Actor Daz Crawford joins us on Close-up Culture for an in-depth chat about overcoming adversity, his sporting background, what projects excite him, and more.
Q: Let’s start with ‘Beast Mode’. What attracted you to the film and the role of Scram?
A: Beast Mode has been an amazing project to work on with some excellent talent. I didn’t audition for this role, I was approached by the writer-producer who asked me if I would consider it. Having read the script, I thought it definitely different to past projects that I have been a part of.
This is a horror-comedy which I found extremely funny, but I guess I do have a bit of a warped sense of humour. The character is not something I usually get cast for, so was excited to work on Beast Mode. My character, Scram, is a typical Hollywood agent type but turns into something so much more. It was such a laugh to work on, trying to stay ‘serious’ and not break into fits of laughter was hard.
It is slated for a mid-2019 release and I would highly recommend it should you like this genre of movie
Q: We also have ‘Evolution War’ to look forward to. How much fun was it to reunite with Neil Johnson and Tracey Birdsall on this project?
A: I worked with Neil on Rogue Warrior which was an sci-fi action movie. Some of the scenes were shot on the original Star Wars set. Sony Pictures also liked it enough to be the distributor, so that was a bonus. It won a ton of awards and is still racking them up now.
Neil is a great director and works with you on ideas. It feels like he effortlessly pulls energy from the actors he works with – that translates to the big screen. Sci-fi enthusiasts will love this movie. I hope to be working with him again in the future on other projects.
Q: With your athletic build, you must get comparisons with actors like Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista and Jason Statham. Who do you admire and draw inspiration from the most in the industry at the moment?
A: (laughs) Those comparisons made me smile. Yes, I do receive comments on the similarities of the actors you mentioned, but we all bring our own flavour. I mean, should you stand each one of us together then, yes, there are bits of each of us physically that you could connect. But, in truth, we all bring something different to the table.
It would be great for all four of us to work on the same project, don’t you think? Who would you pick as the good guys and bad guys?
Anyway, back to the question, the actor I have drawn the most inspiration from – even before I became an actor – is Jack Nicolson. His choices and delivery are dynamic in every scene. I believe it is all about doing the homework.
Q: You have such an incredible and inspiring story to get where you are right now. Can you tell us about your upbringing in Liverpool and what gave you the strength to come through those early hardships?
A: When asked to take part in these interviews, this question comes up frequently. Even now, I have pinch myself to realise the journey I have had and the fantastic people I have met.
I never dreamed of Hollywood when I was younger. As a teenager my thoughts were: all I need is food and a bed, anything else is a bonus. Yes, I grew up in Liverpool, England with no mother or father to speak of. Of course, there were people around me because I was a kid, but I still felt ‘different’. By the time I was 16, I’d lived in many homes but to me that was ‘normal’. Sure, I saw my friends with moms and dads but I didn’t feel like I was missing out. It is quite simple; it was what it was. No sympathy necessary.
I do remember a moment when I was about 5 or 6, which has never left me, and is what I believe kept my drive and focus. I was sitting on the sidewalk with my feet in the gutter playing with a stick and stone. I can remember like it was yesterday saying to myself: ‘I never what to be in this place again’ – referring to the gutter.
Q: You joined the RAF at 16 years old and also had success in basketball, martial arts and boxing. What grounding did that background give you heading into the acting world?
A: I didn’t actually realise the huge benefits being a sportsman on a national and Olympic level brought me as an individual until I’d moved into acting. When I say ‘benefits’, I’m not talking about materialistic items or money, I’m referring to my way of thinking.
Most successful sports people spend most of their time training alone, it becomes a way of life. We know it is extremely important to train or we will lose. Therefore, most of my spare time in between working was spent training alone. This gives you time and space to think… to contemplate and to be aware of what and who is around you. It allows you to go through the processes – jubilation and the sadness of winning and losing. The struggle of getting back up and going again, being more than just a ‘survivor’.
I learnt that the more I put in, the more gratification I received inside myself. Focus, determination and learning is what I enjoy.
Then came the accident of falling into the acting world. I immediately realised I knew nothing of it, so I had to remember all the training I did to become a success in sports. I now had to put in the same effort and dedication again, only in a different field. That is when I embarked on many years of drama school, both in the UK and Los Angeles.
I had great trainers in my sporting days. I then also found very wise acting coaches who opened me up to something I’d never experienced. I accidently found something else I loved to do.
Q: I happened to see you were once part of ITV’s ‘Gladiators’. Do you have any memories from that show?
A: Oh, Gladiators. I was a Gladiator by the name of “Diesel”. I only worked on the last two years of the show before it sadly ended, but it did open up a couple of doors for me. It was a very popular show and I do have some good memories.
Unfortunately, I think I should keep those to myself. All I will say is, we worked hard and partied harder.
Q: I believe you now take the time to work with underprivileged kids. How special is it for you to give back in this way?
A: I was asked to go to some schools in Ireland and the UK to talk to kids about health and fitness, drug abuse, family life etc. I have since attended some children’s homes and schools in Los Angeles.
After attending the first couple of schools in the UK, it brought back some of my own memories as a kid. Some of the kids were in similar situations as I was, which meant I found it very easy to connect with them. They assumed I’d come from a wealthy background with lots of support and guidance but when I told them some of my story, I remember some of them looking at me shocked. They then seemed to relax and feel more comfortable.
I cannot put into words the benefits for both myself and the children. I guess the feeling for myself was euphoric, I was just amazed at the simple connection we had with each other – but it was so strong. It made it easier for the young ones to believe we don’t have to have been born with a silver spoon or be given everything we ask for. Instead, we can work hard, focus and stay determined. I want them to enjoy the journey of life and be happy.
Q: You’ve been involved in an exciting and diverse range of projects over the years. What does it take for you to get excited about a role or character nowadays?
A: Great question. First of all, I really do get excited about acting and becoming characters – whatever the role is. Of course, I often get stereotyped based on my look and physicality, but then there are also times when someone in a production thinks outside the box and they see me as more than just ‘the big guy’ or ‘the villain’. Don’t get me wrong, I love all aspects of acting and those roles, but I would love to be given the opportunity to expand and play more normal roles – like a dad, a teacher or a doctor.
I did have the opportunity to play opposite Emmy award-winner Katherine Heigl in a movie called Caffeine. It was a comedy movie which I had so much fun working on and would love to do more. All roles I work on still excite me or I wouldn’t be doing it.
Q: Is there a genre or type of character that you are still yearning to play?
A: Very easy – a superhero with superpowers!
Q: You starred in and produced a short film this year titled ‘Chronopath’. Tell us about the project and how you find working behind the camera?
A: Over the years I have been acting, I have been a producer on a couple of other movies – T.K.O and Game Over. I actually auditioned as an actor for the short Chronopath. I liked the way it was written and the concept of it. It also gave me, as the character, something different and something I wouldn’t normally be cast in.
I feel all actors should try working behind the camera to see the work that goes in, including the ‘business’ side of things. Having experience – both the front and behind the camera – is invaluable and helps actors understand why ‘it is done this way’ or ‘why this particular actor was picked’ etc. Along with expenses, locations, pre-production, lighting, sound and so on. I feel it is very import to understand the business side of acting.
Q: I know it is a slightly bleak question but: If your career ended today, what project would you look back on with the most fondness?
A: (laughs) It is hard to pick as I have fond memories of so many… I’d have to say Blade 2.
First of all, what a great project to be involved in – working with Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro along with great actors such as Ron Perlman, Wesley Snipes and Chris Christopherson.
We shot this for three months in Prague, an amazing city. The whole journey was a dream for me, as I hadn’t been acting for very long when I booked this project. To be included in a classic movie with amazing people, in a fantastic location, and to top it off, I feel I had a great role – what more can an actor ask for? Along with the social side of things, it was something I didn’t want to end.
Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects or ambitions you can share with us?
A: As we spoke about earlier, Evolution War will most likely hit the screens next year along with Beast Mode. Keep a look out for those, they are two excellent movies.
I’m also a producer on another project, which is currently being shot and I am very excited about. This is something that hasn’t been done before but is also very ‘in the moment’. It is a supernatural thriller called Stay. Its inspiration comes from the fashion industry and is crafted by an Emmy award-winning writer.
The film is slated for a fall 2019 release. The storyline is fantastic and hopefully it will keep you on the edge of your seat.