Robert Forster: A Retrospective Interview

Robert Forster was born in Rochester, New York, the son of Grace Dorothy (née Montanarella) and Robert Wallace Foster Sr., who worked as an elephant trainer for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and later as an executive for a baking supply company. His mother was Italian American, while his father was of English and Irish descent. The couple divorced in 1949.

As a tribute to his father, Forster hung one of his father’s Barnum & Bailey Circus posters in the office of his character in Jackie Brown. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in history in 1964 at the University of Rochester, where he starred in student dramatic performances such as Bye Bye Birdie and, after initially intending to study law, instead decided to become an actor. Forster added an “R” to his surname as there were already actors named Robert Foster.

After acclaimed supporting performances in two major Hollywood films, one as Private Williams in John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), another as part-Indian Army scout Nick Tana in Robert Mulligan’s The Stalking Moon (1968), Forster starred in the critically acclaimed film Medium Cool (1969). After starring roles in the television series Banyon (1972) and Nakia (1974), he played mostly supporting roles in action and horror films including Disney’s The Black Hole (1979). Forster had lead roles in cult B-movies in the 1980s like Alligator (1980), Vigilante (1983), The Delta Force (1986), and The Banker (1989).

Forster appeared in Jackie Brown as the character Max Cherry, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1997. Jackie Brown revitalized Forster’s career, an effect that occurred for many actors appearing in Quentin Tarantino films. He since had consistent work in the film industry, appearing in Like Mike, Mulholland Drive, Me, Myself & Irene, Lucky Number Slevin, and Firewall. He appeared in the made-for-television movie The Hunt for the BTK Killer (TV Movie 2005), as the detective intent on capturing serial killer Dennis Rader. Forster also played the father of Van on the short-lived Fox series Fastlane.

Many of Forster films contain dialogue about the actor’s thinning hair; this turns up in 1980’s ALLIGATOR, 1982’s VIGILANTE, and later in JACKIE BROWN. When dialogue such as this becomes a running thread through an actor’s pictures, one must wonder if the actor himself suggested it.

He appeared in the hit NBC series Heroes as Arthur Petrelli, the father of Nathan and Peter Petrelli, as well as the Emmy Award-winning AMC crime drama Breaking Bad as Walter White’s new identity specialist Ed Galbraith. He played Bud Baxter, father to Tim Allen’s Mike Baxter, on the ABC (later Fox) hit comedy Last Man Standing. Forster was also a motivational speaker.

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He was the first choice to play Sheriff Harry S. Truman in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, but had to turn it down due to a prior commitment to a different television pilot, and was replaced by Michael Ontkean. He would go on to appear in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, a pilot for a TV series that was not picked up but was later turned into a critically acclaimed movie, and finally got to appear in Twin Peaks, playing the brother of Sheriff Harry S. Truman, Sheriff Frank Truman, in Twin Peaks: The Return, when Ontkean was not available to reprise his role. About this, Forster said: “David Lynch, what a good guy he is. He wanted to hire me for the original, 25 years ago, for a part, and I was committed to another guy for a pilot that never went. So I didn’t do the original Twin Peaks, which would have been a life-changer. It’s a gigantic hit if you remember those years, a phenomenon. But I didn’t do that. […] And this time, I got a call from my agents and they said, David Lynch is going to call you. When he called me five minutes later, he said, “I’d like you to come and work with me again.” And I said, ‘Whatever it is David, here I come!'”

One of Forster’s final roles was in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, reprising the character of Ed the “Disappearer” from the Breaking Bad series. Coincidentally, he died on the day the movie was released. He had also performed in an episode of the rebooted Amazing Stories television series before his death.

So you’re from Rochester. How do you like L.A.? 
Robert Forster: I love L.A. I love the weather here. I was delighted when I got here. I started out in Rochester, New York. And my first ever time away from Rochester was when I went to college in Ohio, which is not that far south of Rochester. But the winter was so much more mild, I knew I was heading in the right direction. So I continued when I became an adult, I came out here and have not stopped enjoying it.

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Did you move to L.A. at the time of your first movie, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)?
Robert Forster: No, it wasn’t quite like that. I can give you the story of it, if you like. So in the sequence of things, you tell me when you want that story, and I will launch into it.

Was Medium Cool (1969) as adventurous for you guys to make as it looks like on-screen?
Robert Forster: It was for me. I had no idea they asked actors to say things that weren’t on the script. In this picture, there was a great deal of improvisation. Lots of scenes were improvised. So I got the realization that the actor was not only responsible for the words on the page, but for bringing a frame of reference to his material and embodying the character he’s playing, so that, if necessary, you can enter any circumstance and be that character. I also realized that being yourself is oh so much easier than putting a veneer over yourself and trying to be somebody else.

What was the initial script like? The feeling of the material you first committed to?
Robert Forster: I think the original title was… The Concrete… I dunno, Concrete something-or-other. It was this story about a young boy who’d come to Chicago from West Virginia with his mother. There was no father. And this nice news cameraman gets involved with him, and his mother. It was a love story. The politics were in there a little, but nothing like what the movie turned out to be. You know, a movie with a very strong political point of view, made by a man with very strong political views, Haskell Wexler. He’s best known as a cinematographer, which he’s won multiple Oscars for, but he’s only directed a couple things. This is the important one.

Was it the first lead role you were offered?
Robert Forster: It was, in fact. I had supporting roles in my first two pictures, John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), and a western, The Stalking Moon (1968), with Gregory Peck. But this one required me to do all sorts of things I hadn’t a clue about, one of which was: even if there’s nothing written on the page, you’ve got to come up with something for the guy to say! It was a pretty big shock to me: I was still trying to figure out what a movie actor needed to know; you know, how you do it, and do it well. On Medium Cool we had all kinds of opportunities to improvise; some of them even led to new scenes. There was a dinner scene, and I told the boy that I boxed at the CYO, and maybe I would take him some time. It was just a passing remark; that boy had never acted before, so I was saying things as a way to engage him. A few days later, Haskell comes in and says he wants us to do a scene at a fight gym. We actually shot that scene at the gym in Chicago where Muhammad Ali trained. So we’re there, shooting our improvisation, and he walks in! Came up the stairs, and everybody just stopped whatever they were doing. Everybody wanted to talk to him. We were kidding around some, and I said it’d be nice if he came up again and walked through our shot. He laughed and said, “No, no. If I walk through that shot, you’ll have to give me first billing!”

Medium Cool - 1969
Robert Forster Medium Cool – 1969 Director: Haskell Wexler 

You look pretty good in that scene. Did you box?
Robert Forster: Nah. I just used to hit the bag a little. At the YMCA in Rochester, New York.

Feature film cinematographers generally don’t get too involved in working with actors. How did Haskell Wexler treat his first film cast?
Robert Forster: Very generously. I mean, he really had his hands full there. It was a small movie, and he was trying to get it shot. Once in a while there was a second camera working, but he shot most of it himself. I think he expected the actor to read the script, understand it, and bring something to it. He expected them to know what they were doing. And I had to rise to that professional level.

One of my favorite scenes is when you and Peter Bonerz go to meet all those black guys… and they start hassling you!
Robert Forster: Fully improvised.

I thought so. It’s just a… y’know, everybody in it is so good!
Robert Forster: How about Felton Perry? When he does that talk right to the camera at the end?

It’s like what Spike Lee did twenty years later: having his actors break the fourth wall like that. I just love the visible discomfort of you guys. I can’t imagine people had seen that in a movie before: black people just dressing down and taunting white people like that. Medium Cool has a lot of that: a lot of anger and disbelief is expressed, all related to the social turmoil of the times. Yet your character is disconnected from it all. He doesn’t relate very well to the events he’s witnessing. Did that at all reflect the way you were at that age?
Robert Forster: I surely had no political point of view when I started that movie. I tried to get into that character through his professional point of view: a cynical news cameraman who’s just there to get the story. Doesn’t matter if someone’s bleeding; that’s somebody else’s job. He’ll call an ambulance, but only after he gets the pictures he needs. That’s the job, and that’s who he is: the unaffected one. I think that’s what Haskell intended him to be. And again, the picture was completely restructured after it was shot. We shot an enormous amount of scenes, and the movie only uses maybe a quarter of them. We’d started out making a movie about a boy from West Virginia, and it became this political movie about the Democratic National Convention. It was actually supposed to open with us interviewing Bobby Kennedy. We were supposed to see him in Washington on a Thursday, I think, and that Tuesday, my mother-in-law—we were living with my in-laws then—my mother-in-law yelled up to us in the bedroom, “They’ve shot Bobby Kennedy!” Within hours I got a call saying our trip was off, but then Haskell called and said we’d still go. So we were in Washington; four, five days after the assassination, and we actually filmed the preparations for his funeral. Those scenes of Bonerz and I going around the city in a taxi, watching the TV crews setting up, those towers they’re building; that’s what all that was for. That happened just as we started the movie, and the convention and the rioting happened right at the end. So those two events did a lot to shape the picture.

So you started in June. There were already a lot of people very worried about what would happen in August. A lot of the radical groups were publicly announcing their intentions to disrupt the proceedings. Was Wexler already aware, already imagining that the convention could be a key backdrop to the story?
Robert Forster: Oh, by all means. It was in the script, right at the end: one of those quarter page descriptions that doesn’t tell you a lot, but you know it’s going to take eight days to shoot it.

So the assumption that there was going to be civil unrest was part of his planning?
Robert Forster: Absolutely. All those guys—The Yippies, and so on—they said what they were going to do. And they did it.

Were you getting nervous at this point?
Robert Forster: Nahh! You know, we went up to Minnesota; we shot that stuff of the National Guard practicing riot control. But it was a yuk; you see those guys are kidding around.

Yeah, but everything they do comes back for real around the convention.
Robert Forster: Yeah. Remember at the end, you hear someone in the crowd yelling to the TV crew, “Don’t leave us! The whole world is watching!” That might have been the moment that phrase was coined. I’m not sure of that, but it might be.

The protests and street battles began on Friday, August 24th; the convention itself opened on Sunday, and ended on Wednesday. How many of those days did you spend filming around there?
Robert Forster: All of them. We shot in the convention itself for a very short time. I can’t remember the details, but I think we could only get two credentials to get on the floor. I found out much later from Haskell that it was Warren Beatty who got them for us. He was thick with the Democratic Party then, and he arranged for those two passes.

What kind of credentials were they? Press?
Robert Forster: Yeah.

So you were actually in there as a real reporter?
Robert Forster: Yeah.

That’s what it looks like, but I wondered.
Robert Forster: We could only use them for an hour or something. It was a very brief thing; just Haskell and I on the floor. I was shooting the convention, and he was shooting me.

You were shooting film in that scene?
Robert Forster: I believe that was the only scene where Haskell put real film in my camera. Then he told me what to shoot, where to shoot. We were standing right next to each other. I’m not sure if he used any of my footage though.

Did you train as a cameraman before you took the part?
Robert Forster: No. But I’d held that camera a lot by then. And I knew what these guys did. How they held it, how they looked for a shot.

You must have had press credentials when you shot the National Guard as well?
Robert Forster: Those were pretty easy to get. It was just a training exercise.

But again, you went in posing as real journalists?
Robert Forster: Yeah, they thought we were journalists. We presented ourselves that way. I mean there might have been some people who thought, “Hey, what is this Channel 9?” It was a phony channel.

So you’ve got a real camera, Bonerz has real sound equipment, and Haskell is shooting. Who else is there with you?
Robert Forster: Haskell’s camera assistant. Maybe one or two others. But all of us look like we’re an actual news crew.

Did anyone get wise to what you guys were really doing?
Robert Forster: Well, Haskell wasn’t shooting me every minute. He was shooting off me, panning to the subject, panning from the subject back to me. He knew how to do it.

You don’t appear in the most dangerous scenes, like the police action in the park. It looks like Wexler is about ten feet away from getting his head cracked open.
Robert Forster: I wasn’t in any of the scenes where Verna Bloom is wearing that yellow dress. I wasn’t there that day, but there was all kinds of chaos. We were sitting in the hotel once, we’d been waiting for some time, then Haskell came running in and said, “You won’t believe what’s going on down on this street!” And we all up and hustled down there to see what we could make from it. It was a lot of that kind of thing.

That was a great decision, by the way, putting Verna in that bright dress. No matter how deep in the background she is, you can always pick her out.
Robert Forster: Exactly.

How could she just keep going up to all those people? Wasn’t she terrified?
Robert Forster: I don’t know how she got through that day. I do know one thing, though: every actor, when they’re in front of the camera, they feel invulnerable. You really do feel like you’re Superman.

Did anyone in the cast or crew get hurt?
Robert Forster: I don’t think so. Not to my knowledge. Now, what’s interesting is the moment when the police throw down that tear gas, and that crewmember yells, “Look out, Haskell! It’s real!” That to me is really something, but I’ve also read articles where people claim that line was added in later.

Oh, I don’t think so. I just watched it again last night. It sounds entirely too spontaneous to be a dub. You know, he’s using natural sound throughout the sequence; you hear people in those crowds yelling all kinds of things.
Robert Forster: I don’t think it was made up either, I just know some people say that.

A lot of famous media names either covered the convention, or were protesting. Did you ever cross paths with Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Phil Ochs, or Allen Ginsberg?
Robert Forster: All those guys were there? I didn’t see any of them. The one guy I remember being around was Studs Terkel. He helped us out with some things. He got a credit on it.

What did you think of it?
Robert Forster: Honestly, I didn’t know what to think. It was a very different kind of movie. Certainly very different from the other two I’d done. I remember it opened around the same time as Easy Rider (1969), and there were some similarities between them, I guess. They kind of played the same way. But Easy Rider was a huge success. This one really didn’t do that well.

When did it hit you that Medium Cool was becoming something of a classic?
Robert Forster: As the years went by. I’d hear people talk about it. And I’d read things about it, here and there, magazines, books. It really impressed certain people. I’ve even had a couple cameramen come up to me over the years—major guys—who told me that was the movie that inspired them to become cameramen! And, you know, there’s the whole historical aspect of it. It really is like a time capsule, or a newsreel, of those times. I’m still not a person with strong political views, but I’m proud of it. It’s a wonderful picture.

At Paramount, did they bury it or did they just not get behind it or …?
Robert Forster: Later they put it out on video. They also put it out on DVD. So it’s become a little cult classic as maybe the only example of film vérité in American cinema. I can tell you one other thing about this picture, and that is that the phrase, “The whole world is watching,” was coined exactly at that instant that is presented in the picture. They say, “Don’t leave us! Don’t leave us! The world is watching! The whole world is watching!” and it became a chant. That phrase had a lot of use during the ’60s and ’70s, and it was coined right then and there.

I’m interested in your ’70s career. But I know you consider the ’70s the beginning of the 25-year descending second act of your career.
Robert Forster: Yeah, Just about. I think it peaked around the time of Banyon or just ahead of it. Banyon was a big deal, a big television deal.

You told me earlier that you don’t view ’70s as a real golden age of action cinema. certainly you can’t argue that cop films and shows were all the rage in the ’70s?
Robert Forster: Sure they were, just as Westerns been the rage in the preceding period.

Do these things just go in cycles?
Robert Forster: I think they must just go in cycles. TI was a point at which there were three Wester night every night of the week on television. It just loaded. One thing went good, and it just more. It’s just like every other cycle, and w seen several in a recent period. Reality sho Once one of those started doing good. We more and more and more of them. And the cop shows had their long run in ’70s. Maybe that was the high-water mark for cop show. I did several.

Robert Forster Promotional Photo For 'Nakia'
1974: Robert Forster promotional photo for the ABC tv series ‘Nakia’. 

And in the ’70s, the cops were big in the movies too. I’m surprised you didn’t make a single big-screen cop film during that decade.
Robert Forster: By then my career had hit and rounded the top and was on its way into descent.

Do you consider TV to be of a lower prestige than movies?
Robert Forster: Oh, sure it’s a lower prestige, but it’s huge – much bigger than movies.

Did you ever work with Quinn Martin before?
Robert Forster: Oh, yes, Quinn Martin produced “Banyon.” He was the executive producer. Quinn Martin was a very good guy. He always overpaid his actors.

I’ve heard that’s why he was always able to attract such extraordinary casts, including guest stars.
Robert Forster: He always exceeded the going rate for guest actors. I don’t think he paid many actors scale. He bumped it up just a little.

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What about BANYON? So many people remember that show and associate it with you. If it made such a strong impression, why only one season?
Robert Forster: It was pointed out to me that on the first night that BANYON showed its pilot, more people saw that pilot than had seen all the other pictures I had made prior, combined. And by a huge number. It was a half-season show — not even a full season. Fifteen shows. It was expensive, and the producer/writer-creator Ed Adamson died while we were shooting our first order. He died while shooting the 13th of 15 shows. And that sort of sealed the deal. Though they probably could have gone on. We were getting the kind of ratings that now would be superlative. Even then we were close to being good enough. So it’s hard to know exactly why, but we went down.

But you say the pilot has been shown again as a movie on TV.
Robert Forster: The pilot has been seen many, many times. But none of the episodes. Maybe one of these days, on one of these channels…

Joan Blondell was on that show.
Robert Forster: Yes, indeed. She played the operator of a secretarial school, and she would give me a free secretary every week. So I always had a free, new secretary that I had to break in every week.

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Your made-for-TV movie The Death Squad (TV Movie 1974), you mentioned there was series potential in that.
Robert Forster: It was one of the real bonehead moves in my career. Boy, and I still can’t come up with their [the producers’] names. Leonard Goldberg… [and Aaron Spelling). The two producers of that show — these are huge television guys — came to me on the last night of the shooting. We were shooting late, and they came to me, smiling. And in retrospect, I realize they were coming with delight to offer me to do this thing as a series. And | stupidly said, “Jeez, I don’t think I want to be doing a television series.”

You answered on the spot?
Robert Forster: Yeah, that’s how moronic was. Without much guile, in any event. So that was shut down right there. These guys could have put me in a show that they were willing to produce. And they had the strength to get it in on during those years. They could’ve just said, “This is going to be one of our shows,” and it would have been on.

The City (TV Movie 1977)

And what about your other made-for-TV ’70s cop movie, The City (TV Movie 1977)?
Robert Forster: THE CITY, with Don Johnson, was not a pilot, but it was a back-door pilot — which means a producer does a movie with the idea that if it went well it would get a shot on television. THE CITY is interesting in this respect — one of my great important lessons in life. There have been several, but this is a good one. I was living in New York at the time. I came out here to do it, and Thad probably been out here for two or three days, doing a little pre-production. And I was about two days from shooting, and I went to the Baked Potato, a jazz club on Ventura Boulevard. And I went to whistle at the end of a tune, and I could not whistle for some reason. Ordinarily, I can whistle strong. I went to the bathroom and splashed some water on my face and looked at myself in the mirror, and it was a strange look looking back at me. I could not form my lips to whistle. I thought, “Maybe I’m having a stroke.”

You weren’t blotto?
Robert Forster: No, no, no. I’m not a drinker. It might have been one in the morning or 12:30. I went back to the hotel, and I realized my face wasn’t working right. I might’ve called at four in the morning or six in the morning, but I didn’t wait too long before I called my doctor. And I described what was going on, and he said, “Sounds like Bell’s palsy to me.” I’d never heard of Bell’s palsy, but by 7:30 a.m. I was in his office, and by 9 a.m., I was at a neurologist. The guy said, “Yeah, I think it’s Bell’s palsy.” | said, “When’s it going to go away?” He said, “It could go away in two weeks, two months, or never.” Oh boy. I went to Quinn Martin, who produced that show. I said, “Quinn, look, I got something going on here.” And I went to his office so he could see it. I said, “If you want to replace me, you can do that. If you want to postpone the picture, you can do that. Or, l’ve come to terms with this thing — and I decided that if this is what I have to live with tomorrow morning or any other morning for the rest of my career, am I going to stop my career because of this? No I’m not — so you can keep on with your schedule, and I’ll go out there with whatever I got.” And he said we won’t slow down, we’re ready to go. Man, I realized what it feels like to be someone who other people are embarrassed to look at. With this thing DWN you couldn’t eat. Your mouth wouldn’t work on one side. it. If you look at THE CITY, I did everything in the world to disguise it. I did stuff like this (covers hand with mouth) as I’m talking. I talked to one side. And in two weeks, just about the time we finished, I could whistle again. So it went away in two week’s time.

And by the end of the ’70s, the cop fad was dying down a little, and you did a movie in a film fad of the late ’70s: the stuntman movie. What can you tell me about Stunts (1977)?
Robert Forster: I was doing the Disney picture, The Black Hole (1979). And on one of the last days of shooting, I’m on a soundstage, and a guy shows up. And my agent had told me someone was coming over to bring me a script, and they got to have an answer immediately. And he sits there on the side, a tall guy. And I thought he was a runner from my agency. And I wasn’t precisely sure why he was waiting. But he brought me the script, and I sat there and read the script, and the script was fun. And I said, “Gee, I’d be delighted to do this picture.” It wasn’t much money, it was a low-budget picture. It wasn’t until later that I found out this supposed agency runner was the producer! These guys were producing their first picture, and I had thought this guy was representing me! And he had been telling me how good this thing was, and I was saying my guys are good! Even the young guy who brought me the thing knows the scrip and knows this thing is good. And with that picture I had another great lesson of my career.

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Sounds as if there have been many.
Robert Forster: One lesson after another. That’s what life is. We hadn’t even gotten two days into production, and I knew the director was slow. Now, I was used to working on a lot of different kind of stuff and I knew we weren’t working fast enough.

A low-budget shoot can’t afford to get to far behind…
Robert Forster: You can’t get far behind, because what invariably happens is they start tearing out script pages and throwing them away, because this isnt like a big picture; they’re not going to go long They’ve got 18 days of shooting; they’re not going to go 25 days to accommodate a director who’s slow. And as we get into the second week, we’re slow, and I’m thinking we’re never, never, never going to finish the pages. And I’m composing performance for a script like this (makes a roller coaster gesture with hands with very particular ups and downs). Schematically, you’ve got to figure out what you’re doing and contribute to the roller-coaster bends and twists, and you’ve got to make it believable, or otherwise people won’t be with you at the end of the ride. All the while I’m getting more and more nervous that we’re not going to finish the script, and that he’s going to start pulling pages. We get to the last week, and it becomes obvious to me. We get to the last few days, and they start pulling out pages. I had been telling the producers this was going to happen, and I’m furious. We’re going to miss stuff. Good stuff.

Stuff that is quite possibly necessary to telling the story.
Robert Forster: Stuff that is quite possibly necessary. Well, now you don’t know what you’re composing for. The thing is just getting helter skelter. And so the last couple of days we just ripped out pages, tossed them away and shot. I tried to think of some little bridges here and there. But I was mad. When I saw the picture, it was good — not withstanding that we lost those pages of stuff | thought was important. I realized that the audience doesn’t miss what it doesn’t know we didn’t shoot… The picture was well constructed by a director who knew what he was doing. And I didn’t know enough to keep my mouth shut and let this guy do his business.

The Darker Side of Terror (TV Movie 1979)

In The Darker Side of Terror (TV Movie 1979), you played two roles. You played a scientist and you were cloned.
Robert Forster: It was originally called THE CLONE. It’s a picture about a guy who is a scientist and Ray Milland is another scientist and he takes a bit of my blood and clones me. And now the little clone is growing up inside a tank of fluid, and when the clone is exactly my age, height and weight, somebody breaks the tank, and I come flowing out. Now there’s two of me, and they dress me up the same. This is the big gimmick at the end — I am presented to the faculty. Two of us, both dressed the same. Then there is a fight and a fire in which one of us killed the other, but the audience doesn’t know which one survives, and the surviving one gets in bed with the wife (Adrienne Barbeau) and she doesn’t know which one survived. And I’m telling you, for many months after that was shown, people would come up to me and ask me which one survived. And I would try and explain that the actor’s job is to create a possibility on both sides of that balance without tipping the action. So after I would give them this explanation about “an actor’s not supposed to … ” they would say (in a whispered tone), “Yeah, yeah, I know, but who really survived?”

It’s an actor’s dream to play two roles, isn’t it?
Robert Forster: Well, in this one, I got the opportunity to fool the audience and they were fooled.

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Regarding your roles as heavies: In The Delta Force (1986), you underwent such a transformation that the usual Forster likeability doesn’t apply. But in films like UNCLE SAM (1997) and MANIAC COP 3 (1993) — the two William Lustig films you did slimeball parts for you appear on screen, give the film a little life, and then we have to watch you get killed off in terrible ways.
Robert Forster: I got killed a lot of different ways in that period. I did THE DELTA FORCE under protest. I had to take the job. I had no dough. I was deeply in debt to my agent. This is an agent, by the way, unequaled in this business. Now I’m not with him anymore. I finally had to break off this relationship. But this guy, during the period when my career was spiraling downward, lent me over $100,000 to survive with. Now I paid him back in spades, and all that. But this guy I consider to have been one of the reasons I managed to survive. Mike Greenfield. But he told me, “Look, there’s nothing else. You’ve got to go do this thing (DELTA FORCE).” And I didn’t want to play a bad guy. I had never played a bad guy. Had only played good guys. Thought of myself as a good guy. But I had to play a bad guy, so I went to Israel and I did this part and I played the Arab terrorist, and I could not get another good-guy part for 13 years. Nobody would hire me, this was the only stuff I could get: crapola, including every tyrant. I played Qaddafi, I played Noriega, I played slimeballs, bad guys, ne’er-do well, you name it. And my whole career during that period was playing bad guys. I couldn’t get a good-guy role. You pick from what you got. I had kids in college. I was trying to save the house.

So you didn’t seek out the bad-guy parts for variety?
Robert Forster: No, you can only go with what they offer you. And I must have auditioned for, over the years in which I….until I finally put an end to it and said I will not audition for anybody any more. If they want me they can hire me. If they don’t want me, let them hire the other guy.

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Was it weird playing a Middle Eastern terrorist being that you’re from New York?
Robert Forster: Sure, I said “how am I going to get away with this?” And all it took was eyeliner and a moustache and a white suit.

Kind of a throwback to the silent movie era, as long as you put a moustache on the bad guy everyone will know he’s the bad guy.
Robert Forster: You know, it’s either a black hat or a moustache, exactly.

Regarding ethnicity, you’ve played many other races, in such films as JUSTINE, THE DELTA FORCE, the NAKIA TV-series. In NAKIA, you were an American Indian.
Robert Forster: In the early part of my career, the second picture, the Gregory Peck Western, probably set that tone. THE STALKING MOON. Now, I’m Scottish and Italian. But during the early years there were not Native American actors with any experience, so they weren’t going to hire them to play that part, so they hired guys like me. There were a few white guys who played American Indians.

Charles Bronson, for one.
Robert Forster: Charles Bronson, and other guys whose name I can’t quite come up with… But now they’ve got well-traveled, experienced Native American d actors. So you don’t do that anymore. But then of that’s 35 years ago they did. And I did several more American Indians. One of the important ones was a contemporary American Indian in a picture called JOURNEY THROUGH ROSEBUD (1972). It was about a guy who had been to Vietnam and come back and was now back on the reservation and how that affected him. It was a three13 week or maybe a four-week shoot, low-budget.

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And during the shooting of that picture, the elders of the tribe the Sioux in Rosebud, South Dakota the elders of the tribe liked me. I took the job seriously in that I knew that since I was representing someone other than myself, I had to deliver the best human being I could find in me. When you’re representing yourself, you can do whatever you And want. But when you’re representing somebody else, you got to do good. And I was delivering the ring best guy I could on this character, and the elders et a liked me, and they decided to name me. And in a pick process that began at Spotted Tail’s grave had last war chief of the Sioux, Spotted Tail — in the little tiny village of Rosebud, I ran from there 17 miles to the pow wow grounds in Mission, South Dakota, where on a quilt that I still have, I was named by two medicine men “Walks in Sight.” Like up on the movie screen. Walks in Sight. Wow. This was an important thing to me.

I’m just glad it didn’t end like the Sun Ceremony from A MAN CALLED HORSE.
Robert Forster: Painfully? Forget it. I’m not a tough guy in the end. I’m not a tough guy period. I just know that I started out by playing one American Indian in the picture STALKING MOON, and that probably led to one or two others and probably gave someone else an idea further on down the line. When called upon, I’ve played Arabs, Panamanians, you name it.

Hollywood Harry (1986) must have been a great labor of love. Your daughter’s in the picture. Your good friend Joe Spinell …tell me about Joe.
Robert Forster: Joe Spinell has, in the history of his career, been used as a good guy only once — in HOLLYWOOD HARRY. He has otherwise played a greasy, rotten bastard. And I knew this guy — he was a good guy. He never swore in movies, are you aware of that? You look at his old movies, and I don’t think you’ll ever find that he swears in movies. He always said, “No, no, you’re not supposed to do that.” He played rotten characters, but he never wanted to swear. He said his mother might see the picture.

You also worked with Joe in Vigilante (1982), which is a good picture.
Robert Forster: I like Vigilante. (Director) Bill Lustig kept me alive! He brought me to Cannes. They ran out of money while we were shooting the picture. I borrowed some money, a hundred-and-some thousand dollars, and we finished the picture. For that, they brought me to Cannes, and that’s where I got my first look at how they sold movies.

Tell me about the “Hammer,” Fred Williamson (Forster’s co-star in VIGILANTE)
Robert Forster: He is a colorful guy, and I’ll tell you what. He makes (Williamson still produces and directs movies through his Po’ Boy company) low-budget pictures. He makes them out of the spur of the moment real, real cheap. Every time a new actor comes, on the first day, he gives them this speech: “Now, look,” he tells the new actor, “this is a low-budget production. We don’t shoot a lot of takes. If it’s good on the first take, we print it and move on. So just you remember this — if you do bad on that first take, you’re gonna look bad in the movie.” That focuses an actor’s attention, I promise you.

What kind of budget and schedule did you have on HOLLYWOOD HARRY?
Robert Forster: I did everything one step at a time. First of all, I picked an arbitrary number: $500,000. I said, “For $500,000, I can make this picture.” And, of course, you can. But I didn’t know where to get $500,000. I kept trying to sell the idea to prospective producers, and, finally, a couple of exhibitors — these guys had exhibited ALLIGATOR (in which Forster starred for director Lewis Teague) and made money with it in Europe — said, “Yeah, we’ll work with you. What’s the budget?” “$500,000,” I told ’em. They said, “You come up with a third. We’ll come up with two-thirds.” And we made a deal. I sold the only investment I had — the only thing I owned — which was some investment I had made some years before. I got $150,000 for it. I called these guys up in England, and I said, “OK, guys, I got my money, it’s in the bank,” and they didn’t return my phone call. Ohhhhhh, one of those absolutely typical stories. You think you got a deal and you trust somebody and they did not come through with it. So I made HOLLYWOOD HARRY with $125,000 of that $150,000 — I had to have some money to live on. I borrowed another $10,000 from my cousin and another $25,000 from a friend, and we finished up a rough cut for approximately $160,000. Later, I had to borrow even more money to post-produce. Each step of the way, I said, “OK, what do you do now?” By the time we got to a finished picture, I knew that I had to get it to a salesman. We got it to Cannes the following year. We sold to about five small territories. That was 1985. Later that summer, I went to work for Menahem Golan in THE DELTA FORCE. While we were working on DELTA FORCE, Menahem, who I had run into in Cannes, asked, “How did you do with that little picture of yours?” I said, “Oh, we sold Australia and Denmark and …” He said, “I will buy the rest of the world.” This guy got me out! We sold Golan the picture. Now comes Christmas time …

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How much did you sell it for?
Robert Forster: Wait, I’ll tell ya. They originally offered me $400,000. I figured, OK, that’s about $75,000 profit. When I first started making this picture, I thought it was going to get me a house on the beach in Malibu. At best, I wound up with a condo in West Hollywood. I figured I was gonna grab 75-Gs on this picture for my efforts. And that was a two-year effort. Eventually, I went in to Cannon to sign the deal. By then, they kept “grinding” the deal. They take a little bit here, they take a little bit there. Finally, they found out exactly how much money I had in the picture, which was roughly $325,000. And that’s exactly and only what they would give me. I had no choice. Now I was working for nothing, but at least I was gonna pay off everybody. I went in around Christmas time to sign the paperwork, and as I was signing, Golan’s partner, Yoram Globus, said, “We changed the name of your picture.” “Changed the name of my picture? From HOLLYWOOD HARRY to what? And why?” “Well, we had to change the name of your picture.” “But why? To what?” “We’re going to change it to HARRY’S MACHINE.” I said, “Wait a minute, why do that? This is a beautiful title — HOLLYWOOD HARRY. It said something. And my titles (opening credit sequence) are animated. You can’t change the name of the picture.” He said, “Yes, well, we’re going to change the name of the picture.” I was heartbroken. I was devastated. I’m signing the paperwork, I have no choice, I gotta get the $25,000 they’re giving me as an advance, I had no Christmas money, I was dead broke. I’m signing the thing, I think, “Oh, God, this is what happens when you make a little movie.” Later on, I discovered that Cannon had sold a package of about twenty movies, one of which was titled HARRY’S MACHINE, but they had never made it. So they bought my picture to substitute for a picture they had already sold called HARRY’S MACHINE! Wow!

I’m sure it’s out of print now, but the videocassette I have is HOLLYWOOD HARRY. I think Media Home Entertainment put it out.
Robert Forster: Yes, yes, you never saw HARRY’S MACHINE. It’s HARRY’S MACHINE only in a descriptive list of the pictures that they sold. They never touched it.

Who owns HOLLYWOOD HARRY now?
Robert Forster: I don’t know who owns it now. All I know is it sold 26,000 units (videocassettes) its first quarter. That’s a lot of units for a little, tiny picture.

It really is a lot of fun.
Robert Forster: I agree.

What did you think about American Perfekt (1997)? I thought it was one of your great performances, but it’s still hard to accept you as a villain.
Robert Forster: This guy Paul Chart, I had met him six years or so before. He was renting an apartment in my building. I saw him up on the roof – a flat roof, a common area, people sunning themselves. Here was this guy, he was so white. I thought he had either just gotten out of jail or come from some Nordic country. He’s British, it turned out, where they don’t have much sun. We had conversation, and Forster me after a while he said he knew I was an actor and had seen a lot of my stuff. And of he had seen HOLLYWOOD HARRY. Now, that instantly made him a favorite of mine, this guy who saw HOLLYWOOD HARRY. How could he have done that? Well, he had.
It couldn’t have been a month later that he knocked on my door and handed me a script and said that he had written this script for me. And it was great. And I hadn’t had a good start in years. This was it, this was terrific. And so, year after year, he didn’t get the thing produced and didn’t get the thing produced and didn’t get the thing produced. And my career kept slipping and slipping and slipping. One day, he called me up and said, “I got to come over. I’ve got some bad news.” And in fact, he came and said, “Look, I got somebody who wants to produce the picture, but they won’t let me hire you. They want me to hire someone else.” I said, “Well, I’m not surprised.”

I remember reading that you told him, “At least save the part of the sheriff for me.”
Robert Forster: That’s exactly what I asked him. I said please try to save something for me, maybe the sheriff. And he said he’d try. It wasn’t more than several weeks later — six weeks, four weeks, whatever, not very long — he calls me up and says, “I got better news this time.” He said, “I’m not going to get as much to shoot the picture with, but I’m going to get my own cast, and you’re it.” This guy went to the wall for me. This guy fought for me.

In American Perfekt, you’ve referenced hamboning, obviously a skill of yours.
Robert Forster: One of my favorite things. A guy who lived in Shaker Heights, skinny white guy, taught me how to hambone. I can teach anybody to hambone in two minutes.

Do you suggest it for films, or do people know this about you and write it in?
Robert Forster: Not even that. On the last day of shooting on American Perfekt, Paul Chart said to me he’s English – he said, “Hey, Bob, do you know that dopey thing you do?” I knew immediately. He said, “Well, just before you get in the car, say, ‘Hey Alice, did you ever see this?’ and do a little bit of it and jump in the car and drive off.” Which I did. And when he said cut, I got the biggest laugh I’ve ever gotten on any set. It was unexpected by anybody else there.

Was it released after JACKIE BROWN?
Robert Forster: Maybe. It didn’t get a theatrical release here. It got a theatrical release in a lot of other countries. It did not get a theatrical release here. It never really did very much here.

Now I’d like to ask you about what I consider to be some trademarks of your career. You’ve gone nude – including some full frontal – in several pictures. Is that something you have a high comfort level with?
Robert Forster: I would be mortified if I were caught in my underwear. Even now. With the exception of doing wardrobe, where you got a couple of wardrobe mistresses in there feeding you different clothes to try on and you just jump in and out of them. Not withstanding, when I got this job, I had met with John Huston about this picture, REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE. Now I had read it, the novel. I don’t even remember giving it a second thought. But I remember when I got the script, and reading it in the script — that this soldier rides around naked on a horse — I remember clearly, my first thought was, “Gee, I wonder how they do that. Trick photography or something, I guess.” But on the day that we actually do that scene, I come out to the set and I get out of the car. We’re in Rome. We’re in a beautiful forest, a geometrically placed forest. I mean, the trees were all in lines, like a forest that isn’t a natural forest. I get out of the car, and I see an Italian extra riding around. And they’re setting up, and the camera is focusing. And I think to myself, “Jesus, that’s supposed to be me. I don’t want that guy to be doing that.” So, I go straight to John Huston, and I say, “Hey, John, I can do that.” He says, “Can you, Forster, Bobby? Can you really?” I say, “Yeah, I can do that!” He says, “Well then, we’re going to let you try it.” And the next thing I know, the wardrobe department comes to me with a little ‘V’ that they cut off of a jock strap and a roll of tape. And I try to tape this thing on. This is going to be for my modesty. And a robe. I had a big robe and this taped-on affair. Well, I got the horse and after about two minutes on this lathered horse — it’s slippery, and this thing wasn’t holding on. And eventually I took it off and tossed it.
But there was a moment at which I said to myself, “Bob, if you don’t give yourself permission to do this freely, then you’re never going to be able to do it, and you might as well quit being an actor, because you have got to give yourself permission to do certain things, and this is one of them.” And in an instant I was on that horse and riding around, trying to get the shot — which is the basic idea of moviemaking: doing one shot at a time, and giving them good movie shots. That’s what it is a business of. The pretending part is the easy part. There’s nothing to that.

The main objective is to give a good performance. And those other concerns fell by the wayside.
Robert Forster: Well, you got to put them by the wayside. Otherwise you can’t do it. And you know, having once had that experience in REFLECTIONS OF A GOLDEN EYE, then MEDIUM COOL. And our friend Haskell Wexler says, “Do you think you can get her (Marianna Hill) to take her clothes off in this scene?” I said, “Why ask me? You’re the director. Ask her.” He says, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m embarrassed to ask her.”
So I went and I said, “Listen, he wants you to take off her clothes.” She says, “Well, I will if he will.” She was being a wiseguy. And I said, “Nah,
he won’t do that.” Anyway, he didn’t of course, but she decided that she wouldn’t mind.

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Just the three of you for that?
Robert Forster: Just the three of us. The shot, it was prelit. And he went around, there were three of us in the room. And it didn’t seem like a big deal. Though apparently it’s a much bigger deal than | would have imagined. You may have missed: there is a tiny, tiny flash in AMERICAN PERFEKT.

Maybe director Paul Chart was referencing your career history with nudity in that scene.
Robert Forster: Paul Chart said, “Now, look, you’ve got to be totally vulnerable in there.” And I said, “All right. But give me an angle on the shot, and I’ll protect myself a little bit.” And we did it twice. And in the one take he picked, I thought I had blocked my genitals but I had not. And this is a good guy, Paul Chart. And I remember after the picture was released, I said, “Now look, Paul, if I ever do another picture for you, I’m past the age where I feel like being that vulnerable. So give me the courtesy of not putting me in that position anymore, because I don’t want to be the old asshole who thinks he still is ready to do that kind of stuff.” So that’s the last installment…

In the legacy of Robert Forster in the buff?
Robert Forster: … In the legacy of me being out there. No, I’m not the least bit comfortable [with nudity], though there have been a couple of times when I said to myself, “Bob, if you fail this test you might as well sit down.”

But if I recall correctly, you flashed a little bit when you were directing yourself in HOLLYWOOD HARRY.
Robert Forster: Oh, nothing on the business side — only the trailing side.

How well-defined was the character in the script, and how much did you feel like you needed to bring to Max Cherry? Because watching you on screen, it seems like you are this guy, you’re not “playing” him.
Robert Forster: Well, I am certain that this guy writes better dialogue than anybody, and the dialogue that he wrote for me, some of it was from “Rum Punch,” of course, but so much of it was re-fashioned in his mind. And so when you start with great, great dialogue and scenes that are believable and easy to play and you start with superior material – and then I think he did a pass of the material after we had spoken. I ran into him some years after I had auditioned for “Reservoir Dogs,” and I thought I was going to get that part. My career was pretty poor at that time, and I said, “Oh, this is a great shot, and I’m going to get this job. There isn’t anybody who can do this thing better than me.” You know, you convince yourself.

Which part was it?
Robert Forster: The part of the old gangster. And when I went into the reading, I was sure I hit it out of the park. And as I walked out, Quentin comes after me, and he says to me, “You did a nice job in there, but this part is going to go to Lawrence Tierney, the guy that I dedicated this script to” – which I had never noticed (laughs). So I said, “Oh Bob, you’re not going to get this after all!” But he said, “Don’t worry, I won’t forget you.” And five or six or however many years went by and he had done “Pulp Fiction,” and by then my only strategy was, I had no agent left, no manager, no nothing; my career was dead. I was picking up scraps – anything anyone would offer me I was willing to do. And I was at that point, my strategy was to hope that some kid who liked me growing up would turn me into a moviemaker and give me a good part. And I’m sitting in a coffeeshop on Santa Monica boulevard with another actor and we’re bullshitting, and in walks Quentin Tarantino. I look over and I yell at him, and he comes in the restaurant and out on the patio and sits with me and this other actor and we break his balls for a while and kid around. And I asked him what he was up to, and he said, “I’m adapting ‘Rum Punch’ – why don’t you read it?” which I did. About six months later I walked into that restaurant, which I do almost every morning, and I walk out onto the patio, and as I turn the corner, in my seat is Quentin Tarantino. And as I approach the table, he lifts up a script and extends it towards me and says, “Read this and see if you like it.

I guess that during that interim six months, maybe he had decided that I was going to be the right guy for this, and I don’t know how he decided or what he picked up, but I’m sure he remembered me and how I speak and so forth, and I suppose that influenced him some. He handed me the script and I went home and…that afternoon read the script immediately, and I said, “Oh, but what part does he have in mind for me?” Because nothing made sense, except for the big part, which wasn’t the right part for me because I knew that they wouldn’t let him hire me. You know, my career had slid all of the way to the bottom – it was underwater. And so he suggested that we have breakfast the following morning…and I asked him what part he had in mind. And he said it was the Max Cherry part. Well, I read it again, and the following morning when I met him, I knew that they were not going to let him hire me, and I told him that. I said, “I’ve had that experience before – the distributors want big names, and they won’t let you.” And that’s when he said to me, “I hire anybody I want.” And I believed him, and I said, “Jesus – you mean I’m going to get another shot at a career?” and so I don’t know how much he wrote for me, or how much the character seemed to fit, because I’d played those parts a little bit in the past, cops and detectives; I remember when I went from being the younger of the two cops to being the older of the two cops, in stuff like “Police Story” and stuff like that. But here was a guy who liked me when he was growing up, who decided he was going to put me back to work, and he has given me a huge, huge gift. And these last 14 years have been filled with the fruits of that gift. So if you start out with great material and a guy who takes care of you on the set, and then in post, and even after, and here we are. I’m still alive, and it’s been a great run.

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You and Pam have amazing chemistry in “Jackie Brown.” Would you attribute that to the writing, to you two working together, or just being experienced actors coming on set and being able to create that intimacy no matter who you’re working with?
Robert Forster: That’s one of the things an actor does – he says to himself, “I am going to deliver movie shots that will be in the picture.” Something that makes these movie shots exceptional and watchable and maybe a little something extra that happens that puts that shot in the picture – which is why some directors shoot 40, 50, 60 takes. They’re looking for some little special thing that will actually get into the movie. Quentin doesn’t do that; he shoots a normal amount of time. He shot as many as he needed to get something special, but experience does give you the knowledge that you’re here not just to render the material, but to find something in that shot that gives it believability and life and maybe something special that helps make the movie. As far as the chemistry, she’s a beautiful woman. I had never met her, but I had been in a movie with her, in a picture called “Original Gangstas.” But I had seen her and I knew who she was because she was a big star of the era and the type of movies – I did a lot of exploitation movies at the time…And then I got cast in this movie, where we have a love relationship. And so it wasn’t at all hard to find the chemistry with Pam Grier. Additionally, as you are aware, she is an experienced actress who knows that you’ve got to deliver, and every day you have a bouquet of opportunities to put down really good timing and something special and hopefully one of those really good shots that the guy finds that he wants to include. And believability is certainly a big piece of that, and that was Quentin’s best direction to me; I heard him give two others, but early on in the picture making, he said before one of the takes, he said “Just make me believe it.” And that’s it! That’s what the actor needs to remember every single time before the take begins.

Max ends up totally in cahoots with Jackie never seems the least bit shady. How do you keep these characters so grounded and still make them work in these high genre films?
Robert Forster: I decided a long time ago, you make decisions about who you’re going to be in life, you come to a point and you say, “yeah, I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to be that guy.” And I’ve made a lot of choices like that and I’ve always decided that those are the strongest things I have to play. If I get a chance to play the good guy, I deliver that. Now I got stuck in bad guys for 13 years, I did Delta Force on protest, but I had no money. I owed my agent money and I said I don’t want to be a bad guy. He said, “well look, I got nothing else for you. You better go to Israel and make that movie.” So I did, and I got stuck in bad guys for 13 years after that. But in general, I have enjoyed the good guy side of the menu. And when I get one to play, somehow you say, “I know what a good guy is” and you deliver it.

You were nominated for an Oscar for the performance.
Robert Forster: Well this was a big, big, big surprise. You know, you go along in this business and you figure you’ve been long forgotten. There was a moment on the day of that nomination where I realized after doing 29 interviews that morning and early afternoon, the car was driving me back…they had a car pick me up, they took me hither and yon to do interviews all morning…and coming back I realized that the members of the Academy didn’t actually have to check my name off, they had to write it in. And I realized there were an awful lot of people who I owed a great deal to who actually wrote my name in, and the feeling of that was very, very warm, satisfying, confirming, something really quite out of the ordinary in a career when you finally get something that makes you feel part of it.

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You played an agent in Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III (1994), another soft-core movie.
Robert Forster: No, this is another asshole part. And this is in the spring or late winter of the year I did JACKIE BROWN. I’m almost sure Hindsight (1996). So, it was the worst job and the best job in the same year. That would have been 1997.

Did you wrap that and go straight into JACKIE BROWN?
Robert Forster: No, it was several months later. I did that without a clue that JACKIE BROWN was coming.

Elsewise you might not have done HINDSIGHT?
Robert Forster: I needed the two grand. Once you reduce it down after taxes and with agents, it’s about a thousand. I needed the grand.

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Regarding MULHOLLAND DR. (2001), that was shot several years prior to its release, no?
Robert Forster: It was a pilot. It was a TV pilot.

Was there more stuff shot of your character that doesn’t make the film?
Robert Forster: I only shot two half days. One, I shot a half night, and that’s what’s in the picture. And the other was a half-day scene in an office with my partner, Brent Briscoe.

Wow. You get the “And Starring” position in the credits for such a small amount of screen time.
Robert Forster: I don’t know how I got such billing. All I know is I got a call from David Lynch, a call from him. He said he wanted me to do this thing, and I said “Oh, Jesus, I don’t want to get involved in a television series. I think I got a shot at movies now.” This is after JACKIE BROWN, and I really don’t want to get locked up in a television series. He said, “What if we just make this into a onetime thing?” I said I’d be happy to do that. He had tried to hire me for TWIN PEAKS, and I had already committed myself to another pilot. And the pilot never went anywhere, but I had committed myself. And he knew it. And every once in a while, I’d run into him, and he’d remind me that he knew I did this guy a favor and didn’t do his show. He said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be in touch one of these days.” And he was, with MULHOLLAND DRIVE. He’s a good guy.

And Lynch gave Robert Blake a really good role in LOST HIGHWAY. Speaking of other ’70s actors and TV shows, you told me about a mix-up between your show, BANYON, and George Peppard’s show, BANACEK, You said 0.J. Simpson invited you to come see him after a game?
Robert Forster: Yeah, I lived in Rochester at the time, and he was playing for Buffalo. And I ran into him here while I was doing BANYON. So I knew him from here. He said come on back. So I got some guys in Rochester and went to the Buffalo game. He might have even gotten us tickets. But at the end of the game, we went back to the locker rooms, and I couldn’t think of anything to tell this security guard to make him feel that we had been invited. He just wouldn’t let us in. Then he said, “Wait a minute. Ain’t you Banacek?” I said, “Yes!” He said, “Come on in.”

How tough is it to be honest about the ups and downs in your career?
Robert Forster: Oh, I have nothing to be immodest about. Everything I have done, my career went like this [points up] for five years and like this [points down] for 25 years, and then I got “Jackie Brown” and he gave me buoyancy and it’s been – and one of the things I learned along the way, and this is a universal, I learned that every man — and woman for that matter – but every man has got to accept and hopefully be graceful with loss of status. I don’t care how big a star you are, you can’t hold on to that, it always is followed by that [points down]. And even if you’re not a movie actor with a career that goes up and down, you are a man whose strength gets to a peak and and then you start getting older and pretty soon, you’re feeble. And if you can address that comfortably and with some grace, then your chances of having a good time in the down slope are much improved.

So I guess I learned somewhere along that long, long 25 or 27-year descent that you’ve just got to make the best of what you’ve got, and deliver the best you’ve got under whatever circumstances there are. And once you realize that that is the circumstance of every human life, that the great leveler, the great evener is that with whatever you’ve got you can create your best thing. In any given moment, you can deliver your very best moment, and when you do, you get that reward that people tell you you’re going to get when you deliver your excellent best to this moment – you get the reward of self-respect and satisfaction. If you happen to be looking for the good life, those are both huge components in the good life. And these are things that you recognize and especially if you had a career that has forced you to be more and more and more modest, and more and more and more humble. You realize that it’s a gotta-be, and everyone’s life goes through that. And I was able since I had to take any job possible, because I have four kids, that you learn to take whatever jobs there are and make the best you can out of whatever you’ve got. And anyone in any walk of life, if they can figure that out, has a lot better finish than those who cannot stand to take a picture that doesn’t pay you as much or isn’t as good as the last one. Attitude is everything.

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
vulture.com
birthmoviesdeath
craneshot
thehollywoodinterview
SHOCK CINEMA #31

5 thoughts on “Robert Forster: A Retrospective Interview

  1. Agreed. Alligator. Love that flick.

    Another one of my all-time favorite performances by Robert was in J.S Cardone’s little seen, 1998 direct-to-video feature Outside Ozona. (Kudos to Meatloaf and Taj Mahal in that one as well.)

    Liked by 1 person

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