Some actors seem to be in absolutely everything, and for almost 30 years Cory Dagg has been just such an actor. He’s worked with many of the biggest names in the industry, played virtually every kind of character imaginable, and has left a trail of phenomenal productions in his wake. His raw talent and vast experience are complemented by an emotive and dynamic physical appearance that allows him to blend into any role. Dagg has a rare and priceless gift — the ability to flawlessly play any role in any genre without ever appearing out of place.
Dagg’s career began – and nearly ended – when he was cast in the 1989 comedy “We’re No Angels,” starring Academy Award winners Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull,” “The Godfather Part II”) and Sean Penn (“Milk,” “Mystic River”). De Niro and Penn play two escaped convicts who impersonate a pair of priests in a bid to cross the border into Canada. With the law hot on their tails, the two are almost in the clear when they encounter a rather ineffective border guard (played by Dagg) whose dream is to become a famous writer.
Few if any actors can say their first big screen role involved a hilarious exchange between themselves and two already-legendary actors like Robert De Niro and Sean Penn. Though Dagg’s scene had audiences in stitches, it was in serious danger of being cut altogether. After 15 hours on set an exhausted Penn and De Niro approached the director, Academy Award winner Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”), and Dagg feared the worst. He found himself faced with a critical decision: say nothing and risk allowing his career-making scene to be cut, or speak up and risk angering De Niro, an acting legend whose intimidating persona is iconic.
“Imagine, if you will, telling Robert De Niro and Sean Penn that they’re making a mistake. But I knew remaining quiet could cost me a huge break. Gathering up my courage, I poked my nose where De Niro made it clear it didn’t belong,” Dagg said, recalling the fear he felt when he took that make-or-break gamble. “Finally, I walked off, certain I would be fired.”
The next morning, he received a foreboding phone call telling him that De Niro wanted to speak with him on set immediately. With a sinking pit in his stomach, Dagg reported in to learn the fate of his career and braced for the worst.
“…But when DeNiro put his arm around my shoulder and told me to get ready for shooting, I knew I’d made the right decision,” he said with an obvious sense of relief. “Two days later, De Niro and Penn approached me on set to say they had seen my scene in dailies the night before, and wanted to say what a great job I had done and that they really liked my work!”
With the recognition of two universally well-known Academy Award-winning actors, Dagg’s career blossomed. Following the success of “We’re No Angels,” he was soon cast in an episode of the iconic sci-fi series “The X-Files.” Starring David Duchovny (“Californication”) and Gillian Anderson (“The Fall”) as the inimitable Agents Mulder and Scully, “The X-Files” was considered a rite of passage for up-and-coming actors in ‘90s; Seth Green (“Austin Powers,” “Robot Chicken”), Lucy Liu (“Kill Bill,” “Charlie’s Angels”) and Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool,” “Van Wilder”) all had guest roles on the series before becoming household names.
Dagg’s role in the series was that of a mysterious bartender with an even more mysterious past in the episode “Travelers.” The episode is critical to the backstory of Agent Fox Mulder and reveals a dark secret involving his father’s work with the State Department.
“Since the episode is partially set in the 1950’s I had the chance to do a bit of period acting, which is really enjoyable for me. I like the challenge that comes with researching a role to make it more accurate, and I can actually get a little obsessive about it,” Dagg said about the role, which soon led to a flurry of interest from casting agents. “At this time I was booking a lot of white collar roles, so it was fun playing the shady guy who takes deals under the table.”
In 2008, Dagg was cast as General Michaelson in the epic four-part miniseries “The Andromeda Strain,” based on the novel by illustrious sci-fi pioneer Michael Crichton. Produced by four-time Academy Award-nominated director Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Gladiator”), the intense doomsday thriller was lauded with praise and nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards, including for Outstanding Miniseries.
The series follows the efforts of scientists and by the military to stop the spread of a deadly and contagious microbe with extraterrestrial origins. Dagg’s character, General Michaelson, is the key military figure tasked with quarantining the infected town and ensuring the containment of the aggressive microorganism.
“I originally auditioned on tape for a smaller role, and sent the tape to the producers in Los Angeles,” said Dagg, recounting how he landed a lead role in a Ridley Scott production. “I got a call from my agent over three weeks later saying the producers and director loved my audition so much they were giving me the much bigger role of General Michaelson, and I ended up being in three of the four episodes! The director said later he was surprised I didn’t have military experience — that’s how convincing he thought I was.”
Cory Dagg, an industry veteran, has proven himself to be a phenomenally talented and multifaceted actor. Where others have fallen into the trap of playing “the bad guy,” “the good guy” or “the funny guy,” Dagg has expertly avoided the pitfall of typecasting. By proving his ability to play a limitless range of characters across every genre, he’s rightfully earned a reputation as an actor who can do it all. Such talent is rare in the industry today, so when an actor like Cory Dagg presents himself, casting agents are quick to take notice.