It’s odd to me that Hook gets such a bad rap. What’s REALLY wrong with it? I honestly bet Hook is more dependable than most parents. No, Elijah we left your Dad behind, but we brought your dog, Shane. If you’re still with me, and I’m only assuming the few of you that own Radio Flyer are, Shane is obviously Hook in this scenario. No matter how many moves your family went though, Shane… or Hook was always a part of the collection. Until he dies anyway, dogs DO die. But, if he's in Neverland and avoids sword fights, can Shane escape death? What about Hook? Can Hook, the film, live forever? These are just a sample of the questions that I had written up for Dante before deciding to take the interview in a totally different direction.
Jessie Hobson: How you doing?
Dante Basco: I’m doin well. How you doing? Everything’s good.
JH: Good, good. Well, full disclosure, man. I watched a handful of your vlogs recently, so... I kinda feel like I know you now.
DB: Very cool.
JH: You’re a pretty personable guy, man.
DB: Ah, thanks man. Ya know, you just kinda… the vlog thing… just hanging out with all these young YouTubers all the sudden. I got… now a YouTube thing going, which is fun. I’m working with Maker Studios, and just kinda cool to keep things going on it in between gigs, and kinda document your life and what not. It’s cool.
JH: Yeah, before we jump into the YouTube stuff, I wanted to touch on Hook a little bit because you’re gonna be in Houston for that, so I kinda wanna get the people a taste a little bit. What was that particular casting process like, for you?
DB: I mean, that… you gotta remember that was like twenty-five years ago.
DB: Ya know, I mean like thirty years, it’s crazy, but I would have to say that’s like one of those things, kinda like, I’ve done, anything else. In a way, it’s kinda ironic, I got cast outta that movie… for that movie. I did one audition, which is crazy.
DB: But the casting people… I was a young actor at the time. I had been acting for five years, ya know. It was just a part of my life, my teenage life at that time. And, the cast person, Jan Christiansen, did my reading of it one time and then I got lucky to meet Steven Spielberg. It’s crazy. I met Steven, I came into his studio. In Universal Studios, he has a backlot, Amblin. His office is Amblin or ya know, Amblin Offices. The rumor was like, he has an arcade in his office. I mean, I wanna do that while I’m in town. I mean, it was just a rumor, but I went back there. There’s an arcade back there, man. Like tons of video games. Like, what the hell? I mean, you’re a kid, this is crazy! I’m out there playing video games for a while and then someone comes in, ya know, tells you and Steven wants to see you now. Go back there, Steven Spielberg is sitting there, and just kinda talks to me for like… ya know, five, ten minutes maybe. Tops, seven minutes and we were just rapping about castings I’ve done. Ya know, who I am and all this kinda stuff and then… I’m like you want me to read or something? And he’s like, no, no… you’re good. No reading, just talking. I was like, oh God, I hope I get this job! I mean, this guys just talking to me for like five minutes, seven minutes. And then I even got offered the job the next day, which was awesome.
JH: But like was there? That’s like so crazy to hear considering how much you actually had to do for the role. There was no…
DB: Yeah, I asked him later on, like what, I never got cast like that. On the set, I was like… how… what the heck was that? And he was like, you know I watched your audition and out of all the kids that we saw, you were the only kid that scared me. I was like, oh… okay… I guess he saw me in the original tape and then he just wanted to meet me.
JH: So, there was never any like sword fighting at all? Nothing like that…
DB: About a month and a half, two months of training before we started filming and then straight up training every day when we’re filming. So, they definitely had me working.
JH: So, you mentioned Spielberg already, but obviously Hook has so much talent. Roberts, Hoffman, Hoskins, Williams... were you intimidated at all or were you just kinda like there…
DB: Oh yeah, I mean, intimidated… yeah, ya know, again, I was fifteen at the time, but I’m a serious actor at that time. I was training, ya know, intensely. I knew who these people were, especially Hoffman… Williams. Yeah, Hoffman was like alienage for me, like, Brando, Dean, De Niro, Pacino, Nicholson, Hoffman… like, why you like why in that lineup. These guys were chasing forever; you know?
DB: So, there was intimidation, but at the same time, I’m just a kid on the set. I would… even my days off I would just kinda go and sit by the camera and watch these guys cause you’re working with Gods. You’re working with Gods. I mean, including Spielberg, right?
DB: Spielberg. You know Hoffman. Williams. You know Hoskins. Maggie Smith. I mean, you’re working with like legends, living legends. And you’re like, let me just sit on the set and kinda see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. It was really cool, ya know. In the midst of it Steven would be telling me about directing and explaining to me lenses and why he’s moving shots a certain way. Hoffman is giving me all these pointers on life, just crazy. By the death scene, he’s literally directing my death scene, validating me as an actor, young artist. Countless moments I spent with Robin just talking about poetry, ya know, it’s an adventure, the whole thing. You’re just there to be a sponge and soak it up, ya know. They’re great mentors.
JH: It’s pretty amazing to hear about the lasting memories considering all of the talent just in one area at one time. It’s like that kind of stuff doesn’t really happen anymore.
DB: Not in the same way, or that situation… for sure.
JH: But speaking of Hoskins, I had read that he bought booze for the extras and talent that was on set, did you… were you able to sneak a beer with Mario?
DB: No! I mean, no… I was too young to be drinking, but he definitely took care of the crew like that. I mean, we all did. Ya know, Robin was, for sure, the kinda guy that put the morale of the crew on his shoulders and every day kept everyone laughing. So did Dustin, and so did Bob. You know when you’re doing a big film like that you’re talking about hundreds of people and its fun. Ya know, we’re obviously making a big movie, but also you’re working fourteen, sixteen hours a day, eight months. It can be crazy. So, the thing about trying to make a movie is trying to get everyone on the same page. So, I do remember how great they were with all the crew, the cast and everybody. It’s amazing.
JH: Yeah, so while you cherish those moments, I mean, people all over the world cherish the film itself. I’ve also heard that Spielberg has admitted that the final project is kinda a disappointment. Which, it’s kinda weird to me considering how many people actually are still in love with this movie. What do you think about that?
DB: Yeah, interesting! I mean, ya know, it’s become this kind of cult classic-y kinda film. It didn’t have the original, ya know, it did well at the box office for any other movie, but not for like a Spielberg film, ya know? But, I talked to the writers recently, the writer J. V. Hart, who wrote the film. He also wrote Dracula for Coppola, and we’re good friends. We talked about it. Of course, adults snatch it up for this nostalgia time. I think there were, he explained to me Spielberg’s side of the thing. I don’t know exactly, ya know, filmmaking is a rough process sometimes, and not everything goes as smoothly as possible. Studios with story you ultimately want to tell, all the cast… I don’t know exactly. Who knows Steven’s end result of it? It’s just interesting filmmaking that way, but at the end of the day, ya know, how people gonna look back at it and have a special feeling for it is pretty cool.
JH: Keeping that in mind, what's it like for you, man, to see like, these people dressed up as you for Halloween and special screenings and comic-cons? That must be like…
DB: Yeah, crazy right?
DB: Like, you know every Halloween I get pictures, on whatever, Facebook or even before that people would send in fan mail of what they dressed up like on Halloween. I’m like that’s crazy and with the boom of comic-cons all over the world… yeah, it’s been like, Rufio’s been like a staple character at a lot of these things. It’s kinda crazy to think like this is one that I can put out like, Peter Pan, the story of Peter Pan has been out for like a hundred years, and this is a part of the psyche of the world, or even America, the world, ya know? And, cut to like, years later, I get pictures of the crews that do that cosplay or at Disney Land or something and there’s like, ya know, Captain Hook person, and a crocodile, and Tinker Bell, and Peter Pan, and Rufio! Like, all of the sudden this Filipino kid is a part of this…
DB: I dunno, universe! This story, this like story that’s always been in our minds before we were even born, and now there’s this like little brown kid that’s a part of the story with three mohawks, like the representation of this kinda new era badass. Neverland! And it’s kinda cool, it’s kinda surreal. It’s also kinda like, wow… that’s crazy, like all of the sudden you’re like part of this fairytale in some way, shape or form. Ya know?
JH: Yeah, it’s definitely helped the fairytale evolve, and grasp a larger audience or time. I always thought it would be ideal for like a, they’ve done prequels… like what was Peter Pan like before obviously, but why is there not a Rise of Rufio type film?
DB: Well, you know we have a script, I dunno, we’ll see. There’s a script, it’s pretty cool.
JH: Well, would you be involved in that? Or would you play like old…
DB: Ya know, if it was a live action, definitely, we’d be cast a newbie on Rufio, which would be be cool. I dunno, we’ve been talking about an animated project for it. If it’s animated I can voice it.
JH: Well, that’d be cool, man.
DB: Yeah, the story’s awesome. The story’s awesome and we’ll see what happens with it.
JH: So, you did a Hook "let's play" recently... and that reminded me that you were in a video game, you were an action figure, hell, you were even a McDonald's toy! Were you just like holy shit? I mean, you were fifteen, how did you handle that?
DB: Yeah, I dunno, ya know? It was kinda strange. Friend of mine was like, I remember at that time was like, wow, you’re a toy! That’s like crazy. You just kinda take things in stride, ya know? I come from a big family, we’re all actors. I didn’t really think about too much, I mean, it’s all kinda… I’ve been working since I was ten, so… obviously I thought it was cool, ya know?
JH: I mean, the real question would be, did it help you with the ladies or…
DB: Oh yeah! Definitely!
JH: Well, that’s all that matters then.
DB: That’s all that matters, right! I think about it, like yeah! I wonder if I was jerk back then, ya know? I hope I wasn’t too bad of a jerk. I might have been a little bit, who knows? I kinda asked a girl I dated at that time, but I definitely, it definitely added to my adventures in life… for sure. It still adds to the adventures today as well as characters. It’s always great to have one of those kinda like marquee little characters in your resume. Like, ya know?
JH: Yeah, well, I mean, how hard is it to move on from that kind of iconic role? Obviously you’ve done a lot of stuff since then, but think about it, that’s pretty much all we’ve talked about so far, how hard is it to go on from that?
DB: Right, yeah, I mean, you know, it’s far enough now back then, like, which is twenty-five years. It’s like a blessing and a curse sometimes. It’s great, gets you in the door at a lot of things, sometimes you lose out on things because they can’t let go… whatever, how they hold you in that light, so you gotta take the good and the bad with it. At the end of the day, ya know, I’ve had a great career. I still work. I’ve been having a great career. Hollywood’s been good to me, it’s continued to be good to me, but at the end of the day it’s like, everyone comes to town to be remembered for something. You know what I’m saying? And, it’s cool to have a character that I really love cause… we all do characters, some of them we love, some that are questionable, and some people get remembered for those… and some people never find a character and then, a character and an actor, sometimes they never match up to where it becomes incredibly memorable. Ya know, so, you just gotta think about it like that sometimes. You gotta keep it, you’re lucky as well.
JH: Speaking of things you won’t be remembered for, I learned from Nostalgia Critic that you were cut from The Wizard…
DB: Oh, The Wizard! Yeah, I was cut from The Wizard. Ya know, Fred Savage was, we were kids, we were friends. I did the first season of The Wonder Years. So, him and Josh, and Danica. I actually, I talk to Danica at lunch every now and then we did The Wizard. I was his best friend in the movie, and then they ended up cutting out all of his best friends part, before they on the travel, the journey, and then we ended up at the final competition with him, but they cut all that out. But, I think my name is still in the credits because I still get residual checks from the movie.
JH: Well, there ya go. I liked The Wizard, but just as much as I liked The Wizard, I also did notice that you were in the credits for Goofy Movie. Do you…
DB: Oh yeah, I’m in The Goofy Movie, yeah. That’s actually the first voiceover gig I ever did.
JH: What voices did you do, or do you remember what you said or anything?
DB: I did this one line, that, I don’t remember to do anything else, but the one line people remember… Yo! Stacey…
DB/JH: Talk to, talk to me, talk to me, baby!
DB: Yeah, that’s it. That’s me!
JH: Dude, I still quote that shit, man!
DB: Yeah, someone made a t-shirt of it which is hilarious.
JH: Dude, I’m gonna bring that to Houston, the VHS or something…
JH: Oh, that makes my day, man. Thank you for that.
JH: I have to ask one more thing, Naked Brown Men…
JH: You guys understand that when I search for that online… I get pretty diverse search…
DB: I’m sure you get all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s a film we wrote and directed and produced, me and my brothers and my boys at that time, we were a rap band. It’s a, we never released it, we couldn’t get it released because it was early in our filmmaking days and we didn’t know what we were doing, we used a bunch of music that we couldn’t get… we couldn’t get rights to, obviously. But, maybe I can, I dunno, talk to people, I still have the movie and, it’s like, maybe we could just put it online as like found footage with no monetization or something like that. I don’t know how that works.
JH: Yeah, there are ways around it, it’s still a pain in the ass because… yeah…
DB: But say you put it online where you can say like, whatever, you can just watch this movie on Vimeo.
JH: Yeah, that would be the best way.
DB: With no… whatever.
JH: I wasn’t sure if it was just a sick joke for people that were hunting it down… or…
DB: It’s actually a cool movie, it’s not perfect by any means… but there’s some cool moments in it and… diverse kinda thing…
JH: Well, I’ll definitely have to keep an eye on that or follow you on Twitter that way at least I won’t have to keep digging through these search results. You have a pretty entertaining online presence, man. I think others should really check out your poetry as well.
DB: Ah, thanks man.
JH: Where would be the best place, your YouTube, what’s your YouTube channel and all that stuff?
DB: Yeah, YouTube is thedantebasco, and it’s a, check out the stuff. I kinda just stay creative on that thing whether it be vlogs or, ya know, little web series we create or poetry, just kinda stay up to date on that. And, people follow my other stuff, my Tumblr, my Twitter and stuff. You know the world has kinda opened up again in a crazy way with Prince Zuko and all that and Avatar and that whole the fan base and the fandom is, so it’s been a fun conversation that we’ve been having online. I’ve been digging it.
JH: Did you have any guidance as far your YouTube channel goes or did you just kinda follow the path that was set before you? Because you have…
DB: No, I have guidance. I work with some young guys. I have a production company in Hawaii called Kinetic Films and we do Asian-American films, create and help create vehicles for Asian-American talent, but also especially YouTube guys. Like Kev Jumba, we did two movies with him. We’re doing a movie right now with AJ Rafael. I’m developing a film with Tim Delaghetto, right now. So, you know, working with these guys… they’re really the ones that got me online. It’s really their generation thing, not my generation thing. And, I was super reluctant like everybody from my generation. And then, through our conversations they’ve really, kinda, got me to see the light. Like, dude you gotta do this. And, I’ve actually been having a lot of fun, and now I’ve kinda become, in a lot of ways, like, the YouTube whisperer for cats from my generation who wanna get started. I go, this is the deal, so I’ve been, you know, I’ve been working with Maker Studios for the last few years, we just did a panel together at South By. And so, just being around the digital world and being someone of my generation that adopted it early. Ya know, I’ve kinda figured out ways to connect the dots, in a way, trying to make it fun for ourselves. And, not to compete with the young kids, because it’s really not what we’re doing, it’s just an extension of our art form that we’re doing in Hollywood, ya know? We all now, we can’t just be actors. We’re kinda like actors, and writers, and producers, and… in order to keep up with your craft, sometimes you get paid for it, sometimes, in between, you’re just developing stuff with friends and staying active and it’s a great time to do that online.
JH: Well, you definitely have a handle on it. Like I said, I really appreciate your poetry, not a lot of people are doing that. You’re definitely someone that’s blessed with that talent. I’m sure you get this all the time, but I would definitely urge you to keep doing that, man. It’s pretty awesome.
DB: Yeah, the poetry thing, it was like this, I started a poetry thing in my living room twenty years ago. And so, it was stories of me, friends, friends of friends and that thing grew. It got crazy. That became, the inspiration became Def Poetry Jam on HBO and on Broadway. And now, and it’s still now, Every Tuesday night, tonight matter of fact, and it’s the largest open mic thing in the country. And that’s DPL, it’s called Da Poetry Lounge, originally Dante’s Poetry Lounge. So, that’s kinda like my…
JH: Your baby?
DB: I don’t know what you’d say?
JH: Your brainchild?
DB: I don’t know if it’s my baby or brainchild, it was mine originally, and then I brought my friends in to help build it up, but it’s kinda like my big artistic gift to Los Angeles. Ya know? In a way, like… it’s part of me and my crew being local legends is us starting Da Poetry Lounge. It’s crazy.
JH: Well, I think that’s, man, where we’re gonna leave it. I don’t wanna give the people too much to the point where they’re not gonna have any questions for you on Friday…
DB: No doubt.
JH: I must say that this has been a blessing. I saw Hook in theaters, man. So this is definitely a dream come true.
DB: Awesome, man. I look forward to seeing you. And, first time in Houston, so I look forward to hanging out in Houston.
JH: Cool man, I’ll buy you a beer.
DB: Hey, I’ll hold you to it.
That’s right, Rufio himself is coming to the Alamo Drafthouse, and he’s bringing his good Lost Boy friend Don’t Ask with him, too! This Friday, July 22, 2016, don’t miss this rare opportunity to brush elbows with both myself and a few of The Lost Boys. There's no excuse to miss this considering they've added a second show, but seats are limited. So, make sure you purchase tickets HERE before they vanish into pixie dust. Let’s say it together… have to fly, have to fight, have to crow, have to drink with Jessie, have to save Jack, HOOK is back! In all seriousness though, aren’t you just a wee bit curious if the oldest Lost Boy (now of drinking age) will toss one back with me? If so, I’ll see you Friday.