News is circulating that biker-movie actor and general tough guy Ross Hagen passed away a couple days ago, and although this has not been confirmed by mainstream sources yet, we can take this opportunity to remember some of his work, no matter what his current condition (which I hope is "perfectly in the pink").
The following are some random excerpts from my interview with Mr. Hagen from January 15, 2007.
I remember calling to set up the interview with Ross, and he told me he had recently done interviews for projects about co-stars Nancy Kwan and Elvis Presley. So when I called for the actual interview, I told him, "Mr. Hagen, you said you've done interviews about other people lately, but I only want to talk to you about Ross Hagen." He laughed, and I hoped he felt flattered. --Mike Malloy
ON ACTING WITH CHARLES BRONSON:
“He was a fun guy to work with. Because when we were shooting The Virginian, everybody was, “Oh, Charlie Bronson. He’s mean. He’s weird. And when he came on the set, I was playing one of the roles then. I’m part of his gang. They always have the leader and then the gang.”
“So Charlie and I are sitting there, and I had never met him before, and he had never met me. And when we started rehearsing the scene, I started doing him, imitating him. [Imitates Bronson] And about five minutes into the rehearsal, he says, “What are you doing? You sound like me.” I said, “Well, I thought you were the star. I thought I was supposed to sound like you, because you’re the star of this episode.” He said, “No, no. You’re supposed to sound like yourself.” I said, “How come my acting teacher never told me that? I thought you had to sound like the star.” Of course, I was kidding."
We get ready to do the scene, and I say [in deep voice], “Is it better if I talk like this, Charlie? Do you like that better?” Because he didn’t have a voice as deep as mine. So we used to have the voice wars—who would have the deepest voice would win the contest.”
MUCH OF A RIDER? OWN A BIKE?
“Never. The great thing about that is that’s why we have stuntmen in Hollywood. You get on a bike, roll it into the shot and then get off. But in between, I let the stuntmen do that.”
“I could ride down the street, but not ride like you think of riding, like these really good riders.”
“You just get up in the morning and go out and do it. Most people are completely shocked that you could go out and actually make a movie. Because it’s been hidden – the secret of making a film.”
ON IVAN NAGY:
“Remember when that Heidi Fleiss stuff was going on? Well, he was one of her boyfriends for a while.”
“Ivan was a Hungarian guy, and he came over. He had a company that used to go around photographing stars—like paparazzis. And he got into this “wanting to make a film.” And he saw Sidehackers, and he called me and said, “Ross, jeez, we could make a movie, you know? And we went out and made two films together: Bad Charleston Charlie and Pushing Up Daisies—the original title was 'The Violent Breed.'"
“We shot Five Minutes of Freedom [Pushing Up Daisies] first. And I had a ranch in Malibu. We built all those sets on the ranch we had in Malibu. So that whole thing was constructed by our team of little filmmakers—the Mexican town, the villages, the blow-ups and stuff.”
“Charlie was shot in Champagne, Illinois. We actually went on location with that film. That was our first attempt to go on location.” (...) “We needed all the old cars and all that stuff. So we went back to Champagne, and they gave us all of that stuff. They even took all the parking meters down and all the TV antennae off roofs and everything.”
ON DAVID CARRADINE IN 'ARMED RESPONSE':
“David was known for sometimes he’d miss a punch and actually hit somebody. And I said, 'No -- in this one, no hitting allowed.'"
WHAT LED TO MAKING MOVIES IN PHILIPPINES?
“We had our office at General Service Studios. And there’s a film called Midnight Cowboy that really took off ... The writer of that, James Leo Herlihy, a friend of ours, he gave me the next book that he had written. Called Hard Rain Falling [ed note: Herlihy wrote a book entitled All Fall Down]. He said, “You can make it if you want.” So I took the book around – a brilliant book – and every studio said, “No, no, no. We don’t want to make a film like that.” So I was sitting in my office, and I said, “You know this is really unbelievable.” The guy’s had a top film. Here’s his book that can easily be turned into a great screenplay. And yet nobody wants to do it. So I thought of the worst idea I could think of: “Wild Women of Cannibal Island”—the original title for Wonder Women. And I went upstairs to Art Marks, who was head of General Service, and I said, “I got this idea. This plane crashes on this island with all these women.” And he goes, “I love it. Let’s make a script.”
“The next thing we knew, Art had a deal in the Philippines with a guy named Ron Remy, and we were on the airplane going to the Philippines to make Wonder Women. And that was our first adventure out of the United States.”
ON FILMMAKING IN THE PHILIPPINES:
“John [Ashley] was the godfather. If you went into the Philippines, you went to John, and he would tell you who to deal with. Because he had cut the door open, and he knew all of the right players.”
"They’re such wonderful people, the [Filipinos]. It’s fun to work with them. They’re always laughing, and everybody’s having a good time. There’s none of that sourpuss stuff. So I’d say that our film experience in the Philippines was 100% good, happy times."
“Those guys take their cockfighting just as seriously as Spain does their bulls.”
“[Cockfighting] is their national sport. Just as we played it in Supercock is exactly what goes on there. That’s all authentic dialogue ... all of that cockfighting talk in there is exactly the way they talk. There’s not any added Hollywood stuff to that at all.”
"In Wonder Women, most of us stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati. And it’s a super-class five-star hotel. And of course, we were there, and we got caught in the typhoons of the Philippines, the great rains and stuff. So what we did is we took the ballroom of the hotel, and I produced the film, so I just turned the ballroom into a soundstage. We filmed a lot of the interiors right there in the hotel."
"Fowl Play, we used the old Manilla Motel, the one where MacArthur was in, because it had more of that seedy area. And then Imelda Marcos took it over, and now it’s one of the top hotels in the world. It’s beautiful now."
“COCK” USED AS DOUBLE ENTENDRE IN 'FOWL PLAY'/'SUPERCOCK'?
“Of course, but how nice when you can have a PG film with the name Supercock on it. And it’s PG—there’s no tits, there’s none of that stuff. That was the fun of it. The rating board here, when they were rating the film, they called me after they gave it a PG rating, and they said, “Ross, that title...” And I said, “It’s a chicken! The whole ad shows me running with a chicken!”
“Louisville, Kentucky—when we were opening the film there, they said, “We’re not going to run that ad. It’s pornography.” And I had to fly back to Louisville and convince them it was about a rooster. I said, “Look it up in Webster’s Dictionary. It has nothing to do with your penis."
ON GUS TRIKONIS DIRECTING 'FOWL PLAY':
“Gus is a hell of a director. He took a piece of material like that and shaped it into something that was totally entertaining.”
“Gus would add those little touches, like the bamboo sticks dancing. So he put a little of their culture in the film too.”
ON RUMORS HE DIDN'T ACTUALLY DIRECT 'THE GLOVE':
“No, there was one director. There was me. That was my first directing job. I owned the film. We were looking for a director. Bill Silberkleit was the exec producer, and we were running around, looking for a director, because I’m basically an actor. And we kept talking to different guys, and one day, Bill said, ‘Ross, you direct the damn film.’ And I said, ‘Hell, I don’t know how to direct a film.’ And he said, ‘You know the story well enough. We’ll get you a good cameraman.’ And then Julian Roffman, a guy from Canada, came on, and he had a lot of experience in film. So Julian came on as a producer, and I’ll never forget, Gary Graver."