Veteran actor Michael Ironiside described his Extraterrestrial character as “an uninhabited building that someone had moved into in a funny way.”
That would be Travis, a gun-toting, backwoods conspiracy theorist who crosses paths with Extraterrestrial leads, April (Brittany Allen) and Kyle (Freddie Stroma), who’ve joined their friends in a cabin in the woods armed with a fistful of retribution-tease vices and, with infuriating gullibility on a collision course with the unknown. It’s there that the group stumbles onto the property of Ironside’s twitchy pot farmer.
“That character was kind of slapped together with medical marijuana, bourbon and fear and paranoia,” Ironside explained in a recent phone interview when asked what makes Travis tick.
It’s the latest from The Vicious Brothers, the directing duo behind Grave Encounters, and follows the same shadowy trope-filled trot down the tried and true path of horror filmmaking however, this time, its boogeyman character is given an inter-dimensional spin.
Starring in over 200 films since his film career began, Ironisde has earned a reputation as one of the most iconic character actors; a title that Ironside demurely deflects. “I don’t think I’m an icon – maybe a speed bump.”
Although noted for performing primarily in the adrenaline powered genres of horror and action, Ironside’s ability to play scene-stealing tough-guys has cast him in a variety of roles ranging from the fraudulent amusement park owner in the family drama, Free Willy to the ruthless chief lieutenant in the sci-fi hit, Total Recall, demonstrating Ironside’s versatile range. One of the Canadian actor’s first films was the science-fiction horror classic, Scanners, by cult director, David Cronenberg. Ironside played Darryl Revok, a rogue telepath whose memorable transformation scene has left an indelible mark with its groundbreaking special effects.
With an illustrious career, it was no wonder that prior to the script read of Extraterrestrial, Ironside was in high demand however, drawn to their unique take on a genre that he knows inside and out, Ironisde readily agreed to work with The Vicious Brothers.
The actor had nothing but high praise for working with the duo: “They pretty well took every rhythm break, every story break, every possible MacGuffin that you could have in one of those films and put it in that movie and did it better than most people have done it before.”
Ironside also praised the cast, particularly actress Brittany Allen, for her standout performance and for eschewing the cliched “TNA” female lead in a horror role for a character who revealed “an approachable sexuality.”
To flesh out his latest character, Ironside referenced his friend, an actual vet who had served two tours of duty and was nervous to be out in public. Ironiside explains, “I wanted to get that kind of zany, sociopathic character who believes what he believes and it just so happens that aliens come along and justify these beliefs. I needed a reality or organic hook to hang [the character] on.”
With his trademark eyebrow arch and baritone voice, Ironside fits the quintessential villain, a role that is referentially far-removed from his personal life. “I’m not a violent person. One of my heroes growing up was Gandhi who believed that there’s a lot in life worth dying for but nothing worth killing for yet I end up playing these misshapen, emotionally damaged characters in films.”
Performing as a villain also has its occupational hazards as evidenced by the much speculated, meme-inducing cataloging of lost limbs that a large number of Ironside’s characters have coincidentally sacrificed over the course of his acting career. Ironside surmises that the severed limbs are “visual representations of what the characters are going through emotionally or spiritually.”
Although more stoner sage than villain in Extraterrestrial, Ironside’s depiction of Travis does run the risk of losing his mind. When asked about his thoughts on intergalactic beings, Ironside proves that he hasn’t lost his sense of wonder by musing, “I think it would be arrogant of us to look up at the sky night and see all those stars to think we’re the only ones.”
Extraterrestrial is out this week in theaters and on VOD from IFC Midnight.