Whoosh! Issue 92 - August 2004

AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL HURST
By Cynthia Ward Cooper
Content © 2004 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2004 held by Whoosh!
1480 words


Introduction (01)
Hold the Anchovies (02-09)
Other Current Projects (10-20)
Questions from Fans (21-33)
Michael Hurst's Filmography
Biography



AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL HURST



INTRODUCTION

Just a simple boy from New Zealand
Michael Hurst as himself

[01] Michael Hurst is a very busy man. He's currently directing and acting in Macbeth on stage with The Large Group, his Shakespearean troupe, in post-production for the film Treasure Island Kids, and doing commentaries for the Hercules: the Legendary Journeys DVDs, with no signs of slowing down. He also just finished a very special project: doing voices for Hold the Anchovies, a short animated film directed by friend Barry Duffield. So we were very appreciative that he sat down with us for a few minutes recently.


HOLD THE ANCHOVIES

[02]CYNTHIA: I saw Hold the Anchovies yesterday. I'd describe it as a Kiwi take on American-Iraqi politics by way of a pizza delivery metaphor. It was amusing, and dead on. Your voices were great-I would never have known it was you. It's a film that can be appreciated both as a strong political statement and as a funny cartoon. Your friend Barry Duffield wrote and directed the short-was your friendship how you come to do voice-acting for it?

[03]MICHAEL: Yes. Our friendship has developed over the past years and I think he is a very talented guy. Basically, anything I can do to help Barry, I will.

[04]CYNTHIA: What are your hopes for the film? Do you think it can make a difference in what's rapidly becoming a disastrous political situation?

[05]MICHAEL: To be frank, I wasn't doing the voices because of the politics -- it was more that I liked the creative challenge and the message (of the inevitable pointlessness of violent escalation) was in harmony with my own beliefs.

I wanted THIN crust, damn your black heart!
Michael Hurst in Hold the Anchovies

[06]CYNTHIA: Is art an effective tool for that sort of thing in general? Or should it just be appreciated for what it is?

[07]MICHAEL: Art is an extremely powerful tool -- and film and television no more so. Even primitive art had a political message: "Don't mess around with me because I am human and I can drive you into a valley and drop rocks on you until you are dead and I can skin and eat you." It is impossible to separate some kind of politics from art. Art is by nature opinionated. To attempt to take this away from art provokes serious questions about the human right to self-expression.

[08]CYNTHIA: You've done voice acting before, notably for the Herc-Xena animated feature. How did Hold the Anchovies differ from your previous experiences? Do you find voice acting easier/more difficult, less or more rewarding, than other types of acting?

[09]MICHAEL: I find it all exciting and interesting. Voice work is rich because it frees up the actor to be more risky, more daring -- more ridiculous. Through my voice work with television and with commercials I have played a spectacular array of characters. I am not just a retail voice (though I can and do do that) I am a character voice. Lots of potential!


OTHER CURRENT PROJECTS

[10]CYNTHIA: What's the status of Treasure Island Kids? If I'm not mistaken, you're directing the whole trilogy more or less at the same time. How did that come about? What's it like to direct a kid-centric production?

[11]MICHAEL: I directed the second two of the three movies. Right now they are nearing completion of post production, which in this case has not involved me beyond the final cut, which I arrived at for the most part with my editor, but which we discussed at length with the producers. I directed these two 85- minute films in 30 days! We shot both at the same time and amortized resources to expiate this. The kids were great. My philosophy has always been that I am prepared to work as hard or harder that anyone I ask to work hard or harder. This makes sense to kids very quickly and we had a good work ethic for the most part. One of the problems with 12 hour shoot days with kids is that they are only allowed to work 8 hours in a day, up to two and a half of which can be consumed by travel and lunch etc. So planning is of the essence, and the kids have to be ready to go when we go.

[12]CYNTHIA: As you're also doing almost continuous live theatre as well, I'm curious as to how you make the transition from directing to acting, and in different media. Is it difficult to, say, go from directing a film during the day to acting onstage at night? What kind of preparations do you find you must make in order to shift gears?

[13]MICHAEL: The skills are different, but the heart of the matter is the same. I don't really prepare to shift gears, I just shift and deal with it. The only time I need concentrated re-focus time is before a live performance. I need about an hour to warm up, focus, think and generally get the muses there. This is especially true for Shakespeare.

Not exactly a comedy
Michael Hurst as Macbeth

[14]CYNTHIA: I believe you're in tech week for Macbeth right now. Is it difficult to direct yourself? Do you find it a challenge to do Shakespeare from a director's standpoint-specifically, in seeking a fresh approach to such complex material?

[15]MICHAEL: Every generation reinvents Shakespeare. The building blocks of a Shakespearian performance, the features of the language as they relate to the speaking of the words out loud, must be learned and put into place, but once they are there, then the plays are mutable, alive and very busy. So a fresh approach is really the least of the difficulties. It is more a matter of grasping one of the many fresh approaches that present themselves once you can surrender to the flow of ideas in the writing.

[16]CYNTHIA: Can you tell us a little about The Large Group? It sounds like a wonderful collaborative effort. What plans does TLG have for the future?

[17]MICHAEL: The object of The Large Group is to make epic theatre, or, more precisely, to make theatre epic. The unique thing about theatre is that it is an experience in "the same moment" -- that is to say that the audience and the performers are simultaneously gathered around a public "articulation" of some social issue. This 'same moment" experience is actually a communion. Be it laughter or fear and pity, the catharsis is healthy, and, when it is done properly, the catharsis available in a live theatre environment is both powerful and unique to the form. It is also, however, elusive! So…we will be debriefing after Macbeth and making plans. I would like to see an ensemble company committed to three productions to be presented in concert over a season every year. These productions would be epic in nature.

[18]CYNTHIA: On a lighter note, Roach was telling me about the "Musings of the Night" show that's planned for this September in Seattle. The American fans are going to be really excited about this--could you tell us a little about what's going to be going on?

[19]MICHAEL: Unfortunately I will be in Europe at that time and so I won't be able to make the event.

[20]CYNTHIA: Oh, that's a shame.


QUESTIONS FROM FANS

[21]CYNTHIA: When I learned that I was going to be interviewing you, I told the fans on the Whoosh message board and blog, and asked them if they had any burning questions for you. They sure did! Here's a small sample:

[22] From Lizzbitt: Would Iolaus liked to have had a love interest that led to marriage like Herc? Herc had Serena, Morrigan. (Although Herc didn't marry Morrigan, but he came close.) Did Iolaus feel left out, especially after the rivalry over Xena?

Iolaus and Gabrielle in a more innocent moment
Michael Hurst as Iolaus

[23]MICHAEL: No on all counts. In the movies I was married (Hercules and the Amazon Women) and in The Maze of the Minotaur, we talk about my kids!

[24] From Emerge: I would love to know about Michael's perceptions about the differences between American-based and New Zealand-based TV and theatre. What kinds of differences are there in the working attitudes of the cast and crew, both on and off the set? What differences are there in the structural process of bringing a TV event or movie into fruition? How easy or difficult is it, in each country's acting industry, to find work in television and film, comparatively? And finally, does he prefer one country's industry, or certain aspects of it, over the other? Why?

[25]MICHAEL: I would have to write an essay to answer these questions properly!

[26] From Emerge: I'm also curious to know what his proudest moment in acting (whether TV/stage) has been, his most embarrassing moment, and his biggest regret?

[27]MICHAEL: Proudest moment - seeing Jennifer play Marlene Dietrich and absolutely knock them dead. Most embarrassing moment - throwing up in the middle of the song "Bali Hai" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific in front of a full house. Biggest regret? Non - rien de rien. Non, je ne regret rien.

[28] From Abbagirl: What were Michael's favorite Xena and Hercules episodes that he directed?

[29]MICHAEL: Hercules - Mercenary, …And Fancy Free, Somewhere Over The Rainbow Bridge. For Xena - A Day In The Life, To Helicon And Back.

After Xena and Herc ended, Michael's career became a bit blurry
Michael Hurst in Andromeda

[30] From Andi: Please ask Michael about his guest appearances on Sorbo's Andromeda, like 'how was it reuniting with his longtime co-star' and how was it different from working on Hercules. I loved his ship's avatar character and it was great to see him and Kevin together again.

[31]MICHAEL: Andromeda was a bit like Hercules In Space for me. I had a ball. It took zero time for me to fall in with Kevin again. As far as the show itself was concerned, the routine was pretty much the same, the problems, the structures, the shooting methods - all.

[32] From Rohantc: Which part, either in a play, movie or television, would be your dream role? Do you and your wife, Jennifer Ward-Leland, plan on working together in the future?

[33]MICHAEL: Macbeth on film. And Jennifer an I are hoping produce and perform in Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera" in 2005.


Filmography

(Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database and Michael Hurst Now)

FILM AND TELEVISION APPEARANCES

Hold the Anchovies (2004) (V) .... Manager & Old Iraqi
Fracture (2004) .... Athol Peet
"Power Rangers Ninja Storm" (2003) TV Series (voice) .... Vexacus
Honey (2002)
Love Mussel (2001) (TV) .... Stephen Jessop
I'll Make You Happy (1999) .... Lou
Young Hercules (1998/I) (V) .... The Jeweler
Hercules and Xena - The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus (1998) (V) (voice) .... Iolaus
Moment Passing, A (1997) .... Joey
"Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" (1995) TV Series .... Iolaus
Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur (1994) (TV) .... Iolaus
Hercules in the Underworld (1994) (TV) .... Aelus
Hercules and the Amazon Women (1994) (TV) .... Iolaus
Typhon's People (1993) (TV) .... Constantine
Desperate Remedies (1993) .... Willam Poyser
Footstep Man, The (1992) .... Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Dangerous Orphans (1985) .... Moir
Death Warmed Up (1985) .... Michael Tucker
Prisoners (1981) .... Sciano

TELEVISION GUEST APPEARANCES

"Showstoppers" (2002) TV Series .... Himself
Making of 'Jubilee', The (2000) (V) .... Himself
"Andromeda" (2000) playing "Ryan" in episode: "The Knight, Death and the Devil" (episode # 2.20) 29 April 2002
"Mataku" (2002) playing "Dr. Forbes" in episode: "The Final Plume" (episode # 1.5)
"Xena: Warrior Princess" (1995) playing "Nigel, Charon" in episode: "You Are There" (episode # 6.13) 5 February 2001
"Jack of All Trades" (2000) playing "Captain Nardo da Vinci" in episode: "Shark Bait" (episode # 2.2) 9 October 2000
"Duggan" (1999) playing "Michael Taylor" in episode: "A Shadow of Doubt: Part 2" (episode # 1.4) 3 August 1999
"Duggan" (1999) playing "Michael Taylor" in episode: "A Shadow of Doubt: Part 1" (episode # 1.3) 27 July 1999
"Young Hercules" (1998/II) playing "Charon" in episode: "A Lady in Hades" (episode # 1.20) 4 November 1998
"Xena: Warrior Princess" (1995) playing "Iolaus" in episode: "The Quest" (episode # 2.13) 3 February 1997
"Xena: Warrior Princess" (1995) playing "Charon" in episode: "Mortal Beloved" (episode # 1.16) 12 February 1996
"Xena: Warrior Princess" (1995) playing "Iolaus" in episode: "Prometheus" (episode # 1.8) 6 November 1995
"Ray Bradbury Theatre, The" (1985) in episode: "The Long Rain" (episode # 6.6) 19 September 1992
"Ray Bradbury Theatre, The" (1985) in episode: "The Toynbee Convector" (episode # 4.8) 26 October 1990

FILMS & TELEVISION EPISODES AS DIRECTOR

Treasure Island Kids: The Monster of Treasure Island (2004) (post-production)
Love Mussel (2001) (TV)
Jubilee (2000)
"Jack of All Trades" (2000) TV Series (episode "One, Two, Three, Give Me Lady Liberty")
Amazon High (1999)
"Xena: Warrior Princess" (1995) TV Series (episode "A Day in the Life") (episode "A Tale of wo Muses, "Who's Gurkhan") (episode "and "To Helicon and Back")
"Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" (1995) TV Series (episode "Faith") (episode "Mercenary") (episode "One Fowl Day") (episode "Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bridge") (episode "and "Greece is Burning")
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (1994)

SCREENPLAYS

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (1994) (screenplay)

RECENT THEATRE APPEARANCES

Goldie (2004)
Measure for Measure (director; 2004)
Lysistrata (director; 2003)
Aladdin (also writer and director; 2003)
Hamlet (also producer and director; 2003)
Rocky Horror Show (2002)
Waiting for Godot (2002)
Travesties (2002)
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (2001)



Biography

Cynthia Cynthia Ward Cooper
IAXS Executive Committee, Senior Technical Producer,
Editor, Xena FAQ

Cynthia Ward Cooper was born in Fort Riley, Kansas on December 18. Her early years were marked by incessant travel. After a number of adventures, she moved to Dallas, where she earned a master's degree in library/information science. She is currently self-employed as a technical library consultant in Austin, Texas. Cyn has been an ardent Xenist since the very first broadcast, and frequently expresses the opinion that the world would be a far better place if everyone would just sit down together and watch Xena once in awhile.

Favorite episode: THE DEBT (52-53/306-307), ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402), and DESTINY (36/212) (I like the flashback eps), and anything with the Amazons
Favorite line: Xena: "I've got nothing but bad news for you" DESTINY (36/212).
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: A toss-up between IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404) and any of the Season Five "comedies."

 

 

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