When I heard that Syfy was planning on airing a movie called Mongolian Death Worm, I was sure they’d made a mistake. How can a few worms be better than snakes on a sub or a shark that can down a commercial airplane? But then I found out that the movie starred Sean Patrick Flanery of Boondock Saints fame and I had to give it a try.
Guess what? Syfy wins again.
Flanery plays Daniel, a rakish, self-preservationist who is out looking for the tomb of Genghis Khan. Legend has it that the tomb is guarded by Mongolian Death Worms but it’s not Daniel who disturbs the lair, it’s oil drilling capitalist who get what’s coming to them in full-on Syfy b-movie fashion.
The film also stars Victoria Pratt as a doctor come to bring humanitarian aid to a village nearly wiped out by Mongolian Death Worm fever. I mean, as curses, go, this one really packs a punch. Not like those silly Egyptian tomb curses that result in slow moving mummies. Nope, this one lets loose a whole garden of mega death worms and they want their treasure back.
Sean Patrick Flanery sat down with the press this week to talk about the movie, his love of martial arts and he even revealed the one thing he’s done that he’s never going to do again. Listen in.
So, Mongolian Death Worm, huh?
Sean Patrick Flanery: You know, it’s funny every time, people are like Mongolian Death Worm, what is that? I’m like no, no, no, no you got to check it out. It’s a different kind of Sci-Fi movie and realistically that’s the kind of Sci-Fi movie that I could do over and over again. It’s not the dead serious you know, we’re at DEFCON 5 and the space lizards are going to attack in 13 seconds. It’s not that. Because of the title you have to know that it’s not taking itself too seriously…and in that I think we really made a neat little film.
The films is really funny in spots. Your character, in particular, has some great moments.
SPF: When I read the script [I thought] this could be kind of tongue-in-cheek and yet, kind of scary at the same time. I definitely wanted to add an aspect of humor to the guy. The shows that I really liked were like Raiders of the Lost Ark where it was deadly serious but he was funny as well. And you could see that this guy really, really enjoyed what he did. He just relished every moment of the day. Everything was exciting. He was following his dream, chasing these artifacts. And there was a moment for humor in everything. He didn’t take himself seriously, and there was a element of this character being a little self deprecating which I always find disarming in a certain way. I wanted to try my best – obviously not to compare this to Harrison Ford by any stretch of the imagination, but to sort of bring some of that joie de vivre to him.
Your character in this movie is a treasure hunter. Did you draw much from your days as Young Indiana Jones?
SPF: Realistically, it is what I wished I could have done with Young Indie. But Young Indie hadn’t developed into the mischievous character that Harrison Ford was when he did Indiana Jones. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Young Indiana Jones. I loved doing it. But it was a very horrific eye opening and naïve point in his life. Where every experience was his first. First time he has fell in love, the first time he saw death. And they were all character building moments in his life that ultimately would result in the Harrison Ford character. Or something similar to the character that I brought as Daniel.
What did you find the most challenging about playing this role?
SPF: The Texas heat. That was a joke. Really, the most challenging aspect [was that] literally, every piece of recorded dialogue in the film had to be looped. I don’t know if it was a technical thing, if it was a frequency thing. I don’t know. But we had to redo absolutely everything. So I’ll tell you this, it’s an actor’s nightmare whenever he has to go in and he has to loop lines. Just because the emotional tone, whether it is comedy, theater, anger, any of that, it’s really hard to replicate on a sound stage when you’re not physically going through the motions. And in this film literally every line had to be looped. So I was petrified at that. I didn’t know if we could even come close to replicating you know, what we did on the day.
(Editor’s Note: In the film, the death worms give off an electromagnetic pulse that disrupts all of the phone and radio communications. . . . hmm. . . makes you wonder. . . )
Did you have any trouble doing the green screen work?
SPF: The real worm was obviously never there, so it was all green screen which is something that I’m not that foreign to. Because, on the Young Indiana Jones in the early 90s, we did pretty much the first green – well it was the blue screen back then on television period. ILM developed all that technology. So yes, you talk about where the worm is, what the worm is going to do, and you let your imagination run wild. You have to just shut your eyes and believe, then hope when the post production artist and special affects guys get in there they make a neat looking worm. And I was pleasantly surprised with the worms. I thought a lot of that stuff where the worm was hanging on the ceiling and yanked the character from the ground up looked amazing – I really did.
It’s not nearly as difficult as people say. Let’s be honest, acting is pretend, it is. When somebody says, ‘well I can’t really do it because the person is not here,’ it’s like, ‘honey, when the person is really there it’s not really the person it’s an actor,’ so let’s not act like you really have to speak to the president, it’s not really the president.
In addition to your acting career, you’re also a martial arts champion.
SPF: Yes, yes, yes, I’ve won a few national championships in Brazilian Jujitsu. Tae Kwando same thing. And I own my own academy here in LA. I am an actor, obviously that is bread and butter. But I’m there every day teaching class. It’s my passion. I’ve been in martial arts since I was 9. When I was kid, dude, I loved Bruce Lee films, loved those. And I wanted that magic that everybody thought martial arts had, you know. So I went through all of them. Searching for that magic and ultimately I found it with Brazilian Jujitsu.
Does the martial arts help you focus when you’re acting?
SPF: Well I’ll put it to you this way. I think being physically fit helps absolutely everything. I mean it helps you if you have a desk job and you drop your pencil and you bend over to pick it up. It helps absolutely everything. And it’s those incremental little benefits that throughout the end of the day you’re not tired at all. I mean you have gas for days, you have energy everything.
Even in Dallas, I was training at Guy Mezger’s Gym. Everyday when we’d wrap I’d go train. I wake up in the morning, I feel good. By the end of the day I still have energy, it helps absolutely everything. It is something I cannot recommend more highly.
Your character in the movie is pretty adventurous. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
SPF: Wow adventurous, man, well I mean I’ve done some pretty wacky things. Probably the most adventurous thing that I’ve ever did was – I was in a place on the Coast of Africa shooting Young Indie. I rented a Mini Moke, which would look like an old school Mini Cooper from the 60’s. I rented it and I went driving, and I got about two hours out away and I ran it out of gas.
When I think back the fact that I’m still alive now, it floors me. Because I had to walk through townships and you know, It was a harrowing experience. It’s a Jeep, it doesn’t have doors, doesn’t have windows. And I drove it all down the beach, there is no roads. And you know, the sun went down and there are lions, there are crocs and somehow or another the next day, I made it back within about18 hours. It was two hours in a car. So to walk back. . . I had to sleep under a plastic thing that they wrap tires in. It was kind of cylindrical so I climbed in that and slept and it was pretty crazy actually.
Speaking of pretty crazy. . . Mongolian Death Worms premieres Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 9:00 on Syfy.