To get a 100% Critics Review on Rotten Tomatoes is no small potatoes. David Dastmalchian’s 2019 movie Teacher gave him the space to develop and inhabit a character that lead him into what might well be the 2021 blockbuster of next year, Dune. But movies aside, Dastmalchian is promoting his latest venture, Count Crowley, a comic book in which he seems to have brought together his life experiences in a mock horror story that is thrilling his legions of fans.
In the instant that David popped up on my screen, I was presented with an incredible menagerie of comics, film, television, and horror paraphernalia lining the walls of a balcony office in his Los Angeles home. Upon first glance, this room was a shrine to what David Dastmalchian loves most in this world (apart from his wife and two children, of course). The room was essentially a church, but instead of Jesus Christ on the cross, it was a giant poster of Jerri from Count Crowley, the comic book David wrote last year with Dark Horse Comics. One would think that a room with this much character would have been designed as its own entity, and that’s what I thought it was, a room devoted solely to his love of everything fantasy. So I asked him, “What’s going on in your room? This is like a comic book [store] in here. It’s pretty awesome.” His response was a nonchalant. “Oh, yeah. This is my office. I’ve been collecting since I was a little kid, so, I have tons of shit in here.”
To his core, Dastmalchian is a storyteller. Like every good storyteller, David fully immerses himself in narrative, and has, for his entire life. If the scenery of David’s home office tells you anything, it is that there is no doubt that David or “Dave” Dastmalchian is as much a fan as he is a creator, an actor, a writer, and an artist. In fact, it is likely the very reason that he is as successful as he is. I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with the acclaimed screenwriter and feature film actor over Zoom last week, which, despite the natural hangups of remote communication, was a phenomenally positive experience. David and I covered all grounds as we navigated through an amalgam of topics from comic book writing, to mental health awareness, to the “supernatural” talent of Meryl Streep, to being a father, and all the way to the incredulousness of working in Hollywood.
Throughout our conversation, David was genuinely willing to show and discuss his life, even giving me a quick tour of his office at one point. There were a couple of poster-boards filled with his written goals collaged with comic book posters above his desk and, asking what’s on them, David explained to me that an imperative part of his process is writing goals for himself—it’s his method to success. These are his life and creative aspirations intertwined, and in order to be the successful artist, creator, and writer he strives to be, he also needs to be the best husband, father, friend, and sibling. On these goalboards, one of the things David had written is three goals which he has had since he moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and “jumped off the diving board” to pursue a career in the Film and Television industries.
“Goals and writing down goals is a really important part of my process…. I dove off the diving board and I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and my career/life goals were to work with the Muppets, to be a Bond villain, and to work with David Lynch.”
You have surely seen David Dastmalchian in one of the many roles in blockbuster films such as Thomas Schiff in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night, Kurt in the Ant-Man series, or Bob Taylor in Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. Or perhaps you saw him as Pit Boss Warrick in the 2017 Showtime reboot of Twin Peaks directed by none other than David Lynch, which, in having completed one of his all-time goals, Dastmalchian felt, as he put it, “so freaking blessed and fortunate!” David’s track record of working with fantastic directors and actors will only expand with his upcoming role as Polka-Dot Man in the new Suicide Squad, where he is set to star opposite Margot Robbie, John Cena, and Idris Elba, directed by none other than the brilliant James Gunn, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: End Game director. Having worked with some of the most talented actors to date, to David, there is still no one greater than Meryll Streep. When asked who his dream costar would be, David did not think twice before naming the legend as his number one choice (although he did mention his love of Patricia Clarkson, who was on the cover of our November 2018 issue!) Floored by her “supernatural” level of skill and craft, David remarked that “hopefully someday there’s some way he can sneak onto a set that’s she’s on and get to deliver [one line], like, “here’s your iced tea ma’am.” Even that, he said, would probably make him tongue-tied. Me too David, me too.
David may be most well-known for his acting, but he is also a critically acclaimed screenwriter, his 2015 film Animals picking up the Special Jury Prize for Courage in Storytelling at the SXSW 2015 Festival. Speaking specifically to his personal projects like Animals, his film All Creatures Here Below, and his comic book, Count Crowley: The Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter, David and I discussed the importance behind telling stories that unabashedly showcase mental illness and addiction. There is no doubt in my mind that David can find something to relate to in everyone—even in one, brief interaction with him, he was genuinely kind—his bright and optimistic personality made all the more obvious as a result. As he explained to me, his optimism came out of self discovery—a long battle with mental illness and heroin addiction, the worst of this being the three times he attempted to take his own life. David got clean almost 20 years ago now, in 2002. Although he has struggled so immensely, David uses his art not only to heal but to educate, wishing to put people in the shoes of those struggling with mental illness so they can begin to understand the depth of its impact on society as a whole.
“And if I can tell stories that help out people in the driver’s seat of how it feels when you actually believe that the best thing that could happen for the world would be your absence from it …. then maybe, coming together, unifying people around this stuff, we can help people not only survive but thrive.”
Today, Dastmalchian is married to muralist, actress, and writer Evelyn Leigh and is a doting father of two children, whom he loves more than anything (check out his Instagram to see pics!). Although the insanity of the world around us makes it an arduous task, David and Evelyn are focused on raising children who are both kind and independent, despite their own “insanity” (his words, not mine). David’s battle with mental illness may be inspiring, but most of all, it showcases his utter resilience. His family, friends, and people he surrounds himself with are, as he put it, his “battle-ready arsenal” against his feelings of doubt, depression, and anxiety. No matter what, David believes there is a promising future for everyone. An incredibly positive force in the film industry, I am thrilled to see what David Dastmalchian has in store for us next.
“’Cause who’s going to be a great asset to our society at the end of the day. People, whether they’re a storyteller, whether they’re a doctor, whether they’re a police officer, it is somebody who I think has been through a dark forest, and came out the other side with more wisdom, more knowledge, and understand[s] the importance of community and strength in unity, ya know?”
Written by Colleen Haggerty
Photography by Jessica Castro
Location: The Grafton on Sunset, West Hollywood