One by one and one for all, the four fresh fellows in Disney’s new remake of “The Three Musketeers"--Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt and Chris O’Donnell--sit down for their only interview en masse since wrapping the film. You might think they had been typecast by director Steven Herek--Sutherland as the cynical Athos; Sheen as the wise Aramis; Platt as the surprising ladies’ man Porthos and O’Donnell as the wide-eyed D’Artagnan--and you’d be right.
But the action-adventure film, which co-stars Rebecca DeMornay and Tim Curry, features the requisite swashbuckling, fencing and womanizing of the legendary Musketeers, recast as a sort of medieval “Young Guns.” In this version, however, art tended to imitate life. The camaraderie that developed during the 16-week shoot--entirely on location in Austria at the 9th-Century Liechtenstein Castle and 12th-Century Kreuzenstein Castle--spilled over from the rambunctious film, which opens Nov. 12.
“There were a lot of stories about Charlie and me laying a burning trail from Vienna to Cornwall,” begins Sutherland from behind dark Ray-Bans, trying to quell rumors of aerobic wenching and carrying on. “But the fact is we worked 14 hours a day. It’s physically impossible even to take credit for what they say we did.”
But Sheen doesn’t exactly back him up: “That burning trail is still burning as we speak.”
Sheen clenches a cigarette in one hand and gesticulates with it as if he were George Burns impersonating Sammy Davis Jr. While Platt wears the unlikely combination of gray cardigan and mustard pants, Sheen is dressed to the nines: blue suit, fancy tie, wing tips. At 28 he is not the oldest (Platt is 30), but he is clearly the most world-weary about Hollywood. Like Sutherland, he comes from an acting family and has a famous father.
“Coming from that kind of life has an advantage and a disadvantage,” he says. “You’re not the kid from Iowa who comes to Hollywood with loose change in his pocket and stars in his eyes who’s set forth into the pit of flames, the valley of the wolves.”
The valley of the wolves? Jacqueline Susann must be spinning in her grave.
Sheen, continuing: “Going on location with the old man (Martin Sheen) and seeing the toll that it took on him and the joy, both sides . . . it’s like losing your virginity.”
Because of that experience, Sheen played big brother to the less experienced actors on the set.
“It’s funny,” he says to O’Donnell, 23, a student at Boston College. “That first lunch we had, I said (sycophants) are gonna be comin’ out of the woodwork, there’ll be a lot of free meals, good tickets to ballgames and all that. It sounds good and that part of it is good, but. . . .”
“Nothing’s free,” Sutherland interrupts.
“Nothing’s free,” repeats Sheen triumphantly.
With so much Hollywood experience under his belt, including “Platoon,” “Wall Street” and “Hot Shots,” what kind of film does Sheen like doing best?
“Snuff,” he deadpans.
“What the hell is that?” says O’Donnell, wide-eyed. “I thought you said snuff.”
Everyone repeats the word unanimously: “Snuff.”
O’Donnell, still not getting it, tries: “Oh, like That’senough, " running the words together. Pauses, confused. “Snuff?”
All: “When people die for real on camera.”
O’Donnell, from Winnetka, Ill., where apparently there are no snuff movie houses, gapes.
Sutherland is pleased by the naivete. “That’s brilliant. I think you’re going to save this planet. I really do.” Then, an admission: “ I’ve never seen a snuff film.”
“Don’t play dumb,” Platt gibes Sheen and Sutherland. “You guys started in snuff films.”
None of the actors was required to die in “The Three Musketeers,” but each had to become proficient with a sword and a horse. The former was accomplished at a pre-production training camp in Burbank, which they call Musketeer Bootcamp. The latter, however, was a problem for Sheen, who is emphatically not the equestrian in the group.
O’Donnell: “The first time I met Charlie was at Musketeer Bootcamp. I pulled up in a rental car and saw Charlie riding a horse. He was wearing a baseball hat, smoking a cigar, had sunglasses on and was saying to the horse, ‘Howya doin’, dude?’ ”
Sutherland: “The horses came from Andalusia and they weren’t the best film horses because they are purebred. Once they learned ‘Action!’ meant they had to go to work, they didn’t want to.”
Sheen: “They got nervous one day when bombs were going off at the castle. Mine just didn’t want to go. I said, ‘Kiefer, switch horses with me.’ ”
Sutherland: “It didn’t make a difference.”
Sheen: “The horse said ---- you.”
Sutherland: “It tapped it out with his feet.”
In fact, solely because of the horses, Sheen does not relish the idea of a sequel. “Not unless we’re spending the whole movie walking between castles and villages. . . .”
But shooting in a beautiful part of Europe can’t have been all painful, can it?
“We had a good time,” Sheen admits, sounding just a touch defensive. “It would be criminal not to have. As far as I’m concerned, you give them 12 or 14 hours a day, the rest of the time is yours. As long as you show up and don’t forget your lines. . . .”
But not all the new Musketeers are playboys of the Western world. Platt and his wife are expecting a child, and he is undoubtedly the most mature-minded of the four. As elder statesman in the film, he gets to demonstrate to young O’Donnell the fine art of romancing a damsel. “I am happy to say he chose my methods, primitive though they were, over Aramis’ (more flowery approach). It’s all about attitude and style.”
Sutherland wields attitude of a different sort a minute later when he refuses to brandish a large kitchen knife in lieu of a sword for a photographer.
“I know that’s what you want me to do,” he scowls, “but that’s not what I’m going to do.” A few minutes later he sweeps out of the room, followed by Platt and O’Donnell. Sheen hangs behind for a bit.
Is he hoping “Musketeers"--which seems a sure-fire crowd-pleaser--will boost his sagging box-office presence (witness “Hot Shots Part Deux”)?
“After a few (flops) you start to wonder,” he says. “But even if this one hits it won’t be as personally satisfying--I want to come out in a ‘Crying Game’ or ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ something that’s about acting.”
When “Part Deux” came out last summer, much was made of his muscular physique and less of his acting. But there won’t be a Charlie Sheen fitness video anytime soon.
“I run into guys in restaurants and bars who grab my arm and say with some disappointment, ‘What happened?’ I say: ‘I got injured, man. Been in the hospital. Gimme a break.’
“But,” he says of his moment with muscles, “at least I’ve got mine on film.”