Star Zoe McLellan says there's no sex, but lots of violence -- and even an offscreen tussle or two

By Liane Bonin
Updated December 08, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: McLellan: Steve Granitz/Retna

Nerds everywhere will be celebrating Christmas early this year now that the film version of the role playing game ”Dungeons & Dragons” has hit theaters. Or at least that’s what actress Zoe (rhymes with ”so”) McLellan, who plays the haughty wizard in training Marina, is hoping. The 26 year old Seattle native, whose résumé includes bit parts in ”Inventing the Abbotts” and ”Mr. Holland’s Opus” and guest spots on ”Star Trek: Voyager” and ”Sliders,” takes her first step into the major leagues by acting opposite Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, and Justin Whalin. sat down with McLellan to talk about her magic powers, zealous ”D&D” fans, and why it’s unwise to hit an Oscar winner.

Admit it. You were never geeky enough to play Dungeons & Dragons, were you?
I don’t think anyone in the cast was familiar with the game, honestly. But I did an interview with D&D magazine, and the writer said he would send me the game and a little manual, so now I’ll have to try it out.

Were you intimidated by Jeremy Irons? He is an Oscar winner [for 1990’s ”Reversal of Fortune”], after all.
Oh, I have a fun Jeremy Irons story. The day I met him, we had to do a scene where I hit him with a staff and he’s supposed to block me and push me back. There was a joke on the set that I had a habit of hitting people for real because I had knocked over this 300 pound Czech guy, so the director warned him, ”Watch out for Zoe; she’s been known to hit people.”

Oh no — you didn’t.
On the second take, I did. I hit him right in the head. I said, ”Sorry, Jeremy, I didn’t mean to hit you, oops.” But then, on the next take, I don’t even know what happened. He pushed me back, and all I know is I went into a backwards dive and everyone on the set ran over to me thinking I had broken every bone in my body. I brushed myself off and was okay, but I didn’t speak to Jeremy after that. And I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but I didn’t feel the need to give him a big hug and wish him well.

This movie is said to have more special effects than ”Star Wars.” How was it acting opposite a little blue dot?
The toughest was the scene where I was being held hostage in a cell, and Damodar [Bruce Payne] interrogates me using these tentacles that come out of his ears, then caress my face, my neck, my back, and then enter my ears and suck information out of my brain. And I had to react to this as if it was the most painful experience I’d ever had without seeing a thing. The director said I should just go for it, so I imagined the most horrible things ever and, surprisingly, it became a really emotional experience.

Do you think the movie is going to lure all of the thirtysomething nerds who played the game as kids in the ’80s to camp out at movie theaters?
The strange thing is, I’ve got a lot of friends who have older brothers, and these guys are all flipping out, saying they’re going to be in line the night before to buy tickets. We’re talking 35 year old men.

When D&D was at its peak, some people accused the game of inciting kids to commit evil acts. Do you think the movie will face the same accusations?
I hope not. First of all, the message is that all people are equal. Because my character starts out as this upper class girl who ends up down on her knees getting kicked around, she learns we’re all equal ultimately. But kids under 13 shouldn’t go. It’s a little much for them, and it’s rated PG-13 because it is really violent. The fights are really nasty, and there’s lots of close ups. People die. It’s big and it’s scary. But otherwise, there’s no cussing, no sex.

Damon Wayans’ character, Snails, is a smart alecky thief. How much of a pain in the butt was he on the set? Be honest.
He was always teasing me, just non- stop. Pulling on my hair and pushing me around, he was always joking, or just making up stories to make me blush. It was definitely like being in grade school, which was great fun. But I did get feisty with him and Justin when they were teasing me one time, and they said, ”You really are turning into Marina,” because I got to the point where I just said, ”Shut up! Stop it!”

So far you’ve played an insecure crew member on ”Star Trek: Voyager,” a villain on ”Sliders,” and a slightly screwy detective on ”Diagnosis: Murder.” Are you attracting some interesting fans?
I’ve received a few weird letters. I got one that was written in crayon, so I don’t know if the person writing it was trying to be clever or was just a 5 year old. But what I love is when I get letters telling me my acting was so real when I’m playing an alien. How would they know?

Dungeons & Dragons

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 105 minutes
  • Courtney Solomon