Matthew Gray Gubler digs up dinosaur bones in Grande Prairie

“I feel like such a dork listing everything I’m in.”

This dork is Matthew Gray Gubler.

Gubler is best known for his role as the nerdy genius Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds which attracts up to 14 million viewers every season.Over the next few months he’ll also appear on the big screen as the voice of Simon the Chipmunk in the third installment of the squeaky franchise and in the quirky Magic Valley that just premiered to rave reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival. He also voices a paleontologist in the latest Scooby-Doo cartoon feature.

And he doesn’t just play one in the movies. I’m talking to Gubler as he prepares to go hunting for dinosaur bones at the Pipestone Creek bonebed near Wembley just outside Grande Prairie, AB.

“I’m the reverse method actor where instead of studying to be a paleontologist and then playing the part, I play the part horribly and then later I learn how to be a paleontologist,” he jokes.

“I’ll have to organize that better next time.”

Gubler is here because his whimsical watercolour drawings of dinosaurs and other monsters caught the attention of the Western Heritage Museum Complex in New Mexico. They had recently discovered a mammoth skeleton and enlisted Gubler to draw ‘Sandy.’ He was then invited to attend and auction off two more sketches at the first annual Aykroyd Family & Friends Dinosaur Ball.

Dan Aykroyd and his wife, Donna, hosted the ball and the dig to raise money for the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. Construction of the museum hasn’t started yet but by the end of 2012 it will display horned Pachyrhinosaurus skeletons and eight newly uncovered species paleontologists Currie and wife Eva Koppelhus have found in Alberta.

Other exhibits will include touchable specimens, displays on how the excavation process works and how Alberta looked in ancient times. The museum will also offer tours to the bonebed.

“This is very unique for dinosaur bonebeds in the sense that typically they’re in drier, badlands so to have this picturesque surrounding coupled with dinosaur bones— it feels like Christmas. Or Hanukkah if you’re Jewish. Or Kwanza,” says Gubler.

“It’s a lifelong dream to be a paleontologist but it takes a lot of schooling and studying which I haven’t done. I feel very lucky to have wormed my way into this,” adds Gubler.

 

Lucky, indeed. It’s pouring, muddy and there is a tornado watch in effect. But Gubler has no problem getting dirty and says the rain authenticates his experience. His one regret is that he didn’t bring his TV character Dr. Reid’s funny satchel which seems “apropos for picking up dinosaur fingers.”

It’s this peculiarity that is the hallmark of Gubler’s roles. He began his career as a model in New York City and then landed an internship with writer/director Wes Anderson who cast him in a minor role in the colourful The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Since then, Gubler has voiced a chipmunk (“He would be flipping out right now if he were hunting dinosaur bones. Eating nuts and hunting dinosaur bones,” he says of Simon), played a serial killer in  training, an FBI behavioral analyst, a porn director and himself in a series of documentaries he also directed. But a lot of his roles do have one thing in common.

“I’ve had some funny haircuts,” he says.

Gubler’s hair won’t be the only scary thing on set. He has two horror films coming out in 2012, Excision and The Wicked Within, which he is currently filming with Sienna Guillory.

While Dr. Reid always gets his man, by the end of the digging day Gubler didn’t run into any living dinosaurs like he hoped but he still likens it to a holy experience.

“In a week I’ll wake up in Los Angeles in a cold sweat from a dream and I’ll be like, ‘I was digging up dinosaur bones in Al-bear-tah not too long ago.’”

The Phillip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is set to open in December 2012 but if you can’t wait until then to get your dinosaur on check out Gubler as paleontologist Winsor in Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur on DVD September 6.

You can also catch him in season seven of Criminal Minds premiering September 21 on CBS or on the big screen (well, his voice anyway) this holiday season in Alvin And the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

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