Skerritt: Classic sci-fi film offer came to him while building 'Ice Castles' in Minnesota


Actor Tom Skerritt says his road to a science fiction movie classic began while filming in a small Minnesota town 40 miles west of Minneapolis.

In a recent interview, Skerritt told me he was in Waverly filming the skating drama "Ice Castles" in 1978 when he first read the script for a Ridley Scott film that would go on to be released in 1979.

"I was working halfway through 'Ice Castles' when I received a script for a movie called 'Alien,'" Skerritt recalled.

Skerritt played the pivotal role of Captain Dallas in "Alien," one of the doomed crew of the spaceship Nostromo. The film introduced a future star, Sigourney Weaver, and spawned three sequels.

In "Ice Castles," Skerritt played Marcus Winston, the widowed father of a champion figure skater, Alexis Winston (Lynn-Holly Johnson), who loses her sight after a tragic accident. Robby Benson also starred in the film as Alexis' boyfriend, Nick Peterson.

While filmed in Waverly, Minn., "Ice Castles" was set in Waverly, Iowa.

Skerritt, who over the years has starred in such films as "M.A.S.H.," "The Dead Zone" and "Contact," and the TV shows "Picket Fences," "Cheers" and "Brothers & Sisters," recalls it was easy getting used to the Minnesota winter while filming in Waverly.

"I grew up in Michigan, so we both know how that is, having both winter and summer, getting both extreme cold and extreme humidity," Skerritt told me. "I live in Seattle now, which is very tempered, and while we have four seasons, they don't come at you the way they do in Minnesota."

Among Skerritt's other films is the action classic "Top Gun," where he stars as Tom Cruise's chief Top Gun instructor, Viper. The film recently played in IMAX 3D will be released on Blu-ray 2D and 3D Tuesday.

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