In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, Ben Browder talks about playing Colonel Cameron Mitchell and working on two Stargate SG-1 made-for-DVD movies The Ark of Truth and Continuum.
Stargate SG-1executive producer John Smith and I turn around as the door to his office opens and Ben Browder, who plays Colonel Cameron Mitchell, walks into the room, his head and face covered with blood. If we were in any other office building, a call to 911 would soon follow, but this is Stargate, and such a scenario is not uncommon. The actor’s injuries, albeit convincing, are fake, and the aftermath of a fight scene shot earlier this afternoon for The Ark of Truth, the first of two upcoming direct-to-DVD SG-1 feature films.
“You might not think it by looking at me right now, but I’m having a great time working on this movie,” smiles Browder as he leaves Smith’s office and sits down for a chat in a nearby conference room. “When it comes to how I got to look like this, well, it’s a result of Mitchell just being Mitchell. He pissed someone off and this is what happened.
“It’s taken two days to get into this [physical] state, and the real bruises are actually below this. I almost got scorched a little while ago. We were basically trying to light a whole city on fire, and they put a flame thrower up my backside,” chuckles the actor. “It’s a pretty cool shot, and what’s called a ‘money shot.’ You always know it’s a good shot when the director yells, ‘Cut,’ and then asks, ‘Ben, are you OK? Are you sure you’re OK?’ Usually, you get hurt on the shots where it doesn’t look it, and the shots where you look like you’re getting hurt are the good ones. Of course, when you get hurt they’re like, ‘OK, we’ve got to go again,’ and you’re like, ‘No, not again. I can’t move my lower body,’ or, ‘I’m on fire.’
“There are one or two things in this movie that I’m not doing. I have one caveat about stunt work, which is I don’t like concrete. I’ll flop on it, but I’m not coming down from a height on it. Concrete is 10 times harder than asphalt, and asphalt is something like 20 times harder than the ground. I’ll land on the ground, or sand, that’s fantastic, and mats, which are perfect. However, they’re shooting scenes where people are hitting concrete, and that’s where I’ll ask my stunt double, Jeff, ‘Are you OK?’ because I know it hurts.”
At that moment, Joe Flanigan, who plays Colonel John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis walks by, looks through the conference room window, smiles and walks on. “Man, it’s so easy on that other show,” jokes Browder. “They’re all pretty on Atlantis. No one there gets their asses whooped. The real men are on SG-1 getting their asses whooped. Wait, is Joe carrying a cell phone? Jeez, they have cell phones on that show, too? Look, now he’s twirling a gun and talking on his cell. Is that any way for an action hero to behave? Action heroes should have broken bits hanging off them, or at the very least be covered in blood,” he laughs.
Regular SG-1 viewers will recall that the show’s 10th and final season ended with our heroes still locked in combat with their newest adversary, the Ori. Their battle reaches a climax in The Ark of Truth with the SG-1 team managing to once again save Earth from destruction. “As I said, I’m having a wonderful time working on this film,” enthuses Browder. “We’re back to shooting on 35mm film, as opposed to working on HD [high-definition]. I just prefer the look of it. I think it gives the film greater texture. Also, we’re moving the camera in ways that we didn’t normally do on the series and in ways I’ve always wanted to see done. It’s all thanks to Robert Cooper [executive producer] who wrote the script and is also directing, so it’s all good.”
The Ark of Truth will be the first SG-1 DVD film to be released in 2008, but prior to the start of its production, Browder along with a handful of cast and crew shot some footage for the second movie, Continuum, back in mid-March. They did so on-location, and with the help of the U.S. Navy, in the Arctic. “Like Vancouver wasn’t far enough North,” jokes Browder. “They [the producers] picked the northern most point of the US, and then added 200 miles. On top of that, why bother working on land when you can work on ice, right? And the ice moved 35 kilometers during our week up there. When you’re actually there and moving you’re thinking, ‘How do they find us?’ because the only way in or out is by helicopter or plane, generally a Cessna.
“Seriously, it was a rare privilege to be up there,” continues the actor. “Admittedly, I spent the first day thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here? If I’m outside just for a minute I’ll freeze to death.’ That passed, though, and by the end of the week I didn’t want to leave. It was so beautiful. Amanda Tapping and I did this amazing walk and talk scene where we were out in the middle of nowhere in 35 degrees below zero conditions, not counting the wind chill, and the only sound you heard was of the ice squeaking. Of course, you don’t know how thick it is where you’re walking, or even if it’s thick enough. Presumably it was because we didn’t fall through.
“There was another scene where we actually saw a [nuclear] submarine come through the ice. It took three times for us to get it on film. We were standing on the ice waiting for the U.S.S. Alexandria, which was below us and dealing with shifting ice as well as currents. All of a sudden the sub came through the surface precisely on the ‘X.’ The Navy drew an ‘X’ on the ice, and Amanda made the comment that the sub hit the mark better than most actors, which was true. What an incredible time we had.
“I’ve read the script for Continuum and I’m excited about it. We’re going to have a blast filming it. It’s being directed by my [Arctic] survival buddy, Martin Wood. We shared a cabin; actually, it was more like a big plywood box with a heater and six bunks. Anyway, I think the story is a great deal of fun and very much an old-fashioned Stargate adventure, which I’m sure the fans will enjoy.”
With the release dates for The Ark of Truth and Continuum still some time away, it is unclear if Browder will once again be walking in Colonel Mitchell’s shoes any time soon. “Whether they make more [SG-1 films] and if they want me back or not is beyond my control,” he says. “I’m happy to be here doing this, and beyond that I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I’ve got a big [kids] football season coming up to coach and I have to map out what kind of defense I’m going to be running this year.
“Other than that, I’ve been doing some writing, so once I’m done here I’ll be looking for more work and continue to work on the materials I have in hand to write.”
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