Yesterday, we posted an article covering the Dan Gilvezan book signing event in Southern California this past Saturday the 25th. Today, we have the full interview we conducted with Dan at the event. Keep reading to the end to find out where you can hear the audio version of the interview, as well as win an autographed copy of either of Dan’s books, Bumblebee And Me and Drowned In The Grenadine. Enjoy!
Austin Welch: How are you doing today?
Dan Gilvezan: I’m great, thank you. How are you?
AW: Excellent, it’s great to be here with you. I want to first thank you for helping me achieve a couple of “firsts”. You were my first interview ever, back at BotCon 2004.
DG: Well, I hope you’ve improved since then, because, frankly, it was pathetic. (laughter)
AW: I deserve that! And now you’re my first “second-timer” – I really appreciate that.
DG: Happy to be here. I’m glad you were able to come out for this.
AW: How’s the career going these days? It seems like you’re as busy as ever! We hear you several times a day, thanks to Angie’s List. Hopefully you’re getting paid per airing of that commercial.
DG: (laughs) Yeah, it’s doing all right. Angie’s List is doing a lot. I still do voice-overs. I’ve kind of, like, segued out of the on-camera stuff. I still will do it, but I’ve really started writing – it’s been my main thrust now, for the last three, four years. And I’m really enjoying it more, and you know, as you get older, it’s tougher to drive all over the city to auditions, and put yourself on the line every single day, the way an actor has to do. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to do both – write and continue to do some acting.
AW: We know you grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, but what we don’t really know is, what it was like for you growing up? What kind of kid were you? What were some of the formative experiences you had before you came out to LA?
DG: Boy, that’s a good question. Well, I should probably say that I was a big, big Spider-Man fan. When I was, I guess twelve, thirteen, I have vivid memories of riding my sister’s bike – because my bike was broken – I would ride this girl’s bike up to the Rexall Drug Store to pick up the latest edition of Spider-Man.
AW: You had to have it that bad, that you’re willing to put up with being seen on a girl’s bike?
DG: Exactly. Yes. People would be passing me in cars going, “Hey you! You look like a girl!” And I would read them avidly, and boy, I wish I still had them, because we’re talking, like, real early in the run. But I was into all sorts of different comic books. So, it’s interesting how it’s sort of segued into this career.
AW: So you were a bit of a science fiction fan.
DG: Oh, yeah – very much so. In fact, I’m reading some science fiction right now. I’m going back over some of Phillip K. Dick’s stuff.
AW: Interesting, he’s one of the greats. I mean, how many of his works have been turned in to movies, and people aren’t really aware of it?
DG: Exactly. A lot of ‘em.
AW: As you mention in Bumblebee And Me, your name was originally pronounced “jewel-vezan”. Did an ancestor change the name, or was that something you did for professional reasons?
DG: No, that’s something I did. When I came out to Los Angeles, my name was originally spelled Giulvezan, which is pretty difficult, and I found that people were having a big problem trying to pronounce it. I would go to an audition, and they would go, “Dan Guuwoooll…”, and they would start to have a fit, and foam at the mouth, and it was really unpleasant for everyone. So I thought the best thing was to just drop the “u”, and it becomes Gilvezan, very simple, and most people understand it now.
I think, if I had to it to do over again, I’d completely change my name to something like, Dash Riprock, or Tad Thunder. But, I’m stuck with Gilvezan.
AW: What are some of your influences in voice acting? Acting in general?
DG: Dustin Hoffman’s always been a favorite of mine, because he has such range. He went from Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, and his next project was Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. I was young at the time when I saw those, and I was just blown away by this guy’s range, and continue to be.
As far as animation, I watched all the cartoons as a kid. I knew who Daws Butler was, and I knew who Mel Blanc was. It was quite a thrill, I got to work with quite a few people…
AW: …Don Messick, some of these guys who were around long before you were with them, and were still going strong at that point.
DG: Absolutely. It was a real thrill to be working with them. I worked with a lot of people that I had seen in the movies, and stuff. It was really kinda cool.
AW: We’ve got to talk about your books – you’ve got two books out now. You’re a full-fledge author now!
DG: I am. I think, with two books, I can call myself an author now.
AW: We absolutely LOVE Drowned In the Grenadine. When I first interviewed you in 2004, there was talk of you writing a novel at the time. Is this the novel that it evolved into?
DG: Yeah, you know, I started this a long time ago. What happened was, the actors went on strike a few years back, and I had a lot of time on my hands. So, I thought, you know, I’ve got this idea for this book, it’s about an actor, and it’s based on a lot of the experiences I’ve had out here. It’s not autobiographical in any sense of the word, but a lot of the stuff that happens to Nathan in the book, happened to me. So I sat, and started to fiddle with it, and play with it, and then put it away for a long time, and then brought it out again, and fiddled with it. And finally, just a year or so ago, I took it out, and thought, “You know, this is pretty good – I gotta finish this thing up.” So I finally finished it. The process has been, like, eight or ten years long, but most of the time, it’s been sitting on my hard drive. But it’s off my hard drive now, and it’s on Amazon, so I’m glad to know that.
AW: The book is a perfect mix of drama, comedy, and, I would say, genuine sweetness. For example, the flashback scene involving Nathan and his father in the basement – which gave the book its title – is very poignant. Was there a conscious effort to strike a balance with the comedy, the drama…?
DG: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I worked on that scene in particular for weeks, getting it just right. I didn’t want it to be too maudlin, I didn’t want it to be too flip. I wanted it somewhere in the middle. I wanted it to be sincere, but I didn’t want people to be going, “Oh, please – don’t be yankin’ my chain.” So that scene in particular, yes, I spent a lot of time on.
I spent a lot of time on most of the stuff. My writing technique is different from most people’s. Stephen King tells you to just go ahead and zip through it as fast as you can, and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I will sit with a page for days, and make sure that those few paragraphs are perfect, before I move on, that’s just sort of how I do it.
AW: Percentage-wise, how much would you say is based on your personal experiences, or things that you saw that happened to others, or that are completely fictional?
DG: Probably…seventy…two…point five percent.
AW: That’s very specific. (laughter)
DG: Well, you know, I wanted to get specific with this. Probably around 70% is based on stuff that I witnessed, and thirty percent is completely made up.
AW: I have to admit, as I read the book, I pictured your face for Nathan – and your voice. If Grenadine were to be optioned as a film, and you have complete creative control – would you take the role of Nathan? If not, what other role would you take?
DG: No, because I’m too old now. Nathan’s forty-seven. I think Brad Pitt would be the perfect choice. (laughter) Or Tom Cruise. Somebody magnetically handsome. You know, similar to me, basically.
DG: (mock indignity) What do you mean, “Alrighty”? “Yes sir!”, you say.
AW: “Absolutely! Salute!”
DG: THAT’s what I want to hear. Thank you very much.
AW: Let’s move on to Bumblebee And Me. Thank you so much for writing this book. This is the kind of thing the fans have been waiting for, for a long time. Fans, if you haven’t picked this up yet, what’s your problem?!? Go to Amazon right now, it’s only $6.95, and there’s an audio version that’s even more affordable. And guess who reads it? This man here.
DG: Wouldn’t you know it? Nepotism, once again.
AW: And we gotta mention, it has cover art by our good friend Rosemary Ward, so we gotta throw her a “how-do-you-do”.
DG: Yes, a beautiful caricature of yours truly driving a yellow Volkswagen.
AW: We can only imagine the impetus for this venture, at least in part, was to answer all of the questions definitively, once and for all, that you’ve been asked a million times over the years. Is that a fair assessment?
DG: Yeah, that’s really the genesis of it. When I sat down to figure out what my next project was going to be, I thought about the conventions I’ve attended. From BotCon, we went to Auto Assembly in England, we went to Toronto for TFCon. So we’ve done a lot of conventions. The questions are different, but always sort of the same sorts of things people want to know. And I thought, what about the people who can’t get to the conventions, who don’t have the money to be able to travel to the conventions? Why don’t I write a book, and put down everything that I can basically remember about my experience doing The Transformers, and hopefully, along the way, answer a lot of these questions. And that’s what I did.
The book is purposely short. It’s not long, because I didn’t want to fill it with a bunch of filler. The book is only about eighty pages long, and some of that is episode guide, but people have been really satisfied, with what they’ve gotten out of it, because it really is packed with information.
AW: And what I love about it is – you know, I’m one of these guys that basically knew most of this information already – but it seemed like, once you sat down to write it, you were able to go into a lot more detail, and maybe remembered things in greater detail, once the memory started flowing.
DG: Yeah. Plus, you didn’t know some of those things, because I was the only one who knew some of those things. Especially the sexy things!
AW: Oh, no, not everything! If I can ask about your co-stars, you mention in the book that, if anybody has a problem with what you wrote, go write your own book!
DG: No, I believe it’s, “Go write your own DAMN book!”
AW: I was trying to keep it clean, we’re in a kid’s toy store here.
DG: Oh! That’s right.
AW: I’ve interviewed, at this point, probably ten of your colleagues, and I’ve always had the impression that it’s one, big, happy family, and on that note…
DG: Don’t foment discord!
AW: …has there been any differences among the cast that may have caused you to put that in the book. Maybe people remember things differently?
DG: You mean things that happened then?
AW: For the most part.
DG: No, and I really thought very hard about it. It was a real dream cast. Everybody got along great, everybody was there for one purpose, and that was to do a kick-ass show. And we all respected each other’s talent. So no, it was like a party.
AW: It sure seems like that from all accounts.
DG: It was like a party where you actually had to do some work on the side.
AW: There are so many great moments in Bumblebee And Me, both joyous and heartbreaking. From the rush you experienced the time you walked into a Toys R Us for the first time, to purchase a Bumblebee toy, to the letdown you felt when Chris Latta informed you that The Transformers was done – the book really takes the fan on a rollercoaster ride. Did it feel like that at the time?
DG: Yeah, absolutely. You have to understand, at the time, this was a real heavy time for toy-based animation, which I talk about in the book.
AW: It was an explosion!
DG: It was a huge explosion. After G.I. Joe and Transformers made such a big hit, every toy company in America, and some in Europe, wanted to have their own sixty-five episode animated series, so we were doing a lot of shows. There’s one section in the book where I talk about just a few of the shows that were on, and it’s like a paragraph long, just of names of shows, and the toys. What was the question, I forgot?
AW: Did it feel like a rollercoaster? I mean, you guys were zipping from one studio to the other, across town.
DG: Yes, exactly, it was. It was a real roller coaster ride. The sad part is, when we pulled into the station at the end, there was no hoopla. It just sort of ended.
AW: That’s so sad for me. You talk about not having a wrap party.
DG: Yeah, there was no wrap party. It was just like, “Well, we’re done. Thanks a lot.” You really had a feeling that you wanted to be with these people one last time, and give ‘em hugs, and tell ‘em what fun we had working together. We’ve seen each other, of course, since then, and we’ve done all of that. But there was no party. And I love a good party, don’t you?
AW: I’m going to cry now.
DG: Oh, no!
AW: All right, let’s wrap it up here. It seems like it’s time for a second novel, or perhaps a good, general Dan Gilvezan autobiography. How about you?
DG: Well…I don’t know how interesting an autobiography would be. I am working on another novel. I’m at the very, very beginning of plotting it now. It’s going to be another Hollywood-based novel. It should be a lot of fun. I won’t say too much about it, because I’m at the very beginning of it, and it could take some time. But yes, I’m on to another project.
AW: All right – we can’t wait! In closing, we’d really like to thank you for your time here today, Dan, and again, thank you for writing Bumblebee And Me. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with quite a few of your colleagues, as I said, and it never ceases to amaze me how genuinely appreciative you guys are of the fans, and appreciative of the fact that Transformers was not “just another gig”, that it was really indeed something special. We fans always knew that, but to have you guys kind of cement that for us is great.
DG: Yeah. Well, as I say in the book, it was one of many shows we worked on at the time, and none of us could have predicted it would have these kinds of legs. But I’m constantly amazed and gratified at the response of the fans. They’ve been great. Every time I’ve met fans, they’ve been nothing but complimentary. Transformers fans are the best fans on Earth.
AW: Of course. Thanks so much, Dan.
DG: Happy to be here, Austin, thank you, and – buy a book, would ya?
Thanks again to Dan, his lovely wife Joselle, and the staff at Big Kid Collectible Toy Mall and Retro Store for their hospitality. The audio version of this interview will be a part of a future podcast, and we’ll be giving away autographed copies of both Bumblebee And Me and Drowned In The Grenadine, so stay tuned!