|Chris Nyby GALACTICA.TV interview|
|Thursday, 17 September 2009|
Some time ago Mike Egnor caught up with Chris Nyby, better known to Battlestar Galactica 1978 fans for directing the episodes "Lost Planet of the Gods", "The Long Patrol", "The Magnificent Warriors" and "Fire in Space". He talks extensively about how he got in the business and how he got to work on Battlestar Galactica. He also talks about working on the episodes he directed, the cast and crew involved, and what he's up to nowadays.
Battlestar Galactica's director Chris Nyby
This is Mike Egnor from GALACTICA.TV and today we're talking to Chris Nyby, director of several episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica series. Chris, I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.
Thank you. Thanks for calling me. It's nice to be remembered occasionally.
Sure. For you going into directing, that's a family affair?
Yes, it was. My father was a director and he actually started in the film business as a carpenter at Warner Brothers. My grandfather was in charge of the mill at Warner Brothers, so that's how my dad and my uncle got work there. At one point dad was tired of carrying a hammer around and decided he wanted to do something more, so he got into film editing and eventually became an editor for Howard Hawks to work on Red River. Through his relationship with, and his close association with Howard Hawks, he was able to direct a film called The Thing, an early science fiction, classic horror film. Then from that point on he stayed with Howard Hawks and did Big Sky. From then on he went into television, early television film and series. He did a lot of half hour comedies. Then he got into westerns and did adventures, like I Spy and loads of shows.
I suppose that peaked my interest at that time. From that time I was interested in the film business. My first two years of college -- I went off to college at the University of Idaho -- I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, but then I decided to pursue a film career, hopefully. So I transferred to the University of Southern California to study cinema and graduated in January 1963. At that point I -- those were the days that you had to do something in the military -- so I took an exam for officer training school. I became a lieutenant in the Air Force and they had a film division. I had to sign on for four years, but I could make training films and public relation films, all kinds of things. It was a good place to kind of learn my craft, sort of an internship. That part ended -- of course everybody knows in the mid-sixties Vietnam happened. I found out that my primary classification was a combat cameraman, so I found myself over in Vietnam in 1966 and again in 1967. By then I was a captain and I was just trying to survive it. I had a wife and a baby.
I got out in late October -- no, it was early November 1967 -- and almost immediately went to work at Universal Studios and got a job as an second assistant director and did all kinds of jobs. So that's how I got started. As far as directing, I was still pursuing that, so while I was an assistant director I was on the set all the time of course. I had a keen interest in it. As luck would have it I was working on a TV movie as a second assistant, called Carmel, and there was this second unit director that got ill, couldn't perform his duties so I was able to step in. Anyway, I pursued -- I got a week of second unit directing on a car chase up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a lot of helicopter stuff which I had experience with in Vietnam of course. Then I was able to direct two [episodes for] Ironside. I think I did all the San Francisco shots for Ironside, everything else was done in LA, but I got to do a couple of episodes on that. Then I went on to do Emergency. I think the rest is on IMDb.
Anyway, I was kind of under term contract at Universal for the first year, I think. Then they didn't pick up my option so I became a freelancer. I did a lot of [episodes from] Emergency, The Six Million Dollar Man, Adam 12... About that time was when I started to do Battlestar Galactica in the late seventies.
You had worked with Glen Larson before on The Six Million Dollar Man?
No, I hadn't. I'm trying to think of... I think The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. No, they were after. I did B.J. and the Bear, but I think those were all after [Battlestar] Galactica. I hadn't really worked with Glen Larson prior to that. I knew who he was, because in those days Universal was almost like a college campus. They had anywhere from 15 to 20 television shows in production at one time. So the stages were always full and the backlot was always full. There would be a couple of features going, so you kind of knew who everybody was. You'd see them in the commissary or around the lot. Everybody kind of knew everybody. It was kind of the last of the big studios, I guess -- so to speak. By then Fox had sold off their backlot and it became Century City. Warner Brothers kind of had that feel, but Universal was still kind of -- they had actors and directors under contract. Actors would shift from one show to another. You'd see them on The Virginian and they'd go on The Name of the Game, show up on Ironside or Adam 12 or something. That's when I hooked up with Glen Larson and did Battlestar Galactica.
Do you remember specifically how you got involved with that or was that just another Universal show?
It was another Universal show, but I wish I could remember how I got picked up on it. I remember I was able to do the first -- Dick Colla did the pilot -- and I did the first two hour [episode] that followed the pilot, where Jane Seymour was killed.
"Lost Planet of the Gods".
Right. Then I did -- I don't know in what order -- "The Magnificent Warriors", "Fire in Space"... I think they gave me that one because I did all those Emergency shows. Then there was "The Long Patrol". I found them all pretty interesting and fun, because we didn't really have CGI in those days. Everything was pretty much -- you could do blue screen or green screen and front or rear projection. That was just about the limit. You could do optical, optical effects, but they were very expensive. So for example if you had a Cylon firing laser guns, and if Starbuck was returning fire, we'd just fire for effect and we didn't rotoscope the laser because it was very expensive. If we did it was just on a piecemeal basis. We could do it in the miniatures but it was very hard to do, because they had to do it frame by frame with the optical printer, a very expensive process. That's one of the [disadvantages] -- nowadays it's a lot easier.
Did you work much with Glen Larson during shooting or was he spending most of his time in Hawaii?
He was pretty much there. He was really pretty hands on, particularly in the beginning. In those days also Don Bellisario was involved and he was very involved with the concept of that world. He was definitely there and not in Hawaii.
Did you enjoy working with Glen [Larson] and Don [Bellisario] or did they restrict you with their hands on approach?
No, I enjoyed working with them both. Glen has always been kind of a free spirit. I think he went to Hollywood High and was in that group, The Four Preps or something -- they had two hits "26 Miles" and "I Was a Big Man Yesterday". I remember them from high school! He was very involved with music, but he was very involved with all aspects. I remember when we were trying to come up with a throne for Baltar -- what do we put him in? We ended up with this thing and he was sort of up on this elevated throne. I think he was very actively involved, as was Don [Bellisario]. I enjoyed working with them. Very often on something like that it's his vision and his baby and I just want to be there and give him the best product he can have. You give him the film that makes it work for him.
I was wondering about the day-to-day setup. Did he talk to you beforehand that this was his vision? Did he tap you on the shoulder during filming and say...
No, he was barely there on the day-to-day stuff. Most of it would take place when I was preparing. You'd go in when they were writing the script and you'd sit down and he might have a point of view in a certain sequence or a certain sequence of events or a certain part of the script that he deemed as important and had a point of view on it. But other than that, he wouldn't be looking over my shoulder pointing me and say: "I think the camera should be here." or place the actors. He never did something like that.
Your first episode was "Lost Planet of the Gods". Did it make you feel good that they asked you back for the other episodes?
Yeah, actually when I had "Lost Planet of the Gods", I might have had another hour or episode after that. Generally when you're working at Universal, that's what they put you up for -- either two or four shows or something. I had that two-hour and I think I might have been signed on for the next one already and then they gave me two more, which was real nice. Then after that actually, I think I didn't do more of those because they had that show B.J. and the Bear and he wanted me to go up to Stockton and kind of... They filmed the pilot and it wasn't very successful, so I went back with Claude Akins and Greg Evigan and shot a 90 minute show up there. That's kind of [what happened] and I stayed on that for a bit. Our relationship continued. It had nothing to do with not turning out a good show or anything. I had just gone over to do another product, so to speak.
On B.J. and the Bear do you remember the episodes with either Laurette Spang or Anne Lockhart?
Oh yeah, I remember. You know again, it's so long ago. If I'd plop them on television or something I'd remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. (laughing) When you do a few hundred shows they do tend to mill together a little bit.
Do you remember if you enjoyed working on Battlestar Galactica vs. any of the other shows you did? Was there anything that stood out that you enjoyed?
Yeah, I enjoyed the cast a lot. Lorne Greene -- my father had a history with Lorne from Bonanza. I actually met Lorne Greene on the set of Bonanza when I was in college, so I did know him. He's a complete gentleman. If we had a guest on the set, he would just sit down and talk to him, no matter who's guest they were. Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch were terrific. Everybody on set was great. I just thought it was kind of a good family. It was difficult, because we tried to achieve something that was only achieved in film, I think. I mean, of course they had Star Trek, but I think they were trying to achieve effects that were more in line with Star Wars. We didn't quite achieve that, because that was a major motion picture and they had a lot more time. We were cranking out 8 or 9 pages a day and they might do a page and a half a day or something. I really did enjoy it. In fact, one of the things I remember, whoever was in charge of the computers... [John] Dykstra was involved on the optical effects on that and he had a lot to do with 2001: A Space Odyssey, if I remember correctly. Anyway, whoever was in charge of the computers... The extras in the background that were part of the crew, on their computer screens they had early computer games. There was kind of Artillery and all of kind little games they had made up. So the extras were behind working computers and were actually enjoying the kind of playing along. We just told them that if they won that they didn't show great excitement or anything.
Was it difficult for you to direct Lorne Greene? Were you in awe?
No, he's one of those actors that go: "Okay, where do you want me?" There are so many of those that are so professional . A favorite of mine is Dick van Dyke. Dick comes in in the morning and says: "Where do you want me, Chris?" (laughing) Generally with someone like Lorne or Dick is that you center stage them and you usually have people work around them, because they're the star and you get their coverage first. No, he was very professional.
You were talking about Dirk [Benedict] and Richard [Hatch]. Did you ever had issues like when they would come up to you and say: "I think my character would do this and that"?
No, not really. Dirk, I've always liked. I worked with him later on, on The A-Team. I thought he just had that rise up humor. Richard I never worked with again after Battlestar Galactica, but I liked them both. I don't think either of them had any issues. If they had a point, generally they had a good point. If it countered something I had suggested I usually went along with it, because they're living that character more than I am. No, I don't think we ever had any controversies in that way.
One moment I do remember. Jimmy Whitmore Jr. (who played Robber on "The Long Patrol") was doing an episode and we were up on the backlot at Universal. He was in the cockpit of a viper I think and I was on the big titan crane. It was a night shot. I was just lining up the shot and we were rehearsing. I was just having the grips moving the crane in for a close-up or something of him and he just kind of looked at me -- since we were kind of rehearsing it -- and he said: "Isn't this great, Chris? It's like we're twelve years old and we were given all of these great toys.", which was true. The patient is not going to die and nobody is going to lose the lawsuit or anything and it was a lot of fun -- we had some fun with that.
How was it to work with Jane Seymour?
Jane Seymour, I liked. She's again, right on the button, always there, she contributed a lot to her character. I didn't work with her on [Dr. Quinn,] Medicine Woman or any of those shows, but ... I don't know what I was doing at that time. Anyway, I liked her.
Do you remember anything about working with Noah Hathaway?
No, I just remember he was a cute little kid. Pretty much on the money when he performed. He was right there. I think actually one of the funnier characters on it was that daggit, which was a chimpanzee in a daggit costume. You couldn't quite predict what the chimp would do. Often to me it would steal a scene doing something goofy off in the background, because it was a chimp. I would have to bite my tongue to not laugh during a shot. In fact Glen -- I think it was that fire show ("Fire in Space") -- they sent it off through the vents to get a message to the trapped people. I can't quite remember. So, we had to send this poor little chimp down these tubes that we had -- we had the venting tubes on the stages. Of course we had the fire effects and light effects and stuff. The first time the chimp got in there it came running towards us. We shot up some flame in the foreground and it just spun around and disappeared at the other end. (laughing) It took its helmet off and climbed up to the top of the scaffolding of the stage and the trainer was just... We had to go and get it, and bring it down. We had to give him a little acting lesson, I guess. Anyway, poor thing. It was completely safe but I think we just startled it a little more than we expected.
Speaking of "Fire in Space", was it difficult working with the fire?
You know, again, there were just mainly effects and the special effects people -- I think some of them even had worked on Emergency with me so everything was safe. It is a little more difficult because it does create heat, sometimes smoke and things you'd rather not deal with, but we're always very careful. The costumes were all treated so they wouldn't catch on fire. Actually the most difficult thing on that was the scene outside the Galactica, the space walk. I think that was maybe front projection. We had a screen and then we just had some set pieces that they were working on in the foreground. The rest of them was front projection. The front projection situation -- they did a lot of it on 2001: A Space Odyssey like the opening stuff with the chimps and so forth. Basically you're filming through a prism -- the projector is on the side and it's projecting to a mirror on a prism, and then sending the image to a huge screen, and the camera is behind that. You're sort of photographing through that prism and it has to be dead center on so it's nice and bright. So it's a very cumbersome piece of equipment. The thing looks like a telephone booth. By the time you get it there you can't move it around very much.
And we had trouble with the wires. We were seeing the wires. Nowadays you just use a green wire and you just dial it out, but we couldn't do that. Or you use blue wire and dial it out, or some other color you are not using. We just couldn't do that. We tried to black them down. First time we did it the wires were too big, so we had to go back and do it again.
Let me ask you about "Lost Planet of the Gods". Did you get to go to Egypt?
No. (laughing) I wish I had! No they just sent an associate producer over there. They might of just sent a camera crew over there. I think they just used photo doubles and they did plates. Some of those were front projection plates that we did.
Do you remember if all the female warriors that they had were inexperienced or difficult to work with?
Is that the one with the pigs? The Boray?
No, this is the one where the warriors are sick and they have to bring in some female warriors, train them and...
Oh, right, right! That's right. I don't remember a lot about that episode. I don't remember the specifics about it.
That was the one that Jane Seymour was in.
Right. No, I don't remember much about it.
For the episode "The Long Patrol" that had James Whitmore Jr. in it. You had outdoor scenes. Do you know where those were shot?
Let me see. Can't you make it more specific with a scene? I know where the night scenes were, they were on the backlot.
This is where Starbuck lands on the planet and he gets robbed by James Whitmore Jr. (who played Robber).
Oh, right. I think most of them were just on the backlot. And then he's put in a prison? And it's a prison planet or something?
Yes, Arlene Martel (Adulteress) is also in it.
Right and there were guards. And they're generations of prisoners and generation of guards. I thought that was an interesting concept. That was pretty much all on the backlot.
For the episode "The Magnificent Warriors". Was it difficult to film with horses?
Oh yeah, we had camels and horses. Horses don't really like camels very much. I do have horses where I live now, here in Colorado, I've had them for years. It was a problem. I remember we had the first, three, four, or five of those Boray guys on camels in the foreground, riding towards our heroes. I remember it was a night shot and they had to come in at a kind of a gallop. We had stunt men doing it and most of them were cowboys, and used to riding horses, but not camels necessarily. A camel is kind of disconcerting because they can run around and turn around and look at you, where a horse doesn't turn its head and look at you, generally. It was hard for them. I remember this one guy in the front -- the first time we did it -- lost his mask. (laughing) The poor guy, he just didn't want to ruin the shot so he screwed his face up and tried to look like a pig. (laughing) He came riding by and we just all started to laugh so hard. He said: "I'm sorry, we have to go back to number one." I do remember that one of the camels did take off with one of the stunt men, it was a runaway and we had a hard time getting it back. That was complicated.
The horses in the back -- I think they had torches and stuff -- they had a hard time getting the horses and the camels together. It was a long night, as I remember. In fact, what's his name's father was in it.
Ron Howard's father was in it, Rance Howard.
Did Lorne Greene enjoy being outdoors with horses.
Yeah, I think so. He didn't really get tired. He enjoyed it, right there with everybody else -- no complaining.
Was that shot on the western lot at Universal?
Yeah ,it was actually shot on the -- what was the name of it? -- it's known as Mexican Street or something like that. It was like a little Mexican village, that had a church at the end of the street and a little plaza and so forth. It was kind of all adobe buildings in there.
It's unusual to write a western-science fiction type of episode. I was wondering if they did it because they had that backlot to utilize?
Quite possible. I don't know. A lot of the shows -- because there weren't that many sets and locations on the lot available. They would often do that. I know when I worked on Ironside, I remember when I was an assistant director, the story editor would walk around and see what sets and stages and what was standing on the various stages. They'd come back to the production manager and say: "These sets are available and we'll construct a story around a mansion and an airport terminal or something" or whatever was standing. No, it was done, but I really don't know if this was the case in this episode.
Do you have a favorite episode of the four that you did?
Maybe the one -- I do like that one of "The Magnificent Warriors". I think I liked them all equally.
What did you think of the models and miniatures used on the show?
You know, we didn't have too much to do with them, but they were -- when we did see them -- they were interesting. It's amazing what you can do with something like that, if you just get the right effects and the film is run at the right speed. You can really fool the audience, which is terrific.
Was that work given to an assistant director to shoot?
No. I think they pretty much did it on insert stages or something. I don't think the assistant director didn't have anything to do with it. Most of their job was right there on the set.
Did you have any problems with sets breaking down? Any problems shooting that stand out in your mind?
No, nothing that stands out -- other than the wires, and things like that. I think they had a hard time.... I seem to remember on "Lost Planet of the Gods" when they got inside the pyramid that they had trouble creating the light effects or something. But that was just an everyday problem.
You were talking about inside the pyramid. Do you remember how that set was made or where it was shot at?
Yes, that was shot on the home stage, which I believe was down at Stage 27, I think, at Universal. It's one of the largest stages. It had a pit in it, so they could actually put a pool in it. They used that for the bridge [of the Galactica]. It seems to me that that was on that stage. They might have had it on one end. We had Baltar's thing there. Universal had 3 big stages. 28 was the Phantom Stage, where they filmed The Phantom of the Opera. That was a very large stage and we did some stuff on that. But 27 was also a big stage they used. It also had Baltar's, John Colicos' throne.
Did you get to direct any scenes with John Colicos?
Yeah, he was a good character. He was good. He made a meal out of every scene, but that was okay, that was his character. He was a crazy guy, you know. We had a good time.
Do you remember Felix Silla in the Lucifer outfit, coming and going?
Oh gosh. Yeah, I do. I do remember that! With the little head? Yeah, I do remember that. One of the problems we did have were those four guys in the Cylon outfit. They were all mylar and they couldn't see out of them. You had to get guys that were 6'5" or 6'6" and they had risers in the boots, because they wanted them to look big. But with that eye tracking thing they were always falling down. If there was a technical problem that's what it would be, because these things were supposed to be coming in, looking very scary and moving stealthfully. Generally, you would get everything working and then two of them would fall flat on their face, because they couldn't see where their feet were going. So that was always a problem. Eventually we would get a few of them that could actually work in the suit pretty well and those were the ones that played the Cylons most often.
The bridge scenes that had Lorne Greene, Terry Carter, and Sarah Rush. Were there any difficulties in the way that you shot it? Because it was a revolving circular bridge with people walking up and down the stairs?
I think we kind of choreographed it. It was probably early on, when they set the style of how the bridge was supposed to operate. I think in the fire show ("Fire in Space") we had a lot of damage up there. That was a little more difficult because we had to look at it good and kind of had to mess it up. I would go away for awhile while they messed it up.
When you set up -- you talked about choreographing -- did you have rehearsals or did you talk to people before shooting?
First thing in the morning, all the actors come in, the crew reports in -- whatever scene it is, ex: Scene 14 on the bridge of Galactica -- and then you get Lorne [Greene], Terry [Carter], Dirk [Benedict], and Maren Jensen or whoever you've got on the scene. You've all got your scripts, you've got the cameramen with you, and the assistant director, and then you very carefully go through a scene. Generally I had it blocked out in my mind to a certain extent, but I allowed the actors the freedom to move where they would like to move. I usually started them where I liked them to start. Often in the script there was a scene where it would dictate to them where to go. During that time the cameraman, or the director of photography will determine with me where the best place is for the camera to go. Maybe at a certain point we'll move the camera with them, or decide that this a great time to use a crane, or a great time to maybe do a dolly shot around and come down here. Or maybe it's a very tense scene and we'd like to do a handheld.
All of those are determined when you are rehearsing and then the actors go away. They continue to get made up, and get in their costume and so forth. Then the director of photography with the gaffer, the key grip, and the stand ins light the scene. We rehearse with the stand ins, we rehearse the camera moves and get as close as you can to maybe shooting it without the actors. Then of course you bring the actors back in and refine it all. When you think you are ready you start with the first take. That's generally how it works. And by then everyone, the actors and the director, have contributed to the construction of that scene.
I think my dad put it best when he said: "Do your homework before you go to work the next morning and plot out every scene." which I always did. He said: "But leave it on your desk, because when you get to work, you don't want to be locked into something because if an actor says: ‘You know. I don't feel right sitting in this chair. I'd like to sit over here,' it throws everything off. So the best thing is to know the scene as best you can, know how you'd like to do it, and then as best you can cope with the actors." In my career it worked 95% of the time.
When working in television, you didn't have the chance to do multiple shots and move things around and experiment?
Not generally. Once you're set on a scene you could do multiple takes, obviously, because you want to get the best take. You had time for coverage, because you wanted to get in closer, or do the reverse angle, or so forth. But yeah, you just didn't have that much time. In television movies, which I have done a number of, you do have more time. Instead of doing 8 or 10 pages a day, you might do 4 or 5. So you've got more time to explore a little bit, but you still don't have... I think once you make your mind up on a sequence...There are a number of ways to film any sequence, I suppose, but once you make your mind up you just go forward with that.
Do you know, shooting Battlestar Galactica or any television series what the average number of takes is on any particular scene?
I would say 4 or 5 maybe. Sometimes you would get into the 8, or 9, or 10, or something like that but it's often just 4 or 5, because if you're going to do any coverage, your first -- if it's a master of some sort where you're establishing where you are and who the characters are, and the position they are in and where they're moving to -- it doesn't have to be perfect all the way through, because you can fix that in coverage. Where you'd have the problems is if you're going to do one take, where it's a long kind of walk and talk -- where you've got two characters walking down a long corridor and the camera is in front of them, whether it's a steady cam or on a dolly or whatever. Actors are basically pushing the camera. If a mic shadow pops in there, or if somebody blows a line, you have to go back to number one, because you don't have anything to cut to. Unless you're really hard up and try to cover it, but it's hard when you have two people in a corridor they're walking down. You can't get too much closer to them or you'll see just two heads walking down.
After shooting, is it the director's job to cut the footage for the episode?
Yes, with the editor it's your job to assemble what you like to see as your vision of the episode, within a few minutes. You obviously leave it long. You don't cut it to air time.
Can you explain to me, not having done that, how that works? You go into a room with other people and you look through all the shots?
Well, it's the film editor and usually an assistant. Generally what happens is that the editor is assembling the picture as you are shooting it, right behind you. So, as you're going, they're putting it together. Generally you'd have dailies at lunch -- in those days it would be film. You view the previous day's work. You go to a screening room, usually lunch would come in -- some sandwiches or something -- and you'd watch the previous day's work and generally the editor would be there. You can talk to the editor and say: "I like this take best and Take 2 here on B camera. If you can use that, it would be terrific." Those notes would also be given to the script supervisor. The script supervisor's notes go with the film as it's shot, so the editor has the script supervisor's notes for every take that was taken -- the ones that were circled, the ones that the director liked particularly. Sometimes an actor say: "Gee, I really liked Take 3 or something. Could you...?" Sure, we'd use it, if we could.
After the editor's assembly, then you look at it and you go back with the editor and look at it in the screening room and go through it. You might say: "Tighten this up a little bit. Take a little off the head, cut some out of the middle. You could lose a few lines here that are not necessary." When you're happy with that -- it usually doesn't take too long -- then you turn it over to the producers. They will of course have their shot at it and finish the project so it can be sent to the network.
Do you work with any of the writers before you start shooting?
Yes, I would go over the script when I first got the script. If there is something as you read it -- because you want the logic to work since you want everything to work for the audience -- so you'd definitely go through a script and talk with the writer.
Do you remember Terrence McDonnell?
Yes, I do, but I don't remember any specific meetings with him.
Did you make any friends with the cast or the crew that you still talk to?
Not really, no. Because you're on a big campus you run into people again. Probably the only person that I've remained in contact with that worked on Battlestar Galactica, but he came on the show after me, was Frank Thackery -- who shot some of the episodes after me, he was the director of photography. I knew him before then, because we worked on Emergency together. His dad was the cameraman on Ironside and I worked with him on Diagnosis Murder -- all over the place. He's about the only person I think that had any relationship with Battlestar Galactica. Well, actually that's not true, Barry van Dyke when they did the sequel. I didn't do any of those, but I worked with him on Diagnosis Murder. I like Barry a lot, he's very much like his dad.
Did you watch the remake of The Thing that your dad directed?
Yeah, I did. Actually I watched it with dad.
What did he think of it?
Well, he didn't really like it very much. And I agreed with him. I think the original version -- as dad said: "You've got to remember that a person's imagination works better sometimes, rather than showing them too much." He said: "When we made the original Thing it was a reading and radio audience primarily. People went to motion pictures... they more often would listen to the radio at home, since hardly anybody had television, or they read. So they used their imagination a little more. So you didn't have to show them everything. The Geiger counter worked well on that." When you look at the original and you see The Thing in only 6 or 7 shots and never really close. Again, people are always thinking: "Oh my gosh. It's just around the corner. Here it is."
So I think the original one -- it was corny in some ways with the overlapping dialogue and things like that -- the characters never seemed very afraid. The fear is kind of transmitted into the audience. Anyway, I don't think dad liked it.
So, what are you doing these days?
I think when I hit the magic age of 60, somehow -- the two shows I was doing at the time - I was doing Diagnosis Murder and Walker, Texas Ranger. Both shows went down and most of the producers I worked with on those shows or previous shows were not working either. So I basically ended up retiring. I did a TV movie a couple of years ago, three years ago now, with Dick [van Dyke] for Hallmark, but that's about it. It's tough when you get a little older and try to stay in the television and film business. I think it's tougher on the writers, tough on the actors and directors too. I had a long career, but I kind of had to accept that's just the way it is.
Any hobbies keeping you busy?
Oh yeah, I've got horses and I ski -- back country ski and downhill ski. I do a lot of hiking and fishing.
Sounds like you're enjoying retirement then.
Yeah! I do. There's a producer up here, Dory Whites, who did a number of television movies. She and I for a couple of years taught a little film class. She's teaching at a local college here now. It was fun. She would run pictures and I would the director's point of view in and she would do the writer's and producer's part. We had fun doing that. I spend a lot of time with my grandkids.
Have you seen the new Battlestar Galactica series?
I think it's pretty well done, but it's a totally different show. It's just got the same name. I enjoyed it.
When you watch TV or a movie, as a director, is it hard to just sit back and watch it or do you think: "I would have done this differently."?
No, I think it's pretty easy to watch, if it's good. I can get lost in a good story. But if it's not -- if they take me out of the story -- I get upset. If it's a good film I get lost in it like anyone. In a particular good film, I even appreciate what a director does, or a good cinematographer. No, I can enjoy that.
Anything else we haven't talked about?
No, I think we pretty much covered it. I appreciate it.
When you look back at your career is there one show or movie or anything that you would want to be remembered by or are most proud of?
Well, I enjoyed the series Hill Street Blues, I think. That would probably be my pick. That's the one when I look back -- I'm proud of every single one of those. I think they hold up today and they're pretty good. I enjoyed doing the Perry Mason movies too, a lot. They were all pretty good. It's hard to say, since there are so many. They all have their thing. I enjoyed Diagnosis Murder because it had a community feeling with Dick [van Dyke] and the crew.
Do you have any of the scripts or any props or anything from Battlestar Galactica?
I'm trying to think if I do. I may have, from that Boray episode ("The Magnificent Warriors"), I might have the card game from that episode.
But I'd have to go look. I might have that.
Well Chris, I appreciate you taking the time and talk to me.
Alright. Good luck with the website. I appreciate being remembered.
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