Written by / 9/29/2015 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

BREAKING 'RAD' WITH ACTOR BILL ALLEN

Interview with RAD actor Bill Allen in promoting his book MY RAD CAREER
"The riders not only loved the movie and continue to do so, but it is responsible for so many getting into the sport, that I am given way too much credit for many a riders inspiration," writes actor Bill Allen. "I'm so happy to be a part of the BMX community, and they have embraced me with open arms." And although the 1986 cult classic RAD does fit under the category of a motion picture capturing a popular fad, the sport of BMX riding is anything but dated, or something that has ever gone away… And yet, during that particular era, BMX racing was one of the coolest sports to physically and/or visually experience...

Bill Allen in RAD
Since it took professional riders to pull off such amazing stunts, there had to be a cool story involved too, including actors under swift direction, wherein RAD combined an underdog tale, a teenage romance, wonderful exploitation of competitive and freestyle BMX riding with some corporate greed thrown in.

The star of this film is Bill Allen as Cru, a passive BMX cruiser who initially delivers newspapers and then winds up, in the typical ROCKY and/or KARATE KID fashion, competing against the reigning champion: to basically save the town.

When did you first know you wanted to be an actor, and how did you go about becoming one?

I was cast out of Dallas in '83 in the lead in a film about a Jockey starring Jose Ferrer, Tab Hunter, Adam Roarke and a young George Clooney. I had been only a theater actor before that, but AND THEY'RE OFF got me a SAG card, an agent, and an acting coach (Bryan O'Byrne.) This was the time I decided to be an actor for the rest of my life. Soon I moved to L.A. and started working as an actor soon afterward.

Poster Artwork
You worked with Robert Altman, one of the great all-time filmmakers, in STREAMERS: What was your part, and how was it being directed by Altman? 

I played an Officer that was holding a gun and interrogating Matthew Modine and David Allen Grier. I was incredibly green and Altman was incredibly kind and nurturing. His key to good filmmaking seemed to be in casting the right actors.

He let the actors bring to it what they wanted; he acted more like a traffic cop.  He even had me sit beside him and watch him direct for a day. We will never see the likes of him again. It's safe to say he smoked more weed than Bob Marley.

Bill's big stunt in RAD
Tell us about how you landed the role in RAD?

Hal Needham saw me in an episode of HILL STREET BLUES, a popular cop show at the time, and called me in on the strength of that performance. Cru was a very different type of character, so after a quick audition, he had me sit on a BMX bike and the rest is history.

What were some risky riding scenes you did in RAD... that you performed on your own and were nervous about, without the stunt double? 

I suppose riding on that dumpster as it put me over the fence was the riskiest thing I did, and it shows on my face. I almost took a dive when, at the end of qualifying race, I hit my front brake by accident and I go flying into the arms of my friends. It actually made the shot very dynamic and dramatic. Otherwise I did very little of my own riding, and the riding I did do, is shaky at best.

Hal goes from hot rods to BMX glory
Share a little about director Hal Needham, famous for his films with Burt Reynolds, and who was a stuntman himself: did he equally relate to actors and the stunt riders (your double Eddie Fiola in particular) or was there more leaning on the action element of the film?

He was larger than life, a living and breathing action icon, who filled up the room with his southern charm and brilliance. He treated actors with kid gloves, but with stuntmen, the gloves came off. He was quoted as saying, "I hired stuntmen, not stunt pads!" However, RAD was the first film where the stuntmen (mostly kids) actually knew more than he did about the stunts, and the collaboration was brilliant. Obviously his movies were action-heavy, and that is where he shone. I think he saw the dialogue scenes as a necessary evil, and just let the actors have free reign.

Talia Shire with Bill Allen
Talia Shire co-starred as your mom, famous as Adrian from the ROCKY films: how was it working with such an iconic actress, and was there a family vibe being that her husband, Jack Schwartzman, produced?

I was intimidated by the weight of her pedigree and resume, but that just fed the emotion of our scenes together. She treated me well, and I will forever be grateful for her patronage. She had her whole family around her, including a young Jason Schwartzman and her stepson, the famous DP, John Schwartzman, who shot a behind the scenes documentary that never saw the light.

To Slide With You
Working with the beautiful Lori Loughlin, who later went on to FULL HOUSE fame: Tell us about your experiences during the riding and love scenes, and especially the fan-favorite water sliding moment... 

She was so fun to work with, and easy to fall for. I think she was on a higher showbiz rung than I, so I never passed her test, but believe me, I tried! I guess I liked the kissing scenes best (who wouldn't?). The ass sliding was done into FREEZING waters, so it looked more fun than it was.

Lori Loughlin
The dance sequence, where the most memorable song, SEND ME AN ANGEL, plays... What was it like working on this very energetic and colorful scene? 

I actually had food poisoning the night before the shoot, so I was deathly ill while the main sequence was being shot. So the look on my face during that scene is one of nausea, not apprehension.

Bill Allen
RAD, the term and title alone, epitomizes the 1980's... What were some of your favorite aspects of this era, not related to the film itself?

My favorite aspects was the entertainment industry was much more innocent and lucrative and there was still a mystery to show biz. With the advent of youtube and reality stars, the bar has dropped significantly for talent. Not to mention AIDS wiped out almost an entire generation of artists who there is no replacement for except for mediocre imitations.

Weston and Walston
Character actors Ray Walston and Jack Weston were in this: what did their experience brought to the movie? 

I loved playing with these major talents who raised the bar in Hollywood for what supporting players could bring to a role. Going toe to toe with actors you grew up watching is a mystical experience that was not diminished in the actual meeting of these giants.

Bill Allen's Book Cover
Now share about your book, MY RAD CAREER, and how the idea came about?

My wife Carol is a writer (loveisinthestars.com) and she encouraged me to do something for the fans. Digging up the memories I had long buried turned out to be a catharsis. I didn't have enough stories for a whole book on RAD, so I write about my whole career. I share some of my adventures with people like Brandon Lee, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and others (myradcareer.com).

One more... had to ask... What was your part in BREAKING BAD, and how was that experience on a show that could possibly be the best cable television series ever created? 

I'm in the fifth episode, GREY MATTER, grilling Walter White on his work experience, and it's kind of an egg on your face moment for him. I took the job before anyone had seen the show, so I didn't know how lucky I was at the time (a recurring theme for me). I had a chance to chat it up with Bryan Cranston and found him to be incredibly cool, smart and hilarious.
Bill Allen, far left in argyle, after questioning Bryan Cranston's Walter White on BREAKING BAD
BUY BILL ALLEN'S BOOK MY RAD CAREER VIA STREAM OR PAPERBACK ON AMAZON
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