When it comes to his acting career, Dan Shor sees himself as a part of a great team, no matter the project. It’s how he has managed to stay in show business for over 30 years in so many different capacities – it’s also how he got his start.
“I love sports and I love team sports,” Shor said. “One year I went to a summer camp and I ended up in a play and I had so much fun and it was a team sport that had girls. I grew up in Manhattan and was in high school plays. Of course when you are in Manhattan, one of the parents in the school was an agent. She said she wanted to represent me and I said, ‘Okay.’ So I had an agent by the time I was 16.”
Growing up, Shor had many people he looked up to in the acting profession, most notably Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard, Harpo Marx and Shor’s biggest influence, Dustin Hoffman.
“Dustin Hoffman is the greatest actor that ever lived,” Shor stated. “Hoffman was able to play anything. He could do debonair. He was a character actor. But he did a new level of naturalism that was incredible. Beyond anything (Marlon) Brando was doing – I think he brought it to another level. Brando is god, but I think Hoffman was able to bring it to another level because he didn’t look superhuman like Brando.”
After briefly attending Northwestern University to study theater, Shor became Danny Martinez, the conga drum player for the Al Martinez Orchestra – an all blonde Cuban band. As luck would have it, Shor’s big break would come that summer.
“I got cast in the first national company of ‘Equus’,” Shor explained. “At that point I knew I was an actor. The whole experience taught me many lessons – and then I went to London.”
While in London, Shor would perform ‘The Sport of My Mad Mad Mother’, a musical about punk rock. It was also in London that Shor would find inspiration for his character when he brought the play back to Los Angeles.
“When I was in London I saw Billy Idol in concert,” Shor said. “This was when he was still with Generation X. It was the greatest rock performance I’d ever seen in my life. I came back to Los Angeles and literally completely imitated Billy Idol. We had a set on a rooftop with a huge billboard and three months later Idol’s video for ‘Dancing With Myself’ came out and the set was an exact replica of ours. It was incredible – the trick is to steal good stuff. I was told that early in my career.”
One of Shor’s earliest projects is the underrated “Studs Lonigan”, a television mini series that he thinks didn’t get the respect it warranted.
“I was young and it meant so much to me,” he explained. “So, I felt it deserved more. I thought it was amazing work. I love it to this day. It’s rare when you make something and don’t like it – you have to find something you love about everything you do.”
Shor’s love for his work would take on a whole new meaning when he teamed with legendary director John Huston for “Wise Blood”.
“John Huston is by the far the greatest director I have ever worked with,” Shor said. “You know he knows more than you from every angle. Huston hires artists and elevates them to his level. His commitment is unquestionable – he gives it his best every single frame, every take. We never did more than three takes on a scene for the entire movie. And that’s what I do as I direct now.”
“Wise Blood” also gave Shor the opportunity to reconnect with “Studs Lonigan” co-star Brad Dourif. “I have a horrible problem,” Shor admitted. “When I meet my heroes, I do not pretend they aren’t my heroes. Brad Dourif was Leonardo DiCaprio in the late ‘70s. I looked up to him and loved his work and to work with him again was just great.”
Working with his heroes often meant Shor was enjoying his career – and recognition came when he worked on “The Blue and The Gray”. “I had the greatest time being around all these people,” Shor explained. “Stacy Keach, Colleen Dewhurst, Lloyd Bridges and Rip Torn were all excellent. We won a People’s Choice Award but I didn’t appreciate it then. I do now, because it showed I existed – I was on the radar.”
If Shor was on the radar, his next project – Michael Laughlin’s “Strange Behavior” –would keep him in everyone’s sights. “It was my first lead role in a movie,” Shor said. “It was after ‘Wise Blood’ and they wanted me to audition for the best friend but I didn’t – I wanted the lead. They were so wonderful. And yes, I still break out the dance moves.”
The following year, Shor would be seen in the groundbreaking “Tron”, a role he appreciates to this day.
“Peter Jurasik and I were doing ‘Sport of my Mad Mad Mother’ and then we both ended up doing ‘Tron’ – I was Ram and he was Crom,” Shor recalled. “We climbed all over the giant black boxes in the warehouse. (Steven) Lisberger was a genius and we let him be a genius. It felt like we were at summer camp doing make believe. We were walking around being superheroes.”
Similar to his “Tron” co-star Cindy Morgan, Shor was hurt he was left out of “Tron: Legacy”, though he was included in the “Tron: The Next Day” short.
“I was disappointed when it came out,” he stated. “I’m in the original film and when you are part of the team you come to realize you exist. I had been out of the business, but I had hoped to come back with ‘Tron: Legacy’. I am still waiting for Tron 3 and I’ll believe it when I see it. I would love to do it and I hope to do it. I was thankful they made ‘The Next Day’, because it was made by true ‘Tron’ fans; and it shows.”
Also seemingly on the same wavelength as Morgan, Shor turned down the chance to take part in the movie “Porky’s”, though he has come to realize that may have been a mistake.
“’Porky’s’ was so stupid in a time where we could make choices,” he said. “It was offensively stupid but when I saw it, it was so funny. ‘Bill & Ted’ is the same. ‘Porky’s’ turned out to be something with a wonderful spirit and I feel silly that I turned it down.”
Shor, however, did not turn down “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, where he played the role of Billy the Kid. “I went in for the audition, as ‘generic cowboy’ and I looked like Billy the Kid,” he described. “I did all the research after I got the part and he was a syphilitic and sociopath who had a lot of twitches and I show up to the first shoot after doing all the research and I have the gun in my hand and I am falling all over and being clumsy and the director asked what I was doing. I told him about what I had researched and he said, ‘No, do what you did in the audition, that was funny!’”
After feeling some burnout from the Hollywood grind, Shor disappeared to the Pacific Islands where he found more than just his next career move.
“I ran away from the world. I went to Saipan and that’s where I met my wife,” he said. “ShodaVision came about during my time over there as well. I was teaching filmmaking to the indigenous population of the island. We were training people to become crew for the Japanese and Korean companies that would come in and shoot commercials on the island. I was hired to teach acting, writing and directing and after a year I didn’t want to leave. I was given the opportunity to direct a documentary about a local artist and I ended up working for the next two years, shooting over 40 videos. And now we are back in New York City and for the past four years have been shooting corporate videos.”
Dan Shor has had trading cards in his likeness, toys for his film characters and a lifetime of great memories working with people he admires – but he isn’t finished. Shor looks to the future with great promise and he loves nothing more than the respect he garners from fans of all ages for his work in the past.
“It is touching that somebody gets how much all of this matters to us as actors. I know how much value I give to everything I do. I give my soul.”