Casper Van Dien: An interview with Mortal Kombat: Legacy II’s Johnny Cage

Casper Van Dien Johnny Cage

Casper Van Dien is known for playing Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers. With Mortal Kombat: Legacy II premiering this week on September 26th, we’ll get to see him play as the cocky martial arts film actor, Johnny Cage. Casper and Johnny have a lot in common, including having their names tattooed on their bodies (Casper actually has a Casper the ghost tattoo). We get a chance to chat with the man on his new role.

John “Spartan” Nguyen (Nerd Reactor): Hey Casper, how’s it going?

Casper Van Dien: Good, John, how are you doing?

Nerd Reactor: Doing good. Have you played Mortal Kombat before?

Casper Van Dien: I have played the games and I have a 19-year old son, so we play the games together. He came to the set with me every day and would put on the Mortal Kombat song every time we got in the car together. So we would just listen to that. He was so excited to have his dad be Johnny Cage. I think he loved having his dad be Johnny Rico but he loved this season a little bit more.

Nerd Reactor: So if you had to choose between Johnny Rico or Johnny Cage, who would you pick?

Casper Van Dien: Wow, that’s a great question. You know, I don’t know. I’ve been Johnny Rico for so long now, and Johnny Cage is really new to me, but I’m really enjoying being him and having this. The coolest tweet I got this past year was: “F***ing Johnny Rico is f***ing Johnny Cage! F***ing Awesome!” I went “Retweet!” So I’m really enjoying playing him. And I guess it would be harder for me to be Johnny Cage without having been Johnny Rico. So it seems like they go hand in hand together.

Mortal Kombat Legacy 2 - Johnny Cage

Nerd Reactor: So when you’re playing with your son on the game, who is your favorite character to choose?

Casper Van Dien: Well I like being Johnny Cage, and I have played Johnny Cage vs Johnny Cage. So that’s always been fun too – back in the day.

Nerd Reactor: Johnny Cage has a tattoo on his chest, so would you ever consider having your own Casper tattoo on you chest? [laughs]

Casper Van Dien: Well I have a Casper the Friendly Ghost on my left bicep, so I guess Johnny Cage and I are even more alike than I even thought, now that you mention it.

Nerd Reactor: Oh damn, look at that.

Casper Van Dien: So I’ve had that forever, so I guess I might be. When I walked in and met the director, Kevin Tancharoen, I went, “So, um, you want me to be this D-List actor who can’t get a job in Hollywood, huh?” And he goes, “Oh my God, you’re perfect for this role.” And I go, “So what are you trying to say?” I’m having a lot of fun and he was laughing. I’ve had a blast being this character.

Johnny Cage has always been this really cocky SOB and his sense of humor – he’s always been the comic relief. And he is in this project as well, but there’s this one glimmer of hope that he had in one line where he wants to prove his ability. This is his one shot at being legit. I really like that ’cause there is this depth to this character that I think, if he was just cocky and arrogant and vain, I don’t know if he’d be as relatable. I think that there’s a moment where he becomes really relatable to me and I liked that. I liked that search for approval, whether it’s approval from himself or from others. I think we all want that.

Nerd Reactor: Yeah.

Casper Van Dien: There’s more to us, and I think my character. You have to have that.

casper van dien johnny cage mortal kombat

Nerd Reactor: Johnny Cage has been known for getting killed a lot. He was killed off in the video game, the movie and the Mortal Kombat Rebirth trailer. I was wondering when you started the role as Johnny Cage, did you dread that coming in?

Casper Van Dien: No, I actually love what I’m doing on this one. I can’t wait for everybody to see. It was absolutely a thrill to be this guy and I’m so excited about the potential and the possibilities. We will see, but I’m enjoying him right now; I’m enjoying being him.

Nerd Reactor: I noticed that in Legacy 2 that there are some actors who had martial arts training. How was it like going on set with them and if you had training yourself?

Casper Van Dien: Well, I got to train with these people for this, but when I was growing up, I went to military school; we had some martial arts there and did some karate and jiu jitsu. I’ve trained with a couple other people, but I do it mostly to look good in movies because that’s my vanity; to stay fit and in shape. These people who are my co-stars, they’re the most amazing athletes, and they’re the real martial artists. I was in awe of their mastery, fluidity and movement. It’s poetry in motion and I was honored to be around them and to be able to work with them. They were able to work with me because they’re that good. So they make me look a lot better than I could possibly be.

Nerd Reactor: What can we expect from Johnny in Legacy 2?

Casper Van Dien: I get in the girl fight. I’m the only guy in the girl fight. I think that’s hot.

Nerd Reactor: Oh yeah.

Casper Van Dien: So I get to fight girls, and I also get to fight the guys. So I had a blast in this. There’s a moment where he really gets to reflect on himself and really wants to prove himself. So we’ll see.

Nerd Reactor: That’s kind of good news to hear that you’re not just fighting one character.

Casper Van Dien: I’m in a lot more than that.

Nerd Reactor: You’ve done some nerdy movies including Noobz and of course, Starship Troopers. On IMDB, it says you were also in Revenge of the Nerds?

Casper Van Dien: I am not in Revenge of the Nerds. You know, I threw the javelin in military school, I went to military school, but I would’ve had to have been like 9 to have done that at the time, because – it was so funny because I was at a basketball game, I played in the E-League. This guy comes up to me, “So you were in Revenge of the Nerds?”

I go, “No, I was not. I want them to take that off IMDB.”

And the guy goes, “I didn’t think so, because I directed it and I didn’t remember you.”

I was like “Oh my God!”

I tried to get it deleted. They don’t delete it. I don’t know. There were seven different projects on there at one point in time that I was not in and I think they’re all off now, except for Revenge of the Nerds. Somebody put it in and they believe it, but it wasn’t me though.

I’ve been in a lot of nerdy things, and I’m sure I’ll be in a lot more nerdy things. I hope Mortal Kombat is the nerdiest of all of them.

Nerd Reactor: Were you able to do any fatalities?

Casper Van Dien: There are fatalities in this, and I am involved in one. So you will have to watch and see. I think it’s September 26th, so look out.

Nerd Reactor: What’s your favorite fatality in the game?

Casper Van Dien: Well, the skull getting ripped off and the whole spinal cord comes with it, that’s pretty freaking cool. I always think that’s a good fatality.

Nerd Reactor: Yeah, that’s my man, Sub-Zero.

Casper Van Dien: Fantastic. It’s impossible to do in the real world, but in video games, it’s so cool.

Nerd Reactor: So you’re going to be in Sharktopus vs. Mermantula?

Casper Van Dien: Yeah, that’s a comedy. That’s actually a really funny spoof on all of them. So we’ll see how that comes out. I just finished that and I had a blast doing it. It was one of the funniest scripts I read. At first I think they were maybe taking themselves seriously. But I don’t know if it was supposed to be as funny as it is. The one we’re doing now is supposed to be funny so hopefully it is. Director Kevin O’Neill is a pal of mine and I loved working with him, and my wife, Catherine Oxenberg, came and played a character. She was hysterical and I loved it. We shot it down in the Dominican Republic and what a great crew down there, and what a great time.

Nerd Reactor: So Mermantula, is that a mix between a male mermaid and giant tarantula?

Casper Van Dien: Yeah. Kinda like that and a piranha. So a man, a piranha and a tarantula. It’s a wicked cool-looking creature. I think they made a really cool one.

I’m just a drunk sailor in that one. Somebody announced I was a basketball player or something like that, but they got it wrong. There’s another guy that is a baseball player who turns into Mermantula. I’m just the drunken sailor and am drunk the whole time which was cool.

Nerd Reactor: If you can pick one movie genre, what would it be?

Casper Van Dien: Sci-fi. Yeah, I love science fiction and action.

Nerd Reactor: And second?

Casper Van Dien: I love comedy too. I love being the comic relief. Starship Troopers had a dark, sick sense of humor, and I love being the comic relief in Mortal Kombat. So any chance I get to play that, I want to.

Nerd Reactor: What about romance?

Casper Van Dien: I like variety, I like playing in every genre that I can. I love acting. I love being on the set, I love being around people and I love working with people. I love the creativity of it. Whatever it calls for, I want to see what I can do and I want to experience as many different varieties as I can within this business. I like to keep it fresh.

Nerd Reactor: Would you be willing to play Johnny Cage again in the movie?

Casper Van Dien: I would love it. I would love to be Johnny Cage. I love being Johnny Cage and I would love to be Johnny Cage.

Also check out our other interviews with the MK Legacy II cast and crew.

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