Hey, hey, everyone,
We’re talking about a kickass, 80s action movie this week – Commando! Yes, Arnold blowing shit up and killing bad guys. And one of those baddies was David Patrick Kelly, who played the sleazeball Sully in the film.
We got to do an awesome interview with David Patrick and you can read some of it below. Or click the play button to hear the whole thing! We talk about Commando, martial arts, miming, his famous scene in The Warriors, working with Brandon Lee in The Crow, how he came up with his character in Twin Peaks, working on John Wick and much, much more.
The interview starts at the 27:34 mark.
Dan & Nick
Dan: Commando is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year. How did you get involved with Commando?
DPK: Well, I had done films with Larry Gordon and Joel Silver – The Warriors and 48 Hrs. And they were the producers of Commando. So they just called me up and asked me to do it.
Nick: I want to say, sir, with a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect, that you are one of cinema’s all-time greatest sleazeballs. How did you end up in these roles? Did you fully embrace it?
DPK: You never try to think of yourself that way. I’m the guy who rebelled against the kind of actor studio situation because I like to tell the larger story. It’s not just about the psychology of that character. I like to call characters as I see them. If they are evil then I want to make that evil part of the story come clear. There’s a fascination with that because that’s not who we are. If you grow up as a nice, little, Catholic boy from Detroit, you are kind of fascinated by the dark side. You want to see and go places that you haven’t gone before and help tell the story. So that’s how it came about and they all have been a great distance from me, whether it’s Luther from 48 Hrs. or The Warriors or Commando or Tommy Ray in Dreamscape and on and on. Right now I’m on Blacklist playing a gun running gang member. It’s an interesting part of history and you can reflect the times we are living in. Commando was part of the Reagan Era and Arnold was the “Id Monster” of Reagan’s political consciousness.
Dan & Nick: [Laughter] DPK: He was saying, “We’re going to be in control of the world and this is how it’s run. So if I need to take care of policing the world on my own, then I will do it.” And you show that in Commando. But there were so many great people involved in it such as Joel Silver and Lawrence Gordon and Steven E. de Souza who wrote the screenplay and allowed me to improvise a lot of the dialogue to make the character more human and have more backstory. And James Horner, who went on to win the Academy Award for Titanic, wrote the score for Commando. So a lot of fascinating people involved in Commando and it’s a reason that it holds up.
Commando was part of the Reagan Era and Arnold was the “Id Monster” of Reagan’s political consciousness.
Dan: Absolutely. And it’s so great to hear that you got to improvise a lot of that. Sully is just so great and so are the interactions you have with every character that you are involved. You can tell that there is a piece of you having fun with that role. Where does Sully place in the list of bad guys that you have played?
DPK: Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver produced so many things that were fascinating because they reflected the times. And this was 1985 and it was before Iran-Contra broke. And the U.S. and Russia were still playing this huge chess game. For the character of Sully, I based it off the mercenaries that worked for the very sleazy, money-laundering guy, Robert Vesco – who was an investor in different political campaigns and he went on the lam. He went down to those Central American countries and he ended up in Cuba for a while. So I saw an interview on 60 Minutes with two mercenaries that worked for him, two former U.S. military guys that were charged with protecting him and getting paid to do it. Sully is based on those types of guys. To this day, there are many, many mercenaries around the world who are using their training for different political ends and to enrich themselves. So yeah, Sully is up there in my Rogues’ Gallery. My gang was The Rogues in The Warriors, so it was a predictor of what was going to go on in my career. I’ve been very blessed. I’ve played a lot of different characters on stage, Shakespearean characters, good guys and bad guys. I just spent four years in the musical Once on Broadway where I play a sweet father of the guy. It’s been really cool, fun and creative to tell these other stories. But the Luthers, Sully, Tommy Ray Glatman and the Horne brothers from Twin Peaks are my Rogues’ Gallery.
Nick: I think one of the best lines in Commando is when Arnold looks at you and tells you that he’s going to kill you last. And well, he was full of shit! And you had a fantastic death.
DPK: Yeah, I always identified a lot with stunt guys. And the late Bennie Dobbins, who passed away of a heart attack while doing the movie Red Heat, with Walter Hill and Arnold, was a great stunt guy. I’ve been luck to work with some great ones like Jeff Imada, who did Dreamscape and The Crow, and Bennie Dobbins did 48 Hrs. and Commando. So when Arnold was holding me, and I’m sorry to be a spoiler here folks, but he didn’t really hold me. There was a big crane that had a cable that was going up my legs. And Bennie Dobbins let me use his venerable stuntman’s belt. He had this leather stuntman’s belt because in the 1950s, he did Westerns. And there was this famous trick that the stuntmen in those Westerns where they played the Native Americans and they’d get pulled off the horses when the cowboy heroes would shoot them. And the stuntman’s trick was called the “One Legged Jerk-Off.” And they were pulled on a wire down their leg and they got pulled off their horses and that was the trick. So I was honored to use Bennie Dobbins’ leather stuntman’s belt. It had his name on it. It was like Elvis’ guitar strap or something. It was beautiful.