|Dirk Benedict Battlestar Galactica Set Interview|
|Written by Marcel Damen|
|Tuesday, 15 September 2009|
This is a unique, never published audio interview with Dirk Benedict, better known as Lt. Starbuck of the original Battlestar Galactica series. It's a two-part set on set interview that was taped shortly before the airing of Battlesstar Galactica's pilot episode "Saga of a Star World". We hear a young, nervous Dirk Benedict, stuttering and stammering about the Battlestar Galactica series in general and his role in it, his young budding career as an actor and his future plans back in 1978.
Below you can read the transcript of this interview. If you rather listen to the audio of this interview then click the "PLAY" button below to start.
Dirk Benedict as Lt. Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica
Dirk Benedict of Battlestar Galactica.
Battlestar Galactica. Hard to say, but...
...Easy to watch!
...Easy to watch. What a time of your life this is. This show has all the earmarks, and has an enormous amount of talk about it, and you're starring in it. What's the feeling, Dirk?
Well, actually doing this show has been such hard work. I've sort of been insulated from... everybody else gets the excitement of this show -- the anticipation -- we're working 14 hours a day on the sound stages. So, I go to work at 7 in the morning and come home at 10 or 11 at night, then I get up and go to work and on weekends I get ready for the next week. So it's been a very... a lot of hard work. It will ease off a bit once we go on the air, we'll be able to... It hasn't really brought... It's destroyed my private life of course, because you don't have time to do anything. I haven't been to a movie for five or six months.
I wonder what kind of satisfaction it is to do something which is obviously is going to explode all over the country -- being an enormous success -- considering the acting background that you've had.
Yeah, it's really strange.
What satisfaction is there now -- working so hard, not being able to see the results or hear the applause at the moment. What kind of feeling is that? You feel you're in a vacuum sometimes, I wonder?
Absolutely. The publicists, the agents, the mangers, those are the ones that get in on the excitement, because they go to the lunches. They know what's going on, because they can watch the news. I can't even watch the news because I'm working too damn much, so... But I must say that I've been an actor all my career, not somebody who is -- I was never really aiming for what is happening to me. So, I'm really involved in the work and in the challenge in creating this character, Lt. Starbuck, and doing the best I can with it. It's been -- because it's a well written part - a challenge and it's a rewarding character to play. It's kept my attention. I've really not been concerned with the other aspects of it -- the publicity and what it will mean to Dirk Benedict once it goes on the air. Other people will see the show, they see the work, they see what everybody has contributed, they will see me in it. It will bring about different things to do and it will change my life, I'm sure. Although I don't think it will make it impossible for me to live the life I have been living up until now, which is one of relative obscurity. (laughs) I don't know.
Let me ask you about this role. We've seen these Starbuck guys, I think, in various films like Close Encounter [of the Third Kind], Star Wars or whatever. In your mind, is he more fleshed out than the kind of roles we're accustomed to seeing in these films? Is he a fully dimensional guy?
Well, in the first three hours, the premiere show, on September 17th, he isn't, because there isn't time. There are so many stories going on. It takes time for each character to have his... In the first show he's a really rather dashing con man, who loves to have fun. He really has a great sense of humor about everything and is always -- [there's a ] similarity between Starbuck and Maverick, James Gardner's part Maverick. In the later shows, there's a development of the character which all along was to be there, but it takes time. In the later shows there's a serious side to his nature. I mean, he's a very passionate fellow -- Starbuck -- and I enjoy that. He's a man of action, and not an analytical mind, and not somebody who sees the overview -- the larger picture -- not one who's concerned with the safety of all the people on the battlestar Galactica. He's really -- moment to moment, individual to individual -- and really wants to have fun. He wants to have a good time. When he's in a situation where the costs are high, he's there, but... I enjoy the immediacy of him as a character. I always saw Hamlet as a man of action, rather than somebody who sat around saying... It's just that he's a...
Starbuck is a man of action?
What is Battlestar Galactica?
You mean what's actually a battlestar? A battlestar is the warcraft. It's a spacecraft design for fighting, like a battleship on an ocean -- it's a battlestar. The fleet, of the people of which I'm a part of, of the civilization I belong to, there are many of them, and they're all destroyed except one, and that's the Galactica. There are many of them and they'd all have different names, but the Galactica is the sole surviving battlestar after the almost complete destruction of our society by the Cylons. So Battlestar Galactica is the name of the ship they we are protecting as we move through space in search of Earth.
This presumes then that these are human beings that have been living in space all this time -- unbeknownst to us -- who are now seeking refuge on Earth. Human beings coming from outer space to Earth. Is that the assumption of the show?
Yes... and it isn't necessarily taking place in the future. Battlestar Galactica happens at a point in time, in the continuum of time.
I rather you say what I said, that these are human beings who are actually living in space, trying find refuge on Earth. Why won't you say that?
Oh, Battlestar Galactica has to do with a people civilization, who are living in space and are in search of help from another people, living on a planet called Earth. So we are looking for Earth who are - you can call them distant cousins, but we are in outer space looking for the place where you and I are now sitting, having this interview.
So this presumes -- as we have always wondered on our planet -- whether there is life...
...There is life out there. Yes. Absolutely. It goes on out there, and the people are very similar to us. Although if it was happening at this very particular point in time, they would be -- the people of Battlestar Galactica -- would be further advanced technically. But in point of fact, it could be happening a million years ago or 6,000 years ago. When we do find Earth, we could come into the Egyptian time -- the time of the Egyptians -- or Atlantis.
So they're not little green men from Mars -- these people on Battlestar Galactica?
No. They dress differently. The language that we use is a little different -- it's a little more formal. There is not "Hey there!" and "What's happening?" There is no... I mean, my character swears a lot.
Frack! (both laughing) Felgercarb. So there's even a difference in language. But the emotions, the psychological, mental, emotional, sentimental characteristics of the people are the same, which is interesting. Because we do need other people in the show, who are also beings living in outer space, but who are different.
We have been now immersed in a whole state of supernatural films, space films [like] Close Encounters [of the Third Kind], Star Wars, Star Wars II is coming up, Superman is coming up soon. We're very heavily into the supernatural realm now. Most of the films we've seen along this line, Dirk, are action-adventure films. The characters are kind of secondary. How do you rate Battlestar Galactica along this line? Is it just an action-adventure film in space, or is there a point to these stories? Is there an overall or underlying theme?
Well, it is an action-adventure show. It has a great deal of action and is a tremendous adventure. My character has a lot of Errol Flynn in it -- dashing, jumping, saving and rescuing girls. But the concept of the show never was to be strictly -- by Glen Larson, the executive producer -- to be strictly an action-adventure. He's very concerned. He's a man who's very involved with spiritual matters. He has a spiritual side to his nature. All the scripts have that quality. There are many parallels drawn with the Biblical concepts in our show. There are definitely moral, religious concepts being developed in the show. [There's] a discussion of freedom. What is freedom? The subjugation of one people by another, and even prejudges. So, it has that, which is what I think will make the show something of really merit. Everybody knows and everybody that sees it, you don't have to... It doesn't take 30 seconds to realize it. It's going to be one of the most exciting shows for many, many years and maybe even many years to come from an action-adventure standpoint. The thing that we are all working on -- actors, writers, producers -- is to develop the other side of it.
Was there a fear perhaps or an apprehension, with the enormous success of Star Wars, and the precedent that that film set or 2001[: A Space Odyssey] or Close Encounters [of the Third Kind]? How could you possibly top those effects? That kind of action on the big screen on a small screen. Even if you could, what could you do that they haven't done? Was that an apprehension at all?
Well, the producer would really be the one to answer that -- Glen Larson. But you see, Glen Larson is really smart. He's got John Dykstra involved in this project.
Who did Star Wars...
Before Star Wars came out, John Dykstra was involved with Glen Larson putting together this. John Dykstra didn't do everything that he wanted to do when he did Star Wars. He had other tricks up his sleeve, other things he wanted to try. He's a very imaginative, creative guy. The challenge of using the small screen -- he's come up with some things that surprised himself. I saw him on an interview with Regis Philbin on television the other night and he was talking about that very thing. There are many problems they had to deal with. So it's very exciting stuff. There are a lot of things that are unique to Battlestar Galactica.
What do you want this to do for you as an actor, career wise?
Well, it's the standard answer, which is to provide the opportunity to do interesting parts in worthwhile projects. I've been an actor for many years in theatre. I want to do Hamlet. I'll go anywhere and do it. As the business is, if you have any sort of name quality, then people will come to see Dirk Benedict, who is playing. They'll come to see me. There are several parts in theatre that I would like to do.
Who have you seen do Hamlet on stage?
I've seen a production at the now defunct APA, Riverdrive Theatre in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I saw Ellis Rabb do it. Other than that I've never seen it on stage. It's the only stage production of Hamlet I've ever seen. I was supposed to do it several times. I've been going to do it and things fell through at the last minute. The only other TV show I ever did came through and that postponed my Hamlet. So it's been right there and I've been preparing for it on three different occasions, and it never quite materialized, but it will.
It's a noble ambition for a young actor. It's probably one of the greatest parts ever written and aside from that, is that the only reason why you want to do it? Or does it state everything that you feel in life? Is it what you're about and you find this all wrapped up in this marvelous character?
Well no. I must say acting is never -- there is no part written that I don't... Very few people would argue that Shakespeare is the biggest playwright that ever lived. The tremendous diversity in the material he wrote is just unbelievable. The fact that one man wrote all that. Still, and all, Hamlet does not say it all... you know, I want to do other things in life as well. I mean, they're other means of expressing oneself; writing, I played the piano. I have a great involvement in well-being and various ways to achieve that. I want to grow food. And I want to... there are many things that I want to do. So, the answer is that acting at any level, in any material, in any part will not fulfill me completely. There are other things.
One of the biggest fulfillment in acting, I take it, would be playing Hamlet for you?
Yes, yes. I would like to do Mercutio. There are several things.
Which one of the soliloquies do you like the best in Hamlet? "O that this too too solid flesh would melt."
"Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew."
Listen, I have a scholar here. You can quote more of Hamlet than I could.
That's my favorite Shakespearean play too. Marvelous.
I would like to play Hamlet while I am still of a young look, and playing him as a man of action. I mean, he gets himself in problems, because he is always making rash decisions. I always wondered how a man could... He makes mistakes, but he doesn't ask "Should I or shouldn't I?" He kills Felonious. That's a pretty rash -- he doesn't stop and doesn't hesitate. That's a pretty... thing that he does when he is with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern... Did you see him on that ship and taking over? He's like Errol Flynn.
We're going to see a young Shakespearean actor doing Battlestar Galactica...
...doing Battlestar Galactica, doing Starbuck.
And I wish, Dirk, that while you still have that lean and hungry look -- young Dirk, hath that lean and hungry look...
Yes. Oh, yes.
...that you'll still be able to play Hamlet too, before you grow too fat with the success of Battlestar Galactica.
Ah, let it never happen. Keep life simple.
Okay. All the best, Dirk.
...about being in a show, and getting into a situation like I am now, is being invited to the Muhammad Ali/Leon Sphinx fight, because I have followed Muhammad Ali's career since 1962. I always thought there's a human being that has more going on than there, than a man who simply wants to be champion. And as his career's gone on, I really believe Muhammad Ali used boxing to have a platform to manifest other dreams in reality. I don't doubt for a fact that they'll be political, you know, and he'll at least be an ambassador...
He's the best known man in the world.
That's right. That's right. And through what avenue? He's a boxer. He's a prize fighter. He gets in a ring...I think he's a very multifaceted...I've read some of the things that he's written, and [seen] some of the interviews with him, with rather offbeat publications, where he gets down to some fundamental philosophies of life, and...He's got something going, and I love the idea that in a ring, at that level of physicality of fighting, you know, is somebody that used it, to do other things.
I think the ladies in the audience will want to know finally, Dirk, your attitude about this whole Hollywood syndrome -- as an attractive young guy who's starring in a new television show, who has a Broadway training... Are you caught up in this Hollywood routine?
Well no, I don't have any social life in Hollywood to speak of. I've never been part of the Hollywood social life. I've always had worthwhile women in my life. I guess the only... Galactica is not going to improve that aspect of my existence.
You never know who you are going to meet up there. What do you mean it won't improve your existence? You might meet some wild creatures up there, in space...
Oh, yeah. Listen, I've met some of those already. I have an affair with a "socialator". You probably don't know what a "socialator" is. That's a highfalutin Galactican word for a "prostitute", but it has entirely different... it's in a different time and a different part of the universe and a "socialator" -- the planet she comes from, it was a respected profession and it is not looked upon as a ["prostitute"]. So it's very hard for her and she can't understand why they... when I discover her she's having stones -- not literally - but figuratively thrown at her by the people around her. And then I come in, take her hand, and treat her as a human being. Oh sure, it's wonderful. Starbuck meets some wonderful girls. He has always got an eye out.
How about Dirk Benedict? He must meet some beauties too?
Yes, I've been lucky in that area, actually. I've had my heart broken a few times, because I always... my dream is too big, I want too much. If I could just settle for a pretty face or a good time.
You can't just settle for pretty face. Nobody can.
No. But to find somebody with a complete, a wide variety of qualities. Because my life spans a great... from Montana to Hollywood -- people don't realize it, really. They don't really know.
It's not a direct flight. You've got to take a lot of planes to get here.
Right. It's a big difference. On all levels.
Has this lifestyle overwhelmed you because of your Montana background?
It would have, if I wanted. If this is the lifestyle that I wanted to live, it would overwhelm me, because I could start to think: "Gee, I can do that. I can have a swimming pool." but I really don't want any of it, so it won't happen.
It's a very seductive place, isn't it?
I know it is. I know it is, that's why I'm glad it didn't hit me when I was 25. Because I reached a point through various experiences where I realize that it's just not what -- it's just not me. There's no necessity for it. There's no need in truth for those things. Because you can't have those things without giving up something else. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes out of your life and life is short enough. There's not enough time to do things that are important.
Are you anxious about being married? Immediately or soon or...
I tell you the truth, I wish I was married right now. I would prefer it I was with the woman that I imagine in going into this that way. Because, you know...
Roots, you'd have roots...
You'd have roots, you'd have a base, you'd have a center, and you'd have somebody to... Because you attract all the wrong women for all the wrong reasons -- which is not to say that you don't need people that are interested in sharing... But you don't have that much time to become visible. The celebrities I've known -- it's hard to get close to them. The people they are surrounded with are the people that are interested in being around somebody who has some sort of name value. It's an insulation that goes on.
Part of the Hollywood syndrome. Stay with the names. We are all part of it.
Be with the winners. Be with the ones on top. Don't be with the ones...
Yeah, everybody's always looking to see who is the hit of the season. But life goes on. Galactica at some point will be a memory-- as will all of us.
I hope not.
As will all of us.
I hope not for a long time.
Well, I don't think so. It's going to be a lot of fun.
As Muhammad Ali said... They said he was all about his lifestyle. He's got this incredible house in Chicago. He said: "I can go back to pump gas." It was an interview with Barbara Walters. I don't know if you saw that? He made a comment about it. He said: "I could give this all up -- the entourage and the houses. I could be happy and pump gas."
Would you be happy doing that?
Not pumping gas, no. But, yes...
What you were doing in Montana, I mean?
I would never do... I worked on... I would never do what I did in Montana. But yes, living in Montana within a lifestyle that -- I've created that situation for myself for some time. At some point in time I'm going to live a life of a... self sufficiency. You do not depend on Con Edison - you could cook on wood. You grow your own food and you... That's the challenge it seems to me in this day and age -- is just to find freedom. You are talking about freedom. We are all imprisoned by all of this. We are dependent on freeways, and General Mills, and General Motors, and the gasoline. We just got a taste of what will happen to the gasoline situation. What good will all of these service stations do, and all these cars, when you pull in, and there is no gas. You might as well... plus I did a show with Gloria Swanson, who is married to a wonderful man called William Dufty. He wrote Butterflies are Free.
At that point in time I had been studying food as a means of improving one's health. Then I met her which was no coincidence, although it seemed so at the time. And I did this show and she's somebody who is well-known for her -- being a health food junkie. She introduced me to ways of taking it further. I've become quite involved with the study of food in terms of health.
It will be fascinating following Starbuck on screen, and in life, and again I wish you the very best.
Very articulate, deep man.
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