James Badge Dale isn’t a household name. But he should be.
Over the past ten years, the young actor has played supporting roles in several major films and starred in one of the most acclaimed mini-series of the past decade. One of his first juicy roles occurred in 2003 when he played Chase Edmunds, a CTU agent working under the tutelage of Jack Bauer on “24.”
In 2010, Dale played a lead in the HBO mini-series, “The Pacific.” Since then, he has acted in “The Conspirator,” headlined a television program called “Rubicon” and starred alongside Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in the critically-acclaimed film “Shame.”
His latest project, “The Grey,” finds Dale facing his own mortality alongside Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson. I recently had a chance to talk to Dale about his emotional scene in the new thriller, his work on “The Pacific” and the Oscar nomination that never arrived for Fassbender.
"The Grey," which is based on Ian MacKenzie Jeffers' short story "Ghost Walker," focuses on a group of plane crash survivors who are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness and must face off against a group of ravaging wolves. The story shows these men facing their own mortality as both the wolves and the cold temperatures attack them mercilessly.
Dale told me that “fell in love with [the script] right away” and thought it was a “very strong piece of writing.” He added that he made director Joe Carnahan an audition tape and put down every character in the film because he was so intent on being in this film.
His biggest scene in the thriller is an emotional one where he faces Neeson after their plane has crashed. But Dale joked that the intense scene was easier to film with Neeson there. “You just stare into Liam’s big baby blues and everything blows away,” he said.
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To prepare for the scene and at Dale’s request, Carnahan—who enjoys playing music on set—played the song “Simple Are the Ways We Say Goodbye" from the musical "Nine." “That song was a big part of my life growing up from watching my mother onstage,” the actor said. “It was also the song we played at my mother’s funeral.” He added that the “song is a goodbye song to me” and “helped set the tone” for the scene.
Dale also spoke to me about his role as Pfc. Robert Lackie in the Emmy-winning “The Pacific.”
“No job will ever be like that again,” he said, adding that “nothing could prepare us for what we were thrown into on that job.” The cast, he noted, are still close and are planning to meet for a reunion in a couple of weeks.
I also spoke to Dale about his role in last year’s critically-acclaimed film “Shame,” which co-starred Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. I asked the young actor what he thought about Fassbender—who many critics believed gave one of the performances of the year—being denied an Oscar nomination for his performance.
“I was shocked. I was surprised,” he noted as if he had just heard the news. “Michael Fassbender is one of the most concentrated specific actors I’ve ever worked with, and he can tell a story with a look,” Dale said. But Dale thinks that Fassbender has a long career ahead of him. It’s “definitely not the only performance people are going to be talking about in his career.”
The same can be said for Dale, who may not be a household name yet but who—if he continues choosing his roles carefully—could be one soon enough.
“The Grey” arrives in theaters nationwide today.