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The first comic book actor David Dastmalchian bought was Avengers #249, which was printed in 1984. He bought it when he was nine years old, and he still owns his copy, which features the storyline “The Snows of Summer.” The issue had the Avengers fighting demons in a global blizzard. It’s not an especially famous issue, but your first is your first.
Years after collecting comics in Kansas and performing theater in Chicago, the true comic book fan and increasingly busy character actor got to bring his knowledge of the art-form to movies such as The Dark Knight, Ant-Man, and The Suicide Squad, all of which he recently discussed with us in a forthcoming, and wide-ranging, interview.
The Joker’s Henchman in The Dark Knight
Not long after spending his money from mowing lawns on that Avengers issue off a 7-11 comic book rack, Dastmalchian read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, as well as the iconic “A Death in the Family” storyline from the Batman comics – his research started early. While the actor was working in Chicago and performing in Sam Shepard and Tennessee Williams plays, he auditioned for The Dark Knight.
Months after thinking he didn’t get the gig, he got the call to play paranoid schizophrenic and Joker henchman, Thomas Schiff. As a comic book fan, he knew just how to play the role.
“There’s something about the combination of the tonal quality you can take away from the art that brought characters to life,”Dastmalchian said. “Obviously, the writing and the voices of these characters. The first time I worked in a film was as a goon for the Joker. When you’re the Joker’s goon, and you have spent your life reading Batman comics and understand the Joker, it influences and shapes the way you move your face, the way you use your voice, and think about the world.”
The role is small in screen-time, but big in the grand scheme of the picture, as well as Dastmalchian’s life.
Kurt in Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp
Years after The Dark Knight, Dastmalchian was cast in Ant-Man as one of Scott Lang’s friendly crew members, Kurt. He was cast when Edgar Wright was still directing the Marvel production, but once the filmmaker bowed out, director Peyton Reed still wanted the actor, who he described as “a young Harry Dean Stanton.”
Again, Dastmalchian returned to the original source material to inspire his colorful performance. “It’s similar to when I was cracking into the Hank Pym stories,” he said. “My introduction to the Avengers was Avengers #249. I quickly got on the West Coast Avengers train when I was a kid collecting comic books. The brightness, the humor, and the color really influenced how I brought Kurt to life in the Ant-Man movies.”
Polka-Dot Man in The Suicide Squad
Next up for Dastmalchian: his performance as a low-rent supervillain in The Suicide Squad. Dastmalchian plays Polka-Dot Man, whose real name is Abner Krill.
“With Polka Dot Man, though, it all comes to a screeching halt,” he said with a laugh. “When James Gunn told me he wanted to be a part of The Suicide Squad, first of all, I nearly fainted. Second of all, I nearly fainted again. Third of all, I was humiliated and embarrassed to say, ‘James, I don’t know anything at all about Polka-Dot Man.’ He laughed so hard. He just said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s OK.’ As someone who felt like they knew a lot about comics, the fact I didn’t know Abner Krill, my mind was racing, thinking, ‘What does he do again?’ Then I read James’ script, and it was incredible.”
Dastmalchian has similar feelings about the end result. “The movie is so powerful, bold, and just a very brave and insane film,” he added. “It’s not like anything people have ever really seen before. He pushes the boundaries in every way you can imagine – visually, thematically, violently, comedically, and emotionally. I read the script and fell deeply in love with Abner.”
After falling in love with the character, who uses dots to create weapons, he did his homework. “I went back and looked at Abner in the past comics and seeing the color and tone of that,” he said. “It did influence the way I wanted to stand and the way I wanted to carry my body. With Abner, though, it was really the gift of James’ script.”
Make sure to check back next week for our full interview with David Dastmalchian.
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