Presented by / 7/18/2012 / 1 Comment / , , , ,

PATTON TO BLADE RUNNER: LAST INTERVIEW OF MORGAN PAULL

Morgan Paull as Holden in BLADE RUNNER
MORGAN PAULL was a versatile actor who appeared in many films including PATTON as the General's right hand man, and others including THE SWARM, FADE TO BLACK, MITCHELL and he is most remembered for BLADE RUNNER playing the Tyrell agent, Holden...

In this interview, possibly Morgan's final before his death, he discusses working with the likes of Harrison Ford, Michael Caine and the dislikes of George C. Scott... 

Tell us about the real-life character you played in PATTON, Captain Richard N. Jenson...

He was from Pasadena, California where Patton himself spent a lot of time. And I had, before I got cast in the movie, a part in a play at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles… The first play about Vietnam of any significance... The producers saw me and wanted me to play Patton’s aide.

And I wanted to meet the Jensen family and they just advised against it because they wanted everything in the movie to be true, and we had to get General Bradley’s permission for everything that was about him. And they didn’t want to muddy the waters by suddenly having my character’s parents having something they disagreed with. It was a great experience of one’s life. General Bradley was around a lot. It was an incredible experience and I had just come from theater… It was my first movie.

You're in this a lot in the beginning – the first forty five minutes – as General Patton’s right hand man… How was it working with George C. Scott?

How did you know it was forty-five minutes? Because it was exactly forty-five minutes before they kill me off…

Well I usually time these things… But I’ve seen so many movies and forty-five minutes is usually the point where something of great significance happens… From KING KONG to whatever else… And this is the big battle: the first battle scene altogether…

I don’t know whether it hurt my career, but every picture after that… Directors call other directors in Hollywood and ask: “How is this guy to work with?” And the first time they called Franklin Schaffner for FOOL'S PARADE, my second movie… Schaffner said, “He’s fine, as long as you kill him off after the first 45 minutes.” And every movie I made that was successful, I die in, so I don’t know what that means…

And you asked about working with George C. Scott… He was terrific as an actor to work with and that’s about all I can say. Did I want to have dinner with him again; well now I can’t, he’s wherever he is now. But if he weren’t an actor, he’d have been in jail, period… He was a "Sunday Puncher"… He was crazy. He’d put out an eye of a guy who was a tourist visitor in Spain.

George was insane, personally, and that’s it. I mean, people loved his acting and we loved working with him but after the third time he pulled a stunt with me, I said, “Don’t look at me again in a restaurant, just stay away.” He said, “So you’re my ex aid?” And I said, “I’ll finish the movie, obviously. But stay away from me socially.” And he even thought he was Patton at some point.

Okay Morgan, I have an idea for a script I want to pitch for you… It’s called ALABAMA AND THE FORTY THIEVES and… Actually, this is from the cult horror movie FADE TO BLACK where you play a producer named Gary Bially who rips off Dennis Christopher’s movie idea...

That scene was quite a lot of fun. By the way, that was produced by two guys I went to school with. They were a year behind me, at Culver Military Academy in Indiana… George Braunstein and Ron Hamady. Two of the greatest guys you ever want to know. And my agent called me one day and said, “Look, these guys are independent, I don’t know who they are. But they got options over at CBS studio center, which is a little film studio in studio city. They want to see you.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “I don’t know why, but you live near there.” So I went over and they turned out to be guys who went to the same school. They were one year behind me and they had seen me in school plays. And they said, “We got a movie and we want you in.” And I said, “Okay, fine, I’ll call my agent.”

So they did and we went on to make it. And it’s really a true story about the film’s writer, Vernon Zimmerman, who had a script stolen… It’s nothing new in Hollywood. So it was all based on truth: The psychotic kid played all these movie characters and took care of Hollywood.

And your death scene involves Dennis Christopher shooting you with a Tommy Gun in a hair salon…

That was a lot of fun and I got burnt by squibs, they’re called: The things that go off to make it look like I’ve been shot. Boy they really drilled me, as you recall. He comes in as Cagney and starts shooting away. And these things are popping off and they burn a little bit… They get hot, sometimes, even though you’re wearing a vest over them. But you know, it was fun, the whole movie was fun – a great little movie.

Yeah, it’s one of my favorites and a dream for nostalgia buffs as Dennis imitates movie legends like James Cagney and Richard Widmark

I did a few movies with Ricahard Widmark. We did one called THE TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING together, and we did THE SWARM, really a "Bee" movie. Widmark and I were in a death scene together there… Widmark was great. And in THE SWARM I’m the scientist explaining to everybody… Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda, all these people… about the killer bees coming to the country and if we don’t do something about it…

In fact when I did the first take, about sixteen times because they wanted… Irwin Allen didn’t know how to direct a movie. He produced, but this was his first directorial activity and he was just an idiot. And so, at any rate, I’m doing my scene, a long one-and-a-half page speech which I have to do sixteen times perfectly so they could have each star reacting in their close-up. And I’m doing it off camera, you know what I mean? And it winds up, if we don’t do something about this soon, we can see the end of the human species.

So, on the sixteenth take I apparently said, “The end of the human feces.” And Olivia de Havilland said, “I’m sorry, did he say Species or Feces?” So they played back the tape… This is my first day… And sure enough I slip up and say, “Feces.” So Irwin Allen says, “Do your jokes on your own time… Not very nice.”

So Michael Caine took me to lunch and said, “Look, let me explain to you about this director because I’ve been out here a couple weeks: He’s like the London airport authority. They got everything lined up at Heathrow. They got the luggage coming and going. They got the ticketing absolutely perfectly processed. They got all the time schedules all set and then – the passengers arrive and fuck everything up.” He said, “That’s the way he is with actors.”

So you die in THE SWARM… And in FADE TO BLACK you’re killed in a chair and the same with BLADE RUNNER…

But I don’t die in BLADE RUNNER. Here’s the catch… New to your universe… If you listen closely: a couple scenes after me, Harrison Ford goes to the police sergeant and asks what happened to Holden, my character. And he answers, “He’s okay if you don’t unplug him.” And there were scenes shot – which are in an extended version of BLADE RUNNER. In that four pack they show a couple of the scenes where I’m plugged in and shooting myself with drugs and watching movies. And Harrison Ford comes in to see what happened, and all that might be in another new version of BLADE RUNNER which apparently is gonna go forward… But at any rate, instead of that, in trying to trim the movie they trimmed those scenes.

Before you were cast as Holden in BLADE RUNNER, you had another job on the film...

I was hired as an actor to do screen tests to help girls in the part of Rachel and five girls for Daryl Hannah’s part. So I tested with each of those girls and for a good amount of money, at the end of which they decided to have them in the movie. And they’d all been cast except for this Holden character. So he offered me Holden, which I wasn’t expecting… It was unusual for me. My agent said. “You’re not testing, you’re gonna test girls.” And I said, “What kind of flukey thing is that?” And he said, “You’re gonna get paid a good amount of money. You’re probably gonna be kissing and necking with ten of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood.” And I said, “Okay, it can’t be all that bad.” And then they hired me as Holden and that’s how that came about.

Your brief but extremely important scene when you interrogate Leon, played by Brion James, sets the stage for the entire film…

Brion was a good friend of mine, and we’d worked on other things, TV shows… And it wasn’t that short a scene when we did it. I actually had a terrible cold and I can hear it myself but I guess most people can’t. At any rate, it was what it was and very intense – Brion James is just terrific. He would have a difficult time, because we worked together before and everything, of not cracking each other up. So there was a little bit of that going on… I’m afraid he’s gonna make me laugh, and I’m gonna make him laugh. Of course there’s none of that in there… But it worked out, I guess. And I was surprised it became such a cult thing.

Does your character, who works for the Tyrell Corporation, already know Leon’s a Replicant and wants to confirm it, or do you not know anything?

In my perception, I didn’t know… I was giving a test rather, you know, routinely like I’ve given it many times. And it’s only when he balked at a couple things that I got suspicious.

So tell me about Ridley Scott, the director, and working with him…

Great, I mean, he’s just one of those hands-on people. He’ll move chairs, he’ll move lights… And that didn’t make Hollywood labor unions happy at all. They had problems after problems. I mean, he wanted to run the camera occasionally. That’s not allowed in Hollywood so he found a cinematographer who’d let him… But why not, he’s directing it? And he also knew how to run a camera… So he wanted to sit behind it in crucial scenes – like he considered the opening scene, my scene, crucial. And instead of standing there watching with the cameraman, he’d get behind the camera and watch it himself to make sure he captured the emotion and intensity. He was just a hands-on guy and I really loved him, and I’m surprised I haven’t worked for him since… He keeps hiring Russell Crowe… But what can I say?

In my interview with actor Yaphet Kotto who was in ALIEN, he described Ridley Scott in the same way: working behind the camera as he directs…

He gets involved in everything. And, probably to the woe of studios, when he’s doing it he really forgets about the budget… He wants it to look perfect. He invented that smoke, which everybody seems to be using now, that look. The budget would be just… It would take time to get that right look. But guys like David Lean did that… You know, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, all that… In RYAN’S DAUGHTER he’d wait for the clouds to be right.

And Schaffner did that a lot with PATTON. But PATTON actually managed to stay on budget whereas BLADE RUNNER went over. And they had to keep finding more people to help kick in with the financing, and that’s why there’s so many partners involved, including Bud Yorkin, and it was so hard to get a sequel together. They all want to get the biggest chunk now, it’s ridiculous. If they’d just relax and let it go forward, there would be a sequel. And there still may be… And my character is still alive!

So then you did end up doing a scene with Harrison Ford… What’s he like?

Oh he’s great… We’d done a TV show together before called PETROCELLI out in Tucson and I had the top billing guest star. In fact, William Shatner was in that with us… It was a lawyer thing, if anybody remembers. It only ran a couple of years, but anyway, I was the top guest star and Harrison was a minor co-star.

So we go into the rehearsal for BLADE RUNNER… The first day, a read-through of the script… And Sean Young was, of course, late. I told Ridley that this girl was gonna be nothing but a pain in the ass… And Harrison was doomed. All of which was true. So the first day we were sitting there at the table and Harrison comes in and shakes hands with everybody. He’s like, “Hi, I’m Harrison Ford… Hi, I’m Harrison Ford.” Now I know he knows me, we spent a week together in Tucson on this thing not that long ago. And it’s like he’s gonna ignore me as he’s walking around. And he finally doubles back, leans over and whispers in my ear: “I got top billing this time.” And I laughed and it was great. And right after he came to see me in my dressing room and couldn’t be nicer.

And when I was doing a movie called THE LAST HARD MEN with Charlton Heston, James Coburn and Barbara Hershey… And I’m a rapist and I get killed horribly in that one… You don’t screw around with Moses’s daughter, I found out. At any rate, I was offered STAR WARS… Harrison’s part. But Andy had been so good to me, the director Andy McLaglen… That my agent said, “The last guy’s science-fiction was a turkey. It was called THX, or whatever. Stick with Andy, he’s been good to you. This is your third or fourth movie with him… Come on, don’t give up.”

Well Andy said he could get me off in time for this; he could rap my scenes in a week if I needed to. And my agent said, “No, no, stick with it.” So I stayed there three more weeks and I came back to town, and found out about STAR WARS… You don’t know anything when you’re on location… So I found out about Harrison doing the role and everything. And I said [later on] to my agent, “Is that thing you had me turn down, that I could have gotten… Was that STAR WARS?”

Anyway, so that’s the chance of the business. Harrison was up for several movies, including DIRTY O’NEIL. He got the hit, I got the bomb… What can I say?

Alright, so let’s talk a little about DIRTY O’NEIL… This is a fun exploitation drive-in flick from the early seventies, and I actually enjoyed it a lot…

It’s the lowest budget movie in history, believe me… I mean our lunch was whatever they could find at a local hotdog stand. But it was a lead role and it was supposed to be funny, a takeoff on all the cop movies that were going on… And it had potential of being funny. Art Metrano was funny and I was trying to be somewhat funny… And the premise was funny. But you know – it was what it was.

I have never been so jealous of a character in my life: DIRTY O’NEIL gets all these beautiful women, nonstop throughout the entire film, the likes of June Fairchild, Tara Strohmeier and many others – he’s luckier than James Bond…

Well let me tell you, I was happily married at the time so it was the greatest waste of talent in my life. My wife checked every night… She called the set to say, “Have they rapped yet, have they rapped yet?” She wanted to know everything, so those girls – we had our scenes and that was the end of it.

Well one b-movie that has a huge cult following is MITCHELL…

I’m surprised to hear that… I didn’t think anybody ever saw MITCHELL.

In the 1990’s there was a show called MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER where one guy and two puppets watch low budget movies and make fun of them: and the best episode was when they set their sites on MITCHELL…

I didn’t know about that. And that was again Andy McLaglen. I’m playing an Italian hood and the producers are all against this. They said, “He doesn’t look Italian.” And there are Northern Italians who are blonde… I had light brown hair, you know. And he sold them on me for this thing. I think my name was “Mistrada” or something.

And you die on screen once again, this time on a motorcycle…

That little motorcycle scene he wanted in close-up and it was really dicey because the guy actually shot a blood pellet and hit me in the forehead. You know, if they hit you in the eye, you’ve lost your eye. And I said, “Andy, what are you trying to do to me here?”

But Mort was the best guy in the business… It took him three takes before he fired off the shot and it hit right where it was supposed to hit me. But, you know, that’s one of those things that can go bad. And Andy I trusted for everything… You had to… He was my meal ticket.

And there are other great actors in this including Martin Balsam, John Saxon…

And Merlin Olsen and a girl who I was just in love with at the time, Linda Evans. And her husband was always lurking around; he wanted to see what’s going on because she’s so gorgeous. And he didn’t want her out of his site… It was very inhibiting for everybody. So Andy said, “Tell him to park in Malibu… We gotta do this thing!”

REST IN PEACE MORGAN PAULL: A GREAT CHARACTER-ACTOR WHO WILL BE MISSED. AND THANKS TO FRIEND AND ACTRESS SHARON FARRELL, WHO MADE THIS INTERVIEW HAPPEN...
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