Interview: Veteran actor Tom Skerritt talks about his newest film, ‘East of the Mountains’
Tom Skerritt has been one of the most consistent and versatile actors working in Hollywood for over three decades. Skerritt got his start working in theater and is probably most recognized for his roles as Viper in 1986’s Top Gun and Dallas in 1979’s Alien, but that role is just tip-of-the-iceberg for this talented actor. This Emmy-nominated actor (Picket Fences) never backs away from a challenge, and his latest project East of the Mountains, directed S.J. Chiro and also starring Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, which got rave reviews most recently at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Skerritt gave us a few minutes of his time to discuss various topics, including his latest project.
Dewey Singleton: How are you doing, sir?
Tom Skerritt: Yeah, as well as I, can be as I’m just getting over a little infection that was more than we thought.
DS: I’m going to start by leading with a question you probably get asked a lot, and that’s about The Parent Trap 2. What are some of your memories of filming that in Tampa, which happens to be my hometown?
TS: Oh God, of all the movies (laughs) … well, I remember working with Hayley Mills, such a lovely lady. Such a special human being. I also remember a tremendous wine cellar in town. That’s pretty much it.
DS – Is Top Gun still the movie you are asked most often about?
TS: Yes, that has to be the most popular of the many wonderful films that I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in. Wonderful old-fashioned story… don’t be a smartass ass … (laughs) straighten you out … (laughs) … great movie. I don’t get it as much anymore, but it has picked up now that the 35th anniversary of the film has passed.
DS: Do you have a cameo in Top Gun: Maverick?
TS: It is thirty-five years later … so, some of the original guys from the film would have to be dead, wouldn’t they. I guess I fall in that category.
DS: How do you prepare for your next role?
TS: That’s always a tough one. I really trust my instincts, and I don’t do a whole lot of research sometimes; I don’t have the time to do research. I read the script over and over again. And that’s about it to see what the story is.
DS: When you saw read the script adaptation of ‘East of the Mountains,’ I imagine you jumped at the chance to take on this role.
TS: I read the book years ago and also about five years ago, which is a lovely book, by the way; if you haven’t read it has a bunch of Vision poetry in it. It tackles much of life’s greatest questions. If faced with a life-threatening illness at an advanced age, do you subject yourself to radiation or live life? Do you end it all? Does age even factor into a situation like this? It’s a pretty good storyline to follow.
DS: Are you more of a reactionary actor?
TS: A lot of just acting is impulse or instincts in a particular moment. I’ve been blessed to learn from some of the best to do it. I think back to being on set filming M*A*S*H or working with the likes of Redford and realizing that every job in one way, no matter how small, shaped me into the actor I am today.
Photo: Phantom Rock Films