In part two of Herb Shadrak's tribute to actor Richard Basehart, his Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea co-star David Hedison reflects on working with Basehart on the popular Irwin Allen TV series.
By Herb Shadrak
Veteran actor David Hedisonis best known for three roles: the
ill-fated scientist Andre Delambre who switches heads with The Fly (1958), CIA
agent Felix Leiter in two James Bond films – Live and Let Die (1973) and
Licence to Kill(1989) [in which he
loses his leg to a shark] – and Captain Lee Crane, who, along with Admiral
Harriman Nelson (Richard Basehart), commanded the high-tech submarine Seaview
on the hit TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968), which the
Boston Globe’sTV critic said was “like
Star Trek with fish.” In this exclusive interview for Cinema Retro, Hedison
recalls his admiration for Basehart and the highlights of working with him on
the fondly remembered science-fiction action-adventure series.
Cinema Retro: Why did you want to work with
David Hedison: I had admired his film work
for years. He was always so natural on camera and he had passion. You believed
in his very human characters.
CR: Which of his film performances
particularly impressed you?
DH: La Strada was heartbreaking. Moby Dick.
Fourteen Hours. Time Limit. Richard had fabulous range and was always worth
watching in anything he did.
CR: What transpired during your very first
encounter with Richard Basehart?
DH: I had asked him to invite me up to his
house. I wanted to meet him off the set, only the two of us and talk. I had
some ideas for the series. Richard graciously agreed. I went up there. We
talked. We hit it off, he had a lot of the same ideas I had and a similar
working style. Richard didn’t take to everyone, but he liked me; my enthusiasm,
I guess. I did want to work with him. He taught me so much during those four
CR: Was Basehart aware of your admiration
for his work?
DH: Not at first, but we found we could
work together easily enough and then we did.
CR: What did you learn from Richard
Basehart in terms of acting technique?
DH: Richard had great concentration. At
first, noise, a wrong line, any background distraction would throw me off.
Nothing shook Richard. He was always camera-ready, knew his line reading.
I wanted to be able to do that and after a while, I got better at tuning out
the distractions. He made me work harder, like tennis with a much better
partner. Richard pushed me to be as good as he was and some days I almost was.
CR: Do you consider yourself a better actor
for having spent four years working with him?
DH: You can’t be around someone with his
talent and not improve. Richard had good techniques that I shamelessly
copied then and that I still use today.
CR: What would you say is your single
greatest acting moment with Richard Basehart in Voyage to the Bottom of the
Sea… the scene where you brought out the best in each other?
DH: There was a first-season episode –
where Richard has an allergic reaction to a cortisone shot and turns into a
Captain Queeg-like antithesis of his normal character. I have to defy his
orders in order to save the submarine. I believe the episode was called Mutiny.There we were screaming at each other – him
on the fine edge of madness and me with my back against the wall, determined to
save my sub and crew. I was right, he would have killed us all, if I
hadn't done what I did. Great stuff. They wrote the best stories for us that first
season – dark, gritty, adventure tales.
CR: Did Richard Basehart ever express any
frustration to you over the decline in the quality of the scripts, as Voyage
slid into a Monster-of-the-Week format?
DH:He was too professional for that. I knew Richard was unhappy about the
script quality, but he didn’t verbalize it. He had a contract and a job to do
and that’s what he did.
CR: Did you ever have a good laugh at the
silliness of some of the later episodes?
DH: We occasionally could not hold it
together and would blow a scene over something that we knew was utter nonsense.
Money was tight. We had to get through the script in six days, so we would
then have to pull it back together and get the scene done as it was written.
Click here to read Part 1 of Herb Shadrak's tribute to Richard Basehart