Whether it's successfully picking up the baton of an iconic genre role or establishing a character as a classic out of the gate, an actor can never predict if they'll become a genre superstar. This week BAM! POW! ZAP! has not one but two performers who've achieved both feats: Zachary Quinto (the new Spock in Star Trek and Sylar in Heroes) and Ralph Fiennes (the new M in the 007 films and Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies). Even more impressive: they're both expanding their talents offscreen as well.
Zachary Quinto: A Star's Trek Behind the Scenes
"We have a little joke at Before the Door," says actor-producer Zachary Quinto of the special skills each partner at his increasingly busy Hollywood production company. "Corey Moosa is the heart of the company, Neal Dodson is the brains of the company, and I'm the face of the company."
That's because Quinto, of course, is in the midst of a red-hot career in front of the cameras in both film and television with his role as Mr. Spock in the revived Star Trek franchise and as one of the ensemble players popping in and out of the anthological seasons of producer Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story. But as part of Before the Door, Quinto's also has an exciting producing career in progress, responsible for such critical and commercial hits as Margin Call and All Is Lost.
The division of specialties among the partners, he says is "true in the way that each of us had to pursue our different responsibilities. I think one of my strengths in the company is my relationships in the business: certainly in the casting stage of any project I can reach out directly to actors and reach out to agents myself, and in a lot of ways might have a phone call returned a little more quickly."
The current film from Quinto's production shingle is the horror-thriller The Banshee Chapter – available now on VOD and in select theaters January 10 – from writer-director Blair Erickson, who like Quinto and his partners is a Carnegie Mellon University alum. "We have a large interest in supporting new works and new writers and directors, and he filled that criteria, and we responded to the script on a creative level," says Quinto. "I felt like it was smart, I like the historical context of the story. I really am personally interested in the idea of mind expansion and the lengths to which people will go to experience it.
"It was exciting for us," he says. "We haven't done anything in this genre before, and obviously with my fan base from American Horror Story and Star Trek to a certain extent, it felt like it was an appropriate project to immerse ourselves in."
That said, Quinto – who's currently most focused on his acting career and shepherding a few Before the Door projects to star in himself to the screen – definitely wants to expand his repertoire beyond the sci-fi, horror and superhero spheres he's already hit big within for both sides of his profession.
"The last thing I'm interested in is being tethered to one kind of storytelling or one genre," he says. "If you look at the movies we've made – corporate thriller, we made a romantic comedy, a horror movie, a solitary lost-at-sea film, next up, another intellectual, adventure thriller kind of movie that we're doing with J.C. Chandor – I feel like there's a lot of diversity in that. We use different criteria to chose our projects, so creative integrity in a story that we all respond to, a director that we can really share the vision of, and then stories that we think people are going to be interested in and relate to."
And there's more that he hopes to add to his professional plate. "I definitely want to direct, and I'm looking for ways to do that even now," he says. "For me, that's all about the story, and I haven't found the story yet that I would need to be as passionate about to tell. But I do want to explore that territory, and to find out, when the time is right, how to make that step."
Given that J.J. Abrams, the director of the last two Trek installments, is stepping away from his behind-the-camera duties to focus on the Star Wars relaunch and new screenwriters J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay will be joining returning scribe Roberto Orci. Quinto expects a new jolt of creative energy to fuel the franchise's third outing.
"I'm certainly interested in who those people are, and I'm eager to figure out how we'll communicate and how we'll work together," he says. "I feel very open to the experience. As sorry as I am to know that we won't necessarily have J.J. at the helm, I have implicit trust in his taste [as executive producer], and I'm confident that he'll chose somebody that is really exciting and fun to work with."
Given his expanding list of creative hyphenated job titles, does Quinto have any behind-the-scenes ambitions within the Trek franchise, if opportunity arises? "I don't know… I don't know," he says. "It seems so far-fetched, frankly. We only have one more movie that we're guaranteed to do, and I know I am not going to be directing that one. I feel like it seems so far beyond my current capacity that I can't imagine it ever coming around to that – but you know, we'll see. I imagine it being a little bit of a smaller story and something that my production company can support. I'm creating this infrastructure for myself for a lot of reasons, not just to benefit me as an actor, but also to give me an infrastructure that allows me to tell stories in other ways down the line too."
Having cultivated a warm personal and working relationship with Leonard Nimoy as he assumed the Spock mantle, Quinto's garnered insight from the veteran actor, who parlayed his own creative investment in Star Trek as the director/producer of the third and fourth films features the original TV cast into a more diverse directorial career with movies like Three Men and a Baby and The Good Mother.
"We've spoken a lot about his experience and his career and the diversity of it," says Quinto. "And I know that it's allowed him to feel like he's had an incredible journey in his work and his life, and hopefully, I'll look back on my experience with the same realization. It was interesting to have those conversations with him, for sure."
Ralph Fiennes: Ready to Boss Bond Around
Ralph Fiennes is another actor who's realizing additional creative aspirations by directing The Invisible Woman, which chronicles a secret side of the romantic life of author Charles Dickens, whom Fiennes plays in the film. But he's just as eager to return to a high-profile pop-culture-rich role he recently inherited, that of M in the next James Bond film.
"I'm impatient," Fiennes grins, though he also admits "I don't know what I've gotten myself in for now!" He's excited to reunite with the same key personnel – star Daniel Craig, director Sam Mendes and screenwriter John Logan – that he worked with in his initial outing as Bond's eventual new boss Gareth Mallory in 2012's Skyfall.
"Popular entertainment is part of what makes the business survive," says Fiennes. "Populist films have proven themselves over the years, and they've become part of our film culture – and the 007 franchise is one of them. I loved the James Bond films when I was a kid. The combination of John Logan – who I'd worked with very closely on Coriolanus - with Sam Mendes – who I worked with in the theater many years ago and whose films I really admire – and the new take on it, and to come in as a new M, that whole proposal was attractive to me.
"I don't know how long I'll be part of it, but I'm looking forward to being M and I think Daniel Craig's a fantastic Bond for our time," he says. "I think the Bonds have gotten grittier and sort of more founded in the kind of reality a bit – a bit! Don't want it to be too real, for sure," he laughs. "They are escapist stuff, and now I'm happy to be part of that."