Robert Woods interview

Just found a Robert Woods interview I hadn’t read before on a website called www.glasshousepresents.com

It’s buried down in the page, so I’m going to reprint it here (completely unedited).

Robert Woods:

The Most Popular Actor You Never Knew!

The Spaghetti Western & Cult Movie Anti-Hero

By Carl Glass

The Spaghetti Western as it has become to be known in film culture is a name for a sub-genre for movie westerns that emerged on the movie screens world wide in the mid 60s. Its golden age took place within the decade of 1965-1975. This particular genre of film depicts some of the worst human nature has to offer where actions will emote from the anti-hero and other characters the extreme expressions of darkness, brutality, violence and vengeance. The screenplays revolve around these themes. Lots of gunfights, action and dark sarcastic dialogue accompany the ‘don’t mess with me attitude!’ This is what distinguishes the Spaghetti Western from its American counterpart. And let’s not forget the unique music that played a significant role becoming one of the most recognized trademarks. The music could define the moment as well as its actors or director. And speaking of director’s, it was Sergio Leone who was the master in capturing all the darkness, brutality and death in the faces of his characters. It takes one close-up into the cold, hard face and angelic eyes of the Spaghetti Westerns finest actor, Lee Van Cleef to know what is…and what is to come. It’s a capture of the epitome of brutality, darkness and vengeance. I rest my case.

Like me, many in the American audiences and world-wide for that matter would develop a taste of the high intensity level of the violence and the way vengeance, justice or injustice were carried out. The focus was on the anti-hero who was the recipient of a beating, a double cross, or murder of a family member, loved one or a plan gone wrong. It was vengeance… vengeance… and more vengeance! Sad to say, we could live out our fantasies and darker side through these characters. No?! C’mon guys. Tell me you never wanted to wield out justice just once, one against many in a gunfight like ‘The Man With No Name’ pretending to be shootin’ down the enemies of your life.

There was a great advantage for the Italian studios producing these films as they were able to keep their cost productions low. The backdrop of the Tabernas Desert of Almeria, Andalucia region of Spain shared an affinity with the American Southwest. Another reason had to do with being able to access Italian/Spaniard actors as gangs and bandits.

Sometimes, I have the good fortune to find myself in the right place at the right time. It was that way when Jan Alan Henderson and I were outside of the ‘Ray Courts Show’ in Burbank two weeks ago. We were introduced to cult film favorite, actor Robert Woods (not to be confused with Robert S. Woods of One Life to Live soap fame). I didn’t realize I was shaking hands with a genuine international film star. I took one look at his resume and I realized just what this man meant to the golden age of the Spaghetti Western. He was indeed one of its finest stars. I remembered him and inwardly, I was floored. His myriad of fans around the world considers him a legend. I do too! Indulge me again by saying that if you are not a fan of the genre, you’ll gain plenty from Robert as he talks about his journey and the many famous actors, directors, the business and the stuff life encounters.

Actor Robert Woods:

The most popular actor you never knew!

CG: Robert, I first of all would like to thank you for so graciously taking time out for this interview and what a delight it was meeting you at the Ray Courts Show in Burbank. I found you to be a real gentleman, congenial and engaging. Like most fans of the ‘Spaghetti Western’ genre, it’s an honor meeting one of the screen’s pioneers and legends whose career spanned throughout the golden age of these uniquely made films.

I have learned that you are from Colorado. Would you give our readers some background as to where you grew up? What were your interests and what caused you to take the pathway into acting?

RW: I was born, abandoned and adopted in Colorado, raised until I was nearly eight years old on a high mountain ranch near Granby, Colorado.  We moved to Boulder just before the Second World War.  My dad enlisted in the Navy at that time and I was left in the care of my adopted mom and her sister.  As far as the performing arts were concerned, it was never something I really had much of a desire to do…it just happened.  I was in my first play in grade school, was first-chair trumpet in my high school band, sang and played gigs with a little jazz-band all over the state.  I wasn’t a troubled youth, just energetic and tall, when it came to mischief, I was always the first to be seen, caught and disciplined.  I dropped out of high school when I was sixteen and ran away from home, hitch-hiking to California with a friend. At seventeen I returned to Colorado.

Due to a little misunderstanding with a judge about a relationship with his daughter in my home-town, I joined the Navy with my father’s concerned permission and went off to basic training in San Diego.  My company commander insisted that because of my height, I was to be his squad-leader in Boot Camp, but I wasn’t happy about that, so I snuck across the base without permission to audition for the Drum & Bugle Corps and was accepted.  A group of us from the Corps formed a jazz group that was allowed off base to play gigs up and down the coast.

After boot-camp, I was accepted to The Navy School of Music, but the wait was over a year for admission which would have extended my enlistment, so I opted to be a Commissary man instead.  After school, I was stationed at the Great Lakes and ultimately served the remainder of my time on a destroyer, Charles S. Sperry.  I got my diploma from Boulder High School by taking GED tests.  I also finished two years of college by correspondence course.

When my time in the Navy had been served, the day before my twenty-first birthday, I was put off the ship in Guantanamo Bay, flown home and honorably discharged.  I consider that point the beginning of my life and I was just beginning to learn the art of putting one foot in front of the other.  I didn’t know then, nor have I ever known what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I certainly had no idea I would ever become an actor.

I had the GI Bill which gave me some money toward my education, so I blindly chose teaching as a possible avenue for a career.  I went to college at San Diego State, majored in English with an education minor.  The money from the Navy wasn’t really enough, so I started singing in talent contests to augment it.  It difficult getting my chops again in the beginning, but with lot of practice and a desire to win for the money, I actually began to enjoy performing. I won the final contest at The Hillcrest Hideaway and got a paying gig at The Shelter Island Inn which led to another at The Saddle and Sirloin in Escondido.

On campus, I always studied in the little theater because it was generally abandoned and quiet. One day they had readings for the play Victoria Regina. The readings interrupted my routine, were less than entertaining and I was rude enough to laugh.  The professor, Dr. Adams, looked up and said, “Are you here to read or to make fun?”  I told him I was sorry. To which he replied, “This is the theater.  Read, leave or shut up!”  I decided to read and was offered the role of Prince Albert.  It was uplifting, enjoyable, and not work in the truest sense and there were good reviews and applause.  I liked it.  At Dr. Adams suggestion, I changed my major.  He turned out  to be a great mentor, working long and hard with me to teach me technique. After the next project we did together, the Three Penny Opera, I went off to do The Girls in 509 at the Old Globe and West Side Story in the Amphitheater where I understudied the role of Tony.  Thanks to Dr. Adams, I returned to Colorado and spent my last summer-break at The Perry-Mansfield School of the Theater in Steamboat Springs, teaching mime and directing the play Ring ‘Round The Moon.

When I graduated, Dr. Adams insisted I go to Hollywood with some letters of introduction he provided.  I spent the first couple of months sleeping on his friend’s floors.  The truth was they did little to help me.  With no money and no GI Bill, I took a job as a singing waiter at The Flower Drum, a Chinese restaurant on Highland Avenue.  One day, finally fed up with seemingly never getting an acting audition, I reluctantly stood in a line around the block at Central Casting, seeking extra work. They sent me to MGM in Culver City to stand in another line, (this time of look-alikes), waiting to stunt-double and stand-in for George Hamilton in the feature Where The Boys Are.  Besides arriving late because I didn’t know where Culver City was, at six foot four, I was taller than anyone there and was relegated to end of the line.  George came out of his dressing room and paced slowly down the line, like a general inspecting troops.  When he finally got to me, I bent my knees, reducing my height to around six one and tried not to laugh.  George looked down at my bent position and broke up. “I’ll take this one,” he said and an immediate friendship was born.  I had so much fun. Before the first week was over, the producer Joe Levine, also a new friend, offered me a small part, the part of a policeman, (not an electric guitar player), a one liner with Chill Wills outside the police station which provided me with my Screen Actor’s Guild card and no credit.

CG: I’m glad you cleared that up about your role in that film. It goes to show you can’t trust IMDB. Where The Boys Are had a good cast. In fact its one of  the better beach movies with the lovely Dolores Hart, George Hamilton, Yvette Mimieux, Jim Hutton, Barbara Nichols, Chill Wills, Frank Gorshin and of course Connie Francis who was riding high on the music charts in that era. I’m curious about the relationship you had with the cast. Any personal favorites?  Anything special behind the scenes?

RW: I think I liked Paula Prentiss most of all.  She was just out of Northwestern, fresh and new, her mother at her side.  She was sweet, naïve and fun.  Delores Hart…what charisma and beautiful spirit.  Chill Wills could pick up two new pages of monologue, scan it, put it down and do the entire piece verbatim.  Barbara Nichols…smarter than she appeared on film, very bubbly, very kind.  Jim Hutton’s son Timothy was born during the shoot and he was running back and forth to the hospital so I didn’t really get to know him, or the very beautiful and allusive Yvette.  Frank Gorshin’s impressions were outrageous, outstanding and he was always on and great fun to be around.  Connie was fantastic, what a singing talent, sensitive and compassionate as a human being, always a kind word for everyone.  George [Hamilton] was always on, always joking, a wonderful guy to hang out with, even work for.  I’ll always like George.  I actually ran into him on the Via Veneto in Rome when my career was in full swing.  We reminisced about Where The Boys Are and had a few laughs.

CG: In your acting resume there seems to be a five year gap after Where The Boys Are. I have to believe these were transition years. Fill in that time period for us.

RW: Let me reiterate; I’ve really never thought about a having a career…I’ve always just lived my life.  Entertaining, acting, writing and singing and have simply been a part of it.  I have never had a publicist, with the exception of those connected with the films I’ve done, because in my mind I’ve never thought of the work as a career. It’s just fluff. The five year gap?  There really wasn’t a gap…I was just practicing to live my life as usual.  After Boys I hung in Hollywood for a while, worked briefly at Warner Bros as a staff writer, co-wrote an episode of The Jim Backus Show, continued to sing at The Flower Drum, saw beyond the glitter of Hollywood and had a desire to travel.  One day out of the blue, I woke up on the conservative side of the bed and took a job with Underwood Olivetti and went off to Connecticut for training to run an office for them in Los Angeles.  While I was in Harford, I took a trip to New York to visit a childhood friend (Larry Wilcox) a prominent musical arranger at the time.  The first question he asked me was “Are you still singing?” and at about eleven o’clock that same night I found myself in Buster Davis’ apartment auditioning for The Voice of Firestone.  Around midnight, Buster decided to call Buddy Bregman and sent me to the Camelot Club to audition for his new review. It was easy, I had fun.  I got the job.  It was a Monday and rehearsals were to start Friday at one P.M.  That presented a major dilemma; I was just finishing my Olivetti training Friday morning and I knew I was cutting it close. But the security of a high paying regular job helped me make my decision.  As fate would have it, I arrived two hours late to a lengthy lecture by Mr. Bregman.  I had been replaced by Bobby Van.  Because of that incident, The Voice of Firestone was also out of the question.  But I still liked New York so I went to work for Olivetti on Fifth Avenue, sneaking out for the occasional audition.

I was up for a Joshua Logan Musical called, All American, which thanks to the advice of a friend, I turned down.  It opened at The Garden Winter Garden and played for one night.  After that, I landed a singing gig in the village, playing straight man to the famous drag-queen, Lynn Carter.  I resigned from Olivetti. We played for nineteen weeks to packed houses and Lynn asked me to go to Canada and Australia as a permanent part of the act.  It was fun but it wasn’t exactly my life-style, so I reluctantly declined.  Apart from the occasional rude grope when I passed through the audience to get to my dressing-room, I had enjoyed doing that show and Lynn was a wonderful entertainer.

I studied acting privately in New York with Boris Marshalov, the last living member of The Russian Repertory Theatre. It was at his studio that I met Jimmy (James) MacArthur and his mother Helen Hayes for the first time.  I also studied and worked at Circle In The Square in the days of Edward Albee and Alan Schneider.  I was at the Circle until Virginia Wolf took them away with it and the group that they left behind was in decline.  I also quietly did a little modeling for True Romance Magazine and did some covers for romance novels.  I wanted to do more.  It paid well, but they told me I was too tall for fashion.

Also, during my five year gap, I auditioned for Otto Preminger for the movie The Cardinal.  He offered me a small but pivotal role, the part of a priest, but there was a condition.   I would have to already be in Italy for the shoot and take care of my own expenses.  I thought about it and decided to take the chance. I had very little money at the time, but I purchased a one way ticket on the Queen Elizabeth bound for Paris, with about four hundred dollars in my pocket.  I arrived at the end of 1962.  Filming on The Cardinal was to begin that spring in Rome.  Running out of money and saddled with a large hotel bill, I discovered a group of American and British actors who were dubbing films into English and quickly got a job in a small dubbing studio just off the Champs Ellysee.   At the same time I discovered The American Theatre on the Quay Dorsee where I auditioned and was accepted into their repertory company.

I was dubbing some films in a studio just below the Arch De Triumph and I stopped for lunch at an outdoor restaurant down the street called The Pam-Pam. I was having dessert when a man I can only describe as effeminate walked past me then turned around, walked back and asked me if I was a model.  I told him I was an actor and he asked if would consider doing some test photography with him. It wasn’t encouraging and by the time the conversation had ended, I was late for work.  He handed me his card on the way out and said, “If you ever change your mind…”  When I arrived back at the studio a little late, the director wanted an explanation.  I told him a gay guy, I believed was hitting on me with the excuse that he wanted to do photographs of me.  I was simply trying not to be impolite.  My dubbing director asked me who he was and I handed him the card the man had given me. His mouth dropped in disbelief.  “You have to call this guy immediately,” he said.  “If he’s the guy who gave you the card.”  I protested.  “I don’t want to put myself in that kind of position.” “I don’t blame you,” the director said. “It’s only Helmut Newton, one of the most famous photographers in the world.  And believe me, he’s not gay.”  So I called, went to his studio, met his wife June and realized Helmut had a kinky demeanor and an abstract view of life, but my director was right, he was definitely not gay and he was a brilliant photographer  I did tests for days.  For nearly the entire year of 1963 I was Helmut Newton’s model.  Pierre Cardin, the man, not the corporation he became later, measured me personally, cut my suits and filled my closet.   Needless to say I never made it to Rome to do The Cardinal.

CG: 1965 reveals to us that you went to work for director, writer and producer Alphonso Balcazar. His career spanned from the 50s to the 80s. He chose you to star as the lead in Los Pistolas de Arizona, aka: Five Thousand Dollars on One Ace. Tell us how you two got connected and how you landed that role?

RW: Because of time consumed at the photo-shoots and travel to exotic places I was forced to give up the dubbing.  I did settle in Paris that year and spent my free time doing Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard at the American Theatre.  One night Spanish Producer, Alfonso Balcazar came to see my performance and afterward made me an offer to do a Western in Barcelona.  I was making a lot more money modeling, than he was offering, so I politely turned him down.  He returned the next night and presented me with a contract for five films with money on a graduating scale even the modeling couldn’t compete with.  I closed my eyes, thought about it for a second, then signed.

CG: Many American actors entered the ‘Spaghetti Western’ genre for various reasons. Clint Eastwood as an example had a popular TV run with Rawhide. However, after doing the big three, Fist Full of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, he becomes an international star. Guy Madison had already peaked from earlier years but chose to work in the genre. I could be wrong, but I saw that as a way to keep working or perhaps revive his career. I always wondered why Henry Fonda did them.  Could you comment on the reasons American actors chose that path and what you felt working in that genre would do for you?

RW: Speaking for myself, I originally did film for the money, but once you work in European productions like the Spaghetti Westerns, you realize that there is a big difference between them and American films.  It’s called collaboration!  In America, everyone is divided into up-tight unionized groups. God help you if you help another group with its work.  In Europe, you are part of a family where everyone; actors, extras, grips even drivers worked creatively together to produce a palatable end result.  I don’t think there was ever one of those films, that when it was over and we went our separate ways, I didn’t feel the pain of separation.  It was a beautiful way to make a living.  I don’t know the reasons others give for their desire to do these films.  But I do know that Charlie Bronson and Eric Flemming both turned Leone down for Fist Full of Dollars, before Clint was offered the role and it wasn’t because of the genre.  It was the money.  The initial film in their contracts always paid so little.  If you got to the second film in the contract and beyond, the money was good. Leone loved Charlie and was determined to work with him.  A long time passed before that happened. The genre was extremely successful and the money was there, before he agreed to do Once Upon A Time In America. Henry Fonda and I were very close, during and after Battle of The Bulge and he once told me he took the Leone project, because I had spoken highly about the diversion and the collaborative aspect of Spaghetti Westerns.

CG: You are working on or have just completed a film, Man From Canyon City. Then, you end up as a cast member on one of the greatest war films of all time, Battle of The Bulge with a stellar cast of Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews and Telly Savalas. In this role you play Henry Fonda’s pilot. How did you land that role? What were the rigors on working in this film and the relationship you had with the director, cast and crew?

RW: We had an incident, Alfonso Balcazar and I, during the Pistolero shoot.  I did this one take, a long, dangerous scene where I fell off a cliff rolled down an embankment into a ditch (battered and bruised) crawled out, caught and mounted a horse and rode away.  When it was over, he said “Let’s do one more for security!”  I told him if he wanted it done again, he would have to do it himself and I refused.  That evening after the shoot, I was driven to the office where he actually tore up my contract in front of me.  We agreed to finish Pistolero with the stipulation that we would work no more together.

After we had wrapped the film and I left Barcelona with a bad taste in my mouth, I drove to Madrid and walked into the offices of Ken Anikin.  I had no agent.  Ken stood up, looked me over, drew up the contract while I waited, signed me and handed me the script.   He didn’t require me to audition or do a test.  Within days, William Morris took me on and David Niven, Jr. became my agent.

Just after that, Alfonso found me in Madrid and told me sweetly that MGM had bought Pistolero and they required an additional action scene, a stage-coach fight in the mud.  I didn’t want to go back after the contract incident, but he insisted so I told him to call William Morris and talk to David.  David got me more than double the pay to return and finish Pistolero and informed him that he only had a window of a week before I started Bulge.  So I flew down to Barcelona and found my contract, scotch-taped and in tact on Alfonso’s desk.  He insisted that when Bulge was over, he would honor our agreement.  I did the scene in Pistolero that MGM wanted and returned to Madrid, ready for my close-up.

I was under contract for months on Battle of the Bulge, because the aerial scenes required blue and green backing to be delivered from America. I made a lifetime of friends with Fonda, Bronson, Telly, Robert Ryan, George Montgomery, Dana, Robert Conrad (who did second unit), Ty Hardin and Steve Rowland.  I also renewed my connection with Jimmy MacArthur.  I never really got to know Robert ShawHenry Fonda became the closest friend I have ever had in the business.  Whenever he came to Rome, we spent a lot of time together. When I returned to America, we attended several events together.  Through him I met a myriad of people including Jason Robards.

One day, while walking down the street with Fonda, I was approached by Roy Rosatti, David Lean’s right hand man to do Geraldine Chaplin’s test for Dr. Zivago.  I had time, but no permission.  Hank told me to do it quietly.  They didn’t have to know.  So I did her test with David Lean directing and no one knew…until one evening at the Madrid Hilton when the most of the cast you asked me about saw David come in a side door.  A hush fell over the group.  All you could hear were whispers adoration. “That’s David Lean”.  He literally crossed the lobby straight to me, shook my hand and thanked me for doing Geraldine’s test.  He told me that she got the job and he had something for me in it, and then walked away.  Two days later, Julie Christie hand delivered a script from him to my apartment.  He wanted me to do two pages of monologue as a soldier trying to stop deserters from leaving the battle field. It was a meaty role and I was excited.  With the long wait for the backing I still had time to do it, but when I requested permission from Phil Yordan, he and Warner Bros. squelched it.   Many scripts began coming from Rome and I agreed to do the lead in a film called Seven Guns for The MacGregors after I finished Bulge.  I did the Man From Canyon City in less than a week, before I went to Rome to live and work.

CG: You are working quite steadily from 1965-75 primarily in the ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ as the lead character. In 1968 you worked with ‘B’ film legend John Ireland in a film entitled, Quel Caldo Maledetto Giorno di Fuoco, also known as That Damned Hot Day of Fire, Gatling Gun, or Machine Gun Killers. John Ireland, who played Tarpas was a half-breed, uncouth bandit who could throw a knife with his toes. As with most westerns of this genre it was quite violent. You take a real beating in this one. You’re dragged by a horse, used as a punching bag and even buried alive. There is also a gory extraction scene of a bullet removed from a hand. Would you share some of the memories of that film and what it was like working with John Ireland?

RW: Quel Caldo Maledetto Giorno di Fuoco was a film that Dr, Amati of Fida Films gave me carte Blanche to do.  Six months before, I had done a little modern thriller called Hypnos directed by Paolo Bianchinni that I really liked so I hired Paolo write the script and direct.  I had a choice between Henry Silva and John Ireland to do the part of Tarpas and thanks to mutual friend John Melson, who was the original writer of Battle of the Bulge, I had lunch with John and we hit it off immediately.  John and I remained very close friends for the rest of his life. He was a special human being.  He threw a wonderful party for me when I came back to America at his restaurant in Santa Barbara.  We spent much time together.

CG: The ‘Spaghetti’ genre always demonstrates great amounts of physical violence and action sequences. It appears from the viewers stand point very demanding on the cast members and stunt workers. How involved were you in the action sequences of your films? And were you ever injured?

RW: Oh yeah I was bruised and battered in almost every Western, but never enough to halt production.  Because of my height, I did most of my own stunts.  Only once, doing a lead in Hong Kong on a film called Savage In the City with Viktor Buono did I seriously injure myself.  John Shadow, the director asked me to jump from a wall.  It was twelve feet and the surface I had to land on was concrete.  I fractured my ankles, but somehow managed to finish the film.  It took roughly two years to recover and I don’t and won’t do that anymore.

CG: As you did a few to several films a year in the decade between 1965-75, was it necessary to establish a residence in Europe?

RW: I never had a problem with it in Europe, but I hardly ever left. I loved Europe and the life style.  I did however have a problem in England.  I signed to do a British TV series in Malta, called Vendetta and when I arrived at London’s Pinewood Studios to shoot the first interiors, they paid me and sent me back to Rome, because of the quota.  It’s interesting to note, they paid me nearly double what I had signed for because it was law and their mistake.

CG: One of my favorite films of yours is Savage Guns from 1971. In Quel Caldo Maledetto Giorno di Guoco, the Gatlin Gun is stolen and held ransom and it must be recovered before it falls into the hands of the Confederate Army. In Savage Guns the Gatlin becomes an instrument of revenge for you. It was quite clever as Mash Flanaghan and his gang was laying in ambush for the wagon to pass through thinking it was the wagon to rob of the goods. When they discovered after the wagon had stopped, the two guards in front driving the wagon were dummy figures. The side door of the wagon drops and you start blazing away. Mash thought you were out of the equation believing you were dead by one of his gang. Then you turn and another door drops and you finish off the ambushers. That was a great scene. And after you finish off Mash who you saved for last and put him on a horse, the real guards and wagon enters the scene and passes you by as if nothing happened. You and the Gatlin gun go hand in hand, Robert. Did it handle pretty well for you and what memories do you have of the film?

RW: I did two, three, maybe four films with Miles Deem (Dimofolo Fidani).  My favorite was a thing called Peones about a revolutionary Mexican hero who gets killed in the end for the cause.  Savage Guns was another one of those films that hurt me.  In one of the fight scenes, the DP shot it with a hand held camera and he forgot to pull back as choreographed.  He split my lip open with the sun-guard of the camera.  They shot me in profile for the next three days.  There was another scene, where I jumped off a hill onto the back of a horse.  The wrangler was holding it in place with a wire.  The horse pulled away ripping his hand open with the wire. When I landed, the horse’s head shot up with such force that it nearly took my head off.  I finished the scene, got off the beast and collapsed.

CG: In 1972, you started to switch gears and entered into the Horror/Erotic genre. Was this a decision by your agent, or was this by personal choice? Who afforded you that opportunity?

RW: After I filmed Lina Wurtmuller’s Belle Star Story with Elsa Martinelli in Yugolslavia, I wanted to try something off beat and as fate would have it, Jess Franco called me to do the lead in a thing called The Strange Eyes of Dr. Orloff with Edmond Purdom and William Berger.  I had directed Edmond in a film with Rosalba Neri called L’Amanti di la Demonio a year or so before this event, so I called him to find out how erotic Jess’s stuff really was.  My parents were still alive!  Needless to say I accepted his offer for one film and finished by doing four more (they were erotic but not porn by contract) on the island of Madieras, between Africa and the Canary Islands, then two more on the mainland.  I wound up spending a year with Jess.  Jess Franco has just reached cult hero status in France last year.  I know because I have been getting many calls from all over the world about those films, most of which I remember little about.  I do remember that some of the stuff I did with him was good and actually required acting skill. Jess won an award in Spain for The Other Side of The Mirror with Emma Cohen and me. I did do the lead in a couple of his most famous films. My parents never saw them I am happy to say.

CG: I’ve always found the character actors in these films to be quite memorable. I don’t always remember the names, but the faces are unmistakable and have made an indelible mark in the industry. Actors like Jose Terron, Antonio Molino Rojo, Aldo Giuffe, Klaus (the hunchback) Kinski, Luigi Pistilli, Jose Calvo and Joseph Egger. Who were among the favorite character actors you worked with?

RW: I liked Fernando Sancho/ worked with him quite a lot.  Aldo Berti, Molino Rojo was a good friend. Klaus was a bit mad, but also a good friend.

CG: Klaus Kinski emanates that madness quite well through the screen. Especially after a match was lit off his back. Here’s a list of actors who were among your peers in the industry. They have made one or several Spaghetti Westerns, James Coburn, Clint Eastwood, Jack Elam, Henry Fonda, Terance Hill, John Ireland, John Phillip Law, Jack Palance, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Charles Bronson, Jason Robarbs and Keenan Wynn. I would be curious to know the relationship you might have had with any of these fine actors and their attitudes about the genre.

RW: Friends among this group; Jimmy Coburn and I have some stories and some history together.  Clint and I worked often at the same small studio.  We spent quite a bit of time together.  Every once in a while, I take a trip to Carmel to relax with him and reminisce. I see him occasionally here, grab a bite and shoot the preverbal.

CG: Who would you consider your mentor in the business?

RW: HENRY FONDA was my biggest fan and supporter.  He, plus and a composite of many characters from all walks that I have gotten to know in my life and travels.

CG: Is there a film, a scene, a moment where Robert Woods can say, ‘Yeah, that was my finest work ever?

RW: Not really.  I have always refused to go to the rushes and seldom see the final result, because I’m not a very good judge of my own work.  I just do it and if it makes money, I do it again.  It does make me feel good when my work is praised by my peers.

CG: You’ve continued to do some work in the industry up until as recent as 2008. What is on the horizon for Robert Woods?

RW: It ain’t over ‘till the fat lady finds Fellini…

After I was honored at the Torino and Venice Film Festivals in 2007, opportunity has become more accessible.  I have quite a lot in the works and apparently, though not so well known in America, I have a large fan base in the world.  There is a lot more to do, some of which is in the works; a TV series called Aspen/ a film titled Bend Me/Shape Me/a western called Heathens and Thieves and someone in America has recently approached me about a documentary on my life tentatively titled; The Most Famous Actor No One Knows… And the beat goes on…

CG: Robert, I wish you much continued success. Keep me informed about your future projects as it would be a delight to keep the reading public informed. You’ve had a most interesting journey and thanks for your time sharing it with us.

RW: Thanks for taking the time to interview me, Carl. All the best.

March 2009

About Matt Blake 861 Articles
The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.

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  1. I saw Star Black aka Johnny Colt in the caribbean island of Grenada in 1973 and it remained my favorite Western up to this day.I searched for years for a copy of the DVD which I found recently and now have in my Library.Thanks Robert Woods for great memories.

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