Best known to tokusatsu fans as Ultraman’s alter ego Jack Shindo in Ultraman: Towards the Future (a.k.a. Ultraman Great), Dore Kraus is an American who began his acting career in Australia and eventually returned to the States where he is now working in the wine business. Having appeared as a special guest at John Rocco Roberto’s Kaiju-Con and G-CON in the late 1990s, Mr. Kraus is no stranger to Western Godzilla fandom. Mr. Kraus answered Brett Homenick’s questions about his experience as the one and only Ultraman in a 2009 interview.
Prior to answering the interview questions, Mr. Kraus described his background before and after his work on Ultraman: Towards the Future.
Dore Kraus: My earliest memories are of the cold and infinitely high mounds of snow I shoveled as a child growing up in Colorado and New York. But then came the infinitely hot desert climate of Arizona. Nothing was perfect until we came to California. My father was a mathematician, electrical engineer, and a part of the defense of the United States. When he came home at night, I asked him what he did at work. He said, I can’t tell you, I have a top-, top-secret clearance! So I never really knew what he did till much later. He actually did part of the designing of the surface of the stealth fighter jet using mathematics just before his retirement.
We moved from city to city until we reached the bucolic town of Santa Ynez in the mountains above Santa Barbara. The town later became famous and newsworthy because of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. I never stayed at one school for long. I was always having to find new friends. I think I made more enemies due to my “racial difference.” I was considered Asian and was fighting every day at school because of it. My mother was called into the principal’s office all the time because of my fighting “problem.” I didn’t resolve the issue until I started training to fight. I “cleaned up” the problem myself eventually, as no one would challenge me anymore!
Many years later in my life, I left for Australia to find the man who taught Bruce Lee: William Cheung. I found him in Melbourne where I became one of nine international private students studying with him every day. One day off from training, I walked into an art studio to see if I could sell this small ancient bronze head I had carried as a lucky charm in my pocket. I met this lady who was working there and eventually started to date her. Later, I found out she was a film director who worked with some of the greatest talents that came out of Australia — actually, many of them today are household names as actors and directors. She gave me the name of an actor’s agent, who eventually got me started working as an actor in Australia.
My first project was a movie with John Savage of The Deer Hunter fame. The director took a liking to me and wanted me in his film, but I had a limited work visa only. So they had to find a unique talent that I had that they could provide Australian Actor’s Equity and the Immigration Department with a reason why they had to hire me instead of another Australian actor. The “excuse” was that they needed an actor with a genuine American accent that could fence (saber, epee, foil) and did martial arts! Well, it worked and I had a very, very small role as the chauffeur of John’s character. I was eventually cut out, but my voice was in the scene! One thing led to another, and I acquired almost every role I auditioned for.
After Ultraman, I was cast as a terrorist in a television series called Embassy. When I was on the set the first day, I found out that one of the leads was Nicholas Hammond who played the eldest boy in The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews. He also played Spider-Man in the ’80s series. Later, they found out that I played Ultraman. So in the middle of filming the director announced that we had two superheroes on the set, Spider-Man and Ultraman!
I eventually made my way to Singapore to film a movie about the ritualistic serial killer Adrian Lim, where I was cast as the lead. I learned many things about the multi-cultural society of Singapore. I was amazed at the ancient temples and modern, multi-level skyscraper buildings standing side to side! I lived in a plush suite in the Pan Pacific Hotel for a year! What a lifestyle. I ate some of my most memorable meals here in Singapore, chili crab, small deep-fried octopus. There was a place called the Newton Fair where there were many vendor booths selling different food. You could eat for an American dollar or two. The booths were always crowded. I noticed one had no line, so I went and bought these meat-stuffed dumplings. When I got back to my film crew, who were mostly Singaporean, they ask me where I got the food. I told them. There was a silence, then laughter. They told me a few years back someone bought some meat there and found a tattoo on it. The police investigated and found out they were using bodies from the morgue! I don’t know if this was true, but I never went back!
I eventually made my way back to the U.S. It was very cold in the winter in Melbourne, much like Chicago. The chilling winds blew relentlessly. I missed California’s climate and lifestyle. I was never fond of the “English” lifestyle. It was a little too “damp” for me. Just as I returned, there was an article in the L.A. Times about Asian actors in the U.S. A well-known casting agent from 20th Century Fox was interviewed because she was casting Rising Sun with Sean Connery. I sent her a letter and received an interview that week. It never worked out for that film, but she asked me to keep in touch with the agency. I then auditioned for the soapy Santa Barbara. I went in once to audition, then a second interview. I thought, Well, it looks good! We never heard back. After two months passed, I found out that the production of this soap opera closed down. I eventually got tired of the auditions and decided to take it easy for a while.
Months became years and eventually I returned to another passion of mine, wine. A few years back, I met a friend in the wine business. We eventually started to talk outside of the usual wine business talk. I found out his sister is one of the biggest casting agents in Hollywood. He had her call me one day to come in for an interview. He said she was excited to cast me in something. Unfortunately, my interest faded, and I never followed up. Well, another avenue of hope? I guess I’ll see if it fits into my plans…
Brett Homenick: How did you become an actor?
DK: My parents told me I was already one from the beginning…
BH: How did you get cast in Ultraman: Towards the Future?
DK: I helped the executive producer lift a large box into the trash bin behind Hendon Studios in Adelaide without even knowing who he was at the time. Actually, this was the finale to the casting process. I went through the typical casting procedures. My agent asked me if I wanted to become a superhero legend; they are casting for Ultraman. My reply was “Who?” or maybe “What?” He said they were looking for an Asian actor. Which only half of me qualified for!
I was flown twice to Sydney first, then to Adelaide. I visited the large “city” model sets and saw many mechanical robots. On my first audition, I was in a three-piece suit which was a little tight. The three producers asked me to do some martial arts. I shot out a crescent kick and split my pants accidentally for the camera! It created such a laugh!
It might have been the closer, as there were well over 200 actors interviewed for the job. A month after my last interview, my agent and I did not hear back from Tsuburaya Corporation. Then in the Sydney newspaper there was an article about a fireman they cast as Ultraman. I told my agent, “Well, at least I tried!” He called back and found out that the fireman was only going to be the guy in the suit! Whew! was my first thought!
BH: How familiar with the character of Ultraman were you when you signed on?
DK: I thought I saw him when I was scuba diving in Hawaii after having a few Primo beers, but I guess it was a flashback from some 2:00 a.m. TV rerun I saw, a vague recollection of silver, red, and a zipper.
BH: What do you remember about the pre-production meetings?
DK: Gia (Carides) rewriting everything, with cockney interjections from Ralph Cotterill every 10 minutes.
BH: When was the series filmed?
DK: October through December, sporadically between night and day.
BH: What was your shooting schedule like?
DK: Sporadically between night and day. Nine different scenes from nine different episodes filmed in one day. Sometimes we filmed (at) 3:00 a.m. and then 8:00 a.m. the next day.
BH: Please talk about the series’ director, Andrew Prowse.
DK: When we first met, he told me his name was Andrew Prowse; I thought he said “Andrew Kraus,” which was my father’s name. I told him enthusiastically, “That’s my father’s name!” He looked at me strangely. What a calm, stoic man he was at the time and probably is today.
BH: Fellow cast member Gia Carides went on to appear in films like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. What do you remember about her?
DK: Rewriting the script and directing the director.
BH: What can you tell us about some of the other actors, such as Ralph Cotterill and Grace Parr?
DK: Sometimes when Ralph was talking to me, I closed my eyes and thought Richard Burton/Anthony Hopkins was speaking to me. He was/is an actor’s actor. It seems he truly lived to act. Grace and I never interacted much, but she had a jovial spirit always.
BH: Do you have any memories of Robert Simper and Steve Apps, the actors inside the Ultraman suit?
DK: Steve Apps was let go early on before I had a chance to meet him. Robert and I only met once or twice. He was cool dude who was game for anything; I guess that’s why he was into stunts. He sort of reminded me of the guy from Sha Na Na, ‘50s-looking.
BH: Did you get to work much with the special effects crew?
DK: Small increments of directions so I wouldn’t get hurt nor would I hurt the special effects! The three guys reminded me of the dudes from X-Files, the brainy ones. Blowing up things, putting them back together.
BH: What other stories from the set do you have that you can share?
DK: In episode 5, there is a scene where I carry Jean (Gia) from a pit. The scene was shot about 2:00 a.m. We were very tired at that point. Although Gia is a petite gal, around five foot, she was coated with a gel. This was used to create an effect of an infection by the Goudis virus. As I carried her from take to take she became heavier and heavier and more and more slippery until finally I believe I drop her on the last take.
BH: What did you think of the series as a whole?
DK: Like any project, there are many contributions from many different people; you cannot determine the whole from the parts. Isn’t that Gestalt! I was excited from the beginning, but as time went on, the infinite problems wore me down and the actual finished product I lost faith in very close to the end. It was that lack of control I had as only the actor that frustrated me. I was merely the puppet for someone else’s vision.
BH: Which would you say was your favorite episode?
DK: It would have to be episode 5. There existed the archetype “good vs. bad” personification in the “Stanley” and “Jack” characters, a powerful and much used theme in many of the greatest scripts/movies. The fight scene was exciting to work through as it was my only release of physical acting which I trained for so many years to perfect.
BH: Do you have a favorite monster from the show?
DK: It would have to be Gia. Joking aside, probably the Goudis; it sort of reminded me of a part of the female anatomy.
BH: Do you have any closing comments?
DK: Although these last few years have been tragic ones (the loss of my parents and a good friend), I wanted to express my sadness for the loss of John Roberto whom I was lucky to have met at G-CON several years back. The kindness and generosity of both he and his wife, Carol, will never be forgotten.
Live your life as it unfolds, do not hold back for a finale. This is it.