“…Hollywood has lost sight of what the audience is…
people who buy tickets and can see themselves on the screen."
Mention sports films and there is D. B. Sweeney (The Cutting Edge and Eight Men Out)…..mention alien abduction and there is D. B. Sweeney (Fire In The Sky)…mention wild west and there is D. B. Sweeney (Lonesome Dove). The man is a versatile actor. In his latest film, Deep In The Heart, Sweeney is back in the west, Texas to be exact, playing a son of Dick Wallrath (Jon Gries), the founder of Champion Windows. It is a gritty story of alcoholism, family neglect and then the road to recovery, all against the backdrop of a Texas horizon.
I am in the Midwest, and D. B. Sweeney is remembered here as playing the villain, Goetz, in the television series Jericho. Fans are still trying to bring the series back. Jericho was actually filmed in California, but it looked like western Kansas. Not like Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven,where Kansas had snow-capped mountain peaks in the backgrou nd. Sweeney, also, has an active career in guest star roles such as in Event, Criminal Minds, Hawaii Five-O, Leverage, CSI: NY, 24, Castle, the web series, Universal Dead (which is about zombies and he did it because he had not been in a zombie film,) and a narrator for Ice Pilots.
What does a busy actor do for recreation? Why co-write (with Brian Curry), direct, star in and cast your own film, Two Tickets to Paradise, which wins awards on the Film Festival circuit, such as Best Director at the Boston International Film Festival and Independent Spirit Award at the Santa Fe Film Festival. The story is about small town life and a road trip. Small town life is something Sweeney is familiar with, coming from Shoreham, New York. He has several more scripts written. Sweeney says, “…Hollywood has lost sight of what the audience is… people who buy tickets and can see themselves on the screen."
On any next film, he would not finance a film with his own money and would not produce. Directing is difficult and more so when directing yourself. He would not do that again, either. “Writing is a solitary business. Directors can't write and writers can't direct.” Reference a church musicians [like myself] here, as some organists are concert recitalists but can't get a congregation to sing, which other organists can have the congregation raise the roof in song, but are not concert recitalists.
We spoke of actors changing their appearance to be appealing on screen. “Actors hide themselves by diving into their characters. Sometimes you have something that turns into an asset, a gold mine, rather than a hindrance, so be careful what you remove or try to enhance. It will be permanent.” I spoke of his body language in Deep In The Heart (link at close of interview.) “Sweeney can end a scene with a certain look to match the moment, whether it be contentment or anger. Like the period at the end of a sentence. That moment is complete.” There is another scene in the movie, where the father (Wallrath)---unannounced---comes to a daughter’s wedding. Sweeney, as a son, doesn't say anything, but the camera follows his hands as they clench and unclench. He said, “Directors have the hardest job as they pick up on what is not spoken of on the page, and director Christopher Cain (who also directed September Dawn and is the father of actor Dean Cain) did this. The director leads the troops."
When you do voice-over work, though, it doesn't matter how you are dressed in the studio, all the audience hears is your voice. Sweeney was the voice of the lead dinosaur in the animated film, Dinosaur. Sweeney currently works with OWN! The Oprah Winfrey Network doing promos.He has worked in the field of voice-overs for 20 years. But, of late, studios are starting to choose voice-over stars for their name appeal, and at times, the voice may not exactly match the part. People buy a movie ticket just for that name.
Sweeney’s favorite roles were from three films. Dish, the love struck cowboy from Lonesome Dove, Shoeless Joe from Eight Men Out and the hockey skater from The Cutting Edge, which is celebrating its' 20th anniversary now. He had lucky breaks when first starting his acting career. After graduating from New York University, he was in a Broadway play (Caine Mutiny Court Martial) then went to Hollywood and was getting major roles in films. Sweeney is the only member of his extended family to be in show business. His father was a teacher and his mother worked for the local government.
Sweeney has gone to Iraq to entertain the troops on several occasions and has flown with “The World Famous Purple Foxes” helicopter squadron. He has founded a web site for people to get messages of support to regular and retired military. It is called www.Lettersfromhollywood.army.mil.
D. B. Sweeney’s advice to young filmmakers is to try film festivals. There is publicity and experience. Don't be discouraged and writing really is solitary. This interview is being written at 3 a.m. in my city where one can hear a train whistle miles away and the daily newspaper truck is coming down the street. The only sounds are a train, truck and computer keyboard. It really is the time of day to write.
For a review of “Deep In The Heart” follow the link: