I am the actor who has played soldiers dying in various representations of World War II assaults in six different movies and television shows. Ask me Anything!


How many beaches have you died on?

Three. Due to camera magic (as we call it, well as I call it) I died on Omaha Beach twice in Saving Private Ryan. Once I was blown in two and the other time I just fell down in the water. The third time was in The Pacific when I died on Peleliu. 

Which beach was your favorite to die on?

While I got to hold hands with Tom Hanks on Omaha Beach, Peleliu was a lot warmer and the hoagie tray was much better. Also I got to chat with that kid from Jurassic Park in between takes.

What movie makes you laugh no matter how often you see it?

Saving Private Ryan. Because of the times we had. You spend a lot of time laughing with guys while you’re laying in the sand and being gritty.

What’s the hardest thing you ever worked on?

A Vietnam flick I did called We Were Soldiers starring a little known gent called Mr. Mel Gibson. I played a Vietnamese soldier (I’m shortish). Napalm deaths are a bitch. Lots of flailing.  

Do you prefer dying on a beach or inland?

Great question! There are benefits to both, of course. The beach assault takes took twelve days, which means I was wet for and my underwear was full of sand for twelve days. To be honest, I would go more for an inland assault. In Band of Brothers, my character jumped into Normandy and had a few lines before he tripped a bouncing betty and got part of his face blown off. One of my fellow walking dead was a “hanger” which is what we call the paratroopers who died in the jump and were hanging there. That was the money shot, but those guys had it tough. Dangling around, genitals all bound up and cinched up, I mean, they were brought cakes all day, but not drinks so they didn’t have to pee.   

What’s your best story from a wedding?

I got a throatie from a girl who recognized me as the guy who gets blown in half on Omaha Beach. She was very sympathetic and bet me I didn’t have a bottom half. We both won.

Are you concerned about being typecast?

Absolutely. Once they learn in this business that you look good doing something or that you do something well – die on a beach, get caught giving a handie in a roadhouse, fall backwards into a lake after being shot by a renegade cop – there’s a strong likelihood of you being retained to do it again. That, of course, is good for practical reasons, but it can be a drag on your career.

Have you felt character development in your death scenes in World War II assaults developed? 

Yes and no. My first death scene was in a group of unlucky soldiers, and though I tried to study up on my character, it was hard to put any real motivation into “grunt in Higgins boat center right” but I did my best. What did he want? To get to the beach. Did he get there? No, he did not. I tried to form bonds with my boat colleagues, “grunt in Higgins boat back right” had had a solo on screen death in War Horse, so ego much!? The other Higgins positions were just trying to remember how to die on screen. Anyway, my second one was a single on screen shot, but I was shot from behind. Where I thought things were moving up was in my third beach assault death, which involved getting my bottom half blown off – now that’s the interesting one, why? Because first off, the audience notices me. It’s hard not to notice a guy with no lower body. I canvassed several hundred cinemas when Saving Private Ryan came out and researched reaction. Most people noticed. Lots of them said things like, “ew,” or “that sucks,” or “that guy’s got no fucking bottom!” Now, I took this as a development in my acting – I was making them believe that I had really had my bottom parts blown away – but to be fair it didn’t hurt that I was briefly dragged along a beach by a certain Mr. Tom Hanks (super nice guy, bit of a screen hog). But then, boom, I’m brought back down to earth in The Pacific. In my Peleliu beach death scene I was shot and was directed to fall inside the landing craft. I was mortified (oh, ha!). I mean, I’m (half of me) is dragged along a beach on screen and then I can’t even get out of the fucking boat!? Son of a bitch. The others felt bad for me, but none of them brought it up. We’re a tight knit group. We been through a lot together. Anyway, I didn’t even get a post-death corpse shot. It can be a frustrating business to get into, trust me. 

Has it led to roles outside of being shot on assaults on beaches and inland targets?

Not really. I was the voice of a soldier in a World War II video game, but it was a static character who gets killed in the parachute jump during the preamble set up to the game. They do mention me a few seconds later (Private Jennings got it, sir) but all I do is say “Agh!” when I get shot in the chest. Otherwise I was up for a role as a private who gets bayonetted at the Battle of Gettysburg for an upcoming film called Gettysburg, but the director felt I belonged to twentieth century war death scenes. That was a shame, I really wanted that, it would have been great to put a historical death scene on my resume. I was demoralized.

How do you deal with this disappointment?

My characters drink. Hard.

What’s your “back in the day, we…?”

Back in the day we used to get shot and fall down all by ourselves. Human bodies, am I right? Nowadays these extras sit around all day eating parfaits and voicing a death. “Agh” or a “No!” or a “Why?!” is all they have to voice. CGI is ruining our livelihood. I want to kill those guys. I can. I am a veteran.

Are you really a veteran?

I am a veteran of three war assaults.

But did you fight in an actual war?

No, but my character did.

What has been blown way out of proportion?

My knees. LOL

Seriously?

Step-sibling porn.

Is there a club?

Unofficial, but yes. We know each other and there is a camaraderie, but it can be cliquey. Mostly it was comprised of the German actors who were killed in World War II films and the Native American or Italians who played Indians in cowboy flicks back in the fifties. This was back before we considered the enemy to be “people” and way before showing Americans dying in anonymous droves was considered “in.” And thank God that changed or I’d be out of work! Anyhow, the ball was picked up by the Latino guys who were machine gun fodder for Schwarzenegger in the 80s. They’re nice guys and will give advice, even though most of them have moved on to playing good natured village aldermen in Mariah Carey videos. The group was then run by the (hundreds of) Asian guys who were killed in the Vietnam movies, mostly Rambo. When John Rambo came back in the 2000s the torch was passed to their sons, who enjoyed the same sort of opportunities their dads had in the niche market of faceless slaughter. Now they’re all clamoring for roles in this recent huge explosion of Asian-focused sitcoms (3) and we all wish them the best.

Any rivalries?

Sure. There was some tension between the Northerners and Southerners who all died in Gettysburg, but we smoothed things over. Otherwise it’s about encroachment. An American guy dying in a German uniform or a Greek guy getting shot off a horse during the Battle of Wounded Knee. And I understand to a point, but the question is – do you have a German guy who can die in a bramble of barbed wire? Does he have that experience on his resume? Because if not, I want the best guy to die in that role and if he happens to be Yugoslavian, then so be it. It’s about dying on screen, not political correctness. We’re all part of the brotherhood, even if we die on different sides. Speaking of all that, the Walking Dead zombies are hot shit right now. They die like nobody’s business. Real professionals. 

Have you ever played a prank on anyone on a movie set?

Hahaha. Yes. There was a guy on Ryan that I couldn’t stand. His job was to step on a sandbag mine. He was an amputee. I removed his other leg and beat his girlfriend to death with it. haha. We’re a bunch of kidders.

WTF?

Withered Touch Femiliatus? Happens to almost everyone who has to lie still pretend dead. My brothers all have it. I hate it. There’s a webpage contribution page.

Do you have any advice for the kids who want to go on to die in the background of a war movie?

Sure. Kids practice your dying now. Think about the trends, how are large groups of people dying right now? How can you put yourself in that space?

  1. #1 by gmail email login on May 20, 2020 - 1:02 pm

    That’s a really interesting BTS interview. Thank you for sharing!

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