Originally published in Movietone News 60-61, February 1979]
Sam Peckinpah visited Seattle for several days in July, 1978, under the joint auspices of the Seattle Film Society and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On the evening of July 19 he appeared at the Seattle Concert Theatre to talk with an audience that had just seen, and warmly responded to, his comedy-western The Ballad of Cable Hogue. The following is a slightly edited transcript (from a tape made by Ray Pierre) of that dialogue. For fluency of reading we have kept the [Laughter] notations to a minimum, but the fact is that laughter punctuated the discussion with considerable frequency. -Ed.
[Questions, in italics, were mostly from members of the audience. Richard T. Jameson was moderator.]
Cable Hogue, even though Cable died at the end, was a very upbeat film, which is different from all the other [Peckinpah] films that I’ve seen. Was there a reason that in 1970 or ’69 you made a movie that does not—to me, at any rate—fit very easily with all the rest of your work?
I think it fits very well. I should mention one thing that seems to confuse people: I’ve made three, or maybe I could say four, films that were my own projects; the rest I have done because that was the job that was offered. I don’t really pick and choose. On Cable, Warren [Oates] had given me the property to read, I liked it, I bought it on time, I tried to get together with Van Heflin to make for around $700,000, could not do it. And Ken Hyman was the president of Warner Brothers at that time, loved The Wild Bunch, and I conned him into tying Cable Hogue into it because I wanted to make the film. And that’s it.
I have a question about The Wild Bunch. The first print that was shown in Seattle lasted about seven days. Then it was changed, another print was substituted. Some things were cut, deleted, mainly to conform with some criticisms that Time had about the movie. Who was responsible for the cuts?
Well, Time magazine was not responsible. It was … I was cutting Cable at the time. I got a call from [producer Phil] Feldman; he said they wanted to try it out in one theater—a shorter version. I said “Fine—in one theater.” Next thing I knew, it had been cut to pieces all over the country. So you can thank Mr. Feldman for doing it. And a man named Weintraub, who also was very active at Warner Brothers at the time.
Does an intact print still exist?
Uh—not as much as I would like. But the European version does exist, and I think that’s shown in l6-millimeter.
Yes, we showed it here.
I think it’s two hours and 27 minutes, something like that. I think right now it’s down to a three-minute short.
Is there an intact print of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid? [Question followed by conspiratorial laughter in the audience]
Oho! Rumors! [Pause] Somebody said there was a print stolen. [Pause] Let you know next year. [General laughter] Something about redubbing it.
I have a question about One Eyed Jacks, which this filmography says you worked on. I understand the movie ran about four hours and then was cut. Does a print of the four-hour-long version still exist?
It was written for [producer] Frank Rosenberg who gave me a book called The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones [by Charles Neider]. And I did the script, and we had some problems. It was a damn good script. Which I threw at him, by the way; and it was not bound, so it was all over his livingroom—it was really one of my last great moves. I told him to send it to Brando. And damned if he didn’t, and Brando bought it. I worked with Marlon for three and a half weeks before he fired me. I was asked to come back on the show, but I was directing at that time, and passed. There’s very little of Mr. Neider’s work or mine. There’s two scenes of mine in the picture and I did not receive credit for it.
You also did not receive credit here for at least two films on that sheet we handed out, which to my shame I noticed earlier today. I don’t know exactly when you wrote the scripts but in the mid-Sixties there were two films you had a screenplay credit on that you did not direct, The Glory Guys [Arnold Laven] about 1965—
A real winner! [Laughter] Good script!
Should I mention Villa Rides [Buzz Kulik, 1968]?
Well, Villa Rides and The Glory Guys were interesting because … Again, grist-for-the-mill for any writer or director or would-be director is that they all became part of The Wild Bunch. On Major Dundee all the slowmotion, special effects, dealing with time, etc., etc., etc., had a chance, thanks to Ken Hyman, to come to some kind of fruition with The Wild Bunch. So if you do lose, you don’t really lose: you use it for the next picture. It’s a learning process. If you stop learning, you’re dead.
I’ve seen almost all of your pictures and I particularly like the secondary characters—Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, Strother Martin.… Do you cast those roles?
Yes. I did, until it became impossible to cast some of the people I wanted because of their salaries. On the last picture [Convoy] I was working with a producer named Robert Sherman, and no matter who I cast, he managed to fuck up the deal so I couldn’t get them in the picture—Mort Sahl and … ad nauseam on Convoy. But I usually cast every single role, do the wardrobe, etc.
How do you contact you if you’re an actor if you want to work with you, because you do such great things with heavies? How do you get to you? Do you need an agent or can, uh— [General laughter]
Send money! No, the whole thing is looking, is first looking at film. And if you don’t have film, get some. Video camera—you can do it with all kinds of things. I like to look at film first. I saw Bo Hopkins in some sort of l6mm number and yeah. And Warren just happened to show up one day, and was dumb enough to like working with me and I liked working with him. Ben Johnson knows how to ride pretty good—he can hold the horses. I got lucky. I can’t afford any of them anymore.
Since the movie moguls and producers seem to like to chop your movies up, is there something in a personal philosophy of yours that you could characterize that leads to this?
Well … I suffer fools badly and they take it personally.
I’d like to know what you think of Sergio Leone’s movies, like Once upon a Time in the West. And also, what western movies do you personally like?
I like Leone’s movies and I like him. They’re always too long but they’re fun to watch. A marvelous man to talk to, and I think he does really interesting things. Western movies? I, uh—what was the last Hoot Gibson I saw? No, I really loved Red River until the ending—the phony arrow in the chest, and the chick. Ford did a great western with Fonda and Victor Mature, My Darling Clementine. I recall, uh … a lot of good films. The best western I’ve ever seen is—I think it was a serial I saw one Saturday morning on TV in Fresno, California, when I was eleven; forget the name of it.
For a while it seemed that you were going to form a stock company of actors much the way John Ford did, and maybe just make your own projects. Was that a dream and are you unhappy that it didn’t materialize that way?
Yes, or yes yes?
Yes yes yes! As I said, they got too expensive.
If somebody were to give you a production company and say “OK, go back to that desire,” would you now, at ten years’ remove from when that was happening, go back and do it that way?
Nnnnnnoooooooo, ya don’t know, because you change. I never consciously evaluate the style per se, only the people who are working. What happened—that’s interesting, because what happened on Convoy, people I’d worked for for years, and with, back of the camera and in front of it, turned out to be interested in … retirement plans. I talked to—I went to Rome to do a one-day bit in an Italian western* with Warren (had a marvelous time doing it—was an actor). But during that time I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with Fellini. And the problems I’m talking about now are the same things we talked about; he felt the same way. People don’t want to work anymore. And to me, it’s a privilege to work in films; it always has been, it always will be. And I’m sick to death of the Hollywood attitude and that’s why I don’t live there or work there anymore.
When you’re looking at a film you made ten years ago, and now your perspective has changed, do you ever wish you could go back and—
[Sharp bark of laughter from Peckinpah] I want to reshoot, recut, rescore, redub everything. No, not really. I like— There’s about two or three things in Cable I’d like to change, but that’s my picture and I’ll let it stand. The marvelous thing about film as opposed to theater is that it doesn’t lie. You see it a year later (this is my year of reseeing all my films and a lot of other films)…
[Interruption as the would-be Peckinpah heavy rushes down from the balcony to offer his Coke can as an ashtray; subject irrevocably changed]
Do you think you’d ever do another war film?
I hope not.
When you made Cross of Iron what were some of the things you encountered as problems?
Germans. [Laughter] Gerrrrmannnsssss!
No, groovy actors. The German producer was a mini-Nazi. Which I could talk about for years—the porno king of Munich. Kept asking why I didn’t get a closeup when his wife bit the joint off Art Brauss. Well, I think that speaks for itself. Then we had two great entrepreneurs, Arlene Sellers and Alex Winitsky, who were financing or sub-financing the picture, and that became a disaster. There was one person who made the picture finally get finished and done right, and that’s Nat Cohen from England. I missed him on my last picture, very definitely.
What kind of stories do you like? What do you look for when looking at a script and thinking about whether to make it?
What you see. I turned down King Kong to do Cross of Iron because I didn’t feel I was competent enough to deal with … puppets. And actually Cross of Iron was based—more than anything else it was based on the Willi Heinrich book, but it was also based on James Jones’ sensational book—I think it was actually a pictorial history, but it was some of his best work. I stole outrageously from that.
One of the main criticisms I’ve heard leveled at your work had to do with your portrayals of women. Do you have any comments on that?
I like ’em. I try to portray them as they are. They’re like everybody else: they’re human beings. I try to get ’em off a pedestal—not too successfully, but …
Are there any reruns of The Westerner?
Gonna have one tomorrow. [“Jeff,” the most-discussed episode of Peckinpah’s short-lived TV series The Westerner, was shown in a University of Washington film class along with the hour-long ABC Stage 67 production of Noon Wine.] I’ve got four. The rest—the negatives were burnt up because they didn’t want to store them any longer…. [The series episodes do survive and have been seen on the Encore Westerns channel. –Ed.]
I was wondering if you’d thought of toning down the violence in your films.
What violence? … I just try to portray what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen. I’m concerned with violence because I see so much of it in myself and in people that I know. I’d like to know why and I’d like to channel the positive effects. I suppose I feel that the basic thing is that I feel Robert Ardrey should be required reading for everyone.
I don’t understand. Are you saying you do that kind of violence?
No [emphatically]. No, I deny that, I’m not guilty. On occasion. I usually don’t make a film about something I don’t know about firsthand.
What is the next film you’re going to do?
It’s a very difficult assignment. Deep Throat Comes Back. Getting the rights is tough….
I’m going to do a Max Evans story, I believe. About a kid, some horses, an old-timer, and growing up in the Twenties.
What do you think about Max Evans’s book on this film, or built around you? [Sam Peckinpah: Master of Violence, an account of the filming of Cable Hogue.]
Very simply, it was done without my knowledge or consent. I think it’s an outrageous piece of shit. But Max said he needed the money and his wife put a pistol to his head, so …
Do you have any advice for a new writer with a new script who has no contact with the industry and doesn’t know what to do with it?
I think right now it’s a writer’s market. It depends on what form and who it’s for. Look at what is being sold and who is selling and who is buying and what kind of script, and then get the names of who those people are, and lie, cheat, steal, bribe and get in to meet them—and con.
That’s the only way I could do it. I was a dialogue director and a propman; I became a writer because it was a way to become a director.
In the documentary we saw on the making of Cable Hogue there was a sequence where everybody talked about their childhood and daydreaming and how this led into their acting. I was curious, was this true of you as well? Do you think your childhood, what you daydreamed, what you saw, did you extend childhood daydreaming into filmmaking?
I was being interviewed for that film, which is strictly the responsibility of Gary Weiss and Gil Dennis. Yes, we restaged and reenacted the Charge of the Light Brigade many times. I was very much a loner, very much into what I read and imagined as a kid.
Do you see the whole film in your mind before you make it, or are there parts you’re not sure of?
No, it’s— A film can change, it becomes an adventure, it becomes an entity unto itself. You must know enough to let it work along in its own terms, but yet within a certain framework.
You talk about films changing and the fact that only three of your movies were your own projects. I think it sometimes seems to us out here, it sounds like a contradiction in terms. You’re given a movie to do and yet you essentially have to make it up as you’re going along. I guess this question adds up to: how do you go about making one of those assigned projects your own?
Well, it’s like Straw Dogs. We had a very bad book. I wrote the script with David Goodman and then [Daniel] Melnick and David went off by themselves without my knowledge and wrote a completely different script, and Marty Baum blew his top about that and took it to London and said, “Did you know anything about this?” I said No. He said, “Write the script.” So I wrote the script. I had to sign a paper with Mr. Baum stating that I would have a happy ending. But once I’d cast Susan George, I knew that was impossible. I played it down to the end until Dustin Hoffman came up to me and said, “We can’t make this ending,” and I said, “Well how about this one, Dustin?”… So it’s always a gamble and it’s always a fight and—it’s adventure!
Have you ever thought of returning to television?
Was it difficult doing television?
It was great. At Four Star, Dick Powell was in charge of production; working with Mr. Powell unfortunately left a mark on me. We had the best crews, the best staff, and nobody who worked there has ever been able to find people like that since. It was a delight. That’s where I learned, thanks to Mr. Powell.
—who unfortunately passed away just when things were getting going.
Just before “The Losers” came out, yeah.
Partly this question has been asked already, but I’m still wondering how much you chart and plan on a film before you start.
We chart and plan everything, knowing that everything is going to go wrong. Then you adapt. Within a framework, you adapt.
How about reviewers and film critics? Do you read them, and how do you think they stand in relation to your work?
I think the enormous importance of the reviewer is underestimated because we have so many really bad people reviewing films. They’re very important to me, and to other directors I know and respect. Not many of them are … I really don’t break my heart over Rex Reed anymore. Penelope Gilliat and her boyfriend that writes for The New York Times had a big thing to do about Cross of Iron, saying “My god, it was so awful because the uniforms, they could hardly tell the difference…” What the fuck! That was what it was all about!
So it’s important to you what they say?
Very. Very. Anything anybody says. I’m part of the audience and that’s my job. I’m not doing closet drama.
About the time of The Killer Elite most of the negative reviews admitted that you know how to make a movie, to keep things moving, but they can’t stand it if you try to put any content in them. They hate it when people talk to one another.
Well, actually The Killer Elite was interesting because that was kind of a delightful satire, just kind of a fun-and-games film, and everybody took it so seriously— I couldn’t figure that out. How would you believe Ninjas attacking the mothball fleet?! I had a ball making it. I enjoyed it; I don’t know why people took it so grim.
About Junior Bonner, what debts do you owe to Nicholas Ray and The Lusty Men?
Ray … The Lusty Men….
Nothing. This was Jeb Rosebrook, who lived and worked rodeo, and got the script to Steve [McQueen]; I got the call from Steve and went in and we did two back to back, Junior Bonner and Getaway. None. He’s a good director but that was Jeb Rosebrook—a damn fine writer. I don’t know what debt he owes to Nicholas Ray, but I don’t really know the picture you’re talking about.
Back to violence: Do you like violence because it enables you to do the sort of action and editing you go in for?
I don’t like violence—I think that any conflict in drama is necessary. Sometimes it’s violence, sometimes it’s in words; sometimes the worst thing in the world—in Noon Wine—is the failure of love, the lack of communication. But conflict in one form or another is drama.
I’ve seen Stella Stevens do some good acting and I’ve seen Stella Stevens do bad acting, and I think you drew a very good performance out of her in this movie we saw tonight. I was wondering, how do you deal with your actors, how much do you control them, how much rehearsal do you use?
The key thing in making a film is the amount of rehearsal time you can spend, because the actors get to know you and you get to know them. Once I did a TV show with Jean Simmons [“That Lady Is My Wife,” Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre, 1967] and she said “You lied to me!?”—and I did. But it kinda works out. Once she got her makeup off, she was fine.
Sam, the first day that Cable Hogue played in a theater, I saw it quite by accident, and two weeks later it wasn’t playing in any theatre anywhere. And I got angry about that and I called you on the phone and I said, “I’m starting a Cable Hogue society”—
[Delighted] Oh I remember that!
—and my idea was to find and gather films that got lost, and get them out, and get the word out to audiences and theater owners and get them to book them. And I still wish that fine films like that could find an audience. I saw Walkabout and White Dawn and a number of other films that fall inside that Cable Hogue Society category….
Glad to agree with you about Walkabout because I saw it and loved the picture, and I just got done acting with Jenny [Agutter]. The thing is that Weintraub and Warner Brothers wrote off Cable Hogue after one weekend as a tax loss and that was the end. That’s corporate dealings in Hollywood and there’s no way, unless you buy a print or steal it, and maybe seven thousand bucks and you can dupe it and you’re set…. Grand theft felony.
I’d like to go to the subject of your films that have been cut. I’d like to know why they do it. Is it that you have a conflict or—?
Yeah, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was strictly a conflict with Melnick. Dundee was strictly Jerry Bresler….
Are their motivations commercial or are they going to put you in your place?
It’s a whole big ego trip. Agents and executives like to be creators and filmmakers—and they’re not: But sometimes the damnedest thing happens: they’re right. Usually it’s trying to get a picture down to two hours or less so they can have another chance to sell popcorn. You all watch TV, so you’re as guilty as … I am.
I’d like to ask a question about the images you use—for instance, the animals in the film. They’re really an excellent counterpoint to the conflict that the people have. Do you feel these types of images by instinct or do you have an idea about the images you use to make up a film?
Most of the work I do is instinctive, right or wrong. I do have a background in theory, but mostly it’s guts poker. I’m a shitkicker from way back.
I was impressed on this list of credits with all the shows you worked on in television, and I remember the shows as being worthwhile, and I don’t see their quality on TV anymore. What do you think has happened? Why is something like Have Gun—Will Travel only history?
I didn’t work on Have Gun; I worked on Gunsmoke, Trackdown, Zane Grey Theatre, a couple of others, and Rifleman I created. What’s happening is very simple: you’re buying a product—therefore you’re the mean average and you ought to be ashamed. You’re buying the product. That’s the way these things work. It’s the indifference of the people which is responsible for the level of television.
Do you own a TV? Do you watch TV?
Of course. I watch it about five straight days two or three times a year. That’s not talking about the World Cup or football season, but … Otherwise I avoid it. I don’t even know what shows are on. I really don’t like it too much: I really fucking hate advertising. I think that if somebody can get together and stop the amount of brainwashing that’s going on, stop buying the products, it’d be kinda keen.
Who is your favorite cameraman?
If I answered that, I’d have my head blown off by somebody else. It is not the cinematographer on the first part of Convoy—I really can’t remember his name! [Harry Stradling Jr.]. It was really nice and really interesting to find your slowmotion cameras tipped upsidedown; and if you mark a camera to run at 64 and it’s running at 16 [frames per second], it’s really interesting. Bobby Hauser came in and did three weeks, seven weeks, eight weeks of work. He’s one hell of a guy, and a great crew; I can’t say that for Stradling or any of his people.
You had a very surprising and distinguished second-unit director on that movie [James Coburn]. Maybe you could talk to people about what second-unit directors do and how you work with them, make your thing happen through a second-unit director.
Walter Kelley was very successful during the last part of Cross of Iron and he was very unsuccessful doing this picture. Jimmy came in—working to get his director’s card—and he came through with a couple really key shots. He was as wild and crazy as he should have been.
How much did Convoy cost and what do you think about it?
I don’t really think too much about it. I saw probably— We ran eight reels of supposedly the director’s cut, my first cut, and that’s all I’ve ever seen. The other four reels I’ve seen but they weren’t shown. My time ran out and the film was taken over by the company [EMI]. I think by the time it’s finished with prints and advertising it’ll go thirteen-three-and will make money. In Japan already it’s done seven-point-eight in distributor’s gross—that’s a fifth of the cost in one country alone. I’m selling my interest to the University of Washington so they can do the audit…. I’m serious!
I saw Ride the High Country as a second feature to something like The Tartars. I only saw the last ten minutes and I couldn’t see the movie again for three years. The fight didn’t end after one shot like Matt Dillon, but looked as if, with these inaccurate guns they had at the time, they had to keep shooting. It was riveting! Did you think when you made it that somewhere there was a gun freak that would really appreciate the accuracy of that touch…?
Well, I’d done a good deal of research, and I had a marvelous editor, Frank Santillo, and I spent a good deal of time with Frank Kowalski’s father—a great first-assistant director. And we finally got it down to using three-frame and two-frame cuts, and it ended up running about 19 seconds.
It seemed longer. I mean that as a compliment!
Frank turned me on—Frank Santillo, who cut this picture [Cable Hogue] with Lou Lombardo—he was and is one of the great cutters of all time. He worked with Vorkapich and he knows montage, and he taught me a great deal. I just took it and ran with it. The first time I was conscious of slowmotion was the film Friedkin just remade, Wages of Fear; saw the original of that and was astonished by the effectiveness of slowmotion. I started in television using it.
That sequence that he just talked about was essentially ripped off—I don’t mean they used the same footage but they used the same setups, the same music score by the same musician, even had Warren Oates in the scene too—in a movie called Mail Order Bride Burt Kennedy made a year or so later. Did you ever see that and what did it do to you?
No, I never saw it. I know Burt very well. He gave me an option to try and get Evans’ book [The Rounders] made, which he eventually made, so I can’t say anything about Burt. But I’ve been ripped off so many times I feel like I was a garment industry.
Jerry Fielding used the Wild Bunch score for The Deadly Trackers….
No, he didn’t, Warner Brothers did, and he sued them—and collected. That’s Warner Brothers.
There’s a piece of that score in John Milius’s recent film Big Wednesday; in fact, he’s got your General Mapache scene in The Wind and the Lion—
[Laughing] I heard about that!
—and in the new film he turns his surfers into the Wild Bunch in Mexico. Do you know his work?
Only through my own, evidently.
How did you work with Richard Gillis who wrote the songs in Cable Hogue?
I was about three days away from going to Las Vegas to be with Jason [Robards] and start rehearsal and look at the Valley of Fire, and Gordon Dawson said I better go to the Olive Branch and listen to Mr. Gillis, and I did, and started rewriting the picture to fit his songs. We’re still working together and—he’s one fine, fine writer. The Peter Pan of Burbank.
In your pictures over the years you’ve worked with an array of the most potent actors America has—Coburn and Oates and those guys. How would you visualize, or how would you like to put Clint Eastwood in a movie? Is there a particular way you’d like to portray him?
I’ve got a script I wrote about two years ago; it’s called Dirty John—about a San Francisco cop…. No, really, he’s damn good and I’d love to work with him. But he’s been busy; so have I. He’s been busy with Don Siegel, who was my patron, got me started in the business.
Do you plan to work again in Hollywood?
I will work with anybody anyplace, but I will not work in Hollywood, in that town.
So you will work with a studio?
I’ll work with anything—as long as I don’t have to go there anymore. I spent too many nights in Goldwyn’s.
Convoy stands out to me quite atypical of your movies that I’ve seen—
Well I haven’t seen it so I can’t discuss it. Word-of-honor truth: I have not seen it since I ran those reels.
Well, I’m asking basically about your motivations because it seems so different.
In preparing Cross of Iron I kept hearing on Armed Forces radio this song about “We’ll hit the gate goin’ 98, Let them truckers roll, Ten-Four!” and I said “By God, I’d like to be out on that highway!” And so I got out there, but I ended up not being there at all.
In spite of all the cuts I think Major Dundee is one of your most powerful and entertaining films. How do you feel about that film?
I wanta kill.
Is there any chance of the cut footage being put back?
They called me back about four years afterward to come in and recut and rescore and redub, and I said No. That really hurt me, that one, because it was a fine film, really a fine film, and I was very proud of it. It was a very personal vendetta with Jerry Bresler.
How do you feel about the footage that remains?
Like a maimed child.
Have you ever considered going underground and making films with less resources, but you can keep your hands on them?
That’s what I’m doing now.
This tension between producers and directors fascinates me. The right to final cut—is that decided before the picture’s begun, is it negotiated, or…? You mentioned about The Wild Bunch, the call to you about trying out a cut version in one theater? Was that a courtesy call or did you have some appeal?
They did exactly what I said don’t do. It was Phil Feldman. He could say “Well, I called you.” But they changed every print in the United States.
Did you know when that picture began that the end product would be out of your hands?
You usually have a preview cut. I had two preview cuts on the last picture, which I lost because I took too much time. I’ve never had final cut unless it was given to me or unless I stole it. Judge Learned Hand said that compromise is the soul of integrity. Sometimes I doubt it.
You’ve been talking a lot about things you made that nobody got a chance to see. I’m a writer and editors do this to me, and I’ve always figured the solution would be to get big enough so that nobody’d dare screw around with what I wrote. But you’re big and you still talk about people messing around with your creations. Is there no solution to that?
Arm yourself. I don’t know what the solution is, except that— Try and get definitely in the contract in money in the bank, penalty money, so that it will cost them money. Otherwise they’ll just tear up the contract, do what they want, and say “Sue.” So you spend five years suing and they have all the money and all the lawyers, and you’re dead. There is no guarantee whatsoever. Lie, cheat, steal, hold film out, steal it….
Does the producer of a film own the film?
No, the producer’s hired. In the case of Convoy, Bobby Sherman put the package together, EMI picked it up, and so EMI owns the film. Michael Deely of EMI had the final say. Robert Sherman really had nothing to say except get in the way of everybody.
Is it legally possible to have a print for yourself?
It’s legally possible but it takes a lot of doing. As I say, you must have certain penalty clauses and money in the bank that they must pay. That hurts them. And publicity hurts them, too. But I have nothing to say against Convoy because I completed my job and …
Are you able at this time to command any kind of financial backing that would give you more freedom?
None at all?
If I could command it, I would be doing it. I’m trying to, but … I have had money offered to me, but on such terms that I couldn’t accept.
I heard a few years back that you were suing to prevent the release of Pat Garrett. What is happening about that now?
Nothing. I was trying to beat ’em down and I failed. They took 17minutes out and destroyed the film. I sued them with everything I had, which was very little, and it dribbled away and … lost. Failed.
Have you got something now you’d like to do?
Yeah, I’ve got about five pictures I’d like to make—about five major pictures and about three smaller pictures I’d like to do before I hang it up.
Would you tell us what you’re really about?
About what you see on the screen. It’s all up there. Whatever’s left … That was the best I could do.
What did you do to get unoffically blacklisted?
I kicked [Martin] Ransohoff off the set [of The Cincinnati Kid]. I refused to cast Sharon Tate. She badmouthed Katharine Hepburn and we had a little tussle. Right now I’d be delighted to work with Marty. He always resented that Bresler had first place on my blacklist. But—people change, ya know?
With its linking of the Mafia and Richard Nixon, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia seemed more overtly political than your other work. Do you think so?
Politically, possibly. Spiritually, I’d say. We had something going and it was pretty exciting, but—it got cut off at the pass.
On the next one, The Killer Elite, we had a great line at the end of the picture. It was from Lord Buckley, an old Lord Buckley record: “I don’t know where we’re goin’ and I don’t know where we been, but I know that where we is isn’t it.”
Thank you very much.
* The Italian western turned out to be Monte Hellman’s China 9/Liberty 37. –Ed.