Interview with James Mapes Star of The Wicker Tree

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Two young Christians Beth, a gospel singer, and Steve, her cowboy boyfriend, leave Texas to preach door-to-door in Scotland . When, after initial abuse, they are welcomed with joy and elation to Tressock, the border fiefdom of Sir Lachlan Morrison, they assume their hosts simply want to hear more about Jesus. How innocent and wrong they are.
Photo Credit: James Mapes
March 27th, 2012

For my latest interview I got to talk to veteran actor, writer, and stage hypnotist James Mapes. James and I discuss his latest role as Reverend Moriarty alongside Christopher Lee in The Wicker Tree, and his many talents off screen.

1. Hey James, it looks like you are getting ready for the DVD release of The Wicker Tree on April 24th. You play Reverend Moriarty alongside Christopher Lee in the Robin Hardy directed film. Can you tell us a little bit about the movie and your role as Reverend Moriarty and what is was like to work with an actor like Christopher Lee?

- The role of Reverend Moriarty was a very big challenge. I hired one of the most famous dialect coaches in the world – Tim Monick – to teach me an Eastern Texas dialect and the great actor Anthony Hopkins gave me some very good coaching advice which served me well. I channeled the enthusiasm of the actor Burt Lancaster for the role. I saw The Reverend Moriarty as an animated Elmer Gantry.

Although I met Christopher Lee, I did not have any scenes with him.

2. This is a very dark movie that revolves around religion. Was there any scene in the movie that you found particularly moving? Also, did you get to travel to Scotland for any of your scenes?

- Oddly enough, the scene that moved me the most was cut out of the end of the film. It was a realization of what had happened to my two young acolytes I sent to Scotland to change the Pagan ways of the local people. I can’t say any more about that without a spoiler alert. Fortunately, the ending scene will be put back in with the director’s cut and that will give me the great advantage of both opening and closing the film.

I was the only American in The Wicker Tree so, yes, I did have to travel to Scotland. It was a glorious ten days when Robin and the producer, Peter Snell, put us up at a castle. Robin brought in a tap dance expert to teach me tap dancing and the composer spent hours teaching me the mandolin and the guitar.

3. In 1973 Robin Hardy directed The Wicker Man. Is The Wicker Tree a sequel to this movie and how are the two stories connected?

- Robin considers The Wicker Tree as the second film in a trilogy. Since it takes place in the present, I don’t think it can really be considered a sequel. However, the Sir Lachlan Morrison’s (actor Graham McTavish) childhood memory of Christopher Lee does subtly connect the two films. Robin Hardy is a brilliant student of religion and paganism. Both The Wicker Man and The Wicker Tree have similar plots incorporating renewal by sacrificing.

4. I see that you will be doing the lead villain in Robin Hardy’s next film. Can you tell us a little about that and why you and Robin work so well together?

- Robin saw my one-man stage hypnosis show 22 years ago and was blown away. He immediately cast me in one film (Bull Dance) and wrote another one for me (Trespass). Unfortunately, in a tragic turn of events he lost his financing. It was a huge disappointment for us both. We have stayed in touch over the years. With this performance, his enthusiasm to use me as an actor was renewed. So, if the fates are in line, I will be doing the lead villain in The Wrath of the Gods.

5. Throughout your acting career you have been in movies like Do You Wanna Know a Secret?, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Taxi Driver. What has influenced you over the years and which role has been your favorite?

- Quite frankly, I have always wanted to be an actor. Although for years I did stage and soaps, being a film actor has always been my passion. It is far more difficult but my mission now is to be introduced to as many writer/directors as possible. Everything is about building relationships.

Meeting and being friends with the actor Anthony Hopkins has had a profound effect on me but, perhaps, not in the way you may think. His exuberance for live, his boundless energy and his passion for living and creating has got me in touch with my own passion for film acting. Plus, now I have no fear whatsoever about not being good enough.

6. When you aren’t acting you are a writer and an award winning stage hypnotist. Can you tell us a little bit about your book Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner's Guide to the Mind and what provoked you to write it?

- I’ve been interested in the power of the mind since I was a child. I saw my first stage hypnotist in 1970 when I was acting with The New Orleans Repertory Theater. That did it. When I returned to New York, I studied hypnosis and between auditions, I would work with clients to help them eliminate negative habits and change self-destructive behavior. I continued and continue to learn and grow, created a stage show that I have performed on Broadway, speak to businesses on the imagination and leadership and -keep learning.

In 1982, I decided I would craft my ideas for businesses and Quantum Leap Thinking™ was born. It took me almost 14 years to write the book. Now, after nine years, I have finished my next book, The Elephant and the Rider: Living an Exceptional Life.

7. You have done 1500 performances of your stage hypnosis show Journey Into the Imagination. What does this show entail and are you still doing it?

- The show uses total audience participation. The structure of the almost two hour experience is a space journey from blast off to touchdown. Within that structure of the show I demonstrate everything possible with hypnosis including present and past-life regression. While it is extremely entertaining, I subtly teach about the mind. Every demonstration has a lesson. People either get it or they don’t but everyone always has a good time.

And, I did a show one week ago. I have cut down the number of shows because I am moving on to new projects.

8. Besides the DVD release of The Wicker Tree, what else can our readers look for from you in the future?

- My new book, The Elephant and the Rider: Living an Exceptional Life. A new CD called Patient Pre-Op/Post-Op Healing Therapy™. And, my wife and I are writing a film script in which I will do the lead. It’s a thriller.

I write a monthly syndicated column for several newspapers and send them out to my mailing list. Every article has lessons and tools to help others. People can sign up for this free once a month mailing on my website, www.jamesmapes.com. I’m also on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.

Interview by Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews 3/27/12