In director Antoine Fuqua’s action film “Olympus Has Fallen,” actor Dylan McDermott (“The Campaign”) plays Forbes, a Secret Service agent who is caught in the middle of a terrorist plot when a group of North Koreans ambush the White House and take the U.S. President (Aaron Eckhart) and his cabinet hostage. During our interview, McDermott, 52, talked about making North Koreans the bad guys and why Morgan Freeman was probably the only actor who didn’t get hurt during the shoot.
You played a secret service agent back in 1993 in “In the Line of Fire.” Did you feel as quick on your feet in this one as you did 20 years ago?
Really, 1993? I knew it was a while ago, but 1993? You know, I haven’t lost a step at all.
“Olympus Has Fallen” reminded me a lot of those action packed movies of the 90s like “Air Force One” and “Executive Decision.” Is that the kind of movie you all set out to make?
I don’t know if we set out to actually make that kind of movie, but those throw-back movies from the 90s were really fun with a lot of action, so I think it’s good that it feels like one of those.
With everything we see on the news that is happening in North Korea these days, did that make it easier to root against the antagonists in this movie?
I think so, but you know there always has to be a bad guy. A movie is always going to need someone to root against, whether it’s North Korea or China or Afghanistan or Iceland.
Aw, what did Iceland do to us?
(Laughs) Gotta watch out for Iceland. Just kidding.
Recently, former NBA star Dennis Rodman went and toured North Korea after being invited by Kim Jung Un. If given the opportunity, would you take up the offer to go?
You know, I think Dennis really represented us well. (Laughs) I don’t think we have to go over there again for a while. He did it all for us already.
The week he came back is when North Korea threatened to bomb the U.S. with a nuclear weapon, so people were wondering what the hell Dennis Rodman said over there.
(Laughs) I know, I’m wondering the same thing! What did he say?
Director Antoine Fuqua has an eye for action movies, but it’s been four years since his last. What did he bring to the table on this film?
He’s a great director. He knows how to talk to actors and work with them. He knows his action but he’s not just looking for results. He gets the best out of all his actors. He’s my kind of director.
Speaking of action, you have a major fight scene in this film with Gerard Butler. Was that precisely choreographed so you didn’t actually have to get a Gerard Butler fist to your face?
I mean, whenever you’re in an action movie you’re going to get hurt somehow. Unless your name is Morgan Freeman, you probably got a little hurt in this movie. That goes for myself, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and even Melissa Leo. People are going to get hurt.
Even 12 years after 9/11, there’s still an uneasy felling when you see planes crashing into U.S. monuments or flying too close to cities. Do you think this film was sensitive to those things or…
I think the film plays to people’s fears. It comes from a place of reality. These things have happened before. It happened when the British invaded the U.S. [in 1814]. It happened on 9/11. But all these events are played on the fears of people, which give it more of a realistic feel.
We’re going to see another movie this summer with the same premise as “Olympus Has Fallen” called “White House Down.” How does something like that happen in Hollywood and does it feel good to be the first one out?
Oh, you always want to be the first one out. You always want to say you came first. But hopefully our film does well and maybe that film will do well, too. You never know. It’s happened before. People get the same ideas and two movies are made. Someone will say, “Let’s make a movie about a meteor hitting earth,” and then someone goes and makes another one. Let’s make a movie about the White House. It happens.
I have to ask what you thought about the SNL skit from late last year with the ongoing joke with your name and Dermot Mulroney’s.
I thought it was hilarious. They actually called me and asked me to come out for it. They wanted both of us for the skit, but I couldn’t make it because I was in the middle of shooting “American Horror Story.” But I wish I could have gone so they could’ve had us both in the same room and people would know we are not the same person.