Written by / 5/28/2013 / 1 Comment / , , , , ,

YAPHET KOTTO TRUCKS ACROSS 110TH STREET

AN INTERVIEW WITH YAPHET KOTTO
Yaphet Kotto is one of the great actors of the seventies... Two particular blaxploitation efforts, ACROSS 110TH STREET and TRUCK TURNER, shows the man's range: playing a idealistic rookie cop to Anthony Quinn's hardened veteran and a villainous pimp verses bounty hunter Isaac Hayes...       

Good Cop, Bad Cop
When did you first know you wanted to be an actor? 

I was roaming around Manhattan looking for work; in fact I had just come from an employment center in New York called ‘Warren Street’ where you can buy a part-time job for about ten bucks.

On this particular day I didn’t feel like delivering lunches, or pushing a dolly truck through lower Manhattan, so I went up to 42nd Street around Times Square, which at the time looked like a circus: porn theaters on one side of the street and b-movies on the other. I stopped before one particular theater and there were gangster photos all over the marquee. The movie must have cost about seventy-five cents, so I went in and sat down and saw ON THE WATERFRONT. I was so blown away after that day – it was Brando’s performance that made me leave the streets to become an actor.
Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto squaring off in ACROSS 110th STREET
Any standout memories working with Anthony Quinn in ACROSS 110th STREET?

I can’t stop laughing about Mr. Quinn. He wouldn’t let me have anything. When I told him about how rough I had it as a kid in Harlem, he told me how he was hanged by the neck in Russia and left for dead. I told him I’d love to win an Academy award. “Don’t bother, I’ll lend you mine." “You don’t know how rough it is coming up black in America." “Listen Yaphet, until you have been a Mexican, you don’t know what rough means!”

When we were shooting 110th in Harlem… I said to him: “Finally, I’m with my people." “Your people? My great-grandmother was a slave in Alabama!”
Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn
My fondest memory of Tony was the day we were walking through Central Park on our way back to the Navarro Hotel where we were staying, and I started talking about how performing live on stage was the real challenge, not just acting in front of a camera for an editor to create a performance.

Right there and then Quinn started to do his song and dance routine from ZORBA THE GREEK, attracting a crowd of about five hundred people. That was it for me: “That’s it Tony, you’re the king."
Yaphet Kotto as Harvard Blue in TRUCK TURNER
What was it like working with Issac Hayes in TRUCK TURNER?

He was all right. He asked me to do that film with him. I didn’t take it serious because he wasn’t an actor and it was a joke. We got along great. He watched me do the death scene and that’s all he talked about afterwards: “Man, you all see the way my man Yaphet did his death scene?”

I can’t take too much credit for that scene, I had seen it in THE YOUNG LIONS with Marlon Brando and that gave me a skeleton to work from.
The Brando inspired death sequence in TRUCK TURNER
CHECK OUT ACROSS 110TH STREET AND TRUCK TURNER ON NETFLIX
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