There are few decisions more daunting than leaving the comfort zone of stability, or the status quo. One can fabricate a reason to remain with ease; being genuinely anchored by a promising future can even make such a thing feel lucrative. Should this life mean settling for anything less than the dream you chase, some choose the risk. With a promising career ahead of him as a voice actor in Croatia, Michael Reed uprooted his life and relocated to Dublin at the age of twenty-nine. In the pursuit of the live-action dream, taking the risk was without question.
In Varaždīn, Croatia in 1987, Reed was the son of actors Bozidar Smiljanic and Mirjana Sinozic. Bozidar Simljanic achieved some Hollywood recognition in the 80's due to his striking resemblance to Sean Connory, and had a working friendship with Jackie Chan, appearing in the likes of Armour of God (1986) and Armour of God 2: Operation Condor (1991).
It was, however, in 1997 that he appeared in The Peacemaker. “He’s in a film with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. He played the guy that gets shot in the first ninety seconds,” Reed chuckles as he describes growing up watching his father appear in Hollywood films.
Reed’s mother is also a well-respected actor for the theatre, and she has also enjoyed some silver-screen credits in the likes of Diana (2013) starring Naomi Watts. “My mother was both my best and my worst critic. When I told them I was also going to pursue acting, she simply said "Why on Earth would you want to do that?" I did it anyway, of course. If I could choose again… I would do law school,” Reed says cheerfully, acknowledging his mother’s words of wisdom and his own willingness to gamble.
It all comes down to his acting hero. When asked if it was indoctrinated into him to pursue a life of acting because of his family’s influence, Reed responds: “Actually, no, I would say my main influence is Michael Keaton, especially in the 1989 Batman.” He laughs again, “I know how it sounds, but it’s actually the reason I chose Michael as my stage name: Reed was because of Oliver Reed. My father very much resembles him as an actor. I thought it would be good to relate it somewhat back to my family.”
Michael Reed was previously known in Croatia as Mitja Smiljanic, graduating from the Zagreb Academy of Dramatic Arts. Being inducted into acting on stage, he gained notoriety, starring on stage with his mother and directed by his father in work that was well received. Their iteration of The Conductor by Dora Delbianco received the award for best amateur play in 2005, just before his attendance to the academy.
However over time, Reed’s dissatisfaction with the work grew. He had come to regret the choice to become an actor. It was this stage in his life when he developed his knowledge of filmmaking further by starting to write. Reed’s debut behind the camera, Da Mogu… (If I could…) was forty-six minutes long. “I got angry at one point, because I chose acting. I wrote that film in order to apply for a Masters, and switch to directing. I made it at nineteen, twenty years old and it was the first time I grabbed a camera and looked through a camera. It was never my point of interest before.” The experience of filmmaking and writing seemed to be a pivotal moment in Reed’s future in film. “I often say now: I don’t want to write, but I must.” This is something that bares more and more significance to actors today than ever before and, although he was unsuccessful in his application for a Masters, Da Mogu… would prove a significant precursor for things to come.
Reed gained some notable work throughout his twenties, however remains modest about his achievements: “I wouldn’t call myself a famous actor in Croatia, although people were aware of my work. I was big in the Croatian dubbing industry.” Reed references his work as the Croatian voice of many beloved children’s characters such as Hiccup, in How to Train Your Dragon and its sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2. He also featured as Spiderman and Mickey Mouse in their respective series; the list goes on. “If I was famous, I was famous amongst kids.”
“At this point I am sick of voice acting, I’m sick of the stage. My goal, my ambition lies with live action.” Reed grew restless in this form. The films he has been involved with capture his enthusiasm in a way that eclipses his now stable career as a dubbing artist. Complacency did not sit well, however the decision to move was not taken lightly. After ten years raising his profile on the Croatian stage and dubbing industry, Reed decided to make a big change.To be continued next week.