It has been a good 40 years and counting for Andrew Prine, four decades of playing cops and psychos, good guys and outlaws, holy men and holy terrors, in a career that jump started when he took over for another now-legendary character actor, Anthony Perkins, in the Broadway production of Look Homeward, Angel.
Prine’s is one of those faces that make channel-surfers feel as though someone slipped hallucinogens into their Old Milwaukee-one click, and there’s Prine as the high school principal on the USA Network’s Weird Science series; another click, and he’s on horseback, riding with John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart in an old Western; click again, and there he is chatting with Cybil or sharing a scene with David Hasselhoff on a new Baywatch Nights. Flip to the Fox network, and he’s showing up as Al Bundy’s TV hero “Psycho Dad” on Married… With Children; tune in to the Sci-Fi Channel, and there he is menacing Marc Singer on reruns of the series V.
But Prine’s image doesn’t just haunt the La-zBoy brigade. In a career stuffed with opportunities to emote in movies, TV and on stage, the lanky veteran has popped up in more than his share of horror flicks, from drive-in dandies like Simon, King of the Witches (1971) and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) to more recent direct-to video fare.
Prine in person is articulate, upbeat and youthful, with a refreshing, mile-wide sense of humor about himself and his work. He’s one of the lucky ones: a man who’s enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, the places his life and his work take him. With one exception.
He would rather not, he says, have been taken to the Barn of the Naked Dead/ Nightmare Circus (1973). “That’s the only movie I ever regretted making,” he admits cheerfully. “It was just too awful; I didn’t enjoy doing it. There was something about it-whipping girls and all of that once I got into it I said, ‘Gee, I don’t want to do this. This is too low on the pole.’ The Evil, you know, is a plausible movie. Simon had a reason for me to do the character. But this thing was just…depressing. I mean, the idea of cutting off the girl’s head and all. I had trouble with that, and I wish I hadn’t done it.”
Still, when it came to being a pro-and, especially, to getting paid, Prine stepped up and not only took his at bat, but did some pinch-hitting as well. “I directed half of Barn of the Naked Dead,” he reveals. “I mean, we didn’t have a director. We had a guy who didn’t know what he was doing. And I took over, because the second half of my salary was due on completion. I asked the cameraman, ‘How are you getting paid?’ He said he was on completion, too. So I said, ‘Let’s make a movie.’” Prine laughs. “I wanted to make sure he and I got the damn thing done.”
The 1973 indie, also known as Terror Circus, is a stomach-churner that features Prine as a mother fixated nutcase who gets his kicks by kidnapping women and torturing them into performing perverse circus acts in the titular barn. It’s rough stuff even by today’s standards, and Prine isn’t the only participant who’s not crazy about the picture-critically acclaimed director Alan Rudolph doesn’t list it among his credits, even though it was his first-ever directorial effort. “He denies doing it,” notes Prine with a chuckle. “He used to tell people it was his father.”
Reminded that Barn’s producer, Gerald Cormier, is given official credit as director, Prine responds, “Yes, and that’s ridiculous. He didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. That’s why we had no director, and that’s why I took over the first day and ran it until they brought in Alan, who was a young apprentice director, and he got it finished.
At the time, he adds, no one had an inkling that Rudolph was something special. “In a picture like that, nobody’s special. It’s so bad that you couldn’t even tell I was a good actor.” He laughs again. “Or that he was a good director. Some bodies you can’t pump breath into, and that was one of ’em. I was an unhappy camper on it; all I wanted to do was get it over with. It doesn’t matter, and this shouldn’t be the longest story in the world, but I talked myself into it because they paid me an awful lot of money. They paid me the whole budget to do it. I was seduced by greed, and I talked myself into believing I could do something with this piece of crap, which now haunts me wherever I go,” he concludes with another laugh.
Prine’s sense of humor about the whole thing indicates that he knows that one bum experience in 40 years of professional acting isn’t too bad. That career was set in motion back in the early ’50s, when, as a boy in Florida, a theater experience forever changed his life. “I went to Jacksonville to visit my mom and my stepfather, and they took me to a tent production of Showboat, with professional actors from a traveling company,” he remembers. “I’d never seen anything like that. I was 13 or 14, and the minute I saw these people on stage, under the lights, I knew I was an actor. I’d never thought of it before; I’d never thought of anything at that age. But the minute I saw ’em, I said, ‘Oh. I’m an actor.’”
He graduated from high school in the farm town of Jennings and headed for the University of Miami on a theater scholarship. But after a few months of matriculation, he ankled the campus for New York and a year and a half of what he terms “study and struggle.” The big break came when he was chosen to replace Perkins in Look Homeward, Angel at the Barrymore Theater, playing the young and troubled Eugene Gant (a surrogate for Thomas Wolfe, who wrote the novel from which the play was adapted). “I was very, very lucky,” he recalls. “I was just too right for the part. I was this tall, skinny Southern kid—that was Thomas Wolfe. They couldn’t deny me. So literally, for two years on Broadway, I learned to act. Every night, the stage manager came back and gave me copious notes-I mean, I had to go through that every night. But it taught me how to do the deed. I didn’t know jack shit. I was just good; that’s not nearly enough to sustain a show.”
While Prine worked every night at being better than good, wheels with his name attached were turning on the West Coast. Even then, the giant talent agency MCA had Universal Pictures under its corporate umbrella, and Prine was an MCA client. By the time his run in Look Homeward, Angel concluded, he had a Universal-produced TV series waiting in LA. It was a cowboy show called Wide Country, in which he and Earl Holliman starred as Andy and Mitch Guthrie, a couple of rodeo-drifter brothers. NBC put it on their schedule in the fall of ’62; it lasted 28 episodes. When the series played out, Prine had plenty of other thespic opportunities waiting. “You know, when you move to LA, you don’t go back to New York,” he says. “They pay you so much just to get on a horse, you think, Jeez! These people are crazy!'”
Throughout the rest of the ’60s and into the ’70s, Prine straddled a lot of horseflesh, doing featured roles in oaters like Advance to the Rear (1964), Texas Across the River (1966) and Bandolero (1968). But right around the time of 1970’s Chisum-which found him co-starring with Duke Wayne-hit the nation’s screens, Prine’s career took a sudden turn. “I couldn’t get the lead in straight movies because it was always the grownup guys, unless you were lucky enough to be someone like Bob Redford or Warren Beatty,” he says. “Otherwise, you were always the kid, you know. And then, I was offered a series of horror films. They’d say, ‘Look, you can have the lead. You can have anything you want, if you’ll just do this damn movie.'”
So he swapped the wide-open spaces for the claustrophobic darkness of the grave, outlaws and Indians for psychos and vampires, and kept right on rolling. Prine’s first horror feature was Bruce Kessler’s Simon, King of the Witches (1971), in which he played the title role. Full of trippy visuals and a genuine streetlevel weirdness, Simon mixed the surefire exploitation-film elements of sex, drugs and violence with a story that, Prine believes, came from the heart. “It was written by a warlock, a gone, dyed-in-the-wool warlock, who was very serious about it. It was about a portion of his life, he said. and we tried to faithfully present his vision of what all this was about.
“Doing the film was quite fascinating, because I was always with these people who were on another planet,” he adds with a chuckle. “They were not evil, necessarily. They were just people who actually believed they could do all of this.”
Simon’s writer of record is Robert Phippeny, who penned the script for Fanfare Films, an outfit owned by veteran schlockmeister Joe Solomon. At the time of Simon’s release, the infamous exploits of Charles Manson and company were still oozing through the national consciousness, and the canny Solomon never missed a media opportunity to deny that Simon was in any way inspired by Manson’s grisly spree-while admitting that the lead character was a scuzzy, charismatic hippie skulking around LA with a band of potentially murderous weirdos. When it’s suggested that his Simon was a Manson clone, Prine says, “Nah. Manson was crazy. My character wasn’t crazy. But we knew Manson because his guys stripped Volkswagens out on that ranch and made dune buggies, and we used to go out and ride our motorcycles on those dunes, where we’d see some of the ‘family.’ We knew that Manson was a songwriter, and he was around Hollywood. He was like a pimp. if you’ll excuse the expression that was one way he wanted to get in.
“Manson victim Jay Sebring cut my hair,” Prine adds. “And I knew Sharon Tate. Everybody kind of knew each other then. But those were the times. Crazy times.
And Prine was definitely a part of his times. The Simon pressbook refers to Prine’s “swinger image,” and his dates with the likes of Sue (Lolita) Lyon and Playboy playmate Connie Kreski. “Prine recently acquired a $6,000 custom-built waterbed,” reads the pressbook copy, “which is illuminated from within so that one can see the rather candid drawings he had painted on the bottom. One of these days, Prine promises, he is going to stock the bed with goldfish.”
“Oh, my God,” he laughs when the pressbook article is mentioned, “it’s all true. It was the times. I was movin’ fast. I was busy. I had a farout house. I even got the goldfish but there was no way you could feed them, so they all died.
“I must say,” he adds, still chuckling, “those were quite good times, and not built to last. We had to straighten up and go on with our lives. But for a while there, Hollywood was real.”
The year after Simon hit, Prine was back onscreen in another indie chiller, Hannah, Queen of the Vampires/Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) the tale of a resurrected 13th century bloodsucker, directed by veteran character actor Ray Danton. “I knew Ray: we’d acted together,” recalls Prine. “He sent me the script and I said, “There’s no way I’d do this trash.’ And he said, ‘Well, we’re on our way to Asia, and then we’re going to Rome…’
“I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute. There are certain things about this script. By golly, I think I can do something with it.’ I sold out immediately,” he says, laughing. “And we had a terrific summer. For the worst movie in the world, it had the best locations. We were in Istanbul, we were on an island in the Black Sea, we were in Madrid, and then we were in a castle outside of Barcelona. Is that ridiculous? That’s why I took the movie.”
Barn of the Naked Dead came next, and he stayed on the psychopath express for Centerfold Girls (1973), a violent, downbeat opus that found him acting alongside Hannah director Danton. “I made that film with a director friend of mine, John Peyser, who did a lot of television with me in those days,” he remembers. “It was Johnny’s independent movie, so we cast the prettiest girls we could find and chased ’em up and down the stairs. We were so busy, we could barely stop to make the movie.”
Again, he laughs. “The great thing about doing a small movie is that if the director’s smart, he’ll let you do what you want. He’ll leave you alone. Whatever you do, he’ll say, ‘Yeah. Do some more of that. Put those glasses on. Get that switchblade out. Good idea.’ I got to make (the character) up; he was my guy, you know? I made him all black and white-he wore the black outfit with the black-and-white shoes, and I had ’em paint his little apartment all white. I really enjoyed that guy.”
A couple of years later, Prine was working with a co-star far less appealing than Centerfold Girls’ Tiffany Bolling or Francine York or, for that matter, Ray Danton. Grizzly (1976), from director William Girdler paired the actor with an 18-foot-tall bundle of ursine menace named Teddy. “We didn’t even have a script when we started,” says Prine. “They said, ‘Look, they’re gonna pay you a lot of money. They’re gonna do Jaws with a bear. Get on the plane.’ I said, ‘I need a script.’ They said, *Forget the damn script. The script is Jaws. Got it?’
“We shot it in Clayton, Georgia, in the Smoky Mountains, where they shot Deliverance,” he continues. “They had the biggest grizzly in captivity there, and I was the only guy who got into the arena with him; his own trainer was scared to death of him. You just can’t train a grizzly. So they put an electrified fence around a certain area in the forest, and then I would get inside that with him and throw him Wonder Bread. so that he’d come toward me, and I’d get between him and the camera. The camera was behind a portable electrified fence with all the guys, like a little island. And that’s how we shot him. We had a great time, and made a decent enough horror film out of it. It made tons of money.
“After that, Girdler did Day of the Animals, which he wanted me in, and I said, “That one’s too low, Bill. I ain’t gonna do it. There were just too many people in the cast, and I said, ‘What am I gonna be eaten by the rabid raccoon? I just can’t do it.’ So then he wanted to do a drug film about two agents in Hong Kong. The last time I saw him was at CBS. He told me, I’m leaving to scout locations, and we’re gonna go shoot this thing and have a good time over in Asia.’ He was killed in a helicopter accident, lifting off, scouting locations. It was a terrible loss. He was a dear man.”
Prine next worked for another noted genre filmmaker. Charles B. Pierce, after four-walling his quasidocumentary Legend of Boggy Creek (1973) into big money, was down in his hometown of Texarkana, Texas, with another fact-based script ready to go. This time, it was about a masked killer who had terrorized Texarkana in the late ’40s. Calling it The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), Pierce hired Prine as his second lead, playing a deputy to top-billed Ben Johnson’s Texas Ranger captain. “My buddy Ben Johnson was one of the most wonderful guys in the world,” Prine says. “I’d known him from working with him and John Wayne, and I’d done a little picture in Montana for Pierce called The Winds of Autumn (1976). So we went down there and had a lot of fun. Pretty low-budget, but we tried our best.
“The problem with that film was that it had no ending, since they didn’t catch the killer. So I wrote the whole end of the picture, where there’s a chase, and we lose him under the freight train. We went to Texarkana, where they have one of those old-timey trains in the park, and tried to make up a fictional ending, to at least have some action.”
Prine’s next two horror efforts, The Evil (1978) and Amityville II: The Possession (1982), found him costarring with, respectively, Richard Crenna and Burt Young. He remembers Evil for its “classic horror scenario-put everybody in a house and kill ’em, one by one.” As for Amityville II, a prequel to the allegedly truth-based 1979 hit The Amityville Horror, Prine notes, “We could not use the real Amityville house out on Long Island, because they absolutely believed it was haunted. So we shot the house footage in Toms River, New Jersey, and the rest in Mexico City.”
In the past decade or so, Prine has continued to ply his trade all over the place, especially on television, where you might see him in anything from Melrose Place to Deep Space Nine. He has also done his share of low-budget features, including Serial Killer (1995) (“I’m a Morton Downey Jr. type of character, a TV smartass. The serial killer kidnaps me and cuts out my voice box”) and Eliminators (1986), one of the last national releases from Charles Band’s Empire Pictures, which finds Prine leading a group of adventurers into battle against a mad scientist. “On those kinds of movies, they often spend a lot of money shooting, because they don’t spend very much preparing,” the actor notes. “So we took a long time to shoot Eliminators, which was kind of OK with Band. He said, ‘Look, just keep going. Get what you want to get, because it’s not expensive to shoot over here.’ So I was three months shooting on locations around Madrid for that one, and it was quite a nice adventure. It was also one of the rare times I got to play the hero. And, as one gets older, there are even fewer of those roles.”
But not playing many heroes, or even getting older, doesn’t seem to rattle Prine much. In a career that’s seen him switch from white hat to black hat and back again, he appears to have enjoyed it all, and to still be loving the ride. “I’ve always been a character guy,” he says. “That’s what I wanted: to hide in those characters. I wanted to be inside those people. I never felt I was going to be a mainstream leading man. My heart wasn’t in that. I would’ve loved to have had the money, and the popularity of being a leading movie star, of course.”
Interview with Andrew Prine
I’ve been watching a lot of your performances in movies, and there’s an easygoing quality to what you do, so I’m wondering if you got that from your environment in Florida.
Andrew Prine: Gosh, I don’t know. Depends on what you’ve watched — I’ve done so many psychotics, and I’ve done a lot of good guys, and particularly good young men when I was young. But I’ve done space aliens, cowboys — whatever the genre was. One of my reasons for surviving has been because I’ve been able to switch genres. I was originally an Anthony Perkins type — the Sensitive Young Boy weeping along the riverbank. I did that when I was on Broadway…and I also did a lot of sensitive loner youth on anthology series, like for Chrysler and DuPont.
Did you intend to pursue acting all along?
Andrew Prine: No. I saw a play when I was, I think, 14 in Jacksonville, Florida. My mother had divorced and moved down there and married another fellow. And they took me to a professional play, a summer stock traveling tent, which I’d never seen before. They were doing SHOWBOAT, and when I saw them all on the stage, I said, “Oh! I’m an actor!” And when I told my mother and stepfather as we walked out to the car afterwards, they looked at each other like “Oh, my God!”
So once you latched onto acting as a goal, did you pursue that single-mindedly?
Andrew Prine: Oh yeah, I totally directed myself to that in high school — I did all the plays, and I became the president of the honor society. They let me slide by without the required grades. And I got a theater scholarship to the University of Miami, which had a big theater department. But I dropped out in my freshman year — I went long enough to realize that I was wasting my time. If you’re going be an actor, go be an actor. You don’t go to school for it — I mean, guys did. Guys do it now — they go to school to direct, which I don’t understand at all, because they’re all looking at Spielberg, and think you have to go to school to learn it. But you [really] go to a set to learn it. I just worked with Quentin Tarantino, who said, “Screw all that. If you want to make a movie, make a movie.” He educated himself by becoming a movie nut — he knows every movie, every TV show ever shot. He said, “I didn’t wait until the money was in place. I just went out and started shooting with whatever I could scrape up. That’s how you learn to shoot a movie.” He’s like an old fashioned guy, in a funny way.
He understands how movies used to be made.
Andrew Prine: I’ve never met a guy like him before. He produced a little movie I was in earlier this year Daltry Calhoun (2005), and he wanted me to do this role. And then he wanted me on the CSI season finale, “Grave Secrets” this year, which he wrote and directed. I didn’t have to read for it or meet anybody. He said, “Come out and let’s hang out for a while.” He just wanted to shoot the shit, which was very flattering. And he knew everything I’d ever done — he’s got 16mm of my whole first series, Wide Country (TV Series 1962–1963). And he knows the dialogue. He said, “You remember that COMBAT! with you and Vic Morrow where you said…” I said, “I did a COMBAT!?”
So after leaving school, you went to New York?
Andrew Prine: My father was a Pullman conductor, and he had a guy sneak me onto the train to New York. So I had $100, and I thought, “That ought to be enough.” I’d never had $100 before. So I said, “Hello, Broadway!” The greatest thing in the world is ignorance. You know, people should never want to know too much, and I didn’t know a fucking thing. And man, if I’d known — five years later, I thought, “How’d I do that?”
I scrapped around, and got odd jobs. I hat checked at the 21 Club for all I could steal. I was caught stealing three times there — everybody stole tips — but I was the worst thief in the history of the world. Warren Oates worked there, and he was good at it. And they fired him because he was too good at it. He’d drop them up his sleeve somehow — I could never get it right
So was your progress to the movies a result of your work on Broadway and in TV?
Andrew Prine: Yes. I was in a good position as I was wrapping that up to play a role in the film version of THE MIRACLE WORKER. And we shot it right in New Jersey. We were all in New York, and we’d go across the river to Red Bank, New Jersey and shot in an old house there, and the interiors were all in a little studio down in the Village, where most everybody lived. So that was fun. And right after that, they wanted me to do the pilot for a series, so I came out to Los Angeles to do that. I’d been commuting back and forth for a while, doing GUNSMOKE and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and whatever.
Since Anne Bancroft just passed away, I wonder if you’d want to comment on working with her in MIRACLE WORKER.
Andrew Prine: We had a memorial for her at the Actors’ Studio. It wasn’t a surprise – she’d run her race. But Annie was a volcanic actress and human being. She had deep emotional reserves, being an Italian gal from the Bronx, and as tough as any man I knew. But she was extremely attractive — she was like an American Anna Magnani. She was in command of herself. She defied the notion of a leading lady — she was so talented, but she’d done 19 movies prior to MIRACLE WORKER and TWO FOR THE SEESAW with Hank Fonda on Broadway, and nobody knew who she was. They kept trying to mold her into some tacky image — that wasn’t who she was. It was big for me to work with her. She never knew it, but I watched her habits. She’d been in movies before, and I hadn’t, so I watched her work with the camera, and with director Arthur Penn.
Were you in a film called Kiss Her Goodbye (1959) around this time?
Andrew Prine: Oh, down in Havana, about three months after Castro came in. Castro wanted movies to be shot in Cuba, so I was down there with this movie, and Gilbert Roland was there with another movie, and Errol Flynn was there shooting CUBAN REBEL GIRLS. And all three of the movies are unwatchable. So I just try to ignore that movie. I had a great time, though — I knew Castro. We were staying in the Havana Hilton, and he had the whole 18th floor. We were one floor below, and he wanted to be around the movie stars. He had been in movies in Mexico, and he wanted the US movie industry to come down there. That was when it looked like we would be friends…but it was a wonderful time. Fascinating. Shittiest movie ever made, though. I don’t think it was ever shown.
THE WIDE COUNTRY was the first of several television series you’ve done over the years. Do you enjoy working in TV?
Andrew Prine: It depends, because it’s so elastic. There’s so much stuff that I don’t want to do anymore, and no one wants me to do it. They haven’t been breaking down the door about various episodics, and some of them I don’t need to do anymore — I’ve been there. But TV’s fun because everything gets done very quickly, and I like that. You don’t drift for days or have a lot of downtime. And I’m a veteran, so when I’m hired, it’s expected (but never said) that I take care of that role. They’re more worried about the young lead who can neither walk nor talk. Directors say to me, “Andy, just do that thing that you do so well. You know what I’m saying?” And I say, “I wonder what he’s talking about?” I haven’t the foggiest.
They want you to do an Andrew Prine.
Andrew Prine: Yeah. They want me to take care of it, and be good, and get on with it.
To a certain extent, that must be something of a compliment — that they think so highly of your abilities.
Andrew Prine: Well, it’s funny — you get the role, and then the next week, you’re doing the role. They say, “Okay, you’re from the planet Tyron, and you’re stealing people’s memories with a device, and selling it on the black market.” So I say, “Okay, how am I going to make them believe that I believe this?” And I’ve got three days to figure out and learn all the words. But I like that. The best is doing an independent movie. There I have say-so because they usually know so little that they’re glad to see me, and take whatever I’ve got, and let me do what I want to do. They’ll almost always do that on an independent, and they’ll be thrilled that you can do it. And it’s creative because they don’t have a lot of money, so you have to be creative. I just did a small role recently on SIX FEET UNDER as Lili Taylor’s father it was a nice little piece. And there you have limitless money — HBO spends a lot of money on a show like that, and they don’t lean over anyone’s shoulder. They shoot until they get it right. We spent an hour on me walking up and driving a car in a long shot. On another show, you do that shot one time, because they’re already moving the equipment to another scene… I told the director, “You know, I’m actually more comfortable in cheaper, movies. I’m used to people saying, ‘is he in the frame? Print it?” So it depends on the show.
One of your first movies after THE MIRACLE WORKER was an odd western called TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER (1966).
Andrew Prine: Universal made the worst feature films in the world. If you look at the ’60s and ’70s, when Lew Wasserman was running it — he was the greatest man for television and he was the best big mogul, but he didn’t understand jack about movies. If you look at the list of movies he made, you’d see some awful movies. Michael Gordon was a good director, but they were trying to promote Alain Delon. Universal had a history of promoting French or Italian stars and trying to make them into American stars, but they were never successful at it. They wanted Alain and Tina Aumont, who was in it as well, but there was no way that was ever going to happen. It was too big a jump. So they had Dean Martin and Joey Bishop — Dean called them the “Navajew and the Wopaho.”
Was Dean’s screen personality close to how he was in real life?
Andrew Prine: He made it all up. He got it from Bing Crosby — the way he talked, the way he moved, the way he sang. But Dean took it all the way. I got to be very close with his family — I went with his daughter, and we were in two movies together BANDOLERO! was the other. He was never drunk when he was pretending to be drunk. Now, he’d have one later, but who wouldn’t? He was one of the funniest men I’ve known — he was funnier than Jerry [Lewis] to me. And he worked at it. One morning, we were both hung over — we’d been swilling all night. And we were on our horses, and he said to me, “I feel so bad my hair hurts.” I thought, “What a fabulous line.” So a few days later, we were in a bar, and he says, “I’m so hung over, my hair hurts.” And I said to his wife Jeannie, “You know, he’s said that to me twice.” And she said, “He’s working on the line.” It was all quite calculated, but it was brilliantly done.
I wanted to get your impression of the guys you worked with in Andrew McLaglen’s pictures — first with John Wayne in CHISUM.
Andrew Prine: He was terrific, because Wayne was like Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart — he was a working stiff. He knew everything about he was doing and what you were doing, and he was always there early and ready to roll. And he loved being John Wayne. He said at some point that John Ford created him, but he took it to heart as this persona, this iconic figure. And he was. He was also an intensely loyal person, and very black and white — you were either a good guy or a bad guy to him. He was, essentially, a 19th century person and he had more of a sense of humor than most people knew. He enjoyed teasing and kidding – he called me “our sophisticated friend” when we would argue or if he didn’t like my opinion. I was liberal and was in the anti-war movement, and though we never got serious about it, he’d say, [excellent Wayne imitation] “Well, I guess our sophisticated friend would like Jane fucking Fonda to run the fucking country!” He was having fun, but people were scared of him, so they never knew if he was kidding or not.
You said that James Stewart was a similar personality.
Andrew Prine: Oh, God, yes. These old guys had no trouble being who they were — they had gotten such rewards for it, and they didn’t have a dark side about it. I’m sure a lot of actors did — Spencer Tracy, who I didn’t know — but generally not the cowboy types. Jimmy was interesting because he looked at you so intensely that you felt as if he was looking through you. And it took me a couple of days to realize that he couldn’t hear. He was as deaf as a post. He scared me, and I thought, “What is it?” But he wouldn’t wear his hearing aid. Fonda was the same way — he couldn’t hear a damn thing. But you’d think that these guys were hanging on your every word, but they were just trying to figure out what you were saying!
You worked with William Holden in The Devil’s Brigade (1968)
Andrew Prine: Great guy. Holden hosted one of my weddings, in fact. We hung out a lot together. Bill didn’t think he was a good actor. He was very insecure about it. I said once, “You won an Academy Award…” And he said, “Yeah, yeah, I never felt / was that good. I’m a great businessman.” He’d be very insecure for the first few days on a film, and then he’d settle down.
So you’d been playing cowboys and military men and very earnest young men for most of the ’60s, and then in 1970 comes SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES, which is about as much of a 180-turn from those roles as possible. Were you seeking different parts like that?
Andrew Prine: I was a man of the times, and the cultural revolution was in full swing. And I also wasn’t getting the lead roles I was getting the kid or the friend or the third role. And I was flattered that they phoned me to ask me to play the lead, and they paid me well to do it. That was a very serious attempt to do the life of a warlock it was written by a practicing warlock Robert Phippeny, who also wrote The Night of the Following Day (1969). This guy had a coven of witches, and this was a piece of his life. It wasn’t a hit because it wasn’t a horror film, but we weren’t trying to do a horror film. I was trying to do a comic version of a very unique life. We gave it our best shot, but they didn’t know how to market it — for a very good reason. It wasn’t a “headroller.” But then I did a couple of headrollers, and I did them for the money they paid me a lot of money to do them. I was never a guy who was unhappy on a set. I enjoyed the game, the circus — and I enjoyed the girls. We always had a bunch of fun girls on those movies.
I was watching SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES recently, and you’re very convincing in the spellcasting scenes. Did you do a lot of research for them?
Andrew Prine: Oh, yeah. I spent a lot of time with the author, and a little bit of time with his coven, and they said, “Here’s how this goes. You hold the balls, and you do this.” And I said, “Whose balls?” But we couldn’t do them exactly, because they said, “You’re having sex at the same time.” But we got as close as we could.
What do you recall about Ultra Violet, who appears briefly in the film ?
Andrew Prine: Oh, terrific dame. I liked her a lot. I wish she’d had more to do. I saw her a few times after that. She was having a “be-in” over at her house, and she was in the bathtub while cameras were rolling, and we’d get in the tub with her and talk. I don’t know what the hell that meant — she was trying to make something happen. She lead a fascinating life. I met Warhol about that same time — I was up at his Factory. I don’t remember it much — we were there because of her, I think. Later, I had two Warhols, and waited until he died to sell them to Christie’s. I didn’t like them, but I was able to get my hands on them and held them forever.
There’s a bit in the SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES pressbook that I wanted to read to you: “To fit his image, Mr. Prine recently acquired a $6,000 waterbed which is illuminated from within, so that one can see the rather candid drawings he had painted on the bottom. One of these days, Prine promises, he is going to stock the bed with goldfish.” Is that true, or is that a publicist’s fantasy?
Andrew Prine: That’s true. It wasn’t $6000. I did illuminate it from the bottom. It was fun…
After SIMON, you did a TV-movie version of the Lillian Hellman play Another Part of the Forest (1972), which was your first project with Tiffany Bolling.
Andrew Prine: That was really good. I think that was for public television. Tiffany was wild. We were wild children. Tiffany is very good – was a better actress than her destiny led to. But she was very good in ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST, and I was reunited with Barry Sullivan, who I’d done a series with in The Road West (TV Series 1966–1967). Barry was a terrific actor who wasted himself, like most of us, on mediocrity, because most of the business is mediocrity. And that’s how you make a living, unless you’re a big star who has a lot of other choices.
You then did another headroller, as you say, in CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973), which was directed by Ray Danton.
Andrew Prine: Yes, which my agent sent to me, and said that Ray Danton was doing it. I said, “I will never work with Ray Danton ever again.” I worked with him on THE WIDE COUNTRY, and he was the biggest pain in the ass I’d ever met.
He comes across as pompous.
Andrew Prine: Well, that was him.
What was your recollection of your costar, Mark Damon?
Andrew Prine: Very nice fellow. He was a star over there doing spaghetti Westerns and horror pictures. We were having an incredible adventure — we were shooting in an eleven-hundred-year old cistern under Istanbul, and then in Barcelona, and then finished it here. We had to reshoot some stuff — throw in a monster or something in the end. I couldn’t have cared less I was traveling. The first time I went to Europe was for THE DEVIL’S BRIGADE, which was a classy act. But I could never turn down a movie where I was offered, “We’re going to Rio, or to the jungle on the Amazon, but it’s called ATTACK OF THE MONKEY MEN.” Well, I’m going — they’re paying me and they’re taking care of me, and I’m going to a place where I’d never go to.
Ray Danton also appeared in your next movie, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS. It’s a pretty vicious picture.
Andrew Prine: Oh, yeah. Talk about a headroller. It’s a version of the kind of movie you can’t lose money on — you take a half-dozen kids, put them in a haunted house, and kill them off one by one. And so we did.
Was it another movie that was fun to make and the pay was decent?
Andrew Prine: Oh, yeah. It was too much fun. I was with a bunch of girls from Penthouse and Playboy, and I went with all of them. I didn’t miss a one of them, and quite frankly, we just had a terrific time. They’d said, “What do you want to do in this scene?” | said, “I’ll come up behind her, lift her head up, and cut her throat! And give me blood on the knife, so I can fling it into the mirror.”
I wanted to clarify something I saw posted online — is it correct that you posed nude for a magazine called Viva?
Andrew Prine: Oh, yeah — the full Monty. It was their only famous issue, I guess. CENTERFOLD GIRLS had no release yet, and the magazine wanted to do something with me. I’d been in a photo in Playboy — just one of many photos. It was nothing. And I said, “Well, I’ll do this, and we’ll see if this can help get the movie sold” — which it did. And I did it for my ego — I was at the peak of my physical condition. I didn’t have any problem with it. They wanted the full Monty, and it was a classy women’s magazine. And I gave all the money to Save the Children so I wouldn’t profit by it in any way — wasn’t a lot of money, but it was something. And we had a good time. Spent the day shooting with a great photographer, and the pictures came out good. I didn’t get the cover, but I got my name on the cover, and they did a whole spread, not just of me nude, but in CENTERFOLD GIRLS, and in a Western shot, and this and that. And then they got down to what they wanted, which was to show my willie. That got me more women than Frank Sinatra, I might say — for 20 years, women found their way to me. This was before my marriage to my darling wife (actress and producer Heather Lowe). It was wonderful.
You can’t buy that kind of advertisement.
Andrew Prine: No, you can’t. I remember this whore in New Orleans had a giant blow-up of me over her bed. I was thrilled — you know, there is no compliment too low for an actor.
You got to work on THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976) for the second time with one of the great character actors, Ben Johnson.
Andrew Prine: Yes, Ben and I had worked together on CHISUM. Ben was a guy that I had the highest esteem for before I met him. He was the most unpretentious man I ever met in my life, and the best rider — he and Dobie Carey were the best riders | ever saw. I saw Ben Johnson in CHISUM turn a herd of stampeding cattle with a knotted lariat – he hit the nose of the lead cattle to get them to go through the town. It was the hairiest thing I’d ever seen, but he thought nothing of it.
I want to ask you about GRIZZLY with director William Girdler.
Andrew Prine: Great guy. We became the best of friends. They didn’t even have a script when we started. My agent said, “You’re going to go to Georgia and do this movie, and you’re leaving in two days.” I said, “Well… I’d like to see the script.” He said, “There is no script! It’s JAWS! They’ll give you a script when you get there, and they’ll pay you a good amount of money. You’ll play the Robert Shaw part.” And I said, “Okay.”
Where did the story about the Indians, that you receive a dialogue credit for, come from?
Andrew Prine: Me. I made it up. We didn’t have a scene, and it was the easiest thing in the world. I’m lifting it straight out of JAWS. I wrote it out and showed it to Girdler, and he said okay — we’ll put the camera on a dolly and creep in on you while you tell that story. We just changed sailors to Indians: “Them Indians were all eaten alive…” Of course they were. But we had a wonderful time. Those were the best guys in the world Chris George and Richard Jaeckel, two buds whom I worked with three times each.
You did a number of TV-movies after this, as well as two supernatural pictures — THE EVIL for Gus Trikonis, and AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982) for Damiano Damiani.
Andrew Prine: They cut my part in AMITYVILLE II — the role was too vague. You’ve got the Number One Priest, James Olsen, and my role was never really filled out. And then they cut some of it, and put in the naked people in the basement. Producer Dino De Laurentiis came down to Mexico, took a look at the dailies, and said, “Kid, put in the naked people.” They changed a lot of things as it went along. Damiano was a great guy, but he spoke no English.
Was that a difficult working arrangement?
Andrew Prine: Not really. Everyone else spoke English. But we spent a lot of time on that picture. We were there for about three months. The interiors were shot in Azteca Studios in Mexico, but the other stuff was shot at Toms River in New Jersey, where the house is.
We spoke earlier about The Evil (1978).
Andrew Prine: Yeah, it was “put them in the house and kill them all, but with good actors. We were in Vegas, New Mexico, a place where, when you look out your hotel window, you don’t have to look both ways. Just look towards the gas station and you’ll see the whole thing. That was shot in a turn-of-the century health spa that had a railway running to it. And it had hot natural springs and all that. It was abandoned, of course, and boarded up.
Did you expect the ‘V’ miniseries to do as well as it did?
Andrew Prine: I did. When I read it, I thought, “This is going to be very big.” They gave me the first eleven hours in one shot. They told me that Kenneth Johnson wants to see me, so I needed to read it right away. And when I go to the part where it said that Steven and Diana are discussing such and such, and Steven goes to the rat cage, takes out a rat and eats it — I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I said to my agent, “The guy eats a rat!” He said, “Fabulous! Do it!” I had an agent who never said no — he’d say, “[In this movie], You’re having two-headed calves born out of your ass — this is great! Do it!” Well, we were right. They trashed the series, though, because they were afraid of the costs. There had been no successful science fiction before that. STAR TREK was considered a flop. And V’cost a ton of money. So they killed off everyone that was making money except for Marc Singer, and they cheaped out on the series, so it died immediately.
And since then, you’ve done several episodics for science fiction franchises.
Andrew Prine: Yeah, I’ve done DEEP SPACE NINE and STAR TREK GENERATIONS and like that.
What’s your take on the genre? We talked about how difficult it can be to make the premise seem real.
Andrew Prine: It can be difficult because these are very plot-heavy shows with a lot of text. It’s all storytelling with some special effects. But you’re in front of a blue screen a lot, which is the worst place in the world to act — the most boring thing in your life. It’s from the George Lucas School of Non-Acting. But the good part is they expect an actor who has classical training, because the people have to speak a lot. I like that, but it’s hard work because of the prosthetics. When I did the two episodes of DEEP SPACE, I started at 3:30 in the morning for three and a half hours putting on the make-up, and then an hour taking it off — and then you have to talk all day. So it’s not easy work, but they certainly pay well, and they’re very considerate. They’re good to be on.
What’s your recollection of ELIMINATORS?
Andrew Prine: Oh, that was Charles Band. It was great – we went to Madrid. They didn’t come up with the resources they promised. We were supposed to shoot for six weeks, but we ended up being there for three months because of delays. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it. It was a shirtsleeve version of Indiana Jones — certainly not a great movie, but we did the best we could with what we had once we got there. But it was hard, because I never had a day off, and the locations were far outside of Madrid, so logistically, it was tiring.
Was Gettysburg (1993) the first time you worked on a production of that size?
Andrew Prine: Yeah, and I’ll bet the last. It was so big, and not a great amount of money. They spent close to a hundred million on GODS AND GENERALS (2003), which if you watch, you can catch up on your sleep. But they only spent twelve or thirteen million on GETTSYBURG. But we really got into it everyone meant it. We all realized that we were going to lay down the best document we could, because the book has tracts from the secretaries to the military officers that essentially recorded the conversations that went on between generals. So it was as close as you could get to the truth — I’m just one of the boys in the band [in the film], but I enjoyed in the hell of it.
And you got to work with so many good people in the film.
Andrew Prine: Tom Berenger became a good friend as a result of that. My wife met him and produced a movie with him for Ted Turner The Avenging Angel (TV Movie 1995).
Which you were in as well.
Andrew Prine: Yes, my wife threw me a bone. But my wife came up with the property and produced it, and got Tom.
You were also in one of Angelina Jolie’s early efforts, Without Evidence (1995)
Andrew Prine: Well, the fact is, she’s in my picture.
You get that impression when you look at the cover on which she’s top-billed.
Andrew Prine: Well, of course. How could she not be? I didn’t know her or whose daughter she was, but I immediately knew that she was going to be a star. When we sat down to do our stuff together, I saw the complete assurance in her, and I thought, “Oh, this girl’s gonna go right on up.” And the rest, of course…is the rest.
It seems that you’ve been working steadily for the last few years in interesting projects – I’m looking at the list of credits and seeing James Dean (TV Movie 2001) for TNT, an uncredited bit in SWEET HOME ALABAMA (2002), and the CSI finale. So are you happy with what’s come your way recently?
Andrew Prine: Well… you’re talking to an actor, so it’s never going to be enough. I wish I had bigger roles, but I’ve been taking some roles that at least have some emotional movement in them, and not taking the others. The thing with Quentin I was quite happy with — they gave me good billing, and they paid very well. And it had an emotional transition to undergo, so it was worth it. And it was working with him. But a couple of other things, no. I’m in… The Dukes of Hazzard (2005) primarily because of Johnny Knoxville, who stars in DALTRY CALHOUN. We’ve become good friends — he’s a great guy. They reshot some of it — they came back from Alabama and had an idea for a character, so they hired me. But it never really amounted to much, so I was paid a lot of money to basically not be in the film. So I’m not too happy about that, but I don’t blame anyone for that. I got to spend a few days with some old buddies I’d go to Willie Nelson’s trailer and listen to music all day, and I got to spend some time with Johnny. But I didn’t really do anything on it I have no idea what that thing looks like.
What is DALTRY CALHOUN about?
Andrew Prine: It’s a sweet, loopy little comedy about a small-time golf hustler in a hick town in the South, and his past is catching up with him. His ex-wife is dying of a fatal disease, and he finds out that they had a daughter. He’s trying to do a hustle, but he undergoes a change, so it becomes a heartwarming, real event. I’m the sheriff — I don’t know what or when they’re going to do anything with it. But I loved the script. It’s a lot like another movie I made and loved, but no one’s seen, called Possums (1998).
Regarding the fact that I’m getting smaller roles, and everyone’s not knocking on my door like they once were, I would still be less than the guy who I am if they said today, “All right, Prine, we’ve caught up with you. You’re never working again,” I could only say thank you. God almighty, thanks a million for the ride. I can’t stand whiny actors — I’ve been doing it almost 50 years, and I haven’t had to do anything else. I know people who say, “I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” and I say, “25 years? Grow up!” I live well, thank goodness I have money, so I’m okay. And there will be more jobs. But I’m not an eager schoolboy, which would be inappropriate now. I’ve got nothing to prove.
Shock Cinema Magazine #29