“I always imagined that if I was in a vampire film, I would be the vampire,” David Dastmalchian says. He’s calling from Malta, throughout a brief break in filming for Final Voyage of the Demeter, a horror movie during which the actor performs the ill-fated first mate on a ship that seems to be harboring Dracula. As casting director, his instincts are sound. Dastmalchian has a face straight out of German Expressionism, with broad, soulful eyes, dramatic brows, and a jagged swoop of jet-black hair. He’s greatest recognized for characters who’re sinister, but additionally susceptible: a memorable flip because the Joker’s henchman in The Darkish Knight, a homicide suspect in Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, a personality recognized solely as “Whistling Marauder” in Chicken Field.
For Dastmalchian, who has been open about previous struggles with heroin habit and despair, his newest function has but extra private resonance. In James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, he performs Abner Krill, a.ok.a. Polka-Dot Man, a misfit whose mom’s scientific experiments have left him with the doubtful skill to regulate polka dots. (“I don’t like to kill people, but if I pretend they’re my mom, it’s easy,” he says.) Dastmalchian himself was recognized with vitiligo as a toddler, and his character’s struggles with the dots that emerge from his pores and skin mirror his personal youthful anxieties. It’s the standout efficiency in a film with a lot of performances, and it units off what must be a busy few months for the 44-year-old actor: Later this fall, Dastmalchian will reunite with Villeneuve to play the malevolent mystic Piter De Vries in Dune.
“It’s weird because I’m over here, making this movie, in a weird bubble for so many reasons,” Dastmalchian says from Malta. “And meanwhile, across the world, I’m a part of another film that’s opening. I’m having a strange experience, but it’s really lovely.” In conversion with Vulture, the actor spoke about battling imposter syndrome, the cat he adopted on The Suicide Squad set, and the way he needs his personal mom might have seen him change into Polka-Dot Man.
You and James Gunn go manner again, and he wrote the a part of Abner for you. At this stage in your profession, does that occur usually?
The final 4 years, it’s change into far more of a factor. I don’t know if that’s as a result of I’m such a particular kind of particular person. Though I wish to suppose that I can disappear into any character, my face is a really particular look. My voice is specific. It’s such a miracle that folks within the final a number of years have begun to think about me for one thing. I did a collection a number of years in the past known as Reprisal and the showrunner Josh Corbin, when he met me, was instantly like, “I had you in my book when I was developing this show.” And Denis, when he was sculpting his imaginative and prescient of Piter, I don’t know if he essentially envisioned me for it, however when he known as me to inform me he wished me to be within the movie, he appeared to suppose I used to be the fitting individual. It’s bizarre. I used to listen to about actors who obtained these presents out of the blue and I assumed, Oh man, that have to be good. And I’m attending to expertise that. It’s like successful the lottery as an actor.
Your first movie function was in The Darkish Knight. You’ve been within the MCU within the Ant-Man motion pictures. And now you’re on this new part of the DC motion pictures with The Suicide Squad. These are the three pillars of contemporary superhero cinema. Can you articulate the variations between what it’s like as an actor in every of these three?
As a result of I’m on the within of these experiences, it’s solely after I step again and see the initiatives of their totality that I can acknowledge the variations. As somebody who’s on set, there’s far more in frequent than there may be completely different. What they’ve in frequent is attending to be round people who find themselves on the top of their recreation, for lack of a greater time period. Folks working each in entrance of and behind the digicam who’re stars of what they do. How great that have continues to be. It makes me go, Wow, it’s no surprise this individual is a star. They’re simply so extremely good at what they do. And the eagerness and the childlike type of imaginative dedication that each one of many creators behind these has had, I discover very related. Now clearly types differ from individual to individual, however I discover far more simpatico than completely different.
What concerning the course of of creating a huge superhero movie? Has the size of it modified previously 15 years?
The craft methods have developed considerably. The Darkish Knight was shot on movie and it was a large manufacturing. My first day on set, it felt like near a thousand background actors, no joke. The entire police in uniform, the entire crowd standing by, the entire contributors in the parade sequence, which was everybody from Gary Oldman to Maggie Gyllenhaal, to each different actor within the movie mainly. I used to be watching Chicago’s monetary district mainly being utterly shut down so this huge film might be made there. It was large.
Going to Ant-Man, seeing them re-create San Francisco in Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, after which seeing them carry down a complete Pym Laboratories with a large tank exploding out of a constructing, that was definitely one thing I’d by no means seen performed earlier than. This stunning mixing of digital and sensible results was actually eye-opening. And humbling for me as an actor, like: My God, I really feel so tiny. After which with James, what was actually distinctive was his dedication to the variety of sensible results. And all of the methods which were discovered from the shrinking of the digicam — they may get in all of the nooks and crannies whereas on the identical time increasing the world. I imply, he constructed a full jungle on a stage. He constructed a complete seaside exterior of Pinewood Studios with a working ocean. That scale, I’d by no means skilled earlier than.
You’ve spoken before about how on each The Darkish Knight and The Suicide Squad, there have been occasions the place Chris Nolan and James Gunn might let you know have been having an anxious second, and have been excellent about placing their arm round you — actually or metaphorically — and getting you into a greater place. Do these nerves ever go away, or are they half and parcel of the entire expertise for you?
It’s an fascinating query. I imagine that the worry that I expertise when I’m stepping onto a stage is impressed by my insecurity that I’m less than the problem, and my exhilaration that I’m getting to do that. I feel the general public who do what I do battle the fixed interior demons of imposter syndrome, questioning when you truly are the individual most certified for this chance. And what has been a constant theme, when I’m struggling to search out my footing, is being snug with being scared. I don’t imagine I’d be capable to ship the work that I’m able to if I used to be within the fingers of a director who I didn’t really feel utterly secure going with into susceptible and horrifying locations. When Denis and I made Prisoners collectively, I discovered myself usually at midnight. And a beautiful factor a couple of director like Denis or these different masters is that they maintain the sunshine up for you. I imply, it’s somewhat embarrassing, to be trustworthy. But when that’s how I’ve to work the remainder of my profession, if I’m so fortunate as to proceed to work with administrators who can patiently assist me get there, I feel I’ll be okay.
The character of Abner could be very a lot outlined by his relationship together with his mom. I do know that in between taking pictures this film, and it popping out, you lost your own mother. I’m curious how on this course of you’ve been reflecting in your relationship along with her.
Are you Barbara Walters, what are you doing? Sure. It’s been over a yr, and it sucks. It actually sucks. I want that she might expertise the film. She at all times wished me to play any individual that was extra likable. She used to say to me, “You play so many scary characters and you’re so good at it, and I’m so proud of you and I love you, but I don’t think people know that you’re a nice boy.” And what I really like about Abner is his breakthroughs are as a result of he’s looking for a goal for his ache. And I feel so much about how a lot I want I might have sat in a theater along with her. She had a extremely nice chuckle, and I can simply hear the moments that she would have … I imply, her chuckle was so nice and loud, it embarrassed me typically. Once I was doing The Glass Menagerie in Chicago, she got here to the present. I bear in mind her laughing and me being somewhat embarrassed as a result of I might hear it from the stage. And I really feel like with Suicide Squad, it might have been so superb to have shared that along with her, however … that’s life.
I’m sorry for placing you in that place.
No, I’m proud to speak about my mother and my relationship along with her. The mourning course of is so nonlinear. I feel I really feel nice about all the pieces and typically it simply catches me off guard. However because the film has been out, it’s been arduous as a result of I wasn’t capable of make it to the premiere. I lastly went the opposite day in Malta. I purchased out all of the tickets within the theater so I might take a few of my buddies from the film right here. And your query was what I saved desirous about, sitting there holding my spouse’s hand. I used to be laughing so much, however I undoubtedly had some tears, and never within the unhappy moments within the movie. It was within the humorous moments the place I used to be like, Oh man.
On a lighter observe, you additionally adopted a cat you met on The Suicide Squad set.
Bubblegum. My child. I miss her so fucking unhealthy, dude. She’s again in L.A. as a result of I simply didn’t know what the dwelling circumstances have been going to be like in Malta so far as, would the housing be cool with a cat? And she or he’s already traveled from Panama to the U.S. and she or he didn’t appear to like intercontinental journey. So I feel retaining her again house is ok, however I do miss her. She’s such a particular cat. I’ve had cats for years. I misplaced my cat Amelie in 2018. I had her since 2002, proper after I obtained clear; she was the cat that I obtained sober with. She slot in my shirt pocket after I first obtained her. Then she handed away, and we have been looking out for a brand new cat. I saved having to journey for work, and I saved laying aside, I feel, the dedication to getting as shut as I do get to pets. We might go to the shelter after which I’d get nervous and again out, like, “Guys I can’t do it.”
And I used to be in Panama and this unbelievable, stunning cat saved coming as much as the set, eager to be petted and scratched. She was actually hungry and actually beat up. And I fell in love and now she’s mine. Nicely, she’s not mine, I’m hers. And when my mother died, the cat knew when to come back sit in my lap and purr, and she or he knew after I wanted to be left alone. My children are so insanely rambunctious, and I really like them to demise, however my God, they’d a lot vitality to expel throughout lockdown. And the cat was so affected person with them, and would play chase with them. And she or he comes once you name her. It was superb.
Uncommon is the cat who will try this.
I do know. She’s by no means a “Fuck you” cat. I liked Amelie, however she was probably the most “Fuck you” cat I ever had. Anyone got here close to her, she was like, “Don’t even think about it.” However not Bubblegum. Her full identify is Abner Bubblegum Polka-Dot Cat, however we simply name her Bubblegum.
I noticed that she obtained somewhat Polka-Dot Man costume.
Judianna [Makovsky], the costume designer of the movie, and her workforce made it. It was making the rounds, I imagine there was perhaps a pet at one level that was within the costume division that basically didn’t take to it. After they discovered that I had fallen in love with this cat and adopted her, had introduced her house with me, they gave us the Polka-Dot go well with. I wished to strive it as soon as as a result of I’m actually not a dress-up-your-pet individual — which is type of not true, truly, after I give it some thought. I’ve taken quite a lot of photos of my very own pets. And we put her in it and she or he was completely feeling the vibe. And, yeah, she’s a beautiful cat that has completely performed a lot for me.