Veteran actor Michael Paré talks with TV STORE ONLINE about creating Tom Cody, the John Wayne like cult cinema superhero in Walter Hill's Rock-N-Roll Fable, STREETS OF FIRE.
TV STORE ONLINE: You went from EDDIE & THE CRUISERS  right to STREETS OF FIRE ....How did the project come to you?
PARÉ : They just offered STREETS OF FIRE to me.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you read the script for STREETS OF FIRE for the first time...What did you like about it so much?
PARÉ: It was a big action movie that they were going to shoot in Hollywood. EDDIE & THE CRUISERS had been made for five million dollars. So that wasn't really a big film budget wise. STREETS OF FIRE was going to be a big studio movie. It had Walter Hill as director and Diane Lane had signed on and that was all I needed. I said, "Fuck yeah. I'm in."
TV STORE ONLINE: Starting work on STREETS OF FIRE...Who did you envision the "Tom Cody" character to be exactly?
PARÉ: Pretty much as it was written on the page. Tom Cody didn't have to talk a lot, but I pretty much approached the character how I approach every character that I play. It was a Clint Eastwood and John Wayne role. That was really on my mind as we were shooting the film. STREETS OF FIRE is a western.
TV STORE ONLINE: Tom Cody is a bit mysterious though...Did you come up with any type of deeper background or back story for Cody prior to shooting?
PARÉ: No, and I don't like to work that way either. If everyone is doing that, then you don't really know what the agendas of any of the other characters are. I always play what is on the page. The basic back story is already established in the film. We know that Tom and Ellen were once high school lovers, or former lovers around that age, when you're not yet twenty-one years old. Cody goes off and joins the military and she goes off on tour with her band. His home town is attacked and he's called home to help clean things up by his sister. There's also some WALKING TALL  in STREETS OF FIRE I think.
TV STORE ONLINE: Can you remember any ideas or scenes that may have been in the original script that were shot that maybe were cut prior to the film's release?
PARÉ: Well, the big thing was with the end fight with Willem Dafoe. In the first draft of the script, Tom Cody pulled out a knife from his boot and killed Dafoe's character. That was cut out. Walter really liked the idea, because it had Tom Cody winning at all costs. It was cut, because back then, getting a PG rating was a big deal for mass distribution. The producers didn't think that they should have such a anti-hero, so that's why they changed that and made the final fight in STREETS OF FIRE a fair fight.
TV STORE ONLINE: Who are some of your acting influences? Growing up, were you a fan of James Dean for example?
PARÉ: For sure. Growing up, I was a fan of James Dean, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Cliff, Paul Newman, and Robert Mitchum. I really felt like I was a kindred spirit to those guys. Something funny....When I first started out as an actor, I had read a James Dean biography. In that book, Dean said that he became an actor for the money. I thought that was really funny, when I first read that. So for years, whenever I'd do an interview and I'd get asked the question, "Why did you become an actor"? I would always say, "For the money..." (Laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: Some have said that Walter Hill isn't really an actor's director...
PARÉ: I think Walter is a writer at heart. Writers aren't always that good at communicating in person. He's also a tough son-of-a-bitch. He's like a cowboy. His director's chair was made out of leather and on the back of it read "Lone Wolf". He used to frequent gun clubs and he wasn't a very delicate guy. I can remember on STREETS OF FIRE, we were doing some ADR for the film. We were doing a love scene. When they said, "We need to ADR the love scene." I really freaked out. I had never done a love scene before STREETS OF FIRE. I was really a new actor, and I really needed help to get through it. I panicked, and the Producer on STREETS OF FIRE, Joel Silver, called Walter and somehow persuaded him to come over and direct me through the ADR. STREETS OF FIRE was a big picture for me, and I was overwhelmed. I think that bothered Walter. I think he thought that I was a needy guy. He was used to working with actors who had experience like Nick Nolte or David Carradine. I've always wondered why Walter has never wanted to work with me again. I think he was too much of gentlemen to tell me that I was too needy at the time.
TV STORE ONLINE: Originally STREETS OF FIRE was intended to be a trilogy. Was there talk about that when you first came on board for the Tom Cody role?
PARÉ: They told me that it was going to be a trilogy. What happened was that all of the people that made STREETS OF FIRE left Universal Studios and went to 20th Century Fox. It was made at Universal, so they owned the rights to the story. So it was left behind. I was told by Joel Silver that the sequel was going to be set in the snow, and the following film would be set in the desert.
TV STORE ONLINE: The film was shot at Universal Studios, but wasn't there some stuff shot in Chicago as well?
PARÉ: Yes. There was a massive set built on the back lot at Universal Studios. It was covered in this tarp. It allowed for us to shoot all of the night time scenes during the day. But it posed some problems. The birds would collect on the tarp. So before some scenes the gun wrangler would have to fire off a shot into the air to get the birds to leave. Then, when it would rain, they'd shut down the shoot because they were worried about it accumulating on the tarp, causing it to collapse. So they'd have to pull the tarp back for that. It was weird shooting under the tarp. Not only was it night all of the time on the set, we'd shoot in the dark all day long, and then when you'd get off of work and go home, it would be night outside as well. So I worked for months and months always being in the dark.
TV STORE ONLINE: STREETS OF FIRE has a very unique atmosphere about it. You can't tell exactly where the film takes place or what era the story is situated in either. Where do you think the story is placed in time?
PARÉ: Andrew Laszlo, the Cinematographer, would light the sets of STREETS OF FIRE sometimes for over eight hours. I've always thought that STREETS OF FIRE is a very beautiful film. I've always considered that maybe the story takes place in a alternate reality. The prop guy on the set was always saying, "We're shooting this like it is a western. We can't have any paper or Styrofoam around..." It was super stylized. My costume, which was done by Marilyn Vance, was all Georgio Armini. It was like twenty-thousand dollars of clothes. It was amazing. As Tom Cody, I wasn't really distracted with any of this stuff that we're talking about now. I was just dealing with the character.
TV STORE ONLINE: Because STREETS OF FIRE is one of your earlier films...You probably cut your teeth on a lot of stuff...
PARÉ: I learned how to ride a motorcycle on STREETS OF FIRE. We shot some scenes in Chicago of me riding a motorcycle. Going in, no one had even asked me if I could ride a motorcycle. One of the prop guys taught me how to ride a motorcycle. We went out in the middle of the night in Chicago, and I learned how to shift, and I went off and was riding through the streets of Chicago on a bike. I wanted to take boxing lessons for the fight scene in STREETS OF FIRE, but Walter didn't want me to. He wanted the fight to be like a John Wayne fight were we throw these big roundhouse punches.
TV STORE ONLINE: Could you talk about working with Rick Moranis in STREETS OF FIRE? There's some great tension between those characters that the each of you play...
PARÉ: Here is the thing...In movies you aren't supposed to do things for real. You can't really hit someone, you can't really stab someone. Someone will get hurt. A comedian can go at you full bore because he can't inflict any physical damage. He drove me nuts. Some people say that our relationship is the best work in the film. It was a very antagonistic relationship. When I looked at him, I had some very serious anger towards him. In reality, what I should've done was punched him right in the face the minute that he got into the car in that first scene. It would've been funny to have Rick wear a bandage across his nose the end film. I've recently been watching Rick's stuff from his SCTV days and it's completely hilarious. Looking back now, I was just a young actor on STREETS OF FIRE. I was nervous, scared and out of my league I thought, and I was under a great deal of stress because I had to carry that movie on my shoulders and I really didn't need someone antagonizing me while I was going through that.
TV STORE ONLINE: Could you talk about shooting the big pick-ax scene that comes at the end of STREETS OF FIRE?
PARÉ: It took us four weeks to do that. Willem and I shot that for two weeks, and then Walter shot it for another two week with the stunt guys. That whole scene was a Walter thing. He had to do something like that, especially after what he had done in HARD TIMES .
TV STORE ONLINE: Last question...Were you ever tempted to sneak into wardrobe and try on Willem Dafoe's black rubber bib overalls from that scene?
PARÉ: No, they were weird...laughing
For more with Michael Pare please visit his official site HERE: