Casper Van Dean, that’s a name everyone recognizes. When you hear it, odds are, you automatically think of the giant bug movie Starship Troopers. Well, Mr. Van Dien sat down with me to talk about that iconic film and his latest projects, including the supernatural film Darkness Reigns.
Horror Fuel: “What was it like on the set of Starship Troopers?”
Casper Van Dien: “It was a little bit surreal at the time. I was on this massive production team, with Edward Neumeier, writer of RoboCop, which I am a huge fan of. They had all the same team that worked on RoboCop. I am such fan that. All the actors and all the crew, the extras, there were so many people. It felt like a real family though. We all got along really well for the most part.”
Horror Fuel: “Did they use mostly practical effects or was most of it CGI?”
Caper Van Dien: “It was hard. There were practical effects, but most of it was CGI. All the bugs were basically CGI. There were a few practical effect bugs, some arms here and there, some claws and a couple of dead bugs, but for the most part of it, we were just reacting to dirt out there or Paul Verhoeven would be screaming at us or running at us, ‘Bugs, bugs, bugs!’ He was so full of energy and so descriptive of what was happening to us and what we were supposed to be doing. It came naturally.”
Horror Fuel: “I really enjoyed Starship Troopers.”
Casper Van Dien: “Well, thank you.”
Horror Fuel: “Is it hard to react to a creature that’s not really there?”
Casper Van Dien: “I think it goes back to when we were kids and playing pretend, rather you were playing cowboys and Indians, whatever you were playing. You’re just trying to get back to that innocent quality of playing pretend when you were a kid. You’re just trying to get back to that and make it real. That’s what actors strive for in a role. You have to be believable. For me, I was trying to be as real as I could be in that moment. I had so much fun on that set. He had such a powerful image of how he wanted it to be perceived. He was so precise of what he wanted. ”
Horror Fuel: “You did a good job of it. Everyone was great at what they did.”
Horror Fuel: “Over the past couple of days, social media has been flooded with Starship Troopers memes about Trump’s Space Force. How does that make you feel?”
Casper Van Dien: “‘Do your part. Join now!’ [laughter] I shared one of them. I’m going to do another one soon. I’m having so much fun with them.
I’m into exploration, I’m in acting because of Star Trek, Star Wars and all that. I really think our present state is and always has been awe-inspiring since the Wright brothers first took flight. It’s great to talk about it. I would love to have a strong military presence out there. It sounds good to me.”
Horror Fuel: “What was it like to go up against Dracula in Dracula 3000?
Casper Van Dien: “Oh my goodness, Daryl Roodt, the movie’s director, he’s done some brilliant things. He called me up and goes ‘Caper, I’ve always wanted to do a Dracula movie. Can you come?” The very next film he did he won an Academy Award. It just goes to show you that things can be right on and right off. I had fun working with him and working with the cast and crew. It was a silly thing to do. And I love South Africa, any chance I get to go down there, it’s a beautiful country filled with beautiful people. I went down there for the first time when I played Tarzan. I really fell in love with South Africa. There’s just something special about that place.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, that makes me want to go.”
Casper Van Dien: “It’s extraordinarily beautiful. It’s got its dangers too, but the people are so good there. The Zulu people are good too. I actually watched Zulu with them. One of the Zulu’s grandfathers was in it, they had never seen it. He got to see his grandfather.”
Horror Fuel: “I imagine that was a great experience.”
Horror Fuel: “During a scene in Darkness Reigns, where you play yourself, you are being interviewed and they ask you if you believe in ghosts, Do you believe in the paranormal?”
Casper Van Dien: “Well, my name is Casper [laughter]. That’s a popular name in my family, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on, were all named Casper, but that’s another story. Growing up in New Jersey on Van Dien Avenue, which is named after my great-great-great-grandfather, the house I lived in is rumored to be haunted because a Mr. Smitt had hung himself in our garage. One day when I was young, my imagination got the better of me, I felt like a ghost, something, went through my entire body. I felt like I felt his presence. It got cold and all the hairs on my arm stood up. I freaked myself out, more or less. I don’t know what it was. I guess it was just the imagination of a young man. It did freak me out. That’s probably the closest thing I’ve had to an experience.
Now, on the set, we had the casting director, the place we were shooting in was the Truman Hotel, it looked haunted. She was really bothered by it. We were in Jefferson City Missouri, and the hotel was condemned to come down. It was pretty, but it was in a state of disarray, they were giving stuff away. The pool was already empty and she got a text message saying ‘I’m in the pool’ from a number she didn’t recognize, so she was really scared. ‘I am not going out there,’ she said. I sent her text messages the rest of the time while were filming saying ‘I’m in the pool’ or a picture of the pool.'”
Horror Fuel: “You never know. It could have been his ghost. As for the pool thing that was a bit twisted [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “Speaking of paranormal or supernatural things, I have to ask you something. How is it that you don’t age? Did Dracula really get a hold of you in Dracula 3000?”
Casper Van Dien: “I have this painting in the attic. The painting doesn’t look so good but it keeps me looking pretty sharp [laughter].
I think that’s very kind. I think it’s good genetics or something like that. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. I lead a pretty healthy life so maybe that’s why. I feel differently though. It’s cool. When my beard grows in people tell me that I’m looking pretty old, my beard is all white now and has been for like ten years now.”
Horror Fuel: “You’re doing something right, I’ll give you that.”
Casper Van Dien: “I appreciate that.”
Horror Fuel: “If you had to describe Darkness Reins in four words, what would they be?”
Caper Van Dein: “I haven’t been asked that question. I would say horror, thriller, scare fest.
Horror Fuel: “Good choices.”
Horror Fuel: “Do you have any other projects coming out soon that we should be keeping an eye out for?”
Casper Van Dien: “I have a couple of things. I have Alita: Battle Angel, which was fun to do. I also play Jimmy Doolittle in Doolittle’s Heroes. Jimmy Doolittle was the most decorated pilot in World War One. Then when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor he signed back up and led this team of brave men of the bravest generation, on a suicide mission to Japan, which everyone thought was impossible. He thought if these brave men had any chance of coming back that it would be with someone like him. Out of the eighty pilots and crew that went in sixteen bombers, fifty-four made it back. It’s an incredible story. Alec Baldwin played him in Pearl Harbor, but he’s never really had his story told and I get to play him this time. He’s a real American Hero and I’m really honored. This is the role of a lifetime.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, that’s amazing. I’m such a big fan of anything having to do with history.”
Casper Van Dien: “Me too. The director is a friend of my wife’s and she suggested that we meet. He said he had a small part and that they were holding out for a big name actor to play Jimmy. Then he called me back and said “I just sent you the script for Doolittle. I’ll be over at your house in three hours to tape. It was a three-page monologue and another scene, but I memorized what I could. We did the scene and he sent it out. They canceled the other actor and paid him off and hired me.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome.”
Casper Van Dead: “We shot most of it last year. I went to China for several weeks. It was so fun to do.”
Horror Fuel: “When will that be coming out?”
Casper Van Dien: “They’ll be editing this summer. I don’t know if it will be out this year or early next year.”
Horror Fuel: “I look forward to seeing Doolittle’s Heroes.”
Casper Van Dien: “I have a picture of me and Doolittle side by side on my Instagram.”
Horror Fuel: “Did you actually do any flying in the film?”
Casper Van Dien: “I did go up in B25. We didn’t go up in one of the ones they flew. The B25’s all of those crashed in either in China or in the sea. One landed in Russia, those guys were under house arrest for a year. One of the guys lost a leg, some got thrown out of the window of a plane, I don’t know how they survived that. I actually walked down roads in China where these men walked. One lady came and said her grandfather walked with them and still had some of the stuff, like a cantine from one of the men who drank with her grandfather, who was killed by Japanese soldiers for harboring these people. It’s the one time that the U.S. and China worked together. It’s an incredible story of bravery. It’s one of the most profound, real, heroic stories I’ve ever heard. People don’t don’t know about it, I hope that they get to. Jimmy Doolittle lived until he was eighty-five. He was an amazing man. I’m so honored. It’s the role of a lifetime.
They took the B25’s, Army bombers, and gutted them and took them off the aircraft carrier, which they had never done before, took everything out, and ran a skeleton crew. They didn’t think they had enough gas. The day before they were supposed to take off a Japanese fishing boat spotted them and called it in. They bombed the fishing boat. But they took off anyway a day earlier. They did this already thinking that they didn’t have enough fuel. All these guys went. They are just the bravest of the brave. It was thrilling to be part of this.
My dad was a Navy pilot and my grandfather was a Marine in WWI. He was an electrician. He went out and turned the lights on and they bombed him, but he lived. So it was really interesting.”
Horror Fuel: “I can’t imagine what they went through.”
Horror Fuel: “What is your favorite horror movie and why?”
Casper Van Dien: “My favorite horror movie and why? The Shining is definitely up there. Jack Nicholson is just amazing. Kubrick is just an amazing filmmaker. That’s probably my favorite. I was just terrorized while watching it. It was so phenomenally directed and acted. It was just so cool.”
Horror Fuel: “Soon you’ll get to see the sequel.”
Casper Van Dien: “We’ll see how that goes. Maybe it will be good.”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure of what to expect when I set up the interview, but the talented actor was kind, well spoken, funny, and was filled with excitement about his various projects in both the past and those currently in various stages of production. I look forward to seeing what he does next.
Darkness Reigns, which Horror Fuel’s DanXIII calls “solid and fun” in his review, will arrive on VOD on July 10, 2018, from Wild Eye Releasing. In the film, “a group of filmmakers shooting a movie in a reportedly haunted hotel are faced with an unfathomable demonic force that possesses and attacks both the crew and the film’s star, Casper Van Dien. Will the film’s director be able to escape with the paranormal proof he has captured, or will he succumb to the hellish plans of the demon who has surfaced?”
Alita: Battle Angel is set to open in theaters this December and is “An action-packed story of one young woman’s journey to discover the truth of who she is and her fight to change the world.”
The release date for Doolittle’s Heroes has yet to be announced.