Dermot Mulroney, father of three, talks about his crazy travel schedule and shooting ‘Big Miracle‘ in Alaska.

Dermot is dad to Clyde, 12 (from his previous marriage to actress Catherine Keener), Mabel, 4, and Sally, 2 (both with wife Tharita). The busy dad shared with us that he never turns down a good part, but he considers it a bonus if the kids can see his work.

“I’ve never turned down a good part. You know what I mean? So, no. Do I choose roles because I have kids? No. But, when one like this comes up I jump at the chance because of that. I’d love to do a lot more work like that that. Whether it’s animation or for that reason, but, parts are just tough to come by.”

Did your family come to Alaska with you?

Not my kids. My wife came up, yes. It takes a while to get there. In that time of the year, there’s no direct flight, so you have to stop in Portland or Seattle and lay over. So, it’s really like a 15-hour day to get there. We were going to bring the girls, and it just seemed like that would be all day in a dark hotel room. That didn’t seem like a very nurturing environment.”

On the challenges of being a full-time working parent:

“I find challenges with that all the time, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to manage. I get along with everybody in my family diagram. Last night, for example, I’m happy to announce I get the chance to do a sitcom with Zooey Deschanel on The New Girl. So, I worked until two in the morning last night. They have really long days on this show, and you see the results are fantastic. I don’t mind going to bed at two and waking up at six, because it doesn’t happen every day. But, I have a mother-in-law who’s young and vital, so she’s indispensable. She only has a six-month visa, though. So, she can only be in this country precisely six months a year. So, we use it like it’s gold. We get her for three weeks and send her back to Italy, because later, if I’m working, I’m going to need her to come back so that we don’t go over the 180 days or whatever it is. So, the whole thing is this incredibly intricate Web, like I’m sure most of you also have to deal with. I don’t separate myself to any higher plain of complexity.”

On his travel schedule:

“In the last 14 or so months since the start of this, these are the places that I had to go for work reasons: Anchorage, Toronto, Vancouver, Nashville, Pittsburgh, New York, Bangkok, Thailand for a month, Washington, D.C., and back to Bangkok, Thailand to finish. And really, the list goes on and on. So, I was out of 12–10 out of 14 months. But, it was just one of those years where I did a lot of movies. I wasn’t being paid great on a lot of them, so I had to do more just to even make my year. So, it’s tough.”

Dermot’s character Colonel Boyer is based on a real person named Tom Carroll. He was asked if he felt any responsibility portraying a real person?

“Well, I was really interested in that aspect of the character, but what I was kind of shocked to learn and maybe I shouldn’t admit that I didn’t already know it until the day I got to the set the first day to learn that he had died since the actions in the story took place, in a plane crash. He was a really well-known pilot and sort of was the pioneer leader of the Alaskan National Guard.”

“And also, on that first day, I met Bonnie Carroll (played in ‘Big Miracle’ by actress Vinessa Shaw). She’s an extraordinary person in her own right. Since she lost her husband, she’s started this whole organization (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). We met each other, and we both really sort of started to cry, just the moment. It came so unexpectedly to me. I just said, “Oh, I’ll meet her. She’s kind of advising on the film.” And this whole thing took place. So, that, for me, in that instant became so personal for me to honor this man by portraying him in a way that she’d like. I just wanted her to like me as him, you know? So, it actually simplified.”

On the movie’s incredible events:

“Ken Kwapis does such a great job of contextualizing that time, because we’re still in the Cold War.

You couldn’t enter Russia. There’s a photograph on the Anchorage newspaper, on the front page that was saved by Bonnie where you see Tom Carroll on the bridge of that Russian icebreaker. And until that time, no American had ever stepped foot on a Russian naval vessel of any sort, ever in history. So, there’s still a photograph that exists of just him and the captain on that ship that saved the day.

So, all that stuff isn’t just inspired by true events. It’s dead on, spot on, true. So, they have to put it up that way. I think that’s what it says on the poster, something inspired by or based on a true story. But, this is a true story.”

‘Big Miracle’ opens today, February 3, 2012.