Written by / 7/01/2012 / 2 Comments / , ,

ROBERT ROMANUS REVISITS RIDGEMONT HIGH

Interview with the man who brought Mike Damone to life in FAST TIMES
"How lucky is that?" says Robert Romanus, who played Mike Damone, the cocky ticket-scalper in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, in a Cult Film Freak interview. "My first big movie and my name comes up at the same time I’m on the screen. And it doesn’t always happen, you know."

So how did you first get into acting? 
Robert Romanus

When I started I came out to Los Angeles, straight out to Los Angeles, and I wanted to be a musician. I was a drummer and I played around town quite a bit with a lot of people. And I traveled a little bit and I was working as a singing waiter in a restaurant, and this really pretty girl came up at the end of one of my songs and said, “You know, you should be an actor.” So I took it to mean that my voice wasn’t very good.

And so I actually went and took an acting class. That was 1978 and I fell in love with acting. I got on stage… Back then I was a very shy person and it was a place for me to be all the things I couldn’t be in real life. So I immediately took to it.

And your very first movie was FOXES…

Right, FOXES with Jodie Foster – that was in 1979 so it wasn’t long after I started acting classes that I got that job. And then it was a long time before I got another job, which was FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. Could have been like three years.

After I did FOXES I don’t even think I had an agent. And my mother came to visit me… She’s from Connecticut… She came out to visit me and, I don’t know how old you are, or what your history is, but there used to be a restaurant out here called Schwab's Pharmacy, which was very famous. So I took her there.
Mike Damone, Scalper
HBO was just getting started – cable TV was just getting started – and FOXES was one of the movies playing. So we were sitting there having breakfast, and this guy walks by and says, “I just saw you on TV last night – on FOXES.” And he said, “Do you have an agent?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “Do you want one?” And I said, “Sure.” So he became my agent, and I think maybe the fourth audition that he sent me out on was for FAST TIMES.

So I auditioned for this movie for seven weeks. Going in once every week because the producers were not convinced, but the director [Amy Heckerling] really liked me. So I went in and, by the time seven weeks was over, I had auditioned every scene in the script. I had done several improvs and had even gone to wardrobe and makeup.

Amy Heckerling took me there and said, “Come on, let’s do this.” Because for some reason I think they thought I was too old. And Amy thought, “I just like him so much.” So finally in the end, on the seventh meeting, I told them, “I really like the part, and I think I can do a really nice job, but I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna come back another time for ya.” So that’s when they gave me the job. And Amy Heckerling… She was a nice force for me… She fought for me…

"That's the attitude"
The book by Cameron Crowe was very popular – do you remember how Mike Damone was in the book compared to the movie?

My understanding is he’s a combination of two different characters from the book. I’m not sure who they are but he’s two different guys, and I had made him a transplant from the East Coast… That was part of my justification for being a real asshole… That he’s a new kid in school and he’s really not very smart. He’s trying to impress people… That’s what he thinks is gonna make him friends, by impressing people and being cool, and so, you know, I’d always imagined him a transplant from New Jersey.

You and Brian Bakker, who played your sidekick Mark Ratner, were great together…

He’s a great guy, a great actor. What a great actor he is. He had just won himself a Tony Award on Broadway doing a play called THE FLOATING LIGHTBULB; I think it was about Woody Allen or something. And he was… All these actors, they were not lightweights… They were young and weren’t discovered but every one of them was very serious about what they do, and so we just… It just sort of took on the nature that me and Brian would have.

We’d go and have dinner. We would just hang out. We really kind of took to each other. To this day we have a very close bond. I don’t see him often, he lives in New York – he’s under the radar. But I just saw him a little while ago when they did a Spike TV award thing, and they flew the whole cast out… So I got to see him and it was great… But being a good serious actor like he was, it’s sort of… You make that happen. But we happened to have a nice chemistry.

With a Debbie Harry cutout
Damone talks a lot but also has a great physical way of moving around, especially the scene where you talk to the Deborah Harry cutout…

I remember practicing that scene over and over at my house. I actually wanted to see if they’d let me bring Deborah Harry home so I could actually walk around it and do this whole thing.

And you know, there was a guy I grew up with in High School and it was his physicality I was doing. He always used to walk around, his head was always bopping, you know, he always had this kind of rhythmic thing. And he’d say things like… We’d be playing cards and he’d say… “A card laid is a card played, man.” For some reason he reminded me of Mike Damone: the physicality. That’s where that came from… the looseness and the movement. I don’t think I’m really like that.

But Damone could also get nervous, like whenever he’s around Forrest Whitaker…

I was kind of going for the fact he was cocky, and he’s confident, but it’s all false bravado: He really doesn’t know his ass from his elbow – he’s in a strange place and he’s trying to impress the little kids. Maybe he knows a little something because he’s got an older brother named Art. So it was kind of my invention.

Poolside with pal Mark Ratner
The scene where you and Ratner crash the swimming pool looked fun…

Oh it was all fun, man. It was beautiful because nobody had any big egos. It was really a summer film. Wasn’t a big budget. All the actors were fairly new. Sean Penn, I think, who was maybe the most known at that moment, was coming off TAPS… So there was no, “I am this, I am that, I want a big trailer, blah blah blah… I’m a star.” It was only, “Let’s have some fun. Let’s shoot this movie.” And I would go down to the set and watch Sean do a scene – and I’d think, “Oh man, these guys are so fucking good. I have to go home and do my homework.” It just made me want to make me go home and work harder because everything was looking so good.

And this was your first sex scene in a movie...

My first and, could have be my last. Besides deflowering Mindy Cohn on FACTS OF LIFE, but they never showed that.

A timid Damone before quickly scoring
Despite his many flaws, Damone seems to be nice deep down, because when he’s with Stacy at her house, he seems apprehensive since Ratner likes her… 

You’re exactly right. When I say he’s an asshole, I only mean that with the things he does – he’s not a malicious guy. He feels bad about Rat, but also… He’s never been with a girl before. At that table, when he said, “Hey this is great ice tea,” he’s a virgin. He talks… All he does is talk, talk, talk... He knows nothing about the real stuff, he’s all talk. And so when she says, “I got your bathing suit,” it freaks him out. Not to mention that he’s fucking over his good friend.

You know, I can’t imagine these other characters doing more than being students at a high school, but I can picture Damone hustling pool in New York, or doing a lot of things that the other suburban kids wouldn't do or be able to do… And whether he doesn’t know what he’s doing or not, there’s a great character there and I just love Mike Damone, you really brought him to life in such a classic way... 


Thank you. I’m very proud of Damone; I’m proud of FAST TIMES. You know the movie is in the Library of Congress? It’s a National Treasure. That always makes me laugh.

Damone had the coolest bedroom
But the reason I believe it’s still around and it still works is because the script. It was written really from the truth. And if you’ve read the book and you know Cameron, you know he went back to school and hung out with High School Seniors all year long and was writing these notes down.

In fact the FIVE POINT PLAN… He said he was sitting at the Pizza Place with these guys after school and one of these guys started spouting the FIVE POINT PLAN. You know: “Wherever you are, that’s the place to be.” He said he ran into the bathroom with a napkin and wrote it down. So it’s written from truth: And the truth is that teenagers, any generation, go through the same exact themes. Maybe one year it’s a 1961 Corvette or it’s a 2002 Bug, it doesn’t matter. You’re going through the same theme: the dress, the sex, the identity, and everything he wrote was from the truth. And that’s why I believe it still works, because you can say, “I remember those things.” Maybe not with a surfer, but you remember the themes…
About to do a friend a favor, reluctantly...
Phoebe Cates looking hot, hot, hot...
Share This Post :
Tags : , ,

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Robert and James for a cool interview. Saw the film opening night in So Cal 1982 and have watched it at least once a year since. Damone was my favorite character from the start. Everybody else liked Spicoli, for obvious reasons, Sean was riotous, but Damone has more depth--despite his superficiality--and is more enduring. And thank you Amy for sticking with Robert because nobody else would have worked. Robert, I remember seeing you on CHiPs shortly after and couldn't hear your dialogue because I was busy doing Mike Damone impersonations the whole time. I'll have to try and find that episode and watch it properly. I was only 14 when Fast Times came out, perfect age for the content, so I never bought a yearbook because "I know what I look like."
    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

All Time Popular

Featured Post

ELIZABETH TAYLOR IN 'ASH WEDNESDAY' WITH KEITH BAXTER

Elizabeth Taylor in ASH WEDNESDAY Year: 1973 Rating: **** A brilliant plot-device for any forty-year-old actress who was once an ingenue, AS...

WWW.CULTFILMFREAKS.COM

WWW.CULTFILMFREAKS.COM
Movie Reviews, Interviews, Articles and Pop Culture from White Heat to Blue City

RIP ACTOR KEN HUTCHISON

RIP ACTOR KEN HUTCHISON
Reviews with the late Scottish cult actor

TOTAL HITS

Popular Trending

FOUNDED BY JAMES M. TATE

FOUNDED BY JAMES M. TATE
RANDOM QUOTE: "There aren't gonna be any rainbows, man." Marlon Brando to Jess Hahn, The Night of the Following Day

CRIME/FILM NOIR/NEO NOIR


Gritty Exploitation Cinema of Charles Bronson

FAVORITES SHORTLIST

1)OTLEY 2)THE FEARMAKERS 3)HOT CARS 4)CANYON PASSAGE 5)THE CROWDED SKY 6)RAIDERS FROM BENEATH THE SEA 7)VIOLENT SATURDAY 8)JUNGLE STREET 9)THE MAN FROM LARAMIE 10)HELL IS A CITY 11))ANATOMY OF A MURDER 12)SHARKS' TREASURE 13)SWEENEY TWO 14)HARDCORE 15)FRENZY 16)THE SYSTEM 17)ROBBERY 18)THE SERGEANT 19)AL CAPONE 20)FALLEN ANGEL 21)ASH WEDNESDAY 22)CURSE OF THE DEMON 23)ATLANTIC CITY 24)KILLER FISH 25)AIR PATROL 26)DUEL IN THE JUNGLE 27)EASY LIVING 28)WILLIAM CONRAD'S BRAINSTORM 29)VENOM 30)THE ROARING TWENTIES 1)DANA ANDREWS 2)JAMES CAGNEY 3)JACK NICHOLSON 4)MARLON BRANDO 5)CHARLES BRONSON DAMES 1)VIRGINIA MAYO 2)SUE LYON 3)GENE TIERNEY 4)MERRY ANDERS 5)FAYE DUNAWAY DIRECTORS 1)JACQUES TOURNEUR 2)RICHARD FLEISCHER 3)STANLEY KUBRICK 4)ORSON WELLES 5)OTTO PREMINGER 6)JOHN LANDIS 7)JOHN GUILLERMAN 8)VAL GUEST 9)JOHN CARPENTER 10)MICHAEL WINNER

BRITISH NEW WAVE CINEMA

RARITIES AND EXPLOITATION

HAMMER HORROR & THRILLER

Popular This Month

WESTERN GENRE REVIEWS

CINEMA OF DANA ANDREWS

PEAKING INTO THE SIXTIES

KICKING IN THE EIGHTIES

TALES AND REFLECTIONS

REVVING THE SEVENTIES

FOR HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS

Most Popular Last Year

RETURN TO THE HOMEPAGE