TONY DOLAN – Life After VENOM: The Russell Crowe Big Screen Jam

By Carl Begai

TonyDolan1At the tail end of 2003 I caught up with vocalist / bassist / actor Tony Dolan, best known in metal circles as the man that replaced original Venom vocalist Cronos for the Prime Evil album in 1989 for a total of three records. An unexpected opportunity presented by a mutual friend affectionately known as The Mad Dutchman, based on the fact that Dolan had snagged a part in the Russell Crowe film Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World. The interview was published in January 2004 on the BW&BK website but it didn’t receive the attention it should have (in my always humble opinion ;-)). During a recent hunt through my archives for some information on another band I stumbled across the Dolan story and figured the world could do with a reminder of who the man is and his career. Particularly since he’ll be making a return in 2010. Following is an excerpt from the original story recapping the events leading to Dolan getting the part of Mr. Lamb in Master And Commander and working with Crowe:

Dolan’s move from the metal stage to the silver screen was more or less accidental. Days were spent working in theatre, the nights devoted to Venom until he decided to leave the band, at which point he signed on for a 15 month world tour with the Royal Shakespeare Company for A Comedy Of Errors. That experience led to working on the Queen tribute theatre production We Will Rock You in London, giving Dolan the best of both worlds. Then, an off-the-cuff audition for a “big Hollywood production” led to further auditions, meetings, and a huge first step into a new line of work (discounting a bit part in Judge Dredd that got hacked to pieces).

“When I auditioned for Master And Commander, I was told it would be a five month shoot in Mexico with 20th Century Fox,” says Dolan, “so right away I knew I didn’t have a fucking chance because it was a Hollywood production that was bound to have some mega-star in it; there’s no way they were going to give it to me. Two weeks after that I got a phone call saying that the director Peter Weir wants to meet me. We met, I did some improvisation on video for him, and I came out thinking I’d made a complete tit of meself. I decided that I’d just keep on with what I’m doing, a bit of music on the side. The day before I was to sign a contract for a 12 month run of We Will Rock You, I got a phone call from my agent saying that I had the job on Master And Commander.”

“At that point I didn’t know who was going to be in the movie and I figured I had nothing more than a walk-on bit part. But no, they wanted me there for the whole five months. I was on the plane flying over and I was told Russell Crowe was the lead, and it was like ‘Yer fuckin’ pullin’ me leg! Fuck me!’ Sure enough, the day after I got there we had a script meeting and out walks Peter Weir with Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind), Billy Boyd (Lord Of The Rings) and Russell Crowe.”

It’s a known fact that Crowe is musically inclined, having started his career as a James Dean wannabe in Australia named Russ LeRoq and has a band called 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts. Dolan admits there was the occasional jam session featuring himself and Crowe.

TonyDolan2“We actually did jam quite a bit. I take a guitar with me everywhere I go, so he found out pretty quick I was a rocker (laughs). He offered to jam with me and a few of the other guys, and he had all kinds of equipment shipped in on a Saturday. I mean fucking everything; amps, drum kit, piano, full P.A., and put it all in our rec room. Russell and a tech guy spent the Sunday plugging everything in, I show up on the Monday and it was like, ‘Oh my God! Heavy metal heaven!’ We eventually had to move the stuff to two trailers set up back to back – we soundproofed ’em ourselves – because people were complaining about the noise (laughs), but me, Russell, Billy Boyd, and Paul Bettany would go down and play whenever we had the chance. Drinking Newcastle Brown Ale and jamming to Thin Lizzy, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, anything. It was fucking great.”

“Russell is a very generous guy,” Dolan adds, “and I’m not saying that lightly. He’s one of the boys, not the high and mighty movie star that’s always making waves like the Hollywood press wants people to believe.”

Dolan admits he didn’t mention anything about his Venom past to the other cast members, simply because he didn’t think it would be a big deal to anyone on set. Turns out he was wrong.

“Yeah, I walked in one day and they had Venom blasting. Everybody was sitting there with big grins on their faces, just staring at me,” laughs Dolan. “One of the crew had gone up to LA and went around to all the record shops and picked up every single album I’d ever been on. From then on they were playing Venom all the time, trying to drive me nuts. They thought it was great, but then people on the lot started complaining. They were shocked to find out it was me…”

Go to this location for the complete story from 2004. Stay tuned for more Dolan news, coming soon.

Check out Dolan’s discography here. His catalogue of work in film, television and theatre can be found here.

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