February 21, 2020 Interview – William Sadler
Affectionately referring to himself as ‘that actor guy’ in his Instagram handle, William Sadler is a face moviegoers have come to know well over the last few decades. Starring in a extensive list of films and television series, Sadler’s career extends from 1990’s Die Hard 2 and 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption to 1995’s Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight as well as series such as Roswell, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Power, The Blacklist, and on and on.
A modest man, in truth, Sadler has amassed a resume so diverse and so deep, his work would make many working actors salivate. Showing no sign of slowing down, he continues to work regularly and recently joined an all-star cast in the new Horror Action film VFW. Joining up alongside the likes of Martin Kove, George Wendt, Stephen Lang, among many others, VFW is the type of film genre fans need to check out. Taking the time to talk about it all, Sadler sat down to recall his start in acting, discuss his experiences throughout the years, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have had a very impressive career in film and television over the last four plus decades. Briefly tell us, what has your journey been like as an actor?
William Sadler – I started out in theater. I did about 11 years of theater in New York before I ever did my first film – the first film I count is Project X (1987) way back with Matthew Broderick. It’s been an extraordinary journey to be honest with you. I think the theater background has served me well in the movies because there is a wonderful sort of work ethic in theater. I think sometimes theater is a terrific training ground. By the time you get to the movies there is no time to rehearse; you meet the guy who’s playing your brother the day that you start filming and what gets on film is the equivalent of the first or second read through. It’s just a different animal.
The career, I look back at the whole thing and it has been 95% enjoyable and fun and 5% sketchy. (Laughs) It hasn’t always been as much as fun as it has been lately. I feel very fortunate that I’ve had a chance to do things like The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), and Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995). It is all sort of the block but I’m kind of proud of that. I didn’t get stuck in the ‘bad guy’ roles completely; I’ve had a chance to do a lot of different things. It’s been fun!
Cryptic Rock – You certainly have a very dynamic resume. You have worked in Action, Drama, Comedy, and quite a bit of Horror films. Do you enjoy working in Horror?
William Sadler – I enjoy it, I enjoy working. I am not a big fan of Horror myself, I get scared too easy. I like Suspense, Drama, and Action. I’m not such a big fan of getting the shit scared out of me. I’m grateful people appreciate it when I work in Horror films. I don’t approach a character in a Horror any different than I would play in a straight Drama. I don’t think you change the approach, the work is always the work.
Cryptic Rock – Different genres create different challenges.
William Sadler – Yes, but I think at the bottom of it all the task is almost always the same: you make the audience believe the character. You have to get them on board, and once they are believing the character as a living, breathing thing, then you can take them anywhere. It can be Sci-Fi, there can be creatures coming under the door, or it can all turn funny, but the basic task is always the same.
You have to get them on board, you have to get the audience to believe you are who are pretending to be. If you can achieve that then you can take them anywhere; if that character is in a funny situation they will come along and laugh with you or you can scare the crap out of them. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – You have done a wonderful job making your roles believable throughout the years. You have this new film VFW with a list of other well-known actors. How did you become involved with this film?
William Sadler – They called me and said we are doing this Action film and they started rattling off the list of actors involved. I said, “Wow! I’ll do that one.” I had worked with all of those guys before. I had done a couple of things with Stephen Lang, going back to theater in New York. David Patrick Kelly and I did a play off-Broadway years ago. Marty Kove and I had worked together; we all knew each other. I had never worked with George Wendt or Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson, but everybody else, we had been in the trenches together again and again.
When they said it’s this group of guys and they are trapped in a VFW post and they have to fight for their lives, it just sounded like how can you pass that up? Sure enough, on the set, when we weren’t on screen, we were hanging out together and telling stories. It was great fun; we would heckle each other and there was this wonderful automatic comradery that I think translated well on the screen. We didn’t have to get to know each other, which is always a little hurdle to pretend that you know each other well.
Cryptic Rock – That chemistry does shine through and the characters seem to mix well. You have done a lot of different films, would you say VFW is one of the bloodiest you have done throughout the years?
William Sadler – (Laughs) I think so. Maybe Demon Knight got bloody like that, but I think VFW there was more bloodshed than anything I’ve ever done. When I pick up that concrete saw and started wading into a crowd of young, mutant teenagers, they had a hose on the end of that saw that just sprayed fake blood everywhere. Everybody was just absolutely covered in blood, so yeha, this was probably the bloodiest thing I have ever done.
Cryptic Rock – It certainly seems to be. (Laughs) You had this great cast and an interesting story, so what was it like working with Joe Begos?
William Sadler – Joe was great. He was sort of like a kid in the candy store; I think he had seen all of us in at least 100 other projects through the years. He was always the camera operator too. It is funny, because it took a little while to trust his instincts about things because he was sort of shooting fast and loose; shooting pages and pages everyday, I think we shot the whole movie in around 18 days. It became clear after a while that he knew exactly what he was doing. The camera was always moving and we began to trust his instinct.
We were all older than him, done hundreds and hundreds of projects, but I think I speak for all of us that there is always concern at the outset that you really don’t know how the movie is going to go, and who this young director is, but that quickly disappeared; he clearly had a firm grip of where this was going to go. We all relaxed and said, “Oh, that’s the song you want? Here it comes – ready?”
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Genre fans are really going to enjoy VFW and need to check it out. Last question. Which film or TV series that you have done would you say people approach you most about?
William Sadler – I don’t know. I guess that’s one of the fun things about my career is everybody that comes up to me has something different. People come up who love the Star Trek universe, there are people who say they loved me in Demon Knight too. I did two years on the show Power recently and there is a huge block of Power fans, and I will forever be Tommy’s dad on that show. I guess the thing I get recognized most for is The Shawshank Redemption – everybody’s seen it. I think I get recognized for that the most.