Starship Troopers actor Casper Van Dien is a proud father-of-five. The Tarzan and the Lost City star is set to light up the big screen as the “bad guy” in the upcoming flick, Fugitive at 17, which was “a difficult role to play” being “a father with four daughters.”
Casper opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about his busy family life and the joys of fatherhood, saying, “My children are my greatest teachers.” He goes on to describe his charity work to help raise awareness about child abuse, and his upcoming projects.
CBS: Tell us about Fugitive at 17 set to air July 6 at 8 p.m. Please tell us about the film and your role.
CVD: “The movie features a young girl played by Marie Avgeropoulos who is a bit of a partier—she goes to a party with one of her friends. That friend dies, and Marie gets blamed for the death even though she wasn’t guilty of anything. The whole time, she tries to prove her innocence and discover who caused the death of her friend. She discovers that it might be me, and she tries to prove that and chase me down and catch me—all while avoiding the cops who are looking for her. That is the gist of the movie.
In regard to my role, I play a college professor who has a dark secret that we discover in the film. I eventually get chased by the female cop for being the bad guy. It was a difficult role to play, as I am a father with four daughters, and my character isn’t the most honorable man when it comes to younger women.
You are trying to look for the light in any role you play, and it was kind of hard to find that in this person. The women in the movie also needed their space to work on their character development, which meant that they needed a bit of a distance from me. It was understandable, but also difficult as well. It was hard being someone who, in my opinion, has such a lack of knowledge on the real essence of a young woman.”
CBS: What was it like working with Marie Avgeropoulos and Christina Cox?
CVD: “Both of them are fantastic actresses—they really get into their characters. It was very amazing to watch Marie. She is extremely talented and has all of the natural instincts and a sense of authenticity that actors have to study to try to obtain. Her instincts and the way she reacted to situations and the characters around her were very natural and amazing to watch. It was exciting to watch a young actress be her character.
Christina Cox is just a pro. Both of them are beautiful women who have a lot of soul depth. I was very impressed with their abilities and talents, and I was humbled and greatly appreciative that I was able to work with them.”
CBS: Tell us about the PSAs you did for Childhelp. What is the organization about? What prompted you to work with them?
CVD: “I have been involved with Childhelp for eight or ten years now, and they asked us to talk about how four children die everyday in the United States from child abuse. They came to me for the Childhelp PSA and said, ‘Casper, we are about to do a PSA and would love to feature your character Johnny Rico.’ I was like, ‘Excuse me? No guys, Childhelp is about helping children and Starship Troopers is rated R. I don’t think that is appropriate.’ They said, ‘The child abuse and neglect that these children face is far worse than the rating of the film.’ I said, ‘True, but the film is still rated R.’ They said, ‘We want to get the passionate fans who are so devoted to your character in Starship Troopers to get behind Starship Troopers and have Johnny Rico introduce something to them that is really horrible.’ When they said it like that, I couldn’t argue with them anymore.
The people who got involved all donated their time and effort for free. We were able to do the Childhelp PSA for them for literally no money—just time and effort. We all edited it together and directed it together. It was a lot of fun and they were all great guys to work with. It was still hard for me to do, as I felt awkward doing it because of the subject matter. It would have been easier to do it as me, but trying to do it as the Johnny Rico character talking child abuse was a little hard. Still, I would do anything for children, anything to help them as much as I possibly can. I have five children, so it is hard to make time and effort for other things. The PSA was a last-minute thing, and we were all able to pull it off. A lot of the responses were a little awkward and weird, but at least we got a lot more awareness about child abuse and neglect, which is a huge positive.”
CBS: You are a father-of-five! How old are your children, and what are they into?
CVD: “I have a 21-year-old daughter named India who is acting, modeling, and doing many other things. My 18 1/2-year-old son is 6 foot 4.5 inches, and his name is Casper Robert Mitchum Van Dien. He went to military college, as he wanted to serve his country. He is amazing. I have a 15 1/2-year-old daughter named Gracie who plays tennis and acts, and I also have a 10 1/2-year-old daughter named Maya, who is in school and loves basketball, football, ballet, and singing. She also wants to act.
I also have an 8 1/2-year-old daughter, Celeste, who has an eight pack and can climb anything and thinks she’s Tarzan. She is also in ballet and is the self-proclaimed ‘shy one.’ She is probably the one that looks the most like me, but I don’t have the eight pack [laughs]. I think she wants to climb everything because I played Tarzan but I don’t want to project that this is the only reason that she does it. She is a little monkey, and they are all little monkeys. I call them my monkeys, and even on my Twitter @CasperVanDien it says: ‘I am the father of five little monkeys.’
CBS: How was your Father’s Day? Did you and your children do anything special?
CVD: “My wife organized a massage for me, and we went shopping for groceries for all of the kids. We also had a leak under the sink, and I had to get under there and take the pipes apart and put them back together and fix it. I spent a good hour and a half doing that, just fixing the plumbing in our house. Then we all hung out a little bit, and my wife and daughters made me a very nice dinner and we all watched a movie together. We had a very lovely day together.”
CBS: What do you enjoy most about fatherhood?
CVD: “My children are my greatest teachers. I have learned more about myself and I’ve got my ego checked more just by listening to my children and the wisdom that they have given me.
Living my life with them has made me a better man, a better father, a better husband, and a better friend. They are constantly teaching me things. They will say, ‘Dad, you don’t call you friends enough…you’re not being a good enough friend.’ Then I will look at how my daughters and wife are able to communicate with their girlfriends and reevaluate how I am not able to call my friends up and let them know how much they mean to me. It makes me realize that my children are right and I can maybe be a better friend. I could call up the amazing guys that are my friends and tell them something that I might not have told them before, possibly because I was trying to be a man or something. I have learned from my children that I could try to express myself a little more to the people I care the most about.”
CBS: Do you have any special fatherhood moments or memories that you would like to share?
CVD: “I have so many special moments with my children. For example, I had a moment with India, who became my daughter when she was seven. I have had full custody of my children for eleven years. India came into my room one day, and at that time the kids were with my ex-wife. My stepdaughter came into the room spinning around, and she asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said I was writing a poem, to which she asked, ‘Are you writing the poem for my mother?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She then stated, ‘You should write one like this…’ I swear, she was so beautiful spinning around and reciting the poem. I had a pen in my hand and she verbally recited the most beautiful poem about my wife. She said, ‘Wonderful like the wind, eyes as green as grass, hair that glitters like gold, and skin as pink as peach.’ She said, ‘Mom hates peaches so that will make her skin crawl’ [laughs]. It was so cute watching this little 7-year-old recite that beautiful poem. I wrote it down in a book and gave it to my wife. It was so beautiful to watch the poetry in motion. That’s what she was, and that’s how all my children are. They are all little poems to me.”
CBS: What do you and your family plan to do this summer?
CVD: “I am going away to shoot a movie up in Canada, and then I have another film that I might shoot in Louisiana and Canada. My family will come for part of that. My family has so many different things set up for the summer. My oldest daughter is on her way to India, my son goes back to college in August for officer training, the other girls have tennis camps, and my wife has all these different projects to do. We’re all over the place, so far. My mom and dad are also coming out to spend a couple weeks with my family while I am up in Canada and while I am back. We will see…different things happen and usually we will have something fun come up.”
CBS: How do you balance family time and your career?
CVD: “I have been acting for 25 years now, so it has always been a part of my life. My daughter Grace was born during Starship Troopers. She was born while I was in the water having my leg repaired for a scene, and as a baby she was also on set for Sleepy Hallow. Johnny Depp held her and told her she was the cutest baby he’d ever seen. She asked me if that was true, and I said, ‘Yes, that was before he had kids.’ Two of my children were also both in Tarzan, on set in Africa—my son was 2 1/2-years-old and was running around in a loincloth. My children went all over the world with me.
I guess I balance family and my career by taking my family with me. We went on a safari during Starship Troopers 3. We went to these tents with lions nearby and elephants…we definitely have a really amazing life together.”
CVD: What is up next for you?
CVD: “Tonight I am going to a screening of The Pact, which is a horror movie out in England right now. It is also on Video On Demand right now. It comes out July 6th in theaters, and I’ve already been getting really great reviews in it, which is really cool! One thing I have learned about reviews is that if you are going to read and believe the good ones, you also have to read and believe the bad ones just as much.
Then I have Starship Troopers: Invasion that comes out later this summer, and I also have a movie called Noobz, which is a comedy where I play that guy from Starship Troopers, and I just finished a movie called Twister Warning and another movie called Assumed Memory, which I shot in Florida with Armand Assante. It was fantastic. I am soon going up to Canada to shoot one right now.
Also, I just got into Twitter! Follow me at @CasperVanDien.”