by Rob DiLauro
When it comes to character actors, they are as important to any film as the main performers themselves. They breathe life into roles that most would dare not take, and add even more magic to a production. One such man is Hungarian-born Carel Struycken. If you don’t recognize the name you have certainly seen his face through the years in television and film. Standing at seven feet he is quite literally one of the largest icons in the business, but his size is not the only thing that makes him a stand out, it is the decades of memorable roles including Star Trek, Ewoks the Battle for Endor, The Witches of Eastwick, The Addams Family, Men In Black, and recently Twin Peaks The Return and the highly acclaimed Stephen King adaptation, Gerald’s Game. Carel is not only The Giant (recently revealed as The Fireman) in David Lynch’s classic series, he is also a man with a large heart in real life as well, showing love to fans of his work at conventions with a kindness and receptive attitude like no other. He not only returned to the fictional world of Washington State recently, he is also ‘The Moonlight Man’ in Mike Flanagan’s rendition of King’s kinky and frightening classic. His character is absolutely terrifying, but there is a strange kindness behind his eyes that occasionally burn red as embers.
We spoke to the icon about his return to Twin Peaks and his entry into the world of Stephen King.
RM: Let’s start with The Return. It seems when it comes to your dialogue it really is the most telling when it comes to the narrative, but it has to be a little vague when you are studying it. Do you have any idea what you are saying when you first see the script, or are you pretty much in the dark when it comes to your character?
CS: No, I have no idea what I am saying. (Laughs) But I do have an idea what my function in the story. The particulars in the story weren’t important.
RM: Right! I was just thinking that when you are first reading your part of the script it must read like complete and utter nonsense at first. (Laughs) So do you have the ability to improvise your movements when you are playing The Giant, or as we know now The Fireman? I still have a difficult time calling you that, by the way.
CS: I do pretty much everything. I didn’t get too much input from David Lynch. Maybe because I was doing what he wanted me to do, so it may have been a coincidence. When we were shooting the original Twin Peaks in the 90’s the only instruction that I got was to do every take slower.
RM: Well, the character seemed much more animated in the original series as opposed to The Return, especially when you are shown in your unearthly environment.
CS: My shuffling was a given because he wanted to fill a certain amount of time and build suspense. So yeah, I had to move pretty slow. (Laughs)
RM: Was there makeup involved this time around? The character appeared to look a lot older than you actually do now.
CS: No, I think it was more the way it was shot. We used high contrast and black and white, plus I think it might have been the angles that we used to shoot.
RM: Well, you do have a young face even still, I figured there might have been some sort of application.
CS: No, I am sixty-nine now. (Laughs)
RM: How did you feel about the new name The Fireman? I mean, was it a bit jarring considering you were seen as The Giant for over twenty-five years?
CS: Well, I didn’t see it as a change. Remember, The Giant never called himself that, nor did anyone else. In this case, I do identify myself as The Fireman. So I see The Fireman as his true identity. That sounds about right, doesn’t it? (Laughs)
RM: When you finally witnesses the final product of The Return do you have any idea what is going on, or do you feel like you are simply speculating and theorizing like the fans?
CS: Well, the way I always looked at Twin Peaks was you live in a dream, and then you wake up and really have no idea what it is all about. I mean, it keeps reinterpreting itself for years, and that’s okay. I have never been super eager to find out what it all means because it worked so well the first time.
RM: That’s what makes it brilliant, because it really does make fans ponder and rethink things for decades it seems.
CS: I think the idea of Twin Peaks, it has been a way for Lynch to put anything he wants on film. Right?
“The Moonlight Man is really a dangerous character, but he isn’t a violent character. I understand anger, but I never wanted to play a psychopath. That never appealed to me.”
RM: When you first knew you were working with Mike Flanagan were you familiar with his past work?
CS: No, I only saw his stuff while I was shooting in Mobile, Alabama. That was when I saw some of his other work.
RM: The fact that he actually got Gerald's Game off of the ground and to make it what it is is really a testament to the man in itself. I remember reading it when it first was a best-seller, but it never seemed like something that could be filmed.
CS: That was clearly a challenge. Mike Flanagan wanted to make this film for a long time, and it was a challenge that he pulled off so amazingly well.
RM: Honestly, I loved It in its big screen scope, but Gerald's Game is the finest Stephen King adaptation I have seen in years. With Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood's performances, along with you lurking in the shadows, it was extremely effective. Did you audition for the part or was it given to you right away?
CS: There was a casting call, and I really didn't know what they wanted me to do at first. I really didn't have any lines, but a casting agency put me on tape and that was it.
RM: Well, you were excellent. It was a character that said nothing but really said everything. Were you familiar with the original King story?
CS: I wasn't familiar, but I did get the script very early on and it was really well written.
RM: When it comes to 'The Moonlight Man', you are not really known for playing darker roles. But there is a mystery and nurturing quality to the character in a strange way. Is that why you wanted to take it?
CS: Well, 'The Moonlight Man' is really a dangerous character, but he isn't a violent character. I understand anger but I never wanted to play a psychopath. That never appealed to me.
RM: What was the makeup process like? I would think it would be pretty extensive, especially when you finally appear as Raymond Andrew Joubert...
CS: Yes, it definitely was. A very long process. Bob Kurtzman and his crew put on the application, and it was a lengthy affair. I am used to that stuff but I will never be relaxed. (Laughs)
RM: In your interpretation, why do you think Jessie was pardoned as a target? Do you think it might have been that she was kind of respectful to your character?
CS: I think it's because he goes after dead people, and she's not dead yet. (Laughs) I think that is actually a flaw in King's storytelling. I don't think my character really killed anyone.
RM: Maybe another reason was because she knew you were there but she didn't freak out or interfere, She was actually in her own way kind to him and it was all brilliantly played. At the end when she comes to see you in court it was just executed so nicely. It was the ending of the book exactly the way it was.
CS: I think the original idea was that she comes into the court room and attacks my character, but it was changed because it didn't make sense.
Twin Peaks: The Return is now available on SHOWTIME ON DEMAND and Gerald's Game is available exclusively on Netflix.