INTERVIEW: A Short Visit With Hollywood Giant Carel Struycken

The Addams Family has been part of American pop culture since it was first brought to the silver screen in the 1960s, however, the movies released in the 90s revived the kooky family’s popularity and solidified the show’s status in cinematic history. While every member of the fictional family has their quirks, one of he most mysterious and loveable characters is Lurch. The looming butler rarely speaks, but is one of the most prominent characters in the series. Carel Struycken was cast to play Lurch in the 90s movies and did so in a way that made him the embodiment of the character to an entire generation.

Others may recognize Carel from his roles on television as well. He appeared throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation and the reboot of Twin Peaks. Due to his towering height and unique appearance, he has been sought out by a plethora of Hollywood directors and casting agents. We decided to reach out to the icon so that we may give a voice to the man behind the Addams’ introverted butler. It did not take long to see that the actor is just as unique as the legendary roles he has portrayed. Much like Lurch, his love for the arts and humble personality are clearly on display.

It has been almost 30 years since you first appeared as Lurch. What do you remember most about filming The Addams Family movies?

When I came to Hollywood, around ‘74 or ’75, I would walk around on Hollywood Boulevard going to bookstores and stuff like that. People would walk up to me and say that I was Lurch. It was kind of a given that I would be asked to do that sometime in my life, and it was such an amazing cast to work with. It was just such a fantastic experience.

Obviously, Lurch doesn't really vocally express himself very often. He's somewhat of a mysterious character. Can you give a little insight into what you pictured going on in his mind as you were playing him?

Well, he definitely has to deal with a lot of craziness from the family, and that's kind of annoying to him. That's why he's always kind of rolling his eyes or grumbling. Otherwise, I think Lurch has his own interior life.

You've played a part in some amazing franchises over your career. You've had roles in the Star Trek, Star Wars, Men in Black, The Addams Family, and many more series. What has been your favorite franchise to be a part of?

I can never answer that properly, because everyone was special for its own reason. The Addams Family atmosphere was really great. Being able to be in Lurch’s shoes for a while was unique because Lurch is such an iconic figure. It was an honor and be part of Star Trek: The Next Generation because it's such a world unto itself. I’ve met so many interesting people, like engineers who work at the Kennedy Space Center, that got inspired to do what they're doing as kids by watching Star Trek. With Twin Peaks, I was already a huge fan of the show. Each one has its own reason to be special to me.

How do you see yourself in comparison to Lurch?

[Laughs] I don't talk too much, so that's one thing. Also, I sometimes feel that I have to put up with a lot. It seems like it was a natural fit for me.

You originally didn't have the goal of becoming an actor, correct?

No, I went to film school when I was still living in Amsterdam, and then I decided to come to Hollywood. I went to The American Film Institute for a year to get acquainted with what's happening here. I met up with another Dutch director, who had been living here for a while, and we decided to start our own production company. That was really what I was aiming for. But, just living in Hollywood, people would walk up to me in the supermarket and ask me to be in their movie. So yeah, that's how it all started.

You have a very interesting background. You were born in the Netherlands but also grew up in the Caribbean. At 15 years old, you were composing waltzes. What would inspire a 15-year-old to compose a waltz?

Well it's partly because of my competitiveness. I had a few friends that were composing their own music. I also knew that my parents were planning to go back to Holland, and I desperately wanted to take something with me from the islands. That made it even more urgent, so I had to come up with it quickly.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

I don't know. Very often, when I am out somewhere with my family, people want to ask something about me but don't talk directly to me. They walk up to my wife or one of my kids to ask about me as if I can't speak for myself.

I was already close to 6’10 when I was fourteen, and that was especially hard in Curacao. In Holland it wasn’t far from normal, but there it was. So, people reacted to me as if I were some kind of freak. If I would have lived in the U.S. they would have just encouraged me to go and play basketball, but there was not much of a basketball tradition on the island.

Ironically, your appearance is exactly what has made your career in Hollywood.

Right.

I read that you are somewhat tired of playing strong, intimidating roles. What would your ideal role be?

Well, I would still like to do something that's a bit more comedy oriented. Otherwise, I don't know. Most of the time when something comes my way, I do it. I don't mind being a passionate murderer, but sometimes I'm asked to do roles where I torture people. That’s about the only thing that I don’t do.

Speaking of which, you've appeared in several different film adaptations of Stephen King novels. Is there something that draws you to his movies or do you just happen to fall into the roles?

Mike Flanagan is a movie director who Stephen King seems to like. He often casts people that he has already worked with. That's what has happened, and I hope that this will continue. He's a great director, and it's always very nice to be on his set. I always hope there's going to be another one.

Who would you consider to be your favorite filmmaker?

I think my favorite is still David Lynch. He just seems to be from a different planet and I often feel the same way. I thought Blue Velvet was the most amazing movie I'd ever seen up until that point. I love Twin Peaks because it is a completely different take on things that appeal to me.

Speaking of being from a different planet, you played an Arquilian in Men in Black. So, that would make you the first alien that I’ve encountered and the foremost expert on the subject. Name three public figures that you think are aliens.

[Laughs] Oh! I cannot get into that. It's much too volatile at the moment. Let me just say that I can think of a few.

I understand; you aren’t at liberty to say. I appreciate your time and, I look forward to seeing you at Texas Frightmare Weekend!

I'm looking forward to coming to Dallas. It is one of the few towns in the US that I haven't been to yet, and I'm looking forward to my visit!

This week, DFW fans will be able to find Carel Struyken at Texas Frightmare Weekend. The area’s largest horror convention is scheduled May 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport. Click here to purchase tickets and find out more information about Texas Frightmare Weekend.