"Mark Valley: An Innocent Man"

by Janet Di Lauro  |  Soap Opera Weekly, p. 27
Date Unknown, approx. 1993

Mark Valley (Jack, Days of Our Lives) was an army man stationed in Berlin with nary an acting lesson, nor a desire to act, when he was tapped for "The Innocent", a film based on incidents in Cold War Berlin.

"It's a really small part, but my name comes up on the screen at the end of the film. I'm billed as a tunnel technician," explains the actor, who's anxious to view his movie debut.

Valley, who started out as an extra, recalls his first day vividly. "The assistant director came up to me and said, 'Stir that coffee and read this magazine.' The scene starts and this man who's trying to talk on the pay phone starts yelling at some guys making noise at the bar. I looked at the guy on the phone and then the guys at the bar. Then I went back to stirring my coffee and reading. Afterward, the director asked me if I'd ever done any acting before. I said, 'No,' and he said, 'Good. I want you to do exactly what you just did.' "

Valley's natural on-camera presence won him three weeks of work as, ironically, an army man - - one of Anthony Hopkins' (as American intelligence officer Glass) men. Based on Ian McEwan's best-selling novel of the same name, the film details a top-secret project in Berlin -- called Operation Gold -- jointly run by British and American intelligence. Their mission is to build and equip a massive underground tunnel that will enable the British and the Americans to penetrate the Russian sector and eavesdrop on Communist communications.

Valley, who admits that he "was totally starstruck" meeting Hopkins, notes that most of his scenes take place with the renowned British actor. "We're soldiers, so we're always around shooting pool, sitting in a cafateria or listening to Hopkins' monologue."

A notable screen moment for Valley takes place in a dance hall. "I'm there talking with friends. We had to make up some dialogue for that scene," he says. "The actor who got paid (to speak lines) in the scene filmed it, then had to leave the next day to do a play. As it turned out, there was a problem with one of the takes, and the whole thing had to be reshot. There were only three guys left, and none of us were actors. So the director asked me to say the lines."

Valley found the experience to be rewarding though limited. "It was a good chance to see what happens on a movie set," the actor says.