Star of the original The A-Team and Battlestar Galactica, actor Dirk Benedict has been a household name for over 30 years.
His latest project features tales of skirt-chasing, cigar-chomping, joke-telling, and time-travelling in his very own comic book, Dirk Benedict in the 25th Century.
Never shy or short of strong opinions, Benedict spoke through a haze of his trademark cigar smoke as we discussed his life, his comic, and how The A-Team killed his career…
Geeks of Doom: Whose idea was it to send you into the 25th Century?
Dirk Benedict: Darren [Davis, Bluewater Comics President], not mine! When they approached me I didn’t get it. They explained they had done one with Adam West and a couple other people, but I said I would do it if I had a little bit of input and he said, ‘Sure’. So I’ve been co-writing them with Scott [S. Phillips].
Geeks of Doom: I read that you and Scott have been trading emails on dialogue he said you made some really good contributions and had him laughing out loud – have you tried to bring more humor to it?
Dirk Benedict: Yes. Well, it’s called Dirk Benedict and if I’m nothing else I’m whimsical. I’m not a comedian, but I’m a humorist. I tend to see the humor in the tragedy, not the tragedy in the tragedy, that’s boring, anybody can do that … to write comedy in the face of drama, that’s interesting. The comic books are, well, they’re science fiction, so there’s people in distress and in jeopardy. And the two characters that I am known for [on TV] had a comedic edge to them and in fact that is who I am. So I got to try and put it in my voice, put Dirk Benedict in my voice. I have ideas for some of the other characters too. I don’t do much with the storyline, that’s Scott’s thing.
Geeks of Doom: So he would send over his outlines or treatments and you tell him, ‘That’s not what Dirk Benedict would say!’?
Dirk Benedict: He sends over his script, his first draft, then I what they used to ‘call punch it up’! [laughs] Or down! [laughs] I punch it up, I’m a script doctor. I should’ve been a script doctor. I was a script doctor; I don’t think I did a movie I didn’t re-write, for better or worse. Got me in a lot of trouble, pissed a lot of people off and sometimes people liked it. By intuition I’m a shoulda-woulda-coulda been a writer and I have written a couple books, couple movies, and couple plays and kind of quit because I’m tired of being rejected. Had enough rejection for this lifetime. Everything I write is, I don’t know, nobody says it’s bad, it just upsets them! [laughs] [puts on silly voice] ‘It’s not politically correct.’ … but be that as it may, I’m enjoying this, I like it; it’s fun. Don’t think I’ll make any money but I didn’t do it for that. Something I can do here, get a little creative output every now and then and it’s fun to see something come to life like this. These guys are really good.
Geeks of Doom: Have you seen the artwork? Are you happy with it?
Dirk Benedict: Yeah, they made Dirk a little too intense, but it’s that anime, the Japanese sort of thing, everything has got that certain look now it’s like everybody’s on steroids, you know? The girl’s got tits bigger than Raquel Welch ever dreamed of and the guys got muscles like Schwarzenegger when he first started. I mean I find it all insane.
Geeks of Doom: But some of that was already written into the script wasn’t it, like Vanessa was described as ‘ultra hot’?
Dirk Benedict: Ultra hot, but … I mean women can look normal. Men can be attractive, you know, Gary Cooper was an attractive guy, Clark Gable was an attractive guy, they didn’t have to go to the gym every day and have a six pack and big muscles to be sexy … this whole movie star thing when they all have to rip their shirt off and show their muscles it’s all been dummied to where being manly now is having big muscles and being sexy is having big tits. How easy is that? And you can buy all that shit now; you can buy the boobs … and when you become a movie star get your own workout person and you go work out and hire a person to raise your kids and do everything for you and you just work on your body and get really sexy and now you can stay young forever! [Laughs]
Geeks of Doom: The people of Hollywood…
Dirk Benedict: Yeah, but you see them when they hit 60 and 70 [years of age]: you can’t fight mother nature so aging gracefully is not a phrase you hear anymore! [laughs] But now I don’t have to worry, I will be forever young in Dirk Benedict in the 25th Century. I’ll be like Mickey fucking Mouse; he never has changed since I was five years old, this son of a gun looks the same. How cool is that? Everybody’s jealous of Mickey Mouse, all those movie stars, all the Goldie Hawn’s and the Mike Douglas’ they just wish they could manage it like Mickey did! So now I’m there in a comic book, forever young. I should be called Dirk Benedict Forever Young in The 25th Century.
Geeks of Doom: That’s the next series!
Dirk Benedict: [Laughs] Dirk Benedict the way he was, is, and always will be: chiseled! [Laughs] Sexier than The A-Team. Forget Battlestar Galactica! [laughs]
You know, I’m an actor that has had a modest career, but I’ve had two action figures. How many actors have had two action figures? Only big movie stars. I mean, I don’t think Michael Douglas has had two. Why am I picking on Michael Douglas, I like him.
Harrison Ford does. He may have two, he has one I know for sure; Star Wars.
Geeks of Doom: But he’s been in 50 films or something to get his two.
Dirk Benedict: No, you’re right, I know my batting average is so high. I did two TV shows and two successful series. Well, quasi. Whether Battlestar was a success, I don’t know. It was successful, it just had a short life … and now I have a comic. Well, I had it before I guess. I had The A-Team comic book and I had Battlestar, I had Starbuck in comic books I think three different generations of that … but this is me, this is not Starbuck or Faceman, this is Dirk Benedict! Harrison doesn’t have that. Bruce Willis doesn’t have that. Even Robert ‘Bob’ Redford doesn’t have that! But he’s a serious actor, he wouldn’t allow it. He’s a serious movie star, he’s a god, he’s beyond all that.
Geeks of Doom: In the comic, Dirk is approached at ComicCon. You must have done hundreds of these conventions – do you get sick of doing them?
Dirk Benedict: No, because I started doing them in 1998, so it’s not that long, 14 years. I do about maximum of five, minimum of one, two. Let’s say I do four a year … so the answer is no. When I do [get tired of doing conventions] I just don’t do them. I don’t do that many … I thought I would hate them but I didn’t, I quite enjoyed it actually. They’re sort of hard work but it was nice. I lived such an isolated life so to meet the people that over the years watched me do those two shows and various other things – I had fans from some of the other movies I had made – that was kind of nice.
Geeks of Doom: You couldn’t take on much acting work when you were raising your sons, but they’re not little kids anymore – are you going to be taking on any acting roles?
Dirk Benedict: No. I haven’t had any offers. I don’t even have an agent anymore, I don’t have the ambition to try and go resurrect a career so I don’t live in Los Angeles or New York or London or anywhere, I’m up in the boondocks and I have no representation. Some people in Hollywood probably think I’m dead, if they think of me at all. You got to show up if you want people to hire you and I haven’t done that. I could do it now my kids are grown but it’s sort of ‘been there and done that’. It would be nice to make some money. I don’t want to be famous again, but I wouldn’t mind acting, I love acting, I just don’t want to go through the process of getting a job. I want someone to call and offer me a job! And they do from time to time and I say ‘yes’. Did a movie in Germany and I did that play [a British theatre production of Columbo] which was a great experience and quite successful.
Geeks of Doom: You are still quite famous. I know you said you don’t want to be famous again but to have a comic based on your name…
Dirk Benedict: Yeah, isn’t it weird? I don’t know, I think God’s not through with me! [laughs] Or the order of the universe or destiny or fate or whatever. I mean they sought me out, they called me up [for the comic] and it was an appealing idea at first. I was not interested, but then as I got to know the guys and they showed me the issues that they’d done, it’s really top notch. I found out that they’re really good and know what they’re doing … I wanted to be involved in the writing and that’s kind of unusual but they were happy about that so it’s a win-win.
Geeks of Doom: What are your thoughts on The A-Team movie?
Dirk Benedict: Well, I haven’t seen it although I sent my two sons in proxy so they saw it for me. I don’t need to see it, I was on the set, I did that quote-unquote cameo which was not really a cameo, I don’t know what the hell it was. They paid me so I kept holding out for enough money so I could pay my property taxes for another year and I went and did it. I regret doing it. Mr. T was right not to do it, they got rid of all the qualities that made it such an international hit … it was like someone said, ‘let’s find everything that really made this show unique and get rid of that and just make kind of an average action movie’.
It’s got good actors and it’s not stupid and the boys told me it’s funny. It’s a good action movie, it’s not one [that makes you say] ‘oh god, you got to see this!’ … it’s kind of like [the remake of] Battlestar Galactica, I means it’s totally, totally different [to the original TV series]. I mean The A-Team they made Bradley Cooper, the Faceman, the star. We were an ensemble, we were military. The boys told me they built it in to where they’re sort of grooming that character to take over from Hannibal. But Bradley Cooper is the big star and the big star is not going to do an ensemble piece unless it’s Ocean’s Eleven and everyone’s slumming, it’s all wink-wink we’re big movie stars.
Geeks of Doom: But Liam Neeson was in The A-Team and he’s a star in his own right.
Dirk Benedict: Yeah he is, but he’s not Bradley Cooper. Star Bradley Cooper’s the new, whatever, George Clooney. I was doing Columbo when they were making the movie in 2010 and there was an interview [with] Liam Neeson in one of the British papers and they asked him if it was like The A-Team TV show and he said, ‘well we took out all the corny stuff’. He used the word ‘corny’ … but that’s what made the show unique! We were a fucking cartoon, Liam, you stupid bastard! Why would you take that out? That’s what made it fun! … that was the charm of the damn thing and we knew it as actors because we were all smart people. We were uniquely smart for actors. There happened to be four of us who, it’s the only time it ever happened, I worked with other actors that were as smart as I am. I mean, they all got it; Mr. T, George [Peppard], Dwight [Schultz], we all got it … we were silly and there was a little morality play: there was bad guys and there were good guys.
And I’m just an out of work guy that used to have a career sitting here and I get this, but you see they’re too close to it. It’s a very insular world, Hollywood: they all go to the same restaurants and pool parties and they all slap each other on the back and they’re all geniuses, a, and b, they would understand The A-Team if they had been in the TV show because it’s everything they don’t like. It’s stupid, it’s the kind of show that doesn’t win any Emmys. It’s got guns and cigars and it’s misogynist; it’s four guys and one of them’s always running around trying to get laid every time he sees a girl. It’s just hokey and corny and silly and stupid. It’s not classy. Now, the new Office, that is very slick and cool and politically correct and we were politically incorrect. They just hated it, that’s why it took so long to make it. I mean, good god, it took them 25 years to get around to it. Every five years they write a script which was one worse than the other. I read a couple of them, nobody got it. They have swear words and make it dark, made it twisted, just like Battlestar Galactica, the new one, they just trashed the old one. I don’t think there’ll be an A-Team movie two. I don’t think it made enough money, I think they spent over a hundred million [dollars] on it and I’m sure they’re scratching their heads going, ‘gee, we thought that was a bigger, more successful TV show’. Because it’s not their fault, god knows it’s the stupid public that wasn’t smart enough to realize what a good movie they made.
Geeks of Doom: [Laughs] I’m sure there will be a re-imagining in a few years.
Dirk Benedict: A regurgitation. Let’s re-imagine this son of a bitch and make it better, get rid of all that corny stuff, right Liam?
Geeks of Doom: And there’s going to be a new Battlestar Galactica movie. I think next year with Bryan Singer directing.
Dirk Benedict: Yeah, that’s good. You know, Tom di Santo…he was a fan of the original show so they’ll honor the spine, the tone, the character, of the original and god knows, they know how to make spectacular movies. That would be pretty exciting; I hope they do do it.
Geeks of Doom: Who would you cast as Starbuck?
Dirk Benedict: Well I don’t know. I bet they’re just going to move it forward 25, 30 years so it will be different.
Geeks of Doom: Like a Next Generation sort of thing?
Dirk Benedict: Yeah. I don’t know, maybe it will be Starbuck’s children. But that’s what Tom was going to do with the series, I was going to play Starbuck you know, my own age which was great fun. Still single, still smoking, still drinking, still trying to get laid … but I don’t know. They always ask me, ‘who would you want to play Faceman?’ and I always said I wanted Matthew Perry and they would always look at me like I was nuts! I think he would have been perfect to play Faceman and I would liked to have been on set to kind of coach him.
Geeks of Doom: Would you do that sort of coaching role if you were asked on the new Battlestar movie? Or turn up as Starbuck as he would be now?
Dirk Benedict: Yeah, that would be great. I still look like myself!
I still walk down the street and people go, ‘Didn’t you used to be somebody?’ [Laughs] ‘Aren’t you that guy from that show?’ ‘Yeah, that’s me!’ I wish I had five bucks every time somebody said that to me: ‘Hey, you’re that guy from that show!’ [Laughs]
In terms of recognition the best I ever had happened right here in Montana. I had my kids with me, they were about 7 and 9, they were still really young, they couldn’t get their mind around why people [wanted to talk to me] because I was just dad … and we’re in a check out at a grocery store and this lady behind me she goes, ‘oh my god, oh my god! It’s you! Honey, honey, come here, it’s him! Oh don’t tell me, don’t tell me,’ and she’s pointing at me, ‘you’re my favorite actor!’ And she’s getting really loud and people are starting to stare so I go, ‘My name’s Dirk Benedict.’ And she goes, ‘no, no, no, that’s not it!’ [Laughs] That’s not it!
Geeks of Doom: When you were in England a few years ago you did Celebrity Big Brother. What are your memories of being in the house?
Dirk Benedict: It was [long pause] physically it was very easy for me. Like people were going nuts because they couldn’t get alcohol or chocolate and food. But I had my brown rice and my miso vegetables and I told them going in as long as I had access to brown rice and beans I’d be fine.
Leo Sayer was certifiable, he was so funny, and [Ken] Russell. They’re wacky so we all three had the same sick sense of humor which was funny and of course I had reaffirmed what I’d always known: women cause all the problems in the world. Because the guys … we got along like gangbusters, there was no conflict, they were all great guys. But the women caused all the problems from the very beginning; they just kept stirring things up which they do in a relationship. They can’t stand calm, they got to have problems to work on then it’s your fault if you don’t go into counseling … but we all kept our little space. They fought over food, they fought over makeup and they fought over fighting over everything and it ended up of course with this big catfight between Shilpa [Shetty] and Jade Goody. The media created that whole firestorm, that was a non-event in the house. It was just more of the same, just these two girls that were the alpha females, two of them fighting for control of the situation.
But I had kind of fond memories. It was sort of nice: I slept until they forced me out of bed, Big Brother would yell … and then Big Brother would try and torture us doing these various embarrassing, humiliating tasks, trying to get us to fall apart. But it was all quite pleasant actually when I look back on it. I became friends with Jermaine [Jackson] and Leo and Ian [“H” Watkins], I would love to see those guys again. But the women they all hated me! [laughs]
Geeks of Doom: You say you haven’t had much of a career when you have been in massive TV shows, movies, you’ve had a steel stomach and now comics.
Dirk Benedict: I’ve had what?! [Laughs]
Geeks of Doom: Your Steel Stomachs fitness video!
Dirk Benedict: Oh god! Yeah I know the one. That was 25, no 20 years ago.
Geeks of Doom: So what’s next for you?
Dirk Benedict: I have nothing. I’m not keeping any secrets. I’d love to act again, I’d love to have a part in a film, a good part in a film like some cranky old guy. I don’t know, a lot of stuff … I do have a visibility, I’m more famous than all the actors that they use over here in America on TV. They use the same four or five people. It’s a club and in order to get into it you gotta show up and say all the right things and go to the right offices and after a certain point in time you get tired of starting over every time. Every time you get a job you have to start over. You get to a certain age, you can’t do that anymore. You say, well, I should have a reputation, a backlog … but that’s not in my case. Doesn’t work that way because I told you The A-Team was not a well-liked show in Hollywood. It’s not a show that anybody would ever admit to having watched, so the fact that I starred in it means nothing in Hollywood. In fact, it’s a negative thing.
Geeks of Doom: Is that the same for the other guys?
Dirk Benedict: Yeah, of course. You ever seen Dwight Shultz anywhere? Mr. T? George passed away. No, my career ended with The A-Team. I haven’t done anything in 30 years. I mean, I have, but I haven’t had a job in Hollywood since 1989. I mean when The A-Team was over I basically never worked again, not in Hollywood. … NBC hated the show, Universal hated the show. It made a lot of money with it, but it was an embarrassment to them. As the head of NBC said at the time … he said, ‘The A-Team’s a hamburger show, we’re a filet mignon network.’
So yeah, life is not fair and that’s the way it goes. But, you know, being healthy is the best revenge and as a result of all this and sort of because of the fact, I made a conscious decision to be present in the lives of my children, I have no regrets. So I have three beautiful sons, two of them I raised pretty much by myself and I’m proud of them. They’re fantastic kids.
Dirk Benedict in the 25th Century was released this month in comic book stores and for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.