Article: James Spader as Daniel Jackson"
As Professor Daniel Jackson, archaeologist and Egyptologist, actor James Spader unlocks the secrets of the StarGate and joins his fellow travelers from Earth in the most remarkable journey of their lives. Spader burst onto the movie scene in 1989, in his role as Graham in Sex, Lies and Videotape for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then, he has played a variety of thoughtful protagonists and antagonists in such features as "Wolf", "White Palace", "True Colors", "Bad Influence", "Baby Boom", "Less Than Zero", "Wall Street", "Mannequin", "Pretty in Pink", "Tuff Turf" and "Endless Love".
As Spader describes his latest role, Jackson "is an outsider in terms of the academic community, somebody who really doesn't have a place in the profession that he has chosen. In his mind, he has a very clear direction, but the world gets in the way." After the discovery of the StarGate, an ancient piece of technology which may unlock the mysteries of the origin of Egyptian civilization, Jackson's life is changed forever. "Suddenly, the academic questions that have been his obsession become very real." The StarGate open a door "to allow him to actually see and explore his dreams, as opposed to just imagining them. But", the actor notes, "sometimes it isn't a good idea to find your heart's desire. Well, Jackson not only finds it, but it's sitting right there in his lap - much bigger, grander and more complex than he ever imagined."
Spader is noted for the depth of his character study, and his exploration into the Egyptologist is no exception. "He has spent his life studying centuries, entire cultures and civilizations," the actor explains. "The span of one lifetime is meaningless to him and I don't think even his own lifetime has much meaning for him. It's a tremendously freeing way of looking at his own life and the circumstances he finds himself in. He is quite fearless." Reflects Spader, "It's very odd, because at the film's beginning, Colonel O'Neil is obviously a suicidal character. Daniel is not unlike him in that his life is unimportant to him." But Jackson's encounters on the far side of the StarGate - including Sha'uri, all the rest of the culture and even his fellow team members for Earth - all have a profound impact on the detached academician. "It sort of creeps up on him unknowingly," Spader notes. Nowhere is this more evident than at the festival at Nagada, where Jackson gets caught up in the activities and begins living in the world he has coldly examined for so long. "He discovers the value of one life and one lifetime - that they're as important as a century and a culture, because that culture is made up of thousands of single lifetime."
Egyptologist and linguist Stuart Tyson Smith, a consulatant on the filming of StarGate, provided invaluable insight to the actor in his preparation for the role of Daniel Jackson. Smith gave Spader more than technical advice on his character. "I looked for specific things about his life, he experience and his knowledge that I could put to practical use in the script," Spader says. "And Stuart was also our dialogue coach as we learned to speak and understand the ancient Egyptian language."
What brings Spader, usually as character-driven dramantic actor in quiet films of everyday realism, to this science-fiction adventure? The actor credits director Roland Emmerich. "When I first read the script," Spader confesses, "it was unlike anything I had ever done or even considered doing." Nevertheless, the actor decided to meet with Emmerich. "When I met Roland, I enjoyed him immensely. He's a tremendously exciting, vibrant and curious fellow. He was so excited about this project and quite childlike in his curiosity about this new world he was going to create. I decided that I wanted to go along on the rider. And I'm glad that I did." And according to Spader, what a ride it was. "From my very first day on the set, the scale of this picture was evident to me. We drove miles and miles into the desert on a road that was manufactured by the people who were making the film, to a base camp of sorts. It reminded me of a Roman campaign. It was just enormous - cranes, cameras, lights, technicians, beasts in costumes, and thousands of extras trailing out over two miles through the crests of these dunes. And all in 120-degree heat!" The desert location made an impression on Spader: "Sand, sand, everywhere!" The heat was also a concern - but, as he quickly points out, "The people who were building the sets were out there when it was 140 degrees, and we were all complaining when it was only 120 degrees."
Despite the extreme conditions--and the sand fleas--Spader enjoyed the StarGate experience. "This was the longest shoot I've ever worked on, but it didn't seem like it at all. Roland creates an environment that's tremendously conducive to the making of a film. He has a tremendously vital sense of humor and he uses that to get us through the day." Another enjoyable aspect of the StarGate shoot was Spader's co-star, Kurt Russell. "I had a lot of fun with Kurt. Listen, if you're going to be in the middle of the desert for a while, and plan to get out of there with your head intact, he's a good guy to do it with. He keeps laughing and he keeps arguing - and that's what I like to do."
believes that the film will be as much fun for the audience as it
was for him in making it. "StarGate is a great adventure that
has a surprise every time you turn your head. Although it has a science
fiction aspect, as otherworldly quality to it, the story is very grounded
in humanity. That's ultimately what it is about. Even after you take
this wild trip, way the hell out and then back again, when you sit
and reflect, you realize that it does have relevance to you and your
own place in the scheme of things."