Fans of classic cinema should be familiar with Alan Austen, as he appeared in such great movies as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and An American Werewolf in London. After a long hiatus from acting, Alan recently starred in the sci-fi horror short Salient Minus Ten, which was directed by Seize the Night’s Emma Dark. We spoke to him about the project below, and it sounds like it’s shaping up to be one Hell of a film.
Dread Central: Can you talk about you experiences working on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Alan Austen: The Empire Strikes Back was my first film. I was twenty years old. I was initially booked as a Hoth Rebel and it was in the snow tunnels of Hoth at Elstree Studios that I would make small talk with Harrison Ford. This made it easier when I was later picked out to be the Storm trooper that places Han Solo in the carbon freezer.
I was also a Bespin security guard in some of the Cloud City scenes. I think what stands out most to me about working on ESB. were the friendships I made with my fellow supporting artiste colleagues and also my conversations with Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Jeremy Bullock. I guess that Harrison and Jeremy would have long forgotten our chats, but I never have.
I worked on ESB for six months and the schedule could be full on at times. With all the running and jumping about, I’m glad I was young and fit enough in those days to do it.
Raiders of the Lost Ark came about when I was asked to attend the casting for it at Pineapple studios in Covent Garden, London. I went along with no knowledge of the film, or what it was about. At the casting, I was approached by Ray Button, an assistant director from ESB. Ray informed me that most of the crew from ESB would be working on Raiders, also that Harrison Ford was taking the lead role. Ray asked me if I would like to be a part of the film and of course I said YES!
I was cast as a German soldier to be involved in the opening of the Ark in the closing sequences of the film. Once again I was filming at Elstree. A cavernous set had been built and dressed with Nazi paraphernalia everywhere. The lighting made the set very spooky. I could really feel the presence of the Third Reich.
Whilst on set, Ray Button asked me if I would come and meet Steven Spielberg. He explained that Mr. Spielberg wanted to line up a shot with a soldier in the foreground. Ray suggested me. Mr. Spielberg took me to the story board which was mounted on a wall and explained each shot to me frame by frame. I was to act like I was being ripped apart by huge bolts of electricity. I then spent several days in front of the camera, with Mr. Spielberg operating the camera himself and directing the action and coaching me through what he wanted me to do.
Looking back, I was placed into a very privileged position to be taking personal direction from the legend that is Mr. S. I was only 21 years old. Mr. S encouraged me to pursue a career as an actor. Two years later I joined British Actors Equity Association and started to work in television.
DC: Looking at your IMDb profile, I can see that this is your first acting role in over 30 years. What made you want to get back into acting?
AA: I actually stopped my acting career in 2005. My IMBD needs a lot of updating. IMBD did not exist for most of my career. I only found myself on there after I stopped acting and as I had given up, I didn’t bother to update it.
I was working as an actor throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s extensively in T.V. and corporate films. T.V. commercials were a big feature of my career during those years.
It was Emma Dark that tempted me back into acting when she asked me to audition for Salient Minus Ten. I was curious to see if I could still do it. Happily, I think I can.
DC: I understand that you character, Alan Harper, is an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation?
AA: Yes that’s true. Adam Harper is an average man, who, on his way to the office is thrust into an extraordinary situation betwixt life and death. At this point in time, I cant say anymore than that.
DC: I know director Emma Dark quite well, and she has a real passion for making films. How did you find working with her?
AA: Emma Dark is lovely! I think that anyone who knows her would agree with this. She is highly professional and passionate about film making. Emma is determined and positive in her approach to work.
Given that I have worked with some of the top directors in cinema and television, working with Emma was no different to working with Spielberg or Dick Lester, except Emma is easier on the eye!
DC: What do you think sci-fi and horror fans will take away from Salient Minus Ten? It seems like a pretty unique film.
AA: Salient Minus Ten is a fast paced film with plot twists. I haven’t seen the final edit as yet, however, it does meld horror and sci-fi in a unique way. I think horror and sci-fi fans will not be disappointed with SMT. There is something for everyone. The film is beautifully photographed, courtesy of D.O.P. Phillip Bloom. It has a great story line.
I think fans will come away satisfied and asking questions too.
DC: Do you have anything else in the works?
AA: I have no acting work in the pipe line. I’m not even sure if I will take up acting again. Although, I really enjoyed my work on SMT and it felt good to be back on set, back in the saddle, so to speak.
I think, whether to stay retired or take up acting again will be based on the public and industry reaction to SMT and indeed, my performance in the film.