Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Walter Hill

I shot three pictures for Walter Hill. What a great director! And good friend...and all around great person. I first met Walter on an interview for the picture; "The Longriders". Walter had only done a couple of pictures prior to this one. My agent had sent me the script several days in advance and then set up this meeting. I think it was at Fox but I'm not sure. Anyway, I went into the meeting trembling from head to toes. I had only shot one other feature film at this point - "The Other Side of the Mountain, Part II" and that had been three years previous. So to say I was nervous would be gross understatement. We went through the usual pleasantries in the beginning and then Walter asked me the "QUESTION". Who was my favorite director. I sat there absolutely numb. I mean, this could well be, and in fact usually is a trick question. Do I tell the truth? Or do I say Walter Hill of course - lying thru my teeth. (I had never heard of Walter Hill at that point. So..I took a deep breath and said: Akira Kurasawa...the great Japanese director. I meant it, Kurasawa is beyond great! I continued to hold my breath for another - what seemed like an hour - minute and then heard Walter say: "Good choice, he's mine too." Music to my ears. Moral to this story, always tell the truth...and pray. He admired Kurasawa's asymetrical composition - as I did - and wanted to try it on this movie. We chatted a while longer, he thanked me for coming. I had barely walked in my door back home when the phone rang. It was my agent, Crayton Smith telling me I got the job. To say I was ecstatic would be gross understatement. I could probably write a whole book about the making of that film. It was, of course, my breakout movie. Everybody eventually get's a chance to do something that really gets noticed. Generally, many job offers follow. That's why they call them breakout movies...because you finally - after God knows how many years of working and waiting you are able to break out of obscurity. Thank you Walter...thank you. Our next mutual venture was '48 HRS.". I'll talk about that in another blog later. Suffice it to say...The Longriders launched my career and all because I told the truth. I have another story to tell later where I told the truth and didn't get the job!


My wife and I have known Goldie for over thirty-five years. We met her at a dinner party with her soon to be - then - husband, Gus Trikonus. She had signed the contracts for a new television show that season entitiled: 'Laugh-In". And what a show that was. My wife, Scout and Goldie along with Julie Cristie used to hang out a lot together...friends called them the three bobsy twins. (Sort of a malaprop it seems.) We lived in Brentwood on Westgate avenue...Goldie then lived in Pacific Palisades. One morning, while Scout and I were having a cup of coffee in our kitchen, we heard the front door open, then the sound of high heeled footsteps in the hallway then a door closing. I stepped out into the hall and a moment later Goldie emerged from the powder room announcing she just couldn't hold it any longer. She gave me a peck on the cheek and was on her way. We had that kind of a friendship. Some years later Goldie called me and asked me to shoot her debut directorial movie - "Hope". We shot it in Houston, Texas...in the summer months. I can't tell you how hot and humid that city is in August and September. One night we had a four and a half page scene to shoot outside the theater. I think we were actually in College Station for this sequence. Well, after shooting for something like four plus hours we took a break. That's when my film loader came to me with tears in her eyes. D.P.'s don't like to see film loaders with tears in their eyes. It means that bad news is soon to come. On this occasion I was informed she had white-lighted the negative while downloading it. White-lighting means, she turned on a light with the exposed film out in the open. Needless to say, the entire roll was ruined. Even worse, virtually the entire nights work was on that roll. I think that's when I started to tear as well. It was my job to inform Goldie of this tragedy. With great trepidation I went to Goldie's motor home. She was seated with a couple of the producers having coffee. I gave her the bad news, fully expecting something of a meltdown. Instead Goldie sat there a moment then said: "Ric, give me a few moments to think about this." So I stepped out side and waited. I half expected the producers to come out and send me back to Los Angeles. I mean, it really wasn't my fault but then...I did hire the loader. So...ten minutes later Goldie came out of the motor home and announced: "Here's what we're going to do..." Well, she had, in that ten minute period quickly rewrote the scene, truncating it down to one page. We shot the new scene in about an hour and went home. And you know, the scene she rewrote...under duress to say the least...was so much better than the original. And of course it's in the movie. Now that is a great director! She has played the role of the bubble headed blonde so many times but I am here to tell you...she is one of the smartest, most level headed people I have ever known. Of course I adored her for what she did that night...but then, I have adored her almost all of my life. We remain close friends with Goldie and Kurt to this day. Wow...what a woman!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Patrick Swayze

Recently, Patrick Swayze passed away after a prolonged fight with cancer. We're all sorry to see him go and wish his lovely wife Lisa out best wishes. I did two pictures with Patrick. Uncommon Valor and Red Dawn. I have an amusing tale to tell about Red Dawn. One of the other actors - his breakout movie was C. Tommy Howell. Now, Tommy's father is a stuntman and a rodeo champion. Tommy had been riding horses from the age of, oh probably five or six. By the time he came to make Red Dawn, he was an expert horseman. He even brought his own horse to the picture. Patrick, not to be outdone by an upstart, went out and bought a horse for himself. What he bought was a plug mare that couldn't even get out of his own way. In the scene where the Russian helicopters ambush the kids, Tommy jumped on his horse and entirely unrehearsed, he pulled the horse back on his hind legs - ala the Lone Ranger if you can remember him - and galloped away. Well....Patrick, not to be outdone asked John Milius the director if he could also have a special. John agreed, we set up the cameras..John called action...Patrick leaped tot he back of his mighty steed, pulled back on the reins...the horse reared up...and up...and up....and finally, over! We all did our best to hide the chuckles and laughter. John simply said, okay, next shots over here. End of story. Now I don't tell this to ridicule Patrick...he was a very nice guy, very considerate of is fellow actors, usually on time and always knew his lines. He shall be missed.