“I sat down and I read the first 10 pages and I was confused…”
…then I kept reading and I loved it.” That is what actor James Marsters had to say about his most recent film Dudes & Dragons, which is being released on VOD, DVD, and other streaming platforms today.
And I have to say, as I began watching the film, my initial reaction was similar to Marsters’ when he first sat down with the script. At first, it seems stilted, over the top, and a little bit cheesy. But as the story continues, you begin to realize the characters are winking back at you, and the film becomes not just enjoyable but down right hilarious. It’s a fun, fast-paced, fantasy laugh-fest, so it’s no surprise that it won Best Feature Film at DragonCon last year.
Dudes & Dragons is a Kickstarter funded fantasy comedy about a love scorned wizard named Lord Tensley (Marsters) who vows to rid the world of the silly emotion by way of a deadly fire-breathing dragon. A brave, but rag-tag bunch of eccentric warriors must go on a dangerous quest to defeat the evil Tensley, slay the beast, and rescue the beautiful Ennogard (Kaitlin Doubleday of FOX’s Empire). In celebration of the wide release of the film, I talked with James Marsters to find out more about Dudes & Dragons, his career in SciFi, and what’s next.
Marsters got his big break on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then went on to star in Angel, Smallville, and Torchwood, and has been a staple of the SciFi/Fantasy world for many years. I asked him what drew him to the genre initially and why he continues to enjoy working in the genre today. Marsters says he has always been a “Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Convention goer, Punk Rocker, subversive artist.” He explains, being a subversive artist is about trying to “divest the audience of the lies we are taught as children,” and that he enjoys SciFi because you can do this with a sort of “plausible deniability.” The jester is the only one in the king’s court who can hold a mirror up the the king and call him an idiot….as long as he’s funny. That’s why he loves SciFi. The veneer allows the writer to speak more honestly and directly to the audience. The Twilight Zone told of the mental stresses of the Cold War. Star Trek talked about diversity and hope as a social force, and brought the first interracial kiss into people’s living rooms. Twenty-three years later, Buffy aired the first lesbian kiss on television. SciFi is a genre that pushes the envelope and effects change.
But what about being the villain? “It’s the best!” Marsters says, “I get to lurk in the shadows, hit the hero, and go home!” Heroes are always worrying about things, he says, they have to control their inner demon. But, as the villain, Marsters says, he can have fun and let his immature side come out. He gets to work through all those negative emotions, and it’s a very cathartic experience for him. “It’s like free therapy,” he says, “I always go home feeling better.”
Dudes & Dragons is a successful Kickstarter project, and Marsters is no stranger to the fan financed film. Back before any of the many websites came into existence, his Buffy co-star Amber Benson creatively used crowd-funding techniques to make her feature film starring the pair. Marsters says he loves the creativity, integrity, and singular voice of the indie project. “If you know what you’re doing, you don’t have to have a whole lot of money to tell a good story,” he says. When you get into big budgets, “you are beholden to those who gave it to you and they can change your idea into something that’s different than what you want.” When he produced theater in Seattle, he says he enjoyed the freedom of expression he had as an independent artist, and these crowd-funded films continue that freedom.
So, what’s next for Marsters? He says he has a “disgusting” gore fest of a horror movie in the works (horror fans watch out for that one!), a romantic drama flick, his band Ghost of the Robot is releasing their 5th album, he’s playing Lex Luther for the DC online video game, and he’s narrating the book series The Dresden Files. LA fans can catch the short film Marsters and his wife Jasmin created together, Kessi Blue, at the Pasadena International Film Festival on March 6th. Needless to say, we have a lot more to look forward to from James Marsters.
Dudes & Dragons from Momentum Pictures stars James Marsters, Kaitlin Doubleday, Luke Perry, Adam Johnson, Maclain Nelson, Clare Niederpruem, Jake Van Wagoner, and Erik Denton. Written and directed by Maclain Nelson and Stephen Shimek. Produced by Kristi Shimek, David Wulf, and Jake Sorensen.