Rick Yaeger: Everyone, it’s Ricky Yaeger here with One Question Interviews, the show where I ask famous people curious questions.
My guest today has been seen in “Alexander” and “Push,” but remember that crazy knife fight in “Quantum of Solace”? That was him too. And by him, I mean Neil Jackson. Welcome to the show.
Neil Jackson: Thank you.
Rick: Thank you so much for doing this.
Neil: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me Rick.
Rick: Tell the folks what you’ve been up to.
Neil: Right now, I’m in Wilmington, North Carolina and we’re shooting season two of “Sleepy Hollow.” I play the headless horseman, before he became the headless horseman for “Sleepy Hollow,” if that makes any sense.
Rick: You’re the headed horseman.
Neil: I’m the headed, pre-headless horseman.
Neil: It was bizarre. It was Mark Hoffman who’s the show runner. They called me up season one. They need a guy who could come in and do a swordfight.
I’d worked with Mark Hoffman on “White Collar” a few years back and they needed a guy in “White Collar” who could fence, and do a sword fight with Matt Bomer.
I came in and did that show and they just called up and they said there’s this great new role and there’s a sword fight in it. We would love you to be the part. I came in and did it, and thought nothing more of it. Then, in January, we got call that said season two’s happening, and they want to reprise their role, but make the main villain for season two.
Quantum of Solace
Rick: Very good. Love to hear that. I intro’d you with the “Quantum of Solace” knife fight. You let us know that you got on “White Collar,” because of a swordfight scene, and now you’re in a sword fighting genre. Walk me through how a fight scene works.
Neil: A fight sequence on a film set is very much like a dance choreography. You’ll have a fight choreographer who’ll come in, and they’ll be told story of the fight scene from the script’s perspective. And then, he’ll put together beats.
They’ll work it with a stunt crew and then you’ll come in and they’ll teach you your part and teach the other guy the other part. You do this very slow, almost comedic fight for a little while until you get the beats. You’re just throwing a punch, I take a block, I throw…and then, everything’s really slow until you can slowly amp it up as you’re getting the dance move going, until it becomes this fast, frenetic thing.
For the Bond fight, for example, I’d worked with Gary Powell, who’s a stunt coordinator and Ben who’s the fight choreographer. I worked with them on “Alexander,” years ago. They called me up and asked me if I wanted to come to Panama, have a scrap with James Bond. Which I thought about for a second.
Neil: I turned up there and we had three weeks to work the fight. Daniel Craig, by his own admission he doesn’t have a fight background.
My background is in boxing. I was a boxer for years and then did a lot of a fighting. [laughs] It was the easiest gig in the world. I’d sit by the hotel pool for eight hours a day until Daniel has finished work…
Neil: And he’d come home from sets and we’d spend an hour with him practicing the fight scene that we did. This huge 45, 50-beat fight sequence. Then, ran it on repeat every day for two and a half weeks, until we finally filmed.
Then, it took two and a half days to film the fight sequence. They cut out all the scenes that my character had. The acting stuff ended up being cut out and the fighting scene was the only thing that ended up in the edit, but amazing fun.
Rick: It’s very memorable. Like I said, it sticks out it my head when I think about that movie.
Neil: It was a good one. Ben Cook was the fight choreographer. It’s brutal. It’s not these old Hollywood fight sequences where it’s just hiccups at dawn.
They’re using everything and anything. I’m getting hit with a bat [laughs] . We did the first day of filming and there’s a bit in it, where I attack Daniel. He puts his hand into a shoe, and then, he blocks my hand with the shoe, punches me in the throat with the shoe and then hits me around the side of the head.
Neil: It’s a classic thing that you’ll do a 50 percent rehearsal. You’re going through it nice and slow, making sure everything’s good.
We always say we’re going to do 80 percent, because 100 percent is almost too fast for camera. You say you’ll do 80 percent, and the moment they call action, it goes 110 percent.
Neil: Suddenly, adrenaline and everything else starts pumping and it’s wow. We did take after take, where he was punching me in the throat with a show and then hitting around the side of the head with the shoe.
I’d been blocking and he’d been blocking and we both had bruises down our forearm. We were sat in the hotel bar the night after that first day of shooting, bruises down here. I had a bruise that you could faintly see the shoe mark down the side of my face. As we’re sitting having a whisky, I go, “Same again tomorrow I guess.”
Rick: Yeah. It was like the sheepdog and the coyote in the cartoon. “Morning Sam, morning Ralph,” and then, we go back to fighting each other. The whistle blows and you go back to the bar. [laughs]
Neil: Yeah, exactly that. You sit down and just compare wounds and then you go back for the next day.
The Little Things
Rick: Now, you’ve got an album coming out. How do you go from acting to writing music and singing?
Neil: I played guitar and I wrote music. It’s always been something that’s been a hobby of mine.
When I was in London, before I moved to the States, I was playing a lot of gigs in bars around London and starting to consider whether or not I’d like to pursue it a little more professionally. Then, I did Alexander. Alexander gave me some good notice. I went over to America, I end up getting agents. I started booking. I got on that train and I moved over to the States.
That train kept going and going. I still played my guitars over there in the corner. It’s the first thing I’d grab when I’m heading off somewhere, is to make sure my guitar’s with me. I’ve got a huge catalogue of songs after years of doing it. I had a disappointment two years ago.
I did a pilot episode for NBC, finished the pilot, and found out afterwards the pilot had been picked up, which is wonderful. But they were recasting my role, because the network had a different vision for the way the roles should go. That was a suddenly a 22 order on a big network show which would have been fantastic. I suddenly thought, I’m going to take eight months off. I’m going to go and do the thing that I love.
I moved back to Britain for eight months. A friend of mine is a music producer. We recorded the album and started promoting it around. It was just me getting back to my artistic roots of having control over the thing that I love. Having control just having been taken away from me by NBC.
Rick: You had the opportunity to create taken away from you, so you take that control yourself.
Neil: It’s so much that happens in this industry and every industry. That the thing that I love to do. I love to act, I love to play music, but by and large you have to ask permission to do it.
I’ve got to run the gauntlet of auditions, I’ve got to the meetings and I’ve got to convince somebody to allow me to do the thing that I love. The thing with the album which was so fulfilling for me is, I asked no permission other than my own.
I found my producer, we decided upon the songs that were going to be on. We decided upon the style, we recorded them in a leisurely way. I self-released the album. I created my own label, self-released it, and then promoted it with me and my publicist throughout the UK.
Did several gigs, did release gigs, got radio play. All of it was off my own volition and I wasn’t asking permission of anybody else. It was me reclaiming my artistry a little bit from the industry.
Also, music’s been such a huge part of my life. It was so wonderful to actually express that in the most fulfilling way possible. To get an album out there, do it the way I wanted. I probably spent a lot more money than I should have done by getting 16-piece orchestra in there and playing huge string moments that could have been probably done with four people.
And I just overlaid tracks. I wanted to do it. I wanted it to sound just like it is in my head. I was so happy with the way it turned out. Next week, I’ll start recording the second album.
Rick: Very good. Good for you. It’s called “The Little Things.”
Neil: “The Little Things.”
Rick: It’s available at neiljackson.me. You can get a digital download or a signed CD, check that out. It’s also available on iTunes. I noticed it’s on, what is that, Spotify.
Neil: It’s on Spotify, it’s on Amazon. Yeah, you can find it there.
Rick: Very good. I’m going to get to the interview if that’s OK.
Rick: I’ll put on my One Question hat. As you know, the show is called One Question Interviews.
I have almost 1,000 different questions, ranging from the profane to the profound. I’ll choose one at random. You’ll answer it seriously or in a funny voice if you like, and everyone goes home happy. Cool?
Neil: Sounds good.
Rick: I’m going to grab a handful of them, because 1,000 cards is hard to hold. I’m actually going to put a few back. [laughs] OK, I’m just going to riffle down the side. You just tell me when to stop.
Rick: Right there. Do you want the top or the bottom?
Neil: [laughs] I’ll be the top.
Rick: OK, the top. Neil Jackson, what is the best conversation you’ve ever had at a party?
Neil: Best conversation I’ve ever had at a party was when I was shooting “Alexander.” We were coming to the tail end of shooting Alexander and I was in London. Val Kilmer, who was in Alexander, had done a film called “Wonderland.”
A wonderful film. We went to see a preview screening of Wonderland, a group of us together and then went back to Val’s hotel room. We’re having some drinks and some laughs. I used to smoke at that time. I found myself out on the balcony having a cigarette with Ronnie Wood.
Rick: Very nice.
Neil: I was standing there with Ronnie Wood and he comes up to me and he goes, “You know what would be amazing.” I said, “What’s that.” He said. “We should get some sandwiches.”
Neil: It’s two o’clock in the morning. I said, “Are you hungry, Ronnie?” He said, “It’s not just me, it’s everybody. Look at them there, they could do with a club sandwich.
You think they need a club sandwich?” I was, “Yeah, OK Ronnie. We’ll get a club sandwich.” He said, “Brilliant idea, I’ll tell Val that you thought of it,” and went inside. And then, about half an hour later, 40 club sandwiches arrive and Val came over and said, “Apparently you just ordered all of these sandwiches and nobody’s hungry. Nobody wants to eat.” I was, “It was Ronnie who wanted the…”
Neil: I’d never met him before and he just saddles up to me asking about club sandwiches, random. I was even thinking of making an order of club sandwiches and I got the blame for it.
Rick: You had to pay for it?
Neil: No, I didn’t have to pay for it. Val paid for it. [jokingly] He’s got a lot more money than me.
The Wrap up
Rick: [laughs] Thank you so much for being on the show. Keep up with Neil and grab his album, “The Little Things” at neiljackson.me. You can get news on him there, as well as buy and download his album, or order a signed copy for that matter.
You can follow him on Twitter, @TheNeilJackson. He’s also on facebook.com/theneiljackson. Check out “Sleepy Hollow.” He’s going to be a main character. With or without a head? How is that going to work?
Neil: I have my head.
Neil: The whole thing’s bizarre. It’s all about magic and witchcraft and everything else. But they do a brilliant device whereby the headless horseman and the headed horseman can appear within the same time period.
I can’t say much more than that, but it’s really clever the way they’ve done it and it makes perfect sense.
Rick: Here’s what I’m going to do with all those links. Since they’re hard to click on, on the video sometimes, I’m going to put a transcript of the whole interview up at onequestioninterviews.com.
We’ll link up all we’ve talked about so you can check it out on your own time. Hey, that’s it. This is Rick Yaeger for One Question Interviews. Thank you so much for watching and subscribe to the show in the iTunes podcast directory, or on YouTube so that you don’t miss out on the next episode. They’re both free. Don’t worry about it. OK everyone, thanks again. Bye-bye.