre, and I don't think it's right.
We just took the approach of, "This is real. This is happening." We shot it in Toronto. And the actors that they brought in were terrific. I think you get a hint, after a couple of days, "Are we playing this straight? What are we doing here?" And that's where Sean Cunningham comes in. I think he was instrumental. Sean Cunningham is also responsible for the Friday the 13th series. He is the founder/creator/director/producer of a good many of those.
This was a package that I think the SCI FI Channel was very interested in, because it was a genre piece that Sean brought to them that he wanted to do, and he has a very strong genre name. And then someone brought my name up. I'd never worked with Sean before, but I'd certainly heard of him. Even when I did my first film back in 1979, I'd heard of Sean Cunningham.
Masterson: Sean is a very giving director, very open to suggestions or comments that we would have, and very firm, also. There would be some things I'd want to do that he'd veto completely. I sometimes didn't get it, and then later I would inevitably see that he was right. He knew what the recipe was supposed to taste like. He was able to steer my character toward that overall point of view beautifully.
Sean was able to steer me in the role of Garrett to a point of more authority in my work than I've had before. He took me aside one day and said, "Chase, as you mature in your life and your work, you'll find that you need to try less hard." That's such a powerful thing to tell an actor, because everyone goes through a phase in their work where they want to do it. The key, of course, to doing anything well is to let it happen. That, of course, requires incredible discipline and work and skill, but in the final analysis, anything is best when it comes rolling out instead of when you try to hit a certain mark. So he helped instill a comfort ability in me, and that brought me, frankly, a lot of quiet inside, and a lot of peace and confidence that I was right where I needed to be and I could just be there, and it would all happen.
It sounds like it boils down to a matter of having faith in yourself and your abilities.
Masterson: It really is, and that's a lesson, I think, for all of us. I think confidence is probably the single most important factor, and confidence is not something that you can work toward. It's something that you either have or don't.
Bruce, you play a convicted murderer who seems to pose a threat at first, then becomes the man you want fighting on your side. How did you approach playing your character?
Campbell: I wanted to go more for the High Sierra approach. It's actually closer to Petrified Forest with aliens—the early Bogart where he's got people hostage. I wanted to go with really buzzed sides, like a Sing-Sing haircut. The decision was not to do that—which I'm fine with—because we had to walk the fine line between the leading man and character. So we softened it a bit.
My part was written very straight. So I go based on the material. There was no joking around at all in the material. Sometimes you can't force that stuff. If it's not there at all, don't push it.
Masterson: He's really fabulous in this role. I think it's very different than what a lot of people think about when they think about Bruce Campbell. So it was fun to see him doing something so serious. He's such a master of comedy, also, again, without trying to be. There wasn't a lot that was funny about Jack, his character. He brought some humor to it, but it was quite different from a lot of the humor we've seen before from Bruce.
And what about your character?
Masterson: I'm basically a hero in this. So if I hadn't taken it seriously, I think it would not have worked at all. Then again, if you take things too seriously, the audience won't. I think sometimes if you take everything too seriously, it's just not interesting.
One thing I was thinking about in terms of my character was Alan Alda in M*A*S*H. He took everything very seriously, but then it wasn't brain surgery, as it were. It was just the day's work, and it was extremely serious, but part of his strength was he wasn't going to let it get to him. In a way, that's kind of the approach that I tried to take, whether it will show or not, with Garrett.
Going beyond the aliens and the adventure, what is Terminal Invasion really about?
Campbell: There's a theme of trust. What you have is, these people don't know each other. They don't care. They all have selfish motives. Some want to get out of there, some want to run, some are like, "You're crazy, I'm not doing anything," some believe everything they see, other people are skeptics. Eventually, the ironic thing is that the aliens serve as a catalyst that force them to trust each other. It's almost like countries that are on the brink of war, and an alien ship shows up and they go, "Oh, man, we've got to work together if we want to kill that alien." It's the same War of the Worlds principle: That former enemies are now teamed up to defeat a greater evil, and then as a result they form a stronger bond.
What kind of impact does this have on the characters you play?
Campbell: He's the guy who learns to trust. It's mutual trust. He learns to trust more than just himself, and other people learn to trust him, because he's not the most trustworthy guy himself. I'm the catalyst for that.
I like characters who take charge. I like no-nonsense characters. And he seemed to be an engaged character. Every time I read a script where the character doesn't do much, I'm just not interested. And they should be colorful, they should have shades. This was sort of basic. He's not a terribly complex character, but he does learn as this movie goes on.
Other characters I've played in the past were more enjoyable because it was over a longer period, and you get to know the character longer. This was a TV movie, you've got three weeks of shooting. In this case, it was 15 days. So you're moving pretty quick. This is TV-paced. And so, what you do is, you have to sometimes rely on instinct, and sometimes ask more questions than you normally would in a quick period of time. "What do you think? Is this too much? Can I move around on this?" You hope very quickly that you can piece it all together.
Masterson: I think the greatest challenge for me was actually centered around having Garrett be a multi-faceted human being, not just a stereotypical, in-charge alpha female kind of woman, but somebody with fears, who's not completely in charge inside but has to rise to the occasion and be in charge on the outside. When you're confronted by aliens and a killer, who you're being held hostage by, you're bound to have some fear. But Garret can neither give in to that fear nor ignore it completely. Filling out those complexities in a character like Garrett was a lovely challenge that I got to do in a different way than I'd done on film before.
I think a lot of it is doing your homework. And a lot of it is done in the moment while you're working, staying available. That's the interesting and very compelling thing to me about being an actor. I had a mentor years ago tell me that good acting is just about who's the bravest. That's all it's really about. Being brave enough to let your insides show. That's something that from an early age people train themselves not to do, because it's safer. But it's our job to be the most vulnerable that we can be. Whether or not your character is vulnerable, there is a vulnerability to the fact that we are on screen. For me, acting is about trusting myself, that whatever I do will be fine, as long as it's true to the integrity to the film and to the character.
The trap in acting is in planning what you're going to do, and you can't do that. You just have to let yourself live in the moment on the screen. And that's where your choices come from and that's where you find those complexities.
You've both done genre work before. What are some of the challenges in making genre movies?
Campbell: I wrote a book about them. It's called If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. It was a best-seller. It's all about the unsung heroes of Hollywood. It's the people who make movies for working stiffs. I have a great affection for it, that's why I never seem to get away from the genre. I always enjoy some of the things they come up with.
Bruce, why did you decide to write your book?
Campbell: I felt there was a lot of misinformation out there. You can only be doing certain things if you're an actor. There are certain thrills that we have. In the same sense, there are tremendous letdowns, and it's not the best profession for family life. So I think people needed to see the other side of it. Not everyone's going to be Bruce Willis. You'd better get used to that right from the start. And if you go out there looking for fame and fortune, here's what you're most likely to find, so be prepared for it. It's sort of a tutorial. It's almost a guide: You learn as I learn throughout the book.
Every industry probably has that, but particularly the entertainment industry, because it's the golden egg. It's where you go for fame and fortune.
When was your book first published, and how has it done?
Campbell: May of last year. We didn't print that many, but we had to keep going back to print. We're coming up on our 11th printing. I'm doing a paperback tour this fall. I toured, starting June, I toured for five months and did 55 cities. It's the way to do it if you're going to do it. I'm tapering off a little bit for the paperback.
My Web site has a full listing of upcoming appearances and all that. That's bruce-campbell.com.
How does making a science-fiction movie compare to making a mainstream movie?
Campbell: Sometimes in these movies, you go, "Please, give me the alien, because this sucks." My analogy is, like with The Sound of Music, if you took the music away, it would still be a really good movie. In this case, we wanted to try and do it so if you took the alien away, would it still function as a drama?
Masterson: I don't prefer either one over the one, necessarily, except for the fact that genre fans are so very, very faithful. It brings a bit more joy to the genre work, because we know how anticipated the projects will be. That's something you don't find in other movies. I'm very, very thankful to the fans for their interest.
The fan support is one reason why I'm doing this film. My character on Star Trek was brought on for four lines in one episode, and that's all it was supposed to be. Because of fan support, I kept coming back and back for five years on that show.
In genre, it's much more likely that you're going to be using a blue screen. Using a blue screen is not that much different than acting with another actor on a mainstream set, because a lot of times in mainstream work you'll have to make up stuff that isn't there. You're looking out over a beautiful sunset, and it's really a bunch of camera trucks and people drinking coffee and smoking. There it is. And you have to set the tone in your mind and in your heart. It's kind of the same thing on blue screen in a lot of genre work—you just have to make it up, and that's your job as an actor. There are some differences, but not as many as people would think. If you're making someone out to be a scary alien, you have the same challenges as when you're making someone in a mainstream project to be a villain. You might think, "Hey, you're not a villain, you're Joe." He's still got to be a villain, whether he's in an alien costume or he's a guy who's actually a very good friend of yours.
Have you seen the final version of Terminal Invasion yet?
Masterson: I saw some dailies, and I was happy with what I saw there. The look of the film is very intriguing. It's shot in a very dark, moody, Hitchcockian kind of way. That's a good thing. Let's face facts: an airport lobby is not the most interesting kind of place you can be. With different locations and a fabulous style from the DP, I think it's going to look good.
This was a lovely project to work on. It was a fun role, and I think the script has a lot to say. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it.
Some of the changes taking place at the SCI FI network are so exciting to watch, and the places they're taking it.
Chase, what other projects are you working on right now?
Masterson: Later today I start work on another feature called Inhuman and that's with Creative Light Entertainment, a company that's doing some really fun genre work. I play a very gritty ex-doctor involved in genetic manipulation. It's a sci-fi horror film. But again, it's done in a very subtle way. It's not slash-em horror. It's a very intriguing kind of mystery. I'm very excited about that—I've had to learn how to ride a motorcycle. You can look for that next spring.
I'm hosting a news magazine show called Sci-Fi Digital. It's going to be on the Internet, then we'll be putting it out in syndication. Check out my Web site for details.
A bit later this year, I'll be debuting a first CD. I sing music of the '30s, '40s and '50s—it's torch songs, it's fun stuff, very sultry music. I'm producing the album, as well. It's called Thrill of the Chase.
I'm putting together a charity fundraising project that I think is going to raise a lot of money for people who I think could use our help. For years, we've done a huge amount of charity fundraising through our various fan clubs for Star Trek. We did it through auctions. Now I'm putting together a charity umbrella organization called GENIUS—Genre Entertainment Network In Union to Serve. We'll be collecting very high-end items, like scripts, props, wardrobes from really top industry people, from A-list features to television shows. We'll be auctioning them. All of the proceeds—100 percent of them—will go straight to the charities we support. So when a fan leaves at the end of the auction, they'll be writing a check directly to the charity. We're choosing places that don't have a lot of overhead, that really will put the money to great uses.
So we're very excited about what's going to happen with that and the good we'll be able to do in the world. And I feel like that's really the most important thing I can do. Television and film are nice and extremely rewarding, but this is truly the thing that I feel I was put on the planet to do.
aka Devil's Pass, aka Terminal Velocity
Aliens in human disguise commandeer a rural airport during a snowstorm. To survive, the people trapped inside must determine which of their own is not of this Earth.
Premieres Saturday, Sept 14, at 9PM ET/PT on the Sci Fi Channel
Bruce Campbell and Chase Masterson star in "Devil's Pass," the first of five TV movies being produced shotgun-style in Canada for the Sci Fi Channel.
The five movies, budgeted at about $2 million apiece, will fuel Sci Fi's initiative to premiere new movies, targeting the cable channel's male viewers, every Saturday night.
"Devil's Pass" is scheduled to debut on Sci Fi in August or September 2002. It follows an escaped convict (Campbell) and a human-killing alien who get stranded at an airport. The convict teams up with a femme pilot (Masterson) to save the world from the evil alien.
Chase Masterson .... Cathy Garrett
Bruce Campbell .... Jack
Marcia Bennett .... Gloria
Dylan Bierk .... Angie
Kedar Brown .... Darian
Chuck Byrn .... Del
Stephen Joffe .... Alien Boy
Jason Jones (I) .... Sgt. Griffin
Sarah LaFleur .... Sarah Philips
Hannah Lochner .... Hannah the alien girl
Andrew Tarbet .... Andrew Philips
Production Company: Amber Light Films
2nd Asst Art Director McAllister, Ian Patrick
3rd Asst Director Gurevich, Yan
1st Asst Director Wallace, Mark
1st Asst Accountant Phillips, Tracey Lynn
2nd Asst Director Jeffery, George
Art Director Goulding, Jon
1st Asst Accountant (payroll) Gibson, Debra
3rd Asst Art Director Chan, Man Lan
Trainee Asst Accountant Schembri, Kevin Michael
Location Manager Lancaster, David
Production Designer Hanna, Ed
Production Accountant Laporte, Nathalie
Asst Location Manager Enright, Tom; Cunliffe, Ian P. (L)
Art Apprentice Brown, Jason
Asst Production Manager Appelbe, Robert
Our thanks to Lisa Del Colle, a Publicist at the SCI FI Channel for sending us these great shots
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