Presented by James M. Tate / 11/23/2014 / 2 Comments / franchise , interview , sequel , seventies , walter matthau
ORIGINAL BAD NEWS BEARS ARCHIVE INTERVIEWS ONE
|Double Hitter Archive Interviews from the classic original THE BAD NEWS BEARS|
We have teamed up with Mike to resurrect his interviews in two parts, beginning with the first movie, THE BAD NEWS BEARS, the best kid sports movie ever made. And with a beer guzzling Walter Matthau reluctantly coaching foul-mouthed misfits led by a chain-smoking Jackie Earle Haley, the film is equally geared for grownups.
Further down is an interview with the first Engleberg, Gary Lee Cavagnaro, but we'll start with Mike's interview with David Pollock, who, before Tatum O'Neal's Amanda took over as the strongarm ringer, was the nervous left-handed pitcher for the team, Rudi Stein... And David, unlike Gary, also appeared in, and shares about, both sequels.
MIKE'S INTERVIEW WITH DAVID POLLOCK ("RUDI STEIN")
|David as Rudi Stein|
I remember arriving the first day of filming at 6 a.m. because I didn't want to miss anything. There was a constant parade of celebrity guests on the set. Ryan O'Neal was there frequently visiting Tatum. Burt Lancaster stopped by to see how his son's script was coming to life. Jack Lemmon stopped by to visit Walter and took some of the boys down to the Baskin Robbins at Devonshire and Mason (it's still there) for ice scream. Steve Garvey came by one day to meet us. Bill Bixby came to rehearsals one day to visit Brandon Cruz who starred with him in the Courtship of Eddie's Father series: One morning while we were filming in Japan, a group of us got on the elevator in Hotel Okura and found ourselves face-to-face with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. We had a short, polite conversation. It turned out later this was their "lost" period, but we knew where they were!
When Breaking Training came out in 1977, we all went on a publicity tour. We started in New York City by signing autographs at Macy's then playing softball in Central Park with the Broadway cast of Annie. Jackie Haley and I snuck away one night to see a new movie called the Rocky Horror Picture Show playing in Greenwich Village. We all then split up and went in small groups to different cities.
Probably my worst memory is the filming of the Japan movie. It was no surprise to us that the movie didn't turn out well. It was not a happy set. I think most of us were actually working under an option that included a fourth movie where we were to go to Cuba. After Japan, though, Paramount wisely decided to leave it at that.
|Rudi Stein on Poster|
By the third movie, there were only five of us left from the original movie and Jeff Starr from the second movie. We were never told why some of us made it and others didn't. Sometimes it just had to do with the way the script was written. That's the reason Scott Firestone was given for not being in Breaking Training (he was crushed).
It was my understanding that Chris Barnes' family had become increasingly uncomfortable with the profanity and behavior represented in the movies and were pressing for rights that Michael Ritchie wasn't prepared to extend.
I haven't talked to Chris since Breaking Training so I can't say for sure what the issues were. I did miss working with him on the Japan movie, but that definitely was the one to miss.
Quinn Smith, Alfred Lutter and Jaime Escobedo also were missing from the Japan movie for reasons unknown to me. I saw Alfred and Jaime at the photo session for TV Guide, but that issue never came up. We were having too much fun talking about our good memories.
I actually ended up living with Brett Marx and his family for over a year after Breaking Training.
I have also heard stories of the other guys getting together in smaller groups years afterward, but I was off busy raising my family. The TV Guide shoot was the first time in 24 years that I had seen Erin, Alfred, Scott, and Jaime.
What was a typical day like on the set of the 1st movie? The 2nd movie?
A typical day for any movie is waiting for long periods of time between scenes while shots are being set up. And then you aren't in all the shots, so there is plenty of socializing time. During the school year, we were required to have four hours of supervised study each day. We actually had set teachers to make sure of this.
I saw Walter at a restaurant around 1992 and he not only remembered me but rattled off the names of most of the boys in the movie. I know that George Gonzales in particular stayed close to Walter over the years. His funeral was a private affair and I don't know if any of us were there. I wasn't.
We stayed very true to the script, but the script kept being rewritten as we filmed. By the end of each movie, our scripts looked like a rainbow from the side with all the different colored revision pages. During the scene where Amanda takes over as pitcher I thought it would be funny for Rudi to say "But I can pitch!" Michael Ritchie was not amused by my creativity (and that didn't make it into the movie).
By the time I was in my Sophomore year at Beverly Hills High, I was pretty much nobody and couldn't even get on the stage crew. I felt totally lost and my grades went into the tank. In fact, the school refused to renew my work permit and I almost didn't get to go to Japan.
I actually had to take the high school proficiency exam and graduate early to honor my contract with Paramount. The irony is that today I am friends with the superintendent of Beverly Hills Unified School District, but I haven't even told her that story.
We actually filmed an alternate ending to the original movies in which the Bears won the championship. The fear was that audiences might be upset with the ending, so they wanted to have an alternate just in case. As it turns out, that wasn't necessary. I can't imagine it ending that way now.
What was your favorite of the 3 movies and why?
My favorite was clearly the first movie. The script by Bill Lancaster was a classic. I remember reading it cover to cover in one sitting. It read like a novel. And the interaction of the group of us was pretty amazing. We were able to capture some of that magic again in the second movie, but it was totally lost by the time we arrived in Japan.
What are your thoughts on the TV show? Did any of the movie 'Bears' ever mention it?
We never discussed the TV series and none of us participated in it (that I know of). By the third movie, I was shaving real close in the morning trying to play a 12-year-old at 16.
We haven't stayed as close as I would have hoped. We all went on to lead our different lives with only sporadic contact in between. It was great seeing Erin, Scott, Alfred and Jaime for the TV Guide shoot. We actually missed George because they took his picture the next day and cropped him into the group shot.
From the information I have received from informed sources, he doesn't want to talk about the movies or his time there.
Was this always the case? Do you have any memories about Chris that you'd like to share?
I haven't spoken to Chris, so I can't really provide any insight here. My understanding is that he felt stereotyped by the Tanner Boyle role and purposely distanced himself from it. Scott Firestone has stayed in touch with him. I'll see if I can get him to answer this question.
Was there any tension between any of the cast members?
If there was, I was oblivious to it. We were pretty happy campers. Things were tense in Japan, but that had more to do with the adults involved, not us.
Did any of the Bears have a crush on Tatum? DETAILS!!
I wasn't really close to Tatum, but I did hear that some of the other guys were invited over to her house once during the movie. You'll have to get them to divulge any details.
What I remember wasn't a reading, it was actually a baseball game on the backlot of Paramount Studios. They were looking for a zit-faced kid with glasses that couldn't pitch. I was a natural! I don't know of any notable actors being turned away.
Do you remember any bloopers that stand out in your mind for one reason or another?
When we met for the TV Guide shoot, we discussed how it was so difficult for Walter to get through the scene with me when he asked me to go get hit by the ball. He kept cracking up because of the looks I was giving him and we had to keep retaking the scene.
One time when I was pitching the ball, it was hit back and struck me in the ankle. I grabbed my ankle and hopped around on one foot. That wasn't planned but it made it into the movie.
Actually, we had the Astrodome to ourselves for a full week. Between scenes we would explore the tunnels and backrooms of the place. It was pretty amazing. We actually put an ad in the paper for extras when we needed large crowd shots.
|BREAKING credit sequence|
Was Jackie Earle Haley really old enough to drive the van? What happened to the van after the movie?
I believe Jackie had just turned 16 when we were filming Breaking Training. He actually was driving the van, but a studio driver was always hunched down beside him just in case. There were actually two identical vans. I don't know what happened to them. I haven't seen them on eBay yet!
Did they let you guys keep the uniforms? If so, do you still have them?
I still have parts of my uniform, but for the life of me I don't know what happened to the jersey. I don't know if we were actually "allowed" to keep the uniforms. Some of us just ended up with them. The wardrobe department always had more than one set of everything.
|Stein & Boyle|
I had absolutly no idea. I don't know that anyone could have predicted. It was a very modest production even by the standards back then. I think it cost around $3 million to make the first movie. It pulled in over $50 million in its first run in theaters during the summer of 1976.
Why was the role of Mike Engleberg played by Jeffrey Louis Starr in the second film and not Gary Lee Cavagnaro?
That's a good question. I never got a good answer to that.
How has your role in the Bad News Bears affected you in your life as David Pollock?
I think it has been more of a novelty than anything else. There are people I have known for many years that never had any idea I was in the movie. But it is extremely rare that someone finds out and doesn't know about the movie. I remember someone in the mailroom where I work reciting Rudi Stein lines to me that I had even forgotten.
|Given a painful order, again|
What I cherish the most is having been part of something that has contributed to American cultural history. It is something I will always be proud of. Even though we don't see much of each other, I know that the cast members share a special bond that will last all our lives.
Comparing the Bears to other kid's sport comedy-dramas what do you think the Bears legacy will be and what is its place in film history?
The legacy is showing kids as they really are and how their lives can fall prey to the egos of the adults around them. It had been copied since (the Mighty Ducks come to mind for some strange reason) but never replicated.
Thank you for appreciating what we were portraying in the movie. There was a moral in the story that struck home for many people. I think youth sports today are more inclusive and about more than just winning.
Any last thoughts that you'd like to share that might interest Bears fans?
I'll offer this bit of trivia: In the original script, my character was Lefty Stein. During rehersals I pointed out to Michael Ritchie that I was actually right-handed and pitched bad enough with that arm. Walter Matthau actually came up with the name Rudi and it stuck.
MIKE'S INTERVIEW WITH GARY LEE CAVAGNARO ("ENGLEBERG")
Obviously the best memories revolve around the wonderful people. Lunch with Walter and Jack Lemon was a highpoint as was Michael Ritchie coming to work one morning wearing a Gary Lee Cavagnaro Fan Club Shirt.
My Birthday they dressed me up to do the scene behind the plate with Walter where I pick up the ball in a huff and fling it into his car windshield by accident. When I turned to throw the ball, they (Michael, Stanley Jaffe and John Alonzo) threw pies in my face.
I attended a "Cattle Call" at the Kim Dawson Agency that was advertised on the radio. As they were filming Logan's Run in Dallas that summer, everyone assumed the auditions were for that film. I was called back two days later to meet Michael and Stanley and was told they would be in touch.
A week later, while my family was on vacation in Austin, we got a call on a Friday night saying that I should be in LA the next Monday. We rehearsed for a week and then started filming.
|Our starring players|
Sure, I spent the night with Brett several times. David S. and his family stayed in the same apartment complex as we did and Chris Barnes and his brothers were always spending the night with David or I.
What was a typical day like on the set of the movie?
Long... 8-10 hours at the field or in the trailer (school) with our teacher. It was a big movie production and between Tatum and her dad and Water and his friends, there were always lots of Stars around.
Why did you appear in the first movie and not the others? Did you have a contract for the others? Do you regret not being a part of the Breaking Training and BNB In Japan movies?
To make a long story short, I lost 50 lbs. and grew 8". They asked me to come back for B.T., but they would not write my weight loss into the script. They wanted me to gain all the weight back and I said no thanks. While I'm sorry I didn't get to see the guys, I am happy that I had the opportunity to do the original.
|Amanda & Kelly|
Sure, we all spent time together. In fact, I did a commercial for the movie "Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings" with Jackie about a year after our movie came out. Tatum was a little standoffish early on, but that didn't last more than a few days.
We were all just a bunch playing make believe. We all fit into that mold and Walter and Vic and the other adults did us all a favor by treating us as kids, not little adults.
I really have no thoughts on the subject. I am sure he played it the way they asked him to. Unfortunately for him, I don't believe the scripts or casts of the two later movies were nearly as strong as the Original.
|Jeffrey Louis Starr|
Yes, I did a movie called Drive-In immediately after BNB, and another called Crises at Central High a few years later. I did several commercials as well, but as I got older, I became involved with sports and really had no time for acting.
I actually had a part offered to me for Jaws 2 that I turned down because it was in the middle of football season. After that, the Agents quit getting calls.
|Chris & Walter|
The Original… Best Script, best cast and a fresh idea.
What was/is your relationship with Chris Barnes (Tanner Boyle)? Do you know of any reason why he prefers not to talk about his time as one of the Bears?
Chris was my best friend during the filming. In fact, he came to Dallas and stayed with me for 7-10 days after the release of the movie. We went to see it together and everyone in the theater recognized us. After a while, we just lost contact with each other.
In upstate NY a couple of years ago I was told by a friend that Chris went to prep school in that area. I really don't know why he has chosen to take the path he has regarding talking to people, but I'm sure he has a good reason. If he ever reads this, I hope he will contact me and let me know where he is.
Do you ever see any of the members of the Bears? Do you remain friendly with any of them?
No, I haven't seen anyone in a long time. I think Scott's visit about 15 years ago was the last time I saw anyone. I have spoken to David P. and David S. recently. I like to think we all remain friends.
Tatum had a heck of a time with her line "let him go Buttermaker, I'll chew his ears off and spit them back in is face.” If you listen to the movie, you will hear she never did get it right.
The funniest blooper actually made it into the movie. When Ahmad gets hit in the groin with a baseball and Vic says get a stretcher, you can here someone, I think it was Chris, say "a stretcher for his balls?"
What are your thoughts on the TV show? Did any of the movie 'Bears' ever mention it?
Horrible! No, we never discussed it with each other. It was a cute movie, maybe two, but not three and certainly not enough material for a TV Show.
NO WAY! I realy don't believe that the movie would have been remembered at all if we had won. I was at the world premiere with Michael at the USA Film Festival at SMU.
I sat there and watched the film and everyone saw it building toward the ending of us winning. When we lost, you could feel the stunned silence of the crowd. When Lupus made his speech people actually cheered.
No, the ending is what made the movie. It was real world. It said that no matter how hard you work, sometimes you come up short. And it said that that was ok too.
The experience was unbelievable. The people I met were wonderful. But, what I think about is that I had the opportunity to leave behind a legacy for my family. I watch the show with my kids, and someday they will watch it with their children and grand children.
Like my kids, it will live after I am long gone. It is quite something when you think about it and I am honored to have had the opportunity.
Comparing the Bears to other kid's sports films, what do you think the Bears legacy will be and what is its place in film history?
The Mighty Ducks, Major League, Sand Lot and all of the other sports movies dealing with a bunch of misfits coming together and achieving things that they, nor anyone else thought they could, all owe something to BNB. It was the first, an original. I believe it will be a classic forever.
If you could say one thing to the fans of the Bad News Bears after all of these years, what would it be?
Thank you for your support of the Movie(s). It is the fans who have kept the film alive and not sitting on a shelf in Paramount Studios collecting dust.
I travel quite a bit and have spoken to David P. about some of us getting together when I am in the L.A. area. There never seems to be enough time though. I would love to get together with everyone and our families.
How has your role in the Bad news Bears affected you in your life as Gary?
The most immediate effect was that it was during the filming that a doctor told me what was going to happen to me if I didn't lose weight. I did and have never looked back. It certainly has been a door opener for me when people learn of my past, though I must say, I prefer not to discuss it unless someone asks me about my experience. It helped me with my confidence and self-esteem and, like I said earlier along with my children, it assures me that I will leave some sort of legacy when I am gone.
|Vic Morrow on left|
Everyone talks about the way we were able to "act". The reality was, we were a bunch of kids who were told "pretend that your parents are not there and act like you would normally under that circumstance.”
We were all just being ourselves.You weren't watching Tanner and Engleberg and Toby and Reggie. It was Chris, Gary, David and Scott.
I can't say enough good things about the Adults on the set. Walter was, next to my own father, the finest man I ever knew. He was kind, tolerant, funny and just a genuine good guy.
Vic Morrow was the same. I was horribly upset when he died in the accident on the set of TWILIGHT ZONE. He was a fine man and really deserves a lot of credit for the way he dealt with a bunch of loud kids one summer in the San Fernando Valley.
I have gone back to the field we filmed at several times. It's still there, although the fence has been taken down now and the vacant farm land on two sides is now filled with Zero Lot line homes. Occasionally, when I go, I'll get out and walk the field. If I listen closely, I can almost here the chant "a busted bat and a long fly ball... and any day now Derocher will call.”
Thank you for the chance to let people know about my wonderful summer of 1975!
|Original Interviews by Mike, former webmaster of the Bad News Bears site|
|Editing, Photos & Overall Presentation by James M. Tate|