James Badge Dale has always been one of those promising character actors who you knew to keep an eye on; he starred as a squirrely everyman caught in a vast conspiracy in AMC's short-lived series "Rubicon," and anchored the very best scene in Robert Zemeckis's "Flight" (he was the cancer patient in the staircase). But this summer he not only flirts with superstardom, he takes superstardom out to a five-course meal and brings it back to his place.

In successive months, James Badge Dale stars in three of the summer's biggest, most talked-about blockbusters. You can currently see him as a gum-chewing bad guy in the excellent "Iron Man 3"; next month he battles hordes of flesh-eating zombies in the highly anticipated "World War Z," and in July he stars alongside Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in Disney's mega-budget "The Lone Ranger."

We got to speak with the actor about what it was like being in these projects and how comfortable he is with the title "The King of Summer." Take that Will Smith!

First off, congratulations. Did you ever think you would be starring in three of the hottest movies of the summer season? I did not plan it this way. Let me be very clear about that.

But it must be a thrill for you? It's great. I had a great time doing all three films. All three films are very different. And to have them all open up in one summer a month apart, I've never experienced anything like this before. It's thrilling.

Let me first talk about "Iron Man 3." Were you a fan of the comic book before you signed on? Let me tell you about my childhood, about my level of geekdom -- I got beat up by the kids who used to read comics. I was definitely down the geek ladder. I wasn't cool enough to read the comic books. My cousin is actually a massive comic book fan and she walked me through the Marvel universe. She was my technical advisor of the film. She gave me all the info on the characters and the world. And I brought her to the premiere.

That's a good trade-off. You know, you don't work for free.

Did you reference anything specific from the comic book? No. They kind of gave me free reign to do what I wanted to do. And Savin seemed to be a combination of the old template of the Coldblood character and another character in the 'Extremis' arc. The great thing about Shane Black and especially Downey -- you get on set with Downey and they are very much about the creative process as it's happening then and there. And they like to play. You're not boxed in by anything.

I've seen about 20 minutes of "Lone Ranger" and it looks pretty amazing. What brought you to that project? They said I could grow a moustache and I was like "I'm on board, yeah. Let's do it." No I'm kidding. To me, it was Gore Verbinski. There's not many guys out there like him. He makes big movies that are very good. The story works, it was a great script, and we had a lot of fun on it. And I'd never done a western before. That was the great thing about "Iron Man 3," that was the great thing about "World War Z" -- I've never done a zombie movie before, I've never done a comic book film before. This was all new. And as an actor you want to do things that are new and exciting.

I was going to ask you about some of the amazing directors you've worked with -- Martin Scorsese, Steve McQueen, Joe Carnahan, Robert Zemeckis -- do you sort of watch them and pick up things from each of them? I'm a watcher, I am. When I did "The Departed" in '05, I was very young. And I didn't really know how to conduct myself on set. But what I did was watch Matt Damon watch Martin Scorsese. Damon studied Scorsese and talked to him about film every chance he got. Because sometimes you just have one moment with these directors... You should talk to them and watch them work and soak it in, because it can only help you as an actor and understand your place in the whole film process. So I try to steal a page from Damon's playbook and watch and study the different methods.

Damon wants to direct soon. Is that something you want to try, too? I'm still trying to figure out this acting thing. Talk to me in 10 years.

What can you tell us about "World War Z?" "World War Z" -- that's a big movie in scope and size. It's based on this book by Max Brooks, which I think is a brilliant book, but the idea of the zombie epic becoming a worldwide plague. You think of it in terms of disease. I think the brilliance of the movie is what happens with society and economy and government and the way that these things break down. If you had a worldwide economic collapse, what would the results of those be? In a strange way it's very realistic.

The kind of ongoing creative process of "World War Z" has been highly publicized. Were you brought back for those reshoots? No. As in the book, it's almost like a series of vignettes. So the part that I'm in is isolated and it wasn't touched.

Have you seen it yet? Yeah I have seen it. It's pretty cool. I saw it at 11 o'clock in the morning. I've never seen a zombie movie at 11 a.m. Let me put it this way: it changed the way I dealt with the rest of the day.

So it maintains its intensity even though it's PG-13? I know that's what everybody's worried about with a zombie film. But people were jumping out of their seats at the screening I was at -- at 11 in the morning.

That's when you know it's good. Yeah. When people are screaming at 11 a.m., it's good.

So can we start calling James Badge Dale "The King of Summer" from now on? [Laughs] You know how many people in my neighborhood would just rip me apart for that one?

I'm going to take that as a yes. [Laughs] Thank you.
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Iron Man 3
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