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Richard Dean Anderson - Star/Executive Producer

Richard Dean Anderson

He's the kind of boss everybody would like, 'cause all he wants to do is have fun. If he doesn't kill himself by throwing himself out of a plane first.

Another day's work finished, Stargate SG-1's leading actor and executive producer takes a well deserved rest in his trailer. Relaxed but still very alert, he settles down for a chat before going home to his family.

Anderson is not what you'd call your "archetypal executive producer." Banish ideas of a stern, business-minded type for whom it's all figures and work, work, work... Anderson certainly destroys that myth with an almost instinctive need to joke, laugh, buffoon around and, in turn, encourage everyone around him to do the same. Make no mistake, he's a man who'll not easily suffer fools - let alone be taken as one - but his key philosophy is to make sure everyone's having fun, because that's the best way to get work out of them.

"The only thing I've ever demanded as an actor/producer is a sense of humour," he states. "If there's not a sense of humour in the workplace, people resent having to come to work. Through all the years of MacGyver and everything else that I've done I've tried to infuse as much of my sense of humour as possible. People have to be able to laugh and loosen things up; laughter frees people a little bit and makes it worth coming to work.

"For nine months out of the year, some of these people get up at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning; I get up at 5:30 so I have the luxury of an hour's extra sleep. For them to come here and not be afforded the chance to smile or laugh along the way really seems like drudgery to me, so I try to make sure that people know that I'm serious about what my responsibilities are, but not to carry them out with a heavy hand; allow people, don't make them. Everybody has their input, the best idea wins around here. We're not saving lives, we're not doing brain surgery; we're making a product for people to be entertained by."

And the penalties for introducing discord into the light and levity of the Stargate playroom is excommunication. "We've had one director," he recalls, "who came on board pissing and moaning, complaining and just being very caustic; we haven't seen him since. Forget it. You get one shot with that kind of behavior. Life's too short!"

His work and family life may be taking most of his waking time, but whatever little free time he has left he devotes to practising the sports he enjoys. It's no secret his adolescent dream was to professionally play hockey, but having both his arms broken while playing scuppered those plans. "The first one was just, you know, how everybody breaks and arm. The second was shattered... I was in a hospital for almost three months. In retrospect, that's probably one of the best things that's ever happened to me because I wasn't ultimately that good a player."

His various sporting activities have, however, earned him an ill-deserved reputation. "I've been accused of having a death wish. To me, that's bullshit! I enjoy doing things that excite me. Jumping out of an aeroplane with a parachute may not be as exciting as without, but I draw the limit."

Then there's skiing, not to mention race driving. "I haven't done too much in a while but I still have a great passion for it, I follow Formula One. I love racing and skiing big time! And I still wanna do things like visit Antarctica. I'd love to see it, experience that kind of stuff... I've had my fair share of collisions with the earth and other objects," he laughs, "I broke my nose playing badminton of all things!"

Come again? How did he manage that one?

"Oh, I took a racket across my nose," he casually retorts, like this kind of thing's common occurrence. Not to mention the hockey stick he also took right across the nose bridge... while at the same time working on MacGyver. "I showed up at work and I looked like Karl Malden!" he laughs.

It's a wonder he hasn't been made to sign a contract containing the clause: "I will not skydive, nor race cars... while I'm filming."

I've never signed one of those things," he protests, "and I get one put in front of me every time I sign on to do a project. To me, that's like walking across the street; where do you draw the line?"

But since he's now a producer himself, does he expect his actors to sign such a clause?

"Of course!" he laughs.

Meunier, Isabelle. "Gatecrashing." SFX. August, 2000: p.57.