This Hollywood survivor tells us about survival in
Southeast Asia while making his newest flick, Trade of Innocents.
Take a look at Dermot Mulroney’s IMDb. Holy crap, it goes
on for miles. It may not have occurred to you until this very
moment, but this cat has worked steadily in the movies since Reagan
was President. Go ahead, name somebody famous – yep, he’s worked
with them: Julia Roberts. Paul Newman. Leonardo DiCaprio. Jane
Fonda. Steve Buscemi. Even Emilio Estevez.
three decades, he has brought his own gravelly gravity to film,
often cast as the Cracker Jack prize in a rom-com, or a determined
suburban dad (in Gracie), or a no-account like Dirty Steve in
Young Guns, but he is never the same character twice. Ever.
Granted, he’s had every opportunity to phone it in and
coast on his steady in-demandness, but he doesn’t play that game.
“I try to be real good every time I take on a role,” he
tells me. “That’s what’s half the fun.”
Even when that fun is no fun at all, like the subject
matter of his latest project, Trade of Innocents. In it, he
plays a human trafficking investigator in Southeast Asia. Heavy
drama for sure, but another battle won for the brave actor, who
again courageously stumbles into unknown territory.
“I have to admit that at first I didn’t know anything about
child sex slavery,” he says. “So I looked into it right away and
recognized what kind of massive problem it is. It blew me away. When
I saw the script, I knew I had to do it.”
Directed by Christopher Bessette (director of The Enemy
God and the documentary Niagara: Thunder of the Waters),
the film deals with the engine of guilt, and how it drives the
characters in ways that will not let them return to Start.
It co-stars Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino, playing Mulroney’s
wife, whose character is grieving for the loss of her own young
daughter under a similar devastating consequence.
one of our finest actors,” he says of his Sorvino. “And on top of
that, she’s been around the world with the UN and other
organizations.” True that: she was named as Goodwill Ambassador to
combat human trafficking for the United Nations Office on Drugs and
The haunting film won “Best of the Fest” at the
Breckenridge Festival of Film and Best Picture winner at the
International Christian Visual Media Festival. The Huffington
Post called it “unflinching” but “with a glimmer of hope.”
“There are so few films that have touched on this,”
Mulroney says. “It almost has pop appeal, but it couldn’t be darker
material. It’s a strange and effective combination.”
The steamy jungle of Thailand was only the next career
layover in a series of globetrots. Previously, he was in icy Canada
filming the The Grey.
“I finished shooting The Grey in February and went
right away to Thailand finishing this movie. Back-to-back days in
between shooting those two movies. We were based in Vancouver,
British Columbia but the scenes of the storm and the plane wreck
were in Smithers, British Columbia. That’s 595 miles north of
Vancouver. I went from one extreme to another: 35 degrees below zero
in British Columbia and then to Thailand where we are easily
shooting in 100 degrees, 105. It’s half the fun to have wild
experiences like that.”
He’s also a man on the road earning a living for his new
family (he has two young daughters), with long jags away from home.
“Thank goodness for Skype,” he says.
came of age in Alexandria, Virginia, and attended Northwestern
University, graduating in 1985. He started working as an actor in
Hollywood almost immediately after that, first in melodramatic TV
movies (The Drug Knot, Sins of Innocence). It wasn’t long
before Young Guns (1988) and Longtime Companion (1989)
placed him higher on the go-to list, and he was immersed in a
lifetime of steady work. It’s an actor’s dream, but not a dream that
he conjured from the beginning.
“I was so dedicated to the idea that having a shot as an
actor in Hollywood was impossible,” he says. “My Plan A was to learn
film and to hopefully become a cameraman or cinematographer. I was
taking acting classes, but I was also studying film, so I was
learning how to pull cable and load film and be involved in making
movies. And it happened anyway.”
His turn as Michael in the 1997 smash hit My Best
Friend’s Wedding established him as the romantic leading man:
handsome yes, but also grounded and smart. The funny, ironic script
won millions of repeat fans and accomplished two tasks: it knocked
the romantic comedy on its ass while showing that Mulroney could be
that guy’s guy who women love. It was the anti-rom-com.
“That’s what was genius about that movie,” he says. “That’s
why it’s had the life it’s had. It was exactly the opposite of what
you thought it was going to be. That’s so hard to do in the movies.
Sometimes the simplest idea is the best.
“She doesn’t get the guy. It’s that classic, classic
portrait of the sad clown, and yet you’re looking at Julia Roberts!
I watched it again about two years ago, and I couldn’t believe how
dark and edgy it was. It has qualities that you’ve never seen in any
other movie. It was really smart.”
A long-time champion of independent, small films, Mulroney
has also lent his talents to such gems as the now-classic surreal
comedy Living in Oblivion (“It sticks around. It sticks in
your head.”) and the acclaimed 2001 sleeper hit Lovely & Amazing.
In addition, he’s made memorable TV appearances on Friends
(as Rachel’s nemesis) and recently on New Girl (as an older
“It’s always changing,” he says of his career. “I’m
definitely in a great place now. I was also in a great place when I
started. But I had ebbs and flows. I’ve had creativity block and
opportunity. These things are never the same.”
Good to hear, Derm! Your acting roles may always vary, but
don’t ever change.
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DERMOT MULRONEY WAS UP TO IN 2007!
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