James Badge Dale is currently enjoying being in the biggest movie of 2013, so far, “Iron Man 3.” The sky’s the limit for the former star of “24” though, as he’s got two more blockbuster movies in theaters this summer. With roles in “The Lone Ranger” and “World War Z,” is sounds like Dale is here to stay.
He plays the villainous Eric Savin in “Iron Man 3,” wreaking havoc with the Extremis virus surging through his veins. He’s also one of the movie’s few characters that appears opposite nearly everyone else in the film, at one point or another.
Dale is mostly known for his TV work, appearing in shows like “Rescue Me,” “The Black Donnellys” and “Rubicon,” in addition to “24,” however he’s no stranger to the big screen. As a child in 1990, he starred as Simon in a film adaptation of “Lord of the Flies.”
Zap2it had the chance to talk with Dale about his role in “Iron Man 3,” what’s coming next, and his thoughts on the return of “24.”
Before joining “Iron Man 3,” were you a fan of the character, or even a fan of comic books in general?
James Badge Dale: When I was in school, I got beat up by kids who read comic books. I was not as cool, I was in a different level of nerdom.
What level was that?
I don’t know, it had something to do with Dungeons & Dragons and a cello. So, really this was kind of my first foray into the comic book world and it’s been fascinating and cool to read these stories and to be a part of this, to be part of something that so many people love. It feels really nice to be in the theater listening to kids cheering and booing. It’s a different audience experience than anything I’ve ever done before.
How was working with Robert Downey Jr.?
[Laughs] Man, you gotta sleep right and eat well to work with Downey, cause he works quick. He’s just lovely. You work with people who try to take care of themselves, and then there’s people who take care of everybody else, and Downey’s one of those guys who literally comes around and he’s taking care of everybody else, cast, crew … “How you doing?” “What do you need?” He’s selfless and he’s just a pleasure to be around and it’s fascinating to watch him work. Because through his selflessness, he also finds all these great nuggets. He’s a team player and you rise and sink by the people you surround yourself with.
Your character is one of the few in the movie, outside of Downey, that seems to share screen time with just about everyone. Were they are stories or moments with anyone that you took away from the set?
Quickly, the one that’s coming up in my mind, and unfortunately this whole scene got cut from the movie, but there was a scene in the beginning where [Jon] Favreau comes out and he notices me and Guy Pearce at the AIM Institute and I’m sitting on Tony Stark’s car, on the hood. It’s about my second or third day of work, and I’m a big fan of Favreau, you know? So, I’m a little nervous and he’s like “Hey, how you doing?” He’s just a really nice guy. So, I go up to Shane Black [the director] before we start to shoot and I say, “Listen, I know Favreau’s going to want to play around. Just let me know when you let him off-leash. Just let me know before hand when you let him go,” and he goes, “Yeah, okay.” We sit down and do one take and Favreau is so off-script. I mean, he’s doing monologues, dissertations, it’s so all over the place. I’m sitting there and I don’t know what’s going on. It was hilarious and beautiful. So, they yell cut and Shane Black comes over to me and goes, “I guess he’s off-leash.”
That sounds like a good day at work.
It was and the whole shoot was like that. It was a good time, but you’ve got to show up ready to work. Because if you’re not ready, those guys will eat you alive. I was on my best behavior during that shoot.
Switching gears a bit, you were a bit part of the third season of “24.” What do you think of the announcement that it’s coming back as a limited run series next year?
I know, I saw that! [laughs] I love that show, I loved working on that show, I love Kiefer [Sutherland]. I think it’s cool, I don’t know what they’re going to do, cause it’s a limited run?
Yeah, I think it’s 12 episodes, but still real-time.
Still real-time? Are they going to skip an hour for traffic?
That’s what it sounds like.
Cool, aright. It’s a lot more realistic now. We used to get places fast, man! We got from Long Beach to Downtown LA in, like, 10 minutes in one episode.
You’re in three of the Summer’s biggest movies.
Yeah, I apologize for that man.
No, I dig it. That has to be cool for you, you’ve going to be in theaters forever.
[Laughs] I have this ex-girlfriend who called me and she was like, “You…” I’m not even going to say what she said, but she was like, “Do you even understand what it’s like when I’m on a date and I go to the theater and I gotta watch two previews with you in them?”
One of your big movies is “World War Z.” I’m not sure how closely the movie follows the book, but have you seen it?
I saw it. The movie looks brilliant. It looks beautiful. I know there’s been a lot of talk about production issues, but that really got blown out of proportion. When we were working on it, we knew we were working on something very special. I’m really happy with the movie and happy with the way it came together. I saw it at 11 in the morning and people were jumping out of their seats at 11 a.m., so I think that’s a good sign. I don’t know much about testing and everything, but that passed my test.
Are you a zombie fan at all?
I am. I’m not a rabid fan of anything, to be honest with you, but I am a zombie fan. [George] Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” is probably in my top 10 list. I think it’s a cool genre and I really wanted to be … To get to work on this, be part of the genre, it was really exciting for me. I jumped at the chance.
And I see you’ve also got “The Lone Ranger” coming up…
Yeah, man. Riding horses, dude.
Did you get in on the action?
Yeah, everything I do. It’s a big action summer for me! I’m trying to only do movies where I stand still and speak from now on. I love all three of these movies for different reasons, but I had a great time on “Lone Ranger.” You know, I’m a city kid. I’m a New York City kid and I ride the subway, I don’t ride a horse. So, this was new for me and it was exciting. They brought me out six weeks early to learn how to ride a horse. They said, “This kid’s in trouble.” So they gave me a lot of time at cowboy camp.
After the big Summer of James Badge Dale, what do you have next?
I have the Winter of depression. I’m kidding, I go back into darker fare. I have this movie, “Parkland,” coming out. It’s about the 48 hours between [John F. Kennedy’s] assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby. I love this film, it’s a brilliant script and I think it’s really covering new territory. One of the groups it follows is Lee Harvey Oswald’s family, which is his older brother and his mother. The amazingly talented and beautiful Jacki Weaver was signed on to play the mom. I called the director and he was talking about having me do another role and I was like, “No, Robert Oswald [the brother].” I can’t tell you how strong I think this film is and hopefully will be. There’s no action in it, just standing around and talking. When you get to stand and talk to Jacki Weaver, that’s a good day at work. A young man named Jeremy Strong plays Lee Harvey Oswald and he’s brilliant. He’s a New York actor, I’ve known him for years here. I feel lucky to be part of that group.
“Iron Man 3” is in theaters now.