Q&A: Actor, UNT alumnus Peter Weller on college days

Q&A: Actor, UNT alumnus Peter Weller on college days

Q&A: Actor, UNT alumnus Peter Weller on college days
February 10
23:41 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

In 1970, actor Peter Weller was a student at UNT, earning a bachelor’s degree in theater. He would go on to appear in more than 50 films and television series, such as “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” (1984), “Sons of Anarchy” and recently, last year’s “Star Trek Into Darkness.” His most iconic role is, of course, 1987’s classic “RoboCop,” which is getting reboot treatment as an adaptation opens on Wednesday.

This past weekend, Weller attended Dallas Comic-Con’s Sci-Fi Expo at the Irving Convention Center to sign autographs and take pictures with excited fans.

At the event, the North Texas Daily had the opportunity to speak with Weller about his college days, the Cultural Revolution, the spots he used to hang around in Denton and what he has been up to since he walked across the Mean Green stage.

What was UNT like in the ‘60s?

Peter Weller: “School was exciting then. It was the ‘60s— a cultural revolution. There was a major cultural revolution going on— a war, a whole lot of dispopularity. There were violent arms of this revolution— the Weather Underground – I never ran into them, but they were a steadfast anti-establishment group – the SDS, Black Panthers, African Student Union were all prevalent on a campus then. There just wasn’t a sense of partying, but a sense of really raising Cain and anger.

North Texas was extraordinarily exciting because of its music department. I was in its music department, playing trumpet. At the time, music was on the cutting edge of every art form. It was a step ahead of plays, theatre, movies, books, poetry, painting— it was ahead of everything. Every two months there was a new album coming out— Miles Davis, Coltrane, you name it. But to be in a music school like North Texas was exciting. It was really exciting times.

Denton was a dry county with 20-something thousand kids, during a cultural revolution. Kids were going to Dallas to load up on whatever they could find and come back to take the top of that town off. Denton came apart on weekends. It wasn’t only a place of scholastic and academic education; it was a place of social education.

I’m sure there were more exciting places to be like Berkley or Columbia, but North Texas wasn’t too far behind. It was a rambunctious and remarkable place to be. I loved it. I loved being there and going to school there. North Texas is where I became a human being.”

peter 1

When you lived in Denton, what were some of the places you used to hangout at?

Weller: “I can’t tell you that [Laughs] because they were illegal. From 1967 to 1970, there was no place to hang out in Denton, unless you were hanging on the other side of the law in a way.”

If you could go back and teach a course at UNT, what do you think you would teach?

Weller: “I teach right now actually. I taught at Syracuse University and I’m going to teach at UCLA. I’m finishing a Ph.D. at UCLA right now. I have a masters in art history, Italian Renaissance, which I got at Syracuse University in Florence, Italy. I’m finishing my dissertation right now, and then I’ll file and get a Ph.D.

A class that I taught at Syracuse was Directing Actors for Film. I pitched it to UCLA and they’re going to do that. A class that I really want to teach is a history of film class, an aesthetic or classics class posing as a film class called Hollywood and the Roman Empire. You take the beginning of antiquity— the Trojan War and end with the fall of the Roman Empire.

You study literature from all around like Homer every week and then you watch a movie about how Hollywood treated it. But a lot of the time Hollywood treats it pretty well, with movies like ‘Ulysses,’ Brad Pitt in ‘Troy,’ Marlon Brando in ‘Julius Caesar,’ ‘Cleopatra,’ ‘Ben Hur,’ ‘The Last Temptation of Christ,’ Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Spartacus’ and you end with Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator.’ So you’re watching antiquity fold and die. Every week you’re reading along and then you’ll write a paper over how Hollywood treated it.”

More on Weller

Weller is directing episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s new television series, “The Strain,” on FX. He will also be visiting UNT in the months of March and April, as he is being honored for his outstanding achievements, service and support at both the second annual Emerald Eagle Honors and the 2014 UNT Alumni Awards. Information and tickets for the UNT events can be found on unt.edu.

Feature Photo: Peter Weller dons the robotic armor in 1987’s “RoboCop.” Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures Corporation.
Center Photo: UNT Alumnus Peter Weller sporting his Mean Green hat at Dallas Comic-Con’s Sci-Fi Expo. Photo courtesy of Denver Christiansen.

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