Arenberg Follows Ferengi Profits With 'Pirates'By Michelle
May 29, 2007 - 7:49 PM
Lee Arenberg is currently enjoying success on the big screen in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End as Pintel, but genre fans may remember him from several Star Trek appearances, most notably as the Ferengi DaiMon Bok in two episodes of The Next Generation.
A Hollywood native who went to high school with Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr. and Emilio Estevez, Arenberg was one of the founders of The Actors' Gang. "I grew up in Santa Monica," he explained to StarTrek.com. After acting in a Hebrew school play at age eight, he liked the applause, and "I was struck by that...and wanted to go for it." His first professional job was in a play at the Mark Taper Forum called The Ghetto, but "within a year of starting, I'd done a little of everything" with TV and film roles following.
Arenberg called getting cast in Pirates of the Caribbean "definitely the greatest achievement of my acting career", particularly since the producers had been looking for a British actor but were unable to cast the role in London. To him it feels like a great triumph to transform into that pirate, though "I've never played who I really am in any of my characters...they've never asked me for that."
Because of the casting of Johnny Depp, added Arenberg, "the way he works, the writers will be present" because Depp doesn't only ad lib but demands fresh takes on the lines. "There was an organic thing happening there that I don't know happens on every project," he explained. This "organic way of working" continued for Arenberg each time he had to go to the prop room to pick a weapon or to put on his costume.
"I feel like I proved that I can hang with the best" in Pirates, Arenberg said, though he also feels good about being recognized for his work on Seinfeld and in Tales from the Crypt. Even on a not very successful movie like Dungeons and Dragons, he got to work with Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch for six months in Prague, so it was a satisfying experience.
As for Star Trek, Arenberg carries memories of "how amazing the makeup artists are" even though he felt like he lost three layers of skin on Voyager playing a character who hauled toxic waste for a living. He loved working with Patrick Stewart (Picard) but said that Kate Mulgrew (Janeway) actually had a bigger influence on him, when he was much younger: "She was the one who told me to be a professional actor," he recalled. Mulgrew had seen Arenberg in one of the Actors' Gang shows while he was making a living working at a computer store.
"She told me that I had the chops and I needed to quit my job and just go for it," Arenberg recalled. "She had confidence...and I took it to heart."
A fan of epics, Arenberg would like to work with The Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson and with some of his longtime friends like John Cusack and Tim Robbins. His best loved Star Trek moments, however, belong to Captain Kirk: "Any time Shatner got to wrestle with his shirt off and then kiss some strange alien."
The full video interview is in two parts here.