Domenic Purcell – Does anyone remember that name?

                 June 2007   By Philip Berk

Domenic Purcell’s life has changed drastically since I conducted this interview. He is no longer married to the mother of his four children, Prison Break which made him a household name ended its successful run in 2009, but dallying with women half his age including AnnaLynne McCord of 90210 makes him a hot item still. 

His current movie coming out on DVD is Killer Elite where he’s in elite company  with Robert DeNiro, Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Aiden Quinn. 

Q: Your name sounds faintly Greek. 

A: Well, a little back story might explain it. My real name is Haakon Mybeitt. It’s an Norwegian name. My mother and father separated when I was seven, and she remarried.  I assumed my stepfather’s surname. But on my birth certificate my name is Dominic Haakon Mybeitt.

Q: But you’re an Aussie with an American accent. 

A:  I was born in Great Britain, but moved to Australia when I was two. Surfed all my life, spent a lot of  time surfing and hanging out and being your typical Aussie guy.

Q: And the accent? Listening to you you don’t have a trace of an Australian accent. How did you manage that?

A: That was a 24/7 commitment for a year. When I got here I’m one of these actors that I feel uncomfortable going in speaking in my native tongue because the casting people here want to hear you’re American, and if you tell them that you’re Australian  but you can do a great American accent, they’re still going to say, ‘I can hear it,’ and it gets in the way of judgment, and sometimes they get scared. ‘No, no, no, you can’t.’ They don’t want to show you to the director because your accent sucks or something like that,  so I just got to the point where I was tired of having that kind of stupid anxiety about going into a room and wondering, should I speak Australian? Should I speak American? So I just decided to speak American all the time. A good friend of mine Anthony LaPaglia who’s also Australian, he arrived here when he was twenty-one and decided to speak American all the time and he told me this changed his life professionally, it enabled him to relax, and it did the same for me.

Q: When did you first get the acting bug?

A:  I was doing landscape gardening when I finished school and I was kind of tired of just digging holes, and kind of realized that I wasn’t  going to go too far doing that. I always had an interest in performance, I never performed while I was at school but I was drawn to it. I loved cinema, I loved TV, as any kid does. I was watching Platoon just enjoying what those guys were doing in that film. But it wasn’t like. ‘Hey, I want to be an actor.’ It was just those guys looked like they were having fun, and then it kind of dawned on me that it was acting that I was attracted to; so I started just ringing a local drama school and things kind of went from there. Certain teachers kind of took me under their wing and said, ‘You know, you may achieve something if you just keep at it,’ and I auditioned for drama school and was accepted and so I spent three years training to be a classically trained actor.

Q: That must have been something of a culture shock?

A: Yeah, that first year at drama school was very difficult. I  wasn’t familiar with the arts of the acting world. I was uncultured. I grew up hanging out with plumbers, brickies, electricians; that was my crowd, and to be surrounded by actors and poets, it was kind of freaky and I nearly got kicked out the first year because they wanted me to wear tights in movement class and I refused to wear tights. 

Q: Any particular reason?

A: Because I got skinny legs and and my crotch is really small (he jokes.) I can just see that comment. That’s a headline, isn’t it? But then in the second year I started to grow as an actor. I mean, I was pretty fucking terrible, but I was starting to get some clues on it, and then in the second year I quit. I didn’t want to be an actor anymore. The teachers at school were shocked and they said, ‘Look, we don’t usually do this but in your case we’ll let you defer and see if you want to come back,’ and I went off that year and surfed and just hung out and – and by the end of that sabbatical I kind of realized that there was nothing much else I could do to earn money, and good money, because I wanted a house and that kind of stuff. So I did my final year and I graduated and the first thing I ever did was a cigarette commercial for the Philippines — the Marlboro Man,  I was still young and wasn’t terribly interested in doing fine work. It was all about partying and getting to nice locations and whatever.

Q: How invaluable was that theatre training? 

A: I think theatre instilled a discipline in me and an acting technique. I did theater for a long time, and it enabled me to rely on technique and discipline, which is so valuable now; it also gave me the ability to communicate in a broader sense of the word.

Q: You are the eldest of five boys. How did that prepare you for life?

A: Well, again, you know, I grew up in a very masculine kind of culture. Australia is a very old Wild West kind of place and it’s the rite of passage down there. If you want to be tough, you got to surf, you got to play football, you got to do all these kind of things. All my brothers were like that. If you had a disagreement you could forget about sitting around with a cup of tea and discussing the problem. It was dealt with with fists, that’s the way it was. 

Q: You did quite a lot of Australian TV before coming to the States?

A: Soon after that commerciaI I got a TV show called Raw FM. It was critically well received but it didn’t really hit with the masses and then I did a lot of American stuff. I did (the TV movie) Moby Dick with Gregory Peck and Patrick Stewart. My goal always was to work in America, that’s why I focused  on the American productions that came to Australia. I was determined at some point to come to the States and forge a career here.

Q: Not an easy prospect so how did that happen?

A: I was doing Mission Impossible 2 at the time, and my wife applied for a Green Card in the lottery, and six months later there was this letter in the mailbox from the American Consulate addressed to me. I thought it was a joke. I opened it and there was basically a letter saying congratulations, you’ve been accepted for permanent residency in the U.S.  So we moved to the States in 2000. I spent six months doing the handshake, the meet and greet, the auditions. At first I found it kind of confronting, difficult, a culture shock, but after a while I started to settle into my own skin and things kind of worked from there. I started getting a lot of good buzz as they call it from within the casting community, and then I was cast in a couple of films and from there we went back to Oz because we had a second child. I worked consistently that year doing a few films and things and came back to the States. and I was cast in John Doe right off the plane. Actually I  got two pilots at once, and I had to choose which one I wanted to do and John Doe was the one. 

(The show lasted one season but led to his getting Prison break)

Q: You attended drama school with Hugh Jackman. Are you still in touch?

A: Hugh and I are really good friends. Really close friends. We hang out a lot when we’re in town – we trained together for three years. He graduated a year before me and  went on to good things. 

Q: Are you part of the Hollywood Australian Mafia?

A: I get asked that a lot. I certainly have friends who are well known Australian actors in Hollywood, like Eric Bana and all those guys. They’re family guys too, the wives get together and the kids get together and we have barbecues and beers and that kind of stuff.

Q: What do you miss most about Australia?

A: The people, the sense of humor, we get each other. But I’m becoming more aware of the American psyche because I’m just here all the time. It’s becoming a lot less confronting. But I also miss the seafood — food back there is amazing — the climate and just the way of life. But I get get that here too. I  know a lot of people especially actors bag on L.A., but I love L.A. It’s a big town – it’s sunny every day of the year, you can surf, it’s warm, there’s not a whole lot that I don’t like about L.A. I haven’t really seen too much of America other than New York. I love New York. I am about to go to Louisiana. I’m looking forward to that. I mean, I love both countries. I’m a big fan of America, and a big fan of Australia.

Q: Growing up who was your inspiration?

A: Well, my first experience of cinema was,  it’s funny, it was Mad Max. My nan took me when I was I don’t know ten. That was one of the first films I ever remember. I am not sure if Mel had some any effect on me then, but certainly in Gallipoli I was really kind of blown away by his ability. For me he’s still a great actor; so he was one of the first guys that I looked up to, and you can say he’s like big daddy of the whole thing. Now you have Russell who’s the best male actor in the world at the moment along with Daniel Day-Lewis, and all these kind of guys. You got Hopkins, you’ve got Peter O’Toole…