If you’re a sci-fi fan, chances are you recognize Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. Taking a look at his acting resume on IMDb though, one can see the wide variety of roles that he has played, including being the twentieth Tarzan, Brom Van Brunt in Sleepy Hollow, and recently, Johnny Cage from Michinima‘s Mortal Kombat second season (premiere date TBA). We had a chance to catch up to Casper at the Canadian ToyCon this past St. Paddy’s Day weekend for a quick chat.
Did you ever think that sixteen years later, “Starship Troopers” would be such a big part of your career?
I didn’t know what to think back then except that it was so amazing and so exciting, and I love that people are still tweeting me quotes from it every day. Sometimes someone will come up to me and go, “Hey, Johnny Rico!” or something like that. I’m mostly recognized for my role in Starship Troopers.
Have you seen any sci-fi movies recently that you thought, ‘man, I would have loved to be a part of this film’?
Pretty much every single one of them that comes out! Films in general, I love watching films, I love being a part of films, I love getting to hang out with the other filmmakers and getting to talk about the films with people who want to interview me. I love it. I’m living my dream that I had when I was little, and it’s still my dream now that I’m old! (Note: I want to point out that there was a very big emphasis on the word ‘old’ which I don’t agree with!) Out of films that I would have loved to have been in? There are a lot that stand out; I would have loved to have been in Avatar, any of the Star Wars films, I would have loved to have been in Starship Troopers and then I was! I would have loved to have been in Pirates of the Caribbean, any of these films that are out, I like them all. I love watching all of these different types of films and there’s lots of different characters I would love to be.
So you must be really excited for the new Star Wars films then.
I am so excited about that! I waited in line at the theatre when they first came out when I was a kid, waiting in line, back in the day. That’s before you were even born! (Note: For the record, I was at the re-releases with my brother who was the one who introduced me to the world of geek!)
Michinima‘s Mortal Kombat Legacy in which you play Johnny Cage in the second season has exploded in popularity; were you a fan of the movies or games before signing on to the project?
I am a fan of the games, yeah and I actually played Johnny Cage. And then the director (for Legacy) goes, “You’re the perfect Johnny Cage!” and so I go, “What are you tryin’ to say?” because Cage is this D-list actor with an attitude, but he is one of my favorites. It was a lot of fun to do. I got to do most of my own stunts… I had a stunt guy do two of my spinning kicks because, well, I’m 44 and those aren’t what they used to be, but I got to do the rest of the fight because Johnny Cage still does all of his own fights! [laughs] But I’ve pretty much done all my own fights in every film I’ve done. In Tarzan even, I was in a loincloth and my stunt doubles weren’t as cut up as me so I didn’t want them doing anything. Just out there, fightin’ in a loincloth! It was pretty long in the front… [laughs] but still, to be Johnny Cage–I mean I get to be in the girl fights in this–it was exciting, it was so fun and “YOU GOT CAGED!”
Was Mortal Kombat Legacy something you had to train exceptionally hard for, given the style of fighting?
I always train, but I haven’t been training in the past couple months. I’ve been taking time off to let my body heal a little bit but I will be doing it again soon. I trained all last year with a guy and we fought two hours a day on the beach, six days a week.
Was there a specific fight technique you studied?
My trainer does muay thai and grappling as well as judo and ju-jitsu, so I learned a little bit of everything. I learned lots of throws, tosses, grappling and a couple hits.
Can you tell me a little more about some of your upcoming projects?
I’ve been working on a lot of projects recently; I just finished a film in Nashville called Eleven Seconds and it’s about texting and driving, and I run over a little girl. That was a really hard role, but it was amazing. I wrote a script with my wife called Prince Paul Royal Exile which is about her grandfather who was the Regent of Yugoslavia from 1934 to 1941. That was pretty awesome to read. He was an amazing man. There’s a lot of different projects… Mortal Kombat is the one I am the most excited about right now.
Follow Casper Van Dien on Twitter at: @CasperVanDien to keep up with all of his new projects!