From the soulless killer, Samson Toulette, in Tim Hunter’s acclaimed dissection of 1980’s teen anguish, RIVER’S EDGE, to his latest role as the irascible four armed pilot Greez Dritus in the highly anticipated video game release, STAR WARS: JEDI FALLEN ORDER (available on PS4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows), actor Daniel Roebuck has never played…well, Daniel Roebuck.
To Roebuck that seems perfectly natural as he credits his early interest in Universal Studio’s Gothic horrors as the impetus for his long career. “I couldn’t have been older than six or seven when I discovered The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein and their countless iterations. I watched them as incessantly as was possible in a time when watching any movie required scouring the TV guide a week in advance and then begging my mom to let me stay up late on the night I wanted to watch it!”
The actors that first caught Daniel’s eye were Lon Chaney (the original MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES), Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. One day, like the bolt of lightning that resurrected Frankenstein’s wretched monster, Roebuck had an electrifying thought: “When I realized that I was seeing the same actors in different make-ups I finally understood what actors really did or could do when they could transform into a different man or monster.”
It was soon after that Daniel Roebuck set out on his own path of personal transformation. At around eleven years old he began doing impressions of famous actors and won a number of local talent shows for those efforts. He joined a circus at the age of twelve, becoming one of the youngest professional clowns in the country and then found his way into various theaters in and around his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
“In my very first play at the Pennsylvania Playhouse I glued on a rubber nose and mustache for one of the multiple roles I was playing and then there was no turning back,” Roebuck recently offered from his Burbank, California home. He continued, “Soon I had my own make up kit and stocked it with crepe hair, spirit gum, grease paint and rubber noses. I was always making myself up as some monster or another.”
When Daniel Roebuck packed up that make-up kit and landed in Hollywood 35 years ago, it was only a short matter of time before he established himself as one of the industry’s most versatile character actors. In the first five movies he starred in, Roebuck moved effortlessly from High School Nerd (CAVEGIRL) to High School Killer (RIVER’S EDGE) to Air Force Officer (PROJECT X) to Punk Rocker (DUDES) to New Jersey Cop (DISORGANIZED CRIME).
In the three and a half decades since, Roebuck has amassed a resume filled with over 200 roles in nearly 500 movies and television shows. He has starred in blockbusters (THE FUGITIVE), horror movies (FINAL DESTINATION), faith based movies (LET THERE BE LIGHT), family movies (AGENT CODY BANKS) cult movies (JOHN DIES IN THE END) and some of the most popular shows on television, including LOST, MATLOCK, NASH BRIDGES and THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.
Still, it’s the work he does under make up that he relishes the most. Roebuck has been made up by some of the industry’s top make up people including Monty Westmore, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, John Goodwin, Wayne Toth and Barney Burman. Throughout his career he has played famous people (Jay Leno in THE LATE SHIFT, Garry Marshall in BEHIND THE CAMERA: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF MORK AND MINDY, Alexander Graham Bell in one of GEICO’S funniest commercials), a Romulan (STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION), pig monsters (GRIMM and WILD BOAR), a Zombie (THE WALKING DEAD) and the Devil himself (Rob Zombie’s TEENAGE ROCK GOD)!
Recently, Roebuck co-wrote, produced and directed the award-winning feature film, GETTING GRACE. The film is about a young lady, who is dying of cancer. She goes into a funeral home to find out what will happen after she dies and instead ends up teaching the disconnected Funeral Director how to celebrate life. Aside from the various Best Picture, Acting and Directing prizes for the film, Roebuck was also awarded an Honorary Funeral Director Degree for his efforts.
Daniel Roebuck’s life and career have come “full circle”more times than Roebuck can remember. “As a child my mother would take me to see Rich Little because we were both impressionists and then in THE LATE SHIFT, I got to play Jay Leno to HIS Johnny Carson. I have loved the Odd Couple television show since the 1970’s and in the Mork and Mindy movie I got to play Garry Marshall, who created both shows for television. In the mid 80’s I portrayed Will Stockdale in NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS, a role made famous by Andy Griffith, and 6 short years later I was his sidekick for 3 seasons on Matlock,” Roebuck remembered, “But watching STAR WARS in the Boyd Theater in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at 14 years old was life changing! For a young film fan like I was, to have thought one day I might be part a of that epic story would have been insanity. I don’t know that I ever wanted a job as much as I wanted this one!”
EA and Respawn Entertainment’s STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER has already garnered a great deal of interest and the excitement is building for its November 15th, 2019 release. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, game director Stig Asmussen offered his thoughts on Roebuck’s character Greez, “He’s a member of a new species we’ve created. I don’t want to give away too much of his backstory, but like anybody you’re going to find during these dark times, he’s got demons. But he’s kind of like this loudmouthed little guy, he talks real big, he tells tall tales and most of the time they’re not true.”
Roebuck spent a few months working alongside of Cameron Monaghan, playing Cal, the young padawan and Debra Wilson who plays Cere in the game.“We had a wonderful camaraderie, the three of us,” said Roebuck. “Plus,we were performance directed by Tom Keegan who is truly a master director and always brings great insight into the process.” Keegan and Roebuck had worked together before on DEAD RISING 3.
During the performance capture process, the actors donned form fitting body suits covered with reflective balls and performed the game’s cinematic scenes in front of dozens of cameras. They also wore head gear fitted with cameras so that the animators could utilize the footage to animate the character’s facial features by directly correlating them to the actor’s reference video.
STAR WARS JEDI FALLEN ORDER is on track to become one of the most successful video game releases of 2019. The game is one of a triumvirate of entertainment options being released by Lucasfilm LTD this fall. Its release coinciding with the original program from Disney +, THE MANDOLORIAN and STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, out this Christmas.
What’s next for Roebuck? It appears he will transform once more into a reluctant football coach for his next directorial effort, THE HAILMARY. It will be the first feature project from A CHANNEL OF PEACE, Roebuck’s new Not-For-Profit film company (achannelofpeace.org). Plus, Roebuck is keeping tight lipped about a new project that might rival his foray into the STAR WARS galaxy as a new and amazing dream come true.
We asked Roebuck what his favourite horror film was and this is what he had to say.
“Frankly, it’s nearly criminal to ask a guy like me to name my favourite horror film when I’ve not only gone on record as being a great fan of the genre BUT I have also appeared in so many, the directors of which might have some inclination that I would (or should) name the one they made. Or in Mr. Zombie’s case, the many he made, and included me in. Plus it seems that, living on this side of the pond, I have actually been spelling the word “favourite” incorrectly these past 50 years! That in itself is a horror.
There are so many horror films I love yet the ones that I hold so dearly in my heart are the Gothic Universal Studios “monster movies” dating back to the 30s and 40s. Was it the thrills and chills, which I can surely remember enjoying on the first viewing of any of them? Let’s be honest, seeing the Frankenstein monster for the first time was no doubt a “jolt of electricity” for so many of us who discovered the these movies thanks their nationwide syndication through the famous SHOCK THEATER package. Or “SHOCK THEATRE” package depending on the longitude and latitude of you, the reader.
Here in the states these films where generally delivered on Friday or Saturday night and hosted by some great ghoulish character who was much cooler than your own dad. Dr. Shock was our conduit to the creepyness back in Pennsylvania (NOT Transylvania for the geographically stunted, Pennsylvania is in the North Eastern US). I spent many a Friday and Saturday with old “Shocky Doc”, as he referred to himself.
He shared all of the great films with me. Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein and all of their iterations. Plus Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and on and on and on.They weren’t all great but they were all good and horrible. I started collecting back then. Models, toys, Famous Monster magazines, gum cards and never stopped. I had amassed quite a crazy collection of masks and memorabilia. It can be viewed still www.DanielRoebuck.com Follow the link on the site for HOUSE OF HORROR.
Eventually I downsized all of it as it was becoming a bit of an anchor and as we age, sometimes, we need to release some of our “ballast” be it emotional or physical. Don’t despair though, I am writing this piece under the watchful eyes of a gallery of life size wax friends (or fiends). Dracula, Frankenstein, the cast of the Planet Of The Apes all stand vigilant as I compose. Every now and again I run some alliteration or other past them to see if it’s too cute. They rarely disagree.
I am off topic though. Perhaps it’s a mechanism of avoidance. Naming my favourite Horror Movie is like naming my favourite child. It’s simply not done. Anyway, the answer to that question, of course is the first one of my kids that reads this article and mentions it to me. (I’ll keep you readers informed as to who is in the will and who shall not be).
By the way, different films affect you at different times of your life and for good reason. You get smarter, hopefully, and those scares and jolts get harder to land as your own sophistication grows. Aside from that, if you are a movie fan as I am, scaring you is much harder burden for the filmmaker. If everyone knows where the boogieman is, how can you be shocked. That’s one of the reasons I like those Rob Zombie movies, it’s not “what is the boogieman” or “where is the boogieman” but WHEN will that boogieman go ape shit crazy and do the horrible thing you knew it was going to do all along!
As a child myself, hand’s down the scariest thing I ever saw was the CHILD CATCHER in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG! In the 1968 film he was expertly played by Robert Helpman. He was a ballet dancer by trade and one does not usually expect such an erudite person to personify the catalyst of nightmares. However, maybe we should. Is it the really smart fellas that can scare us the most? By all accounts the greatest horror stars of this past century seem to share the qualities of being a cultured and discerning person. Boris Karloff appears to have been the quintessential Englishman when he wasn’t tramping around in the Frankenstein Monster’s asphalt spreading boots. Vincent Price, the Minister of all that was Sinister, wrote countless cookbooks and his eclectic art collection lives on at East Los Angeles College. I got to meet Mr. Price on several occasion and he was always and forever a gentleman. I can echo the same claim about Angus Scrimm (Lawrence Rory Guy) aka THE TALL MAN. A “class act” through and through, conversing with him always reminded me how little I really know about anything. And speaking of that, Mr. Robert Englund posses an encyclopedic knowledge of places and events the world over. He, too is the nicest – and scariest- of guys!
I have digressed once more. Please forgive me. At 13 my favourite Horror film was THE DEVIL’S RAIN! How could it not be? There was Ernest Borgnine and one of the great prosthetic make up jobs ever. (thanks Tom Burman). Add to those, the bonus of William Shatner’s expressive emoting.And I saw it at a drive in. Like all great Horror films should be viewed.
At 17 years old it was ALIEN. I have such vivid and funny memories of my older girlfriend at that time weeping and hyperventilating in the car outside of my parents house. “It could really happen”, She kept repeating. Now that’s an effective film. When it can create such despair.
I missed NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in the theaters and caught up with it on home video about a year after moving to Hollywood. It was 5 grown men watching on a Sunday afternoon with the shades drawn. We all look back and remember that day and consider that one of the scariest things we ever saw. We were all freaked out for days.
But finally, looking back at 85 plus years of horror films, many that I have caught up with over the past fifty, some have been extraordinary (Rosemary’s Baby) and some have been head scratchers (Hobgoblins) but I am ready to pick one, if I must.
The Exorcist. It’s a masterpiece, primarily because it transcends the horror genre and becomes simply a great film. Expert script writing, direction, performances plus exemplary make up and visual effects are all combined to tell one of the scariest stories ever told and in turn one of the best films ever made. If you have not seen it, now would be the perfect time.”
STAR WARS JEDI FALLEN ORDER is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.