Movie audiences already had a pretty solid inkling that Scott Glenn was a badass, but it took his appearance on Netflix’s first Marvel series “Daredevil” to demonstrate exactly how hardcore a septuagenarian can be.
Appearing in just a single episode of the series based on the blind Marvel Comics superhero, Glenn offered a pitch-perfect incarnation of the mysterious and deadly Stick. In flashbacks, the grizzled blind mentor introduced Matt Murdock to an extreme world of martial arts, honing the boy’s enhanced senses and serving as something a father figure, however apparently reluctant he was in that role.
Best of all, after re-entering Matt’s life just as Hell’s Kitchen was become a war zone in the Kingpin’s power plays, Stick — and Glenn, a dead ringer for creator Frank Miller’s vision of the character — left “Daredevil” viewers wanting more. The character vanished just as quickly as he appeared, but not without foreshadowing his involvement with forces more exotic and ominous than street-level thugs, which longtime comics fans suspect will be the cult of ninja assassins known as The Hand.
With the series already picked up for a second season, and the return of Stick all but guaranteed, CBR News checked in with Glenn, receiving a full accounting of his experiences as the man who molded Matt Murdock into the Man Without Fear.
CBR News: A lot of people have really been buzzing about your performance in particular. What got you excited about the show and the character, Stick?
Scott Glenn: Well, what got me excited about the show and the character, essentially, was the script when they sent it to me. And the demands — I’ve never played blind before in my life. Yeah, I’ve played around with martial arts since I was a kid and sort of continued to work out doing those things, but the idea of doing them both together and then playing such an odd, interesting kind of, I don’t know, not really a father/son, but a mentor/mentee relationship — all of those things just hooked me right away.
In there, you get to layer on that acerbic, not-super-warm quality that’s in the comic book Stick. What was fun about playing those scenes?
What I loved about that, the acerbic, was also inside that kind of really rough — this is a guy who really skips along a moral tightrope — but inside that was a real sense of humor. A lot of the lines, a lot of things I had to say, I just loved. Like putting the dark glasses on after one of the longest — they tell me it’s the longest single fight ever shot on television, between me and Charlie [Cox] at the end of the show — putting the glasses on and saying, “Nice catching up.” It’s just that kind of constant stuff that’s going on with this guy that I loved.
I know from talking to Charlie that he would do as many of the stunts as they would let him. Did you get to actually physically play around together?
Yeah, we did. The stunt coordinator, a guy named Phil Silvera, the first day I got there, I was doing getting ready with props and wardrobe — he came by and he asked me a few questions. He said, “Do you mind if we just fool around a little bit?” And we did. He said, “You know all this stuff, don’t you?” I said, “Well, kind of.” It turns out that, I had trained with a lot of people that he knew, so he just said, “Well, for the long shots, we’ll double you guys.” But he says, “You can do all this stuff yourself.” So I said, “Okay, fine.” So Charlie and I, essentially that last fight took us two days to shoot. All this, no dialogue.
Tell me what you liked about working with Charlie.
Well, it really sounds Pollyanna-ish to say it, but it’s true: he’s such a nice guy and generous and polite and just such a sweet kid. My wife and I, at our first lunch at the studio in Brooklyn, we sat around and talked with him and just instantly liked the guy. The thing that we all understood about him was that the worst thing that we could do was to not take this seriously. I guess that was it. He’s a really, really good actor, and hard working and generous, and it was easy to have that relationship with him.
How much did the look of the character help inform what you wanted to do with him?
Well, the wardrobe — to begin with, we had the illustrations of Stick, the originals. So there’s something almost — I don’t know how to describe it, other than “paramilitary.” That helped inform that character, because Stick is a member of an army, truly — and I don’t want to get into too much of the background because you’ve got to watch the show to see that! People call me up, and they say, “Well, who’s that guy with the back at the end of the show and what’s going on?” And my answer is, “Watch it next season.” But to answer your question specifically, there was kind of a martial arts, military kick to the wardrobe. And one of the things that was great about it was everything that I wore was designed to be able to really move in freely and quickly and do all the physical stuff that was going to be required.
Without giving away anything, did they tell you the whole story, as far as what to expect for Stick?
They said, “Trust us. We’ll be back.” But, yeah. Because I had a lot of questions about things like — at one point, I just said, “How old is Stick?” And they gave me a number that shocked me. And then they sort of told me a little bit the background. But I really don’t want to talk too much about — if you’ve dealt with Marvel at all, you know that security and secrecy is a big deal with those people, and I want to respect that.
What was the experience of working with Marvel Studios like, at this stage of their game?
The interesting takeaway for me, of working with Marvel was, number one, how great they are to work with. Aside from an almost religious connection with security and secrecy, they were so completely helpful. Excuse me, my voice is a little raw. I’m doing an HBO thing here right now. It was just how helpful they were in terms of getting the props I needed, of essentially giving me anything that I needed and really, really generous, sweet people. The other takeaway I came from working with this outfit was what comic book — and I mean this in the best way — nerds, they all are. Whether they were 70 years-old or 17, everybody involved in working on this thing really cares about these stories and wants to get them right.
Where was your level of comic book nerdery coming into the project?
I did dig deep when I got the part. Luckily, we shot in New York, which has got places where you can go and read all of the graphic stories. I knew nothing about Daredevil when I got the part. They said, “Marvel would like you to play the mentor of Daredevil.” When I first heard that, I was kind of pissed off. I thought, “Oh, no. I’m going to play some old guy who sits behind a desk and spouts wisdom.” And then I got the script, and I went, “Holy shit! This stuff is great! This guy is phenomenal.”
I kept anticipating a moment where we would see Stick let his guard down, and we see that he really does care about Matt. And that didn’t happen. Did that excite you, that he stayed tough and mysterious to the end?
Yeah, yes. The trickiness of that part is, there are moments, if you go back and watch it, where you kind of can just barely see a little bit of sunlight through the cracks in the wall. Not quite. When he asks, “Why did I leave him?” I just say, “That’s my business.” But with a story like that, holding your cards to the vest is way more important than letting any of them show, and you kind of let the writing of the piece tell the stories for you. So the real clue about the way that I felt about Charlie is when he finds that paper bracelet at the end of the show, right after our fight, and he understands that I kept it all those years.
It was also really interesting playing someone — I mean, the one line that Daredevil will not cross is taking human life, and that’s essentially all that I do. I’m a blind assassin. My template for that part before I really dug into the story, itself, was a Japanese series called “Zatoichi” which is The Blind Swordsman.
Where does Stick fit in your ranking of the many cool characters that you’ve played throughout your career? Is he a personal favorite?
Right at the top, yeah. I mean what’s great about it is that, just in terms of acting, it’s such an interesting, complex, fun character to play. And then to have the demands also of being blind and physical on top of that, that means both a lot of fun and also a lot of hard work. I was wiped out at the end of every day, which is a great way to be.
Stay tuned to CBR for more on “Daredevil” Season Two.
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