Dylan McDermott loves springing into action, intrigue for 'Olympus Has Fallen'
Acclaimed actor says variety of roles come by happenstance
Spoiler alert: Some plot and character details from the movie are revealed.
Although he's found success in film, TV and stage for a number of years already, Dylan McDermott knows that he's especially been fortunate in the past couple of them, given his roles in such projects as "American Horror Story," "The Campaign" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
After all, it's not often you can land so many great projects that cast you from one end of the spectrum, genre-wise, to the other, much less have every single one of them find an audience in the process.
McDermott hopes to keep his winning streak going with the new action thriller "Olympus Has Fallen," and given the pedigree of the film's cast and crew, the odds are definitely in his favor.
In a recent interview, McDermott told me that he hasn't necessarily made conscious decisions to do so many dramatically different projects; it actually comes down to having faith in what you do and doing your best at it.
"It's just fate in a way. Projects come along and you do them and just hope for the best," McDermott observed. "I've been lucky enough to makes some comedies and some action movies, and independent movies like 'Perks,' which is certainly a beautiful movie. It's really in the stars, ultimately."
Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, "Olympus Has Fallen" stars Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, a disgraced former Secret Service agent who lost his job after a tragedy involving President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart).
Relegated to a desk job at the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., Banning unexpectedly finds the opportunity to prove his worth once again as he puts his set of special skills to work to battle a North Korean terrorist group that seizes the White House and threatens the lives of the president and top officials around him, including the Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo). Morgan Freeman also stars as Speaker of the House Allan Trumble, who is installed as acting president when Asher and the vice president (Phil Austin) are taken hostage.
McDermott stars in the pivotal role of Forbes, Banning's fellow former Secret Service agent who has become disillusioned with his country and plays a major role in pulling off the siege.
"I liked the idea of playing a Secret Service agent again because I did it with 'In the Line of Fire' 20 years ago, and to do a role that was the opposite -- one was good and the other was bad -- I thought that was interesting as well," McDermott explained.
The release of "Olympus Has Fallen" comes at an interesting time in the state of U.S.-foreign relations, where, apart from the diplomatic efforts of "special U.S. envoy" Dennis Rodman and his controversial visit with Kim Jong Un ("Can you believe it didn't work?" McDermott said, laughing), North Korea has indicated in no uncertain terms that they've made America their No. 1 target.
Of course, while the "What If?" scenario of North Korean commandos attacking the White House like we see in "Olympus Has Fallen" seems impossible, McDermott says all you have to do is remind yourself of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to engage yourself in the movie.
"I think anything is plausible after 9/11, and the movie taps into some of our biggest fears because the White House is such of a symbol of America," McDermott said. "To have that be taken would scare the pants off of anybody. It's great fodder for a movie, certainly."
While McDermott's role goes far beyond playing a Secret Service agent in "Olympus Has Fallen," he came to the movie with a great deal of experience thanks to his role in "In the Line of Fire." Not only did McDermott delve deep into the world by researching the rigors of the job at the time, he actually joined a security detail with the Secret Service when a then-governor of Arkansas ran for the presidency in 1992.
"When Bill Clinton was running for president, Hillary had to be guarded as well, so I went on detail with them to protect her," McDermott said.
The difficult part of the role, he said, was getting into the mind of a man who once was tasked with the ultimate responsibility of protecting the president, only become the ultimate traitor.
"I could only use my imagination to try to figure out why somebody would betray his country," McDermott said. "What would drive him to do that? What was his fantasy -- to have a place in North Korea on the beach? He was obviously disillusioned when they approached him, since he had been in Washington so long. When he says (to the president), ‘There's a reason I never voted for you.' He really meant that. When he talks about globalization and buying the presidency, these were all things that were stuck in his head and made him twisted."
Speaking of twisted, you can't talk with McDermott without bringing up "American Horror Story," the frightening anthology series on FX which starred McDermott in the lead role in the first season and found him playing the small, but horrifying role in the second season, "American Horror Story: Asylum."
With any luck, McDermott, 51, will return to the third "AHS," which this time is titled "American Horror Story: Coven." He doesn't know of any possibilities yet, but said if creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk call, he'll be there.
"I love doing the show and had a great time doing it," McDermott enthused. "I hope the chance does come and there's a third season for me, because I love being there."
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