Michael Vartan courtesy Dimension Films
He's one of the nicest guys in Hollywood and it's been biting him on the butt. But now, Alias alum Michael Vartan is getting his grit on in the ferociously entertaining Rogue as a travel writer terrorized by a monster crocodile while stranded with an Australian tour group. And trust me, this one is sharper than your average when-animals-attack flick. - Damian Holbrook

TVGuide.com: Based on the DVD's cover, with the giant crocodile jaws, you think we're looking at another Anaconda. But this has a very Hitchcockian feel to it.
Michael Vartan: Yeah, that's Greg Mclean, the director, who's such an interesting guy, such a talented, fun guy to work with. You know, something as simple as the fact that my character and Radha Mitchell [playing river tour guide Kate Ryan] never make out seconds before impending doom- which happens in every Hollywood horror film- we're about to be eaten by a 15-foot crocodile and you still have time to make out? What is wrong with you?

TVGuide.com: I know. Or you make some sort of last-second soliloquy.
Vartan: Exactly! [ Laughs] So it's a very different kind of movie and I'm kind of sad that they didn't sort of give it a chance, to distribute it a little bit more widely and with more publicity. But hey, those things are completely out of my control.

TVGuide.com: Now, I hear that it did pretty well in Australia.
Vartan: It did. Obviously, their market is much smaller than ours and whenever you have an Australian director and an almost all-Australian cast do a big movie, you're gonna get people into the seats. Most of the people who have seen it have enjoyed it. That's the only thing that's sad for methere are so many bad movies out there that get wider release, why not give this one a chance?

TVGuide.com: Never once do you feel like the crocodile is too much. There is a scene in the cave, where you only see its backvery creepy.
Vartan: Very creepy. I think Greg made a conscious decision, a la Jaws, to keep the creature hidden for as long as possible, so our imaginations would do the work. And the effects guys did a tremendous job with the CGI croc. The scariest thing is to hear that there are actually animals that size.

TVGuide.com: I couldn't believe that, when Radha's character mentions that they can get up to 25-feet long.
Vartan: Yeah. Obviously, it's very rare and they are rogue, so they're increasingly hard to findbut good God.

TVGuide.com: How long were you down in Australia filming?
Vartan: We shot for four months.

TVGuide.com: Wow!
Vartan: Yeah, it was a long shoot. There were three very distinct sections. The first was in the Northern Territory and that was a tough shoot because we were about 300 miles from anything civilized and the temperatures were in excess of 115 degrees everyday, 98 percent humidity, and there were real saltwater crocs everywhere, spiders the size of footballsall kinds of things that could do a lot of harm. [ Laughs] And all we had was a little first aid kid, so we made sure to watch each other's back.

TVGuide.com: What about the night stuff? Because most of the film takes place after dark.
Vartan: We moved to the southwest, to this little town called Warburton, which is really cool. And that's where we did all the night shoots, on this man-made lake. That was the wildest stretch of filming I've ever done. You never really get used to a night schedule no matter how long you're on it, and we did that for about five weeks.

TVGuide.com: Oh my god.
Vartan: [ Laughs] Exactly! It was insane. I wouldn't say we were going crazy, but people were definitely getting squirrelly by the fifth week. And it was coldwe were in the water and it was freezing. They had all these eels swimming around and we knew they had a few tiger snakes in the area. When you feel something brush up against you in the dark, my tactile response isn't defined enough to determine whether it's a snake or something else. There were some funny panic moments.

TVGuide.com: I'd be having none of that. Whatever happened to filming on a set?!
Vartan: The whole final sequence was shot on a soundstage in Melbourne. That was quite an amazing feat of set decorating.

TVGuide.com: And that was basically you acting against nothing, right?
Vartan: Yeah. They gave me a tennis ball on a stick [as a stand-in for the CGI croc]. Sometimes they'd draw a little smiley face on it.

TVGuide.com: Is this the first time you've ever worked with serious effects like this?
Vartan: Definitely. On Alias, we'd have scenes where we had to jump out of airplanes and things like that

TVGuide.com: And you had the zombies
Vartan: Right. [ Laughs] There was green screen and stuff, but this is for sure the most extensive CGI experience I've had. And I don't know if it's easier or harder. It's definitely different and it takes time to get used to. You know those actors that tell you 'oh the fourth wall, I never notice the cameras'? If that's true, then God bless ya, because I don't know how to do that. I know exactly where the boom operator is, the D.P., I know where everyone is. It's very hard to block that out.

TVGuide.com: You're surrounded by like 50 people!
Vartan: Exactly! So this was sort of liberating for me because I didn't have to wait for anybody get their lines right or hit their cue.

TVGuide.com: The tennis ball didn't pull attitude?
Vartan: [ Laughs] It's a very docile tennis ball.

TVGuide.com: You say on the extras that you wanted to work with the director after seeing his Wolf Creek.
Vartan: Yes.

TVGuide.com: That movie is so wrong.
Vartan: I know, isn't it? I'll tell you...I was gonna say my career, or my lack thereof, has been centered around these very soft, vanilla good-guy characters. And there is nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't be on the phone with you if I hadn't played those roles. But I have always wanted to do something darker and edgy, but I just don't seem to get those jobs. The funny thing is, the way my agents presented Rogue to was by saying 'how would you like to go to the Outback for four months and do a giant crocodile movie?' And I said I would rather have needles in my eyes! But they said read the script and go see his movie Wolf Creek. And I agree with you. Hands down, one of the most disturbing, scariest, realest films I had ever seen. It freaked me out to such an extent that I thought 'I want to work with this guy!' He may have been a completely twisted lunatic or he might be this incredibly hardcore, cool, talented young director. And that's what appealed to me.

TVGuide.com: So it didn't take much convincing?
Vartan: I got on the phone with Greg and we had a nice hour-and-a-half talk and he said it was gonna be really hard, I wouldn't have a trailer, it would a million degrees and there would be snakes everywhere. So I said 'let's do it!'

TVGuide.com: Your next gig, Demoted, is a little cushier, no?
Vartan: Yes...I'm looking forward to air-conditioned hotel in Detroit and nice sets and having a good time.

TVGuide.com: Tell me about this one.
Vartan: It's a full-blown comedy. The script is one of the funniest things I have ever read and I was shocked when I got the offer. No one ever offers me that kind of stuff. It's about these two hot-shot tire salesman in the Midwest who treat their coworkers like crap and think they're God's gift to the world. Lo and behold, the boss gets fired and their archenemy gets promoted, but he hates us so much that, instead of firing us, he demotes us to the role of secretaries. So we now have to hang around all of these people we treated so horribly. It'll probably get an R ratingthe comedy comes out of the dialogue. It's nice to go to work and not spend half the day in the dark parts of your mind.

TVGuide.com: And of course, you are still a part of that J.J. Abrams world.
Vartan: Hey, I text him about once every six months so he doesn't completely forget about me. [ Laughs]

TVGuide.com: You should keep that tie. I think that guy's gonna be huge.
Vartan: I know. He's done all right so far. [ Laughs] He's relatively talented.

Buy Rogue on Amazon.com