James Badge Dale has been having one helluva year and it's not stopping anytime soon. He can currently be seen as Guy Pearce's hot-tempered henchman in Iron Man 3. Next he'll be staring down the apocalypse alongside Brad Pitt in World War Z. And then after that he'll be seen as the title character's older brother in The Lone Ranger.
The man's got one helluva agent, it seems. It also doesn't hurt that he's immensely talented and, for this writer's money, one of the coolest actors of his generation. The man steals scenes no matter how small the role or how big the cast around him (just look at The Departed, Flight and The Grey for evidence of that), and he can anchor complex TV shows (he was tremendous on HBO's The Pacific and AMC's Rubicon).
I was lucky enough to grab some phone time with Dale this week to talk about these three films and what else is on his horizon. Unfortunately, I was also unlucky enough to have my recorder bungle the actual recording, killing any chance of transcribing it properly. So, the below had to be paraphrased, which is why it's broken out by topic instead of in a typical question-answer format.
On the cancelation of Rubicon, his excellent AMC series about the U.S. intelligence community, and the ending it was denied:
We were all heartbroken when it happened, but at least we got to do one good, full season, which is better than most get. The thing that still stings, though, is that Henry Bromell wrote a real final episode that really did tie things up in a beautiful, perfect way, but AMC shut down production before we could ever film it. And Henry died two months ago, so somewhere in a safe or a desk drawer of his is the real finale that show deserved, but no one will ever get to see it or even read it.
On what it's like to jump from smaller movies to something as massive as Iron Man 3:
It's nice to finally be a part of a movie that the younger people in my family can actually go and see. I've got nieces and nephews who can finally see me in a movie. And it's just great to see it with a younger audience and hear people laughing or boo'ing at me in all the right places.
I've actually passed on even auditioning for almost every superhero movie I've been sent because I didn't think I could play someone in a suit. I don't want to be in a cape or wear a codpiece. So this was the absolute best of both worlds. I get to be in a superhero movie where my suit is actually just a regular suit.
On being a fellow fan of Shane Black's movies:
The Lethal Weapon series shaped my ideas of action movies growing up. And I think The Last Boy Scout is, to this day, one of the best action movies ever made. It was a dream come true to work with Shane Black and play a real character for him.
On Shane Black as a director:
It was a very liquid set and even though Shane writes incredible scripts, he doesn't stick strictly to them. There'd be days where entire pages would change, and always for the better. I asked him how weird I could get with things and his response was always that "nothing was too weird" for him.
On The Lone Ranger and taking on an important role that only hard-core fans know about:
I'd actually never ridden a horse before, but how can you say no to spending a few weeks in the desert working for Gore Verbinski? I was actually in the dark on The Lone Ranger before going into it as well, so I had to play catchup. Most people, myself included, don't know that John Reid, who is the Lone Ranger [Armie Hammer], had an older brother, Dan Reid, because he rarely came up past the first episode of the old versions. I play Dan Reid, who has more of a "just shoot them in the head" attitude than his brother, who is more idealistic at the start of the movie.
On staying in the Disney family for more movies down the line:
I'd love to, but I don't even know if I'm allowed to stay. I'm still trying to believe they even opened the door for me in the first place!
On how he fits into World War Z:
I got my fill playing military characters in The Pacific, so I've been very reluctant to take on any military roles since then, but you can't say no when Brad Pitt asks you to be in his huge scale zombie movie. He plays a guy who is trying to keep his family alive while also traveling the world in order to find out how this disease started so he can stop it. One of the places he goes is a military base in Korea, which is where I come in.
Iron Man 3 is currently in theaters. World War Z hits theaters on June 21, 2013. The Lone Ranger follows shortly after on July 3, 2013. He's also in Parkland, which is expected to hit theaters later this year, just in time for awards season.