BRUCE DERN ENGAGES IN A Q&A SESSION AT THE PLAYERS, NYC
On June 1, Cinema Retro hosted a tribute to actor Bruce Dern at New York’s legendary club, The Players. The Oscar-nominated actor was in New York to promote his new autobiography Things I’ve Said But Probably Shouldn’t Have (Wiley), co-authored by Christopher Fryer and Robert Crane. The book is a candid reflection on Dern’s decades in the entertainment industry and includes anecdotes pertaining to his work with legends such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Frankenheimer, Sydney Pollack and John Wayne. Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer interviewed Dern for two hours, followed by a Q&A from the audience and book signing session. Pfeiffer also gave Dern a personalized tour of the historic club that was founded by actor Edwin Booth in the late 1800s. The Players remains New York’s primary gathering place for actors, writers and filmmakers.
Bruce Dern fielded questions about virtually every aspect of his life and career. Among the highlights:
• Recalling arranging a surprise meeting between director John Frankenheimer and his idol Alfred Hitchcock. Upon meeting Hitchcock, Frankenheimer could barely speak and was thrilled when the master director informed him that he was a great fan of his film The Manchurian Candidate. • Hitchcock refusing Dern’s pleas to introduce him to Steven Spielberg, whose Jaws had just been released. Dern, who was starring in Hitchcock’s final film Family Plot at the time, pleaded with Hitchcock to meet the young filmmaker in order to fulfill Spielberg’s lifetime dream. Hitchcock refused on the basis that he would be too ashamed since he had recently accepted a large fee from Universal to provide the voice for the studio’s forthcoming Jaws theme ride. He felt he had acted as a “whore” and did not want to face Spielberg.
DERN WITH HITCHCOCK ON THE SET OF "FAMILY PLOT" (1976)
• Although Dern acknowledged that Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday was a superb thriller, he regretted having starred in it. He felt that the movie now provides a “how-to” manual for would-be terrorists. • He spoke at length about his decades-old friendship with Jack Nicholson and having starred in Drive, He Said, one of only two films directed by the Oscar-winning actor. He recalled how in their early days in the industry, Nicholson and he had a mutual agreement to try to help the other guy get work in bit parts on TV westerns. • He told amusing and moving anecdotes regarding his work with the legendary Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg in The Actor’s Studio and how a rave review in the New York Times misspelled his name, leading his mother to disown him for changing his name in order to get a part in a play. • After screening a clip from The Cowboys, Dern recalled filming the grueling fight scene in which he murders John Wayne and the subsequent impact it had on his career.
Bruce Dern’s appearance at the Cinema Retro forum was in synch with the style of his book: candid, honest, amusing and occasionally heartbreaking. Look for excerpts from Bruce Dern’s interview in future issues.
AMONG THE ATTENDEES AT THE CINEMA RETRO EVENT: THE GREAT SCOTTISH COMEDIAN BILLY CONNOLLY, WHO SWAPPED QUIPS WITH EDITOR LEE PFEIFFER AT THE COCKTAIL HOUR.