Exclusive Interview : Dominic Purcell


Clint Morris talks to the “Prison Break” star

Dominic Purcell is big, damn big. Not only in statue – he’s 6′ 1″ and packed with muscle – but also repute. He’s got a number 1 TV show (“Prison Break”), had a number one movie (“Blade Trinity”) and is already being touted as Hollywood’s next big-screen drawcard. Not bad for a bloke who just a few short years ago, was a jaded landscaper living from week to week on a miniscule paycheque. CLINT MORRIS talks to the actor in this exclusive interview.

Australian-born Purcell, 35, learned his craft at the esteemed Australian Theatre for Young People. After beginning his training there, he attended the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts alongside fellow actors Hugh Jackman and Francis O’Connor. Upon graduation, he snagged a regular role on the hit drama “Raw FM”.

Purcell’s first taste of Hollywood came in 2000 when Tom Cruise and John Woo bought it to him. Purcell was asked to play a small but pivotal role in the action blockbuster “Mission : Impossible 2”, which was filmed in his home city of Sydney.

Purcell’s taste for blockbusters led to Tinseltown, where he ultimately relocated to hunt down bigger and better work. Since his arrival in 2001, he’s appeared in such films as “Scenes of the Crime”, “Invincible”, and “Equilibrium”. His big break though, came when he was hired to play the lead role in the Memento-esque series, “John Doe”, in 2002.

Recently, Purcell bulked-up to play the ferocious Dracula in the smash-hit “Blade Trinity”, and currently appears in the U.S TV hit “Prison Break”, playing a death-row inmate whose brother tries to help him escape.

So how’s it feel, “Prison Break” is a big, big show!?
It’s great. It was good to come across something that’s different and creative, compared to some of the other slop that’s on TV these days. The fans are rabid – really into it, and that’s what you want.

You did a show called “John Doe” before this one, didn’t you?
I did that in 2001 for FOX, and as a result of that I’ve kind of built up an allegiance with FOX – a healthy working relationship.

Do you like TV or film? Or would rather be doing movies?
Of course, I think all of us want to do film. But this thing (“Prison Break”) read like a feature film and behind it are feature film people – Brett Ratner, the director, and Dante Spinotti, is the director of photography. The show is very filmic, and it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read – including films!

You’re super-fit. Do the producers of the show make you workout?
People are use to seeing me pretty thickset, and I certainly was for the pilot and for “Blade Trinity”. For that, I had to pack on muscle, I ended up getting up to something like 210 pounds, and by the time I shot the pilot I was still carrying all that muscle. I’ve got to the point now where I’m back to my plain weight, which is about 180.

Have you always worked out?
I’ve always surfed, and do kickboxing, jump rope…

So everyday would you hit the gym?
Not necessarily, it’s not part of my life. I don’t worry too much about doing weights and stuff, but I’m a physical guy so I’ll surf and do physical stuff. Being in Chicago, there’s no surf around, so I go to a boxing gym down the road and end up working down there for a couple of hours – jumping rope, sparring and so on.

America is full of junk food. How do you get around that?
A couple of months back, nearly year ago now, I was getting my cholesterol tested and it was super high, so I had to cut out a lot of fats. I have to shop wholefoods these days. There’s so much sugar here man – you taste like a slice of bread and it takes like a fuckin’ donut. The good thing about it though is that you can find the other half and there’s some good places to shop and find some healthy stuff.

Going back to “Blade Trinity”, how fun was that?
It was a lot of fun man, it was a big action number and I’ve always wanted to do a big action number, and to get to do something in a successful franchise was even better. It was good working-out and doing swordfights and stuff. It was fun. I wouldn’t like to do it all the time, I kinda got bored toward the end there, but it was a lot of fun. Wesley (Snipes) was a bit of a pain in the ass but that kind of comes with the territory.

So (co-star) Ryan Reynolds was telling me.
Yeah, he (Snipes) can be a bit of a nightmare. It’s a real shame. At one point, he was headed in the right direction – it looked like he might have a Denzel Washington-like career, but he’s got a lot of demons and he has a like destructive personality thing going on – he shot himself in the foot.

The “Blade” franchise is finished now isn’t it?
When we were filming, they wanted Ryan (Reynolds) and Jessica (Biel) to do the sequel – The Nightstalkers. If there is a sequel, and I don’t know if there will be one, I doubt very much it’s going to go with Wesley.

How long have you been in America for now?
About four-and-a-half to five years now. When I first got here I was terrified – I was shocked by the differences between Australians and Americans. People say we’re similar – but not that much. The philosophies and ideologies of Americans is very different to ours. I’m not saying Australians are very driven but they’re very driven here, so I had to get into that mindset.

Was it hard to get work at first?
The first six months was hard. I struggled with the auditioning thing because I was going in-and-out of my Australian accent and my American accent. It became a nightmare. It got to the point where my confidence was destroyed because I was focusing on my American accent all the time. A buddy, Anthony LaPaglia, sat me down and said ‘You’ve got to speak American all the time’. So I did, and it just started to fall into place.

Got anything else lined up at the moment?
Just doing this thing (“Prison Break”) man. We always talk about stuff down-the-line but I try and not too carried away with it all, because there’s a lot of talk in this town. I take it with a grain of salt, until something actually happens.

Schwarzenegger’s busy being Governor. Maybe they’re looking for a new Terminator?
[Laughs] But that would require me to spend about five years in the gym!

How is Arnold doing over there as Governor?
I kind of keep away from politics. He’s not too popular at the moment – but it just cracks me up, Arnold Schwarzenegger can be the governor of California. Only in America, Only in America.

PRISON BREAK premieres Wednesday 8:30PM, Channel 7