“Fuck ’em” is what Hauser says to me as I’m in the middle of an interview with him, as we drift off question and into a discussion about my own personal life struggles with the perils of trying to be a full time writer. ” Don’t let anyone get you down, you just have to say “Fuck ’em.” Thank God for Wings Hauser.
Hauser has been one of the most elusive and mysterious actor extraordinaire outside of the media eye since hitting the spotlight in the very early ’80s. He rarely gives an interview or so much as opens his mouth to anyone in the press for that matter, and hasn’t – for the better part of a decade.
Wings Hauser isn’t a traditional character actor, he’s our hero. The tough guy cop on a mission, a loner battling crime and her wicked streets – trying to solve the murder and right something wrong inside him. He’s been a manipulator, a voyeur, a cold blooded killer, an embittered solider stuck in a war no-one can win, even a bad guy on a horse from the future. Having appeared in over sixty films and over thirty television series to date – anything Hauser appears in, he steals the show.
From Gary Sharman’s intense and scuzzy VICE SQUAD and Norman Mailer’s over-looked under appreciated neo-noir TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE to Brian Trenchard-Smith’s essential and alternate view on war, THE SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA these films ARE Wings Hauser movies, and they belong to him.
As writer/director/actor, Hauser has also created some of the greatest films you may have never seen. Hauser wrote and starred in NO SAFE HAVEN. A hugely successful vigilante masterpiece, that’s brutal, violent, and fucking satisfying. In addition to writing and directing such fun films as LIVING TO DIE, SKINS aka GANG BOYS and COLDFIRE, Hauser also wrote and directed the 1991 film, THE ART OF DYING.
THE ART OF DYING is a film light years ahead of it’s time. It’s a dark and sexy Hollywood noir. A film that features one if not, the greatest soft sex scene of all time, if not the most bizarre. Its a original, clever and kinky journey into the unseen under belly of Hollywood, and what lurks there. The film is brilliantly executed with beautiful, and unforgettable imagery. It twists with excitement, it’s a must see.
Gerald Dwight Hauser was born in Hollywood, California on December 12th, 1947. Hauser’s father Dwight,an Academy Award winner himself was a Hollywood writer working in radio theater, and was raked over the coals by the H.U.A.C people, making his life very difficult after the McCarthy Hollywood hearings. As a teenager in the early ’60s, Hauser proved uber rebellious, getting kicked out of every school that would have him. While at a military school Hauser, deeply involved in sports earned the nickname “WINGS” due to his natural abilities on the football field. In addition to loving sports, Hauser also realized his destiny and love of acting and music. Fresh out of school Hauser began appearing in productions at his father’s theater just outside of Hollywood as well as playing music around Los Angeles.
At age 21, Hauser’s father passed away suddenly from a heart attack – his third at the time. Shortly after, Hauser and his band, ‘Vision Of Sunshine’ took to the road on tour. After some time, Hauser and his girlfriend produced a child. Eventually, the group split up while out on the road, and Hauser returned as a single father to Los Angeles with child in one arm, thirty dollars to his name, and a box of diapers under the other. It was a pivotal time in his life.
Trying to make ends meet playing music, Hauser took a part time job as a night watchman. It was here that he gained access to a little used piano. Each night, while on duty Hauser would hammer out the amazing songs that he would eventually release in 1975 on RCA Records under the recording name “Wings Livingryte”. The album, Your Love Keeps Me Off The Streets, is an epic lament of heart-felt and personal songs, seething and aching with emotional discourse. It’s confessional, and showcases a young man’s longing for something big, maybe even pure. Neither of Hauser’s albums to date have been released on compact disc and for the most part remain severely undiscovered by a massive audience. Seek these out immediately.
Hauser, now age 63 is busier than ever. He’s been working non-stop. He’s preparing some interesting film projects with his producing partner, actress / filmmaker / wife Cali Lili Hauser. They have several big projects in the works. In addition, Hauser will be appearing in a new film slated for release in the USA on April 1st, 2011, called RUBBER.The film is directed by French musician Quentin Dupiex. Hauser’s performance has earned huge buzz, as the film has been playing heavily at film festivals around the world for the last year to cult and horror film fans alike.
Interviewing Wings Hauser proved to be something big for me. He’s probably what you’d imagine the dictionary definition of the ‘quintessential man’ to have on display, if there was an image next to the listing. I’d compare it to having the experience of interviewing someone like Ernest Hemingway. Hauser is of that essence, that “real man” mystical idealism that our fathers or older brothers tried to install into us as youths in revolt. Hauser is clever, funny, caring, to the point, grizzled but analytical and like a masterful old soul, wise to the bone. Hauser is the kind of guy I wanna aspire to become as I get older.
He’s an artist and musician, a visionary that wants to give EVERYONE their money’s worth, and the show they bought the ticket for. As an actor he has always produced a cinematic intensity that no one has been able to duplicate, and it’s this methodology and aesthetic that ranks him amongst the old Hollywood elite.
With this interview I’ve asked Hauser to enter into the neon slime – into his life story, and it’s a great place to be because, there will never be ANOTHER guy like Wings Hauser. This is a story that everyone should know. So for the first time in over a decade, I proudly present an interview with a true legend. Actor, Writer, Producer, Director: Wings Hauser done in early 2010. Here’s the result..
BOZUNG: So I know you played some sports as a teenager, weren’t you actually signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers to play baseball with them right out of school?
HAUSER: Well I was never signed by them. I was courted by them, but I ended up going to Oregon State to play football instead. It was strange time then, I was actually going to a military academy cause I had been kicked out of every other school I had gone to. There was a major there that had a metal plate in his head from fighting in World War II. When it got cold the metal plate would contract, and he would become insane. We’d all shiver in fear cause he had this swat board and he’d kick the hell outta ya.
But the majority of the time if you scored touchdowns or hit home runs he’d leave you alone. So if you excelled at something and made the school look good, they would just reward you with everything. So you could smoke cigarettes as long as he didn’t see you. You could drink. At that point we were all experimenting with marijuana. So you could do all these wonderful things and get away with it, as long as he didn’t see you. If he saw you doing it, he’d kick your ass.
I was a complete and total high performance athlete until that summer just after school ended. By then I had done my first play and I had learned to play guitar as well. Half of me wanted to become an artist, or an actor and a musician. The other half of me wanted to play football or baseball. I’m very thankful that the actor and musician won out. Because after college football your pretty much crippled anyhow. As a baseball player I was a catcher, and the life span of a catcher isn’t very long either. But at one time, I did hit the ball very well.
BOZUNG: So any regrets on not pursuing those careers at this point?
HAUSER: Oh..no..no..no. God no. Well, a few…laughing
BOZUNG: I know you were very close with your dad, and that he passed away when you were fairly young. How does losing your dad in your early 20’s impact your life versus losing a parent when you’re in your mid 40’s for example?
HAUSER: I was 21 when my dad passed away. When my father died, it was an interesting morning. He had woke up, he felt sick, and he was dead. It was that quick. He had three heart attacks prior to that. He was actually smoking in the hospital. He had got someone to bring him cigarettes in the hospital. It was in the ’50s and everyone knew cigarettes were bad, but no one did anything about it, they just kept smoking. The thing about my dad…he came to every single sporting event I ever had. I mean every one of them. I was a swimmer, I was a baseball player. I started playing ball at eight years old. Baseball, Football, Basketball, Track I did them all, and he came to every single one of them.
On top of that, my dad built a theater out in Thousand Oaks. My dad of course, was a writer in Hollywood. So Thousand Oaks is basically where I grew up. So I grew up in the theater at the same time. He cast me in my very first play. It was called, THE RAINMAKER. Bing Russell played THE RAINMAKER. He was Kurt Russell’s father. Bing was one of the most generous person’s I’ve ever met. On opening night, he pushed me out in front, and I got a standing ovation. I said, “this feels really good…’ I knew then that this was it. I think I was like sixteen years old. My dad and I went on to do a couple more plays. We did Tobacco Road where my dad played the old guy, and I played the young guy. I got to beat him up on stage every night. It was great fun. We were absolutely as close as a father and son can be I think. When he died, there was nothing unsaid. We had said it all. It was a precious lesson.
What’s been tough is over the years is when success would come my way like when I did, DEADLY FORCE. It was the first starring role I got. Any guy would want to turn to their father and say, “Hey look at this.” I was standing in the balcony in the theater and tears are streaming down my face and I was thinking, ‘where are you, I wish you could see this.” That’s when you miss him. You never get over the death of your parents. You know… It’s amazing. Last month, it’s been 42 years since he passed away.
BOZUNG: So I know that you basically wrote the script for the film UNCOMMON VALOR uncredited. But what was the inspiration for that script?
HAUSER: The way UNCOMMON VALOR happened was that I had a best friend named Gary Dickerson. His family was different from mine. My family was very loud and we ate life. His family was very quiet. He had an older mother and father, and going over to his house, it was just so quiet. One of those places that’s sorta frightening when you walk into it. No television, music does not exist. It’s just quiet.
One day he just came to me and said, “I joined the Army, I joined the draft.” So he went off to Vietnam. He makes it back, but we don’t talk about Vietnam until 1978. I get him really drunk, and we start talking about his experiences. I found out that he had carried the M-60 the whole time he was there. There was a limit on carrying this huge gun. Because that’s the one the Vietcong wanted to take out cause it was the most devastating weapon. So, I started asking him all these questions, like 10 years after the fact. His eyes started to light up. Gary is a very shy and very reserved kid. I saw this thing in his eyes, like he was absolutely alive. This inspired me. Then I started asking Vietnam Vets, “Would you ever go back to Vietnam?” They’d say, “Fuck no, I fucking hate that place.” Then I would ask them, “Would you go back if someone you knew was left behind?” They’d say, “in a minute.
You’d start talking to all these guys, about Vietnam and their eyes would light up. It had nothing to do with killing people. It seemed to me that what I saw in these vets was that they all had left something behind there. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I think these guys, the combat soldiers were marching in between life and death. They didn’t know if they were gonna die or be shot at. So when you take those guys out of that situation, and put them to work in a Tom Mccann shoe store, the adrenaline just wasn’t there for them. The original script I did was called, Youth In Asia. So that’s what that was all about. It was about turning the light back on.
BOZUNG: You had a brief music career as well, right? Can we talk about that?
HAUSER: Sure. I love that stuff. I made two albums. They’re not on CD or anything. So you’ll need to find them on vinyl. The first album was released in 1969. I’m listed as Gerald Hauser cause that’s my real name. The first album is called Vision Of Sunshine. Eighty percent of the songs are mine, these are ones that I wrote, arranged and sang. We’re talking about something that happened over 40 years ago. If you Google it, and read some of the reviews, I can’t believe that there is still an interest in it.
What’s interesting about the first album is that I was told at the time, that it had no hit songs on it. I was told that by Luigi and Hugo. These were the top guys at the time at Atco Embassy. We were telling them, “Really, really we have this one song that’s really good. It’s a hit” The song was called, “Mr. Bojangles.” Six months later, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band put it out, and it was a hit. So that was kinda frustrating. We recorded it first after the song’s writer, Jerry Jeff Walker had.
Then my second album I did under the name ‘Wings Livingryte’, and the album is called, Your Love Keeps Me Off The Streets. I recorded it for RCA, and it came out in 1975. ‘Livingryte’ came from this girl. I toured with this girl. We had a band called Livingryte and Good Body. I sang and she had the good body. We split up, and I just kept the name ‘Livingryte’ and added ‘Wings’ to it. That lasted for a couple years, then I started going with the name ‘Wings Hauser.’
BOZUNG: I really love your album Your Love Keeps Me Off The Streets. My favorite song I think is ‘The Sky Might Fall’ What’s that song about?
HAUSER: Gosh…that was like a thousand years ago. I think that was basically me just saying, “I don’t care about anything, let’s just hang onto each other.” This was a vulnerable time in my life. I had just come back to Los Angeles in 1972 from being on tour. I had my thirteen month old daughter, Bright with me. I was a single father, I was only twenty-three years old. I had thirty dollars in my pocket, and we were homeless. I found a garage to live in, and Bright’s bedroom was a old Volkswagen. So that song I think is about holding onto something by your finger tips even though you can’t. You’re alone and your looking up hoping for something to happen.
BOZUNG: So how the hell did you end up a single father, alone with a thirteen month old baby at twenty-three years old?
HAUSER: Well, it’s one of those stories. We were out on tour with my band Vision Of Sunshine. The girl in the band with me, she got pregnant. So after Bright was born, she decided that she wanted to leave and go find herself. So I took my daughter. There were some rough times man, but here we are, still here, and Bright just turned 40 years old, and she’s got her own business and she’s got her own band.
BOZUNG: So with the music career not taking off, is there any frustration or regret now?
HAUSER: I have very little frustration in my life. If you really get to know me, you’ll know that I never thought that I’d ever amount to shit anyhow. I mean, I got kicked out of every school I went to, I smoked when people shouldn’t smoke. I did everything wrong. I just always liked being myself. I never thought anything would happen anyhow. I put two albums out. It’s amazing to me, “my god I conducted an orchestra.” So, not really. I look at this thing as a long game. You can look at my acting career too. Some people think, you’ve made millions of dollars, starred in over 60 films, and worked on 500 television episodes, you’re a damn failure, but you’re not a millionaire a hundred times over. How is that a failure? I don’t get it. I feel very lucky. I’m sixty-three years old now. I’ve never really had to work for a living. Acting is acting. You either got it or you don’t. Music you gotta play. You gotta go out and play the instrument. It’s a weird world. I think what I’m trying to say is that, we get a lot of money for little effort. I’m not trying to devalue movies or television. They’re basically good. I’ve got very little to complain about. I really do.
BOZUNG: At sixty-three years old, you’re now appearing in this hot new talked about film, RUBBER (2010). There’s a buzz about your performance going around. How does that happen?
HAUSER: That’s great. Well it was a huge surprise to me. I’m in a wheelchair out in a desert. I wanted to do the film cause I have no success in France. It’s strange. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been to some crazy places. Once, about six miles outside of Manila, I saw this huge billboard that was made out of plywood. I was on it. There I was and it said, WING HAUSER, not WINGS HAUSER. It said, WING HAUSER – ONE WAY TO DIE. I said, “Wait a minute I never made a film called, ONE WAY TO DIE. What does that mean, do they want to kill me or something? Of course, the film they were promoting was NO SAFE HAVEN. They had just changed the title on me. People seem to know me all over the world. It’s a weird career. I go some places and I get looked at, like they wanna kill me, or I’m wanted or something or they want an autograph.
So with RUBBER – I’ve never hit it off in France. The director of RUBBER, Quentin is french. My only experience in France is when I went to Cannes. I had eight films at the same time there once. That can really go to your head. So we’re walking on the Grand Palace, I have a tuxedo on, people are screaming my name, I’m walking the red carpet, and there are flashbulbs going off everywhere. It really makes you feel like Elvis for a few minutes. So we’re standing there later around midnight and I see this girl getting the shit beat out of her in this car. I ran up to the car. I opened the door, and pulled her out, and held her back behind me.
This little french guy comes around from the other side, and cold cocks me right in the nose. He breaks my nose, and there’s blood everywhere, and he starts to just pummel me. So I’m in Cannes at 4 a.m. in the hospital wondering what the hell just happened to me. So I went from walking the red carpet to being in the hospital in France in one night. France hasn’t been very kind to me.
With RUBBER I went and met with the director, and he showed me this camera. Have you heard about this? Oh my god, I couldn’t believe it. This camera is basically like a still camera. We shot this about a year ago. So I ended up in the desert with Quentin shooting this. I had a ball doing it. I got to set down the entire film, and I got to eat all this incredible french food. This is a sweet little film, and there wasn’t much of a budget. Quentin is a clever guy.
BOZUNG: I’m sure you get asked about VICE SQUAD often, so I’ll try to skip the obvious. How did you come to sing the theme song, “Neon Slime?”
HAUSER: Well you know what. I really haven’t been asked about it much for the last fifteen years. It seems like in the last six months there is a new interest in the film, which is great. “Neon Slime” came about cause the music supervisor had heard one of my albums or something. So he just called me up, and said, “you gotta come down and do this song for the movie.” So I went in, and just blew it out in a couple hours. I didn’t think anything would happen with it, and then it ends up in the movie. It was that simple.
BOZUNG: With the “Ramrod” character did you contribute anything to that character that wasn’t in the script?
HAUSER: What’s interesting about “Ramrod” is that the whole thing with the turquoise shirt was only supposed to be in the first scene. So I told the director, ‘We gotta keep this shirt all throughout the film.” The cowboy thing was already in the script. The thing I think I contributed to it, was the total belief in the character. Before we started shooting, I met a white pimp. In reality, I may have been the first white pimp on film. I was once walking on the edge of Central Park in New York City, and I got stopped by this guy. He seemed like this scary drug dealing type of guy. He told me, “Hey man, you can walk in my park anytime “Ramrod”. This is your park.” Certain people respected that character.
Everything that “Ramrod” does in that film, his method, he’s sick and vicious, and he’s doing it by choice. When I met that white pimp prior to doing the film he took me down to a Greyhound Bus Station and he was showing me how to look for girls, the runaways. How to pick up those girls fresh off the bus and turn them over. There was a Manson similarity there. This guy was the kindest person in the world. That’s how it worked. He was kind, until he didn’t get what he wanted. Then he turned vicious. It was sick.
We were shooting VICE SQUAD at night. In the day, I was working on THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS playing this character named, “Greg Foster.” I was playing a ken doll, a boring piece of shit. I was in a three year contract and they wouldn’t let me out of it. It was killing me. I was working during the day, I was working during the night. Plus trying to have a relationship with my family. So doing “Ramrod” was like being a kid in a candy store. I was thinking that I could do ANYTHING. Like that scene where I’m in the car, and I put my foot threw that window of that car. I actually did that. I wasn’t fucking around. I was laying there. I said to myself, “I’m really gonna do this.” It was like a controlled burn. I wanted to go right up to the line, right up to the limit. It was an incredible time.
BOZUNG: My favorite scene in VICE SQUAD is that scene with you and Season Hubley where she’s seducing you at your apartment, and then you’re pinning her down with the knife and the cops break in and it’s just total chaos. For something like that, do you rehearse that?
HAUSER: Well, you can’t really rehearse a lot of that stuff. You kinda go quietly through the motions. You rehearse it to a degree. You go here, then I’ll go here. You have to stay within the limits of the camera, cause you’re trying to capture it on film. If you go crazy, then the cameras are gonna miss it.
One thing about that scene that’s interesting is when I had to hit Season over the head with that chair. You remember that? I actually had to hit a stunt women over the head. I felt really bad about having to do that. Cause most of the pain inflicted I did with my eyes. So when we’re rehearsing that, the stunt lady turned to me and said, “here’s what I want to do. I want you to hit me really hard, I don’t wanna do this again.” She was a motherfucker. You don’t mess with these stunt women. You didn’t fuck with this gal. She didn’t want me to be too timid, and hold back so we’d have to do it again. So I just popped her…laughing
BOZUNG: Do you think that the character of Ramrod has a conscience? Does he know that his actions will have consequences? Or is it pure revenge at all costs?
HAUSER: That’s interesting, I never thought that “Ramrod” was going out to get revenge. I didn’t think I was playing revenge I thought I was playing a shark. I thought I was playing JAWS on land. A shark just eats. A shark has no conscious. It doesn’t give a fuck. If he doesn’t like the taste he just spits it out. If you look in a shark’s eyes – their dark. That’s what I was trying to get to. I threw in a little Elvis lip. This wasn’t about revenge for this guy. He was hate. He was a shark on land. He had no thought, no remorse. I thought I was lucky that they never gave “Ramrod” a puppy or something to humanize him. Or “Ramrod” has a cat, he’s human. They didn’t give him one single redeeming quality. Thank God, cause that would’ve fucked everything up…laughing
BOZUNG: Were you surprised with all the critical praise you got for the film?
HAUSER: The guy who produced VICE SQUAD, Sandy Howard – signed me to a three picture deal halfway through filming. Sandy was such a wonderful guy. Sandy told the director of VICE SQUAD to just let me alone. You can’t direct a guy to be like “Ramrod”. You don’t direct that. He comes from a human being. A director or a writer can sit there all day long and try to tell a guy like “Ramrod” – “OK in this next scene I want you to do this. Or the reason why you’re doing this…” You say something to “Ramrod” like that and he’s gonna tell you “Fuck You. Turn the cameras on man, watch this…” So that’s kinda what it was like.
On VICE SQUAD I never went to see any dailies. I was just doing this film. I was working during the day, and during the night, trying to find time to see my family. What’s interesting is when VICE SQUAD came out. It was distributed in theaters by Atco Embassy. Remember those were the guys that put my first album out back in 1969. By this time, Atco was being run by two guys, Robert Remy whose a big time producer now and Frank Capra the third. Capra was such a wonderful guy.
Great story, when I got the role of “Ramrod” I went into see them. I walked in to see them, and took off my belt and belt buckle, and wound it up some. I was very quiet, cause I didn’t have any dialogue. It was this HUGE gold steer belt buckle and I slammed it down on the table in front of them looked them straight in the eye and I said, “is this what you’re looking for?” The guy just rolled back in his chair. I think he said, “we really love him, now get him away from us.” So anyhow, Sandy Howard signed me to a three picture deal. I didn’t have any idea what we were doing when we were making with VICE SQUAD. I was just kinda poking along, you know making a film.
When VICE SQUAD came out there was another film they were just promoting the hell out of called, ‘THE SEDUCTION with Morgan Fairchild. There were billboards up all over the country for this film. They didn’t give us anything, I think they gave us some t-shirts to promote our film.
After the first week in theater’s all the billboards for THE SEDUCTION were gone. They put up VICE SQUAD billboards everywhere, cause the film did so good. I mean I got some reviews. The reviews were stunning. Some of these reviews I could never duplicate some of these. It was outrageous.
They told me that I needed to go on tour to promote the film. So I jumped on a plane for Chicago. I had on tennis shoes, jeans and a windbreaker, and I arrived on Chicago on January 27th. It was the coldest day in history, you can look it up. It was the coldest day in Chicago’s history. The wind chill was like five million or something. Everything was frozen, and you couldn’t even get to the theater. I hit that air and I couldn’t breath. I mean, I’m from California. So I hit that air, I was gone. I wasn’t used to any of that.
The next day, I flew to Detroit to do this show called, Kelly and Company. After that I’m at the airport, and I’m at the bar having a couple drinks, cause I hated to fly. Plus the flight our 737 was delayed cause they were deicing the plane. There was a television on in the bar. On the television was the news, and there was a 737 that became iced over in the air, and came down into the Potomac river. So I’m sitting there watching this, watching people on chunks of ice swimming down the river, knowing full well that my plane, a 737 is being de-iced so we can fly to Pittsburgh. It was frightening. That was the last time I flew, and haven’t since.
BOZUNG: The next film you did after VICE SQUAD was DEADLY FORCE. Is it true that at one point Sam Peckinpah was supposed to direct you in that?
HAUSER: Yeah, he was. I forgot about that. I think he was involved for about a minute and a half. It was probably at the point where Sam was at the end of his rainbow or something. Had that worked out, god that would’ve been amazing.
BOZUNG: Another of your performances that just blows my mind is what you did in TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE. What attracts you to a project like that?
HAUSER: Bizarre film isn’t it…laughing Listen, don’t buy this shit when you talk to an actor, and they tell you that they can call their own shots. There are probably only ten actors in the world that can actually do that, REALLY. The rest of us get offered something or we have to audition. TOUGH GUYS was warranted for me. I had just come back from Greece. I was over there shooting a film called, THE WIND. While I was there my wife flew in, and the flight she was on had a bomb go off on it, and four people were sucked out of the plane.
Then we had to fly to London to connect to a flight that takes us to South Africa to make this other film. That night Reagan bombed Libya. The next morning we’ve flying over Libya on a British Airways jet. Khadafi was threatening to kill all Brits, cause they allowed the U.S planes to take off from Britain for the bombing. So we shot the film in Africa, and then I was on another flight to Texas to shoot a film that I wrote called, NO SAFE HAVEN. I had been gone, away from my family since January of that year, it was now September. I was tired, I was falling apart. I was jet lagged, I had been drinking, just months on the road. I had to re-introduce myself to my family..
Shortly after getting back, I get this call that Norman Mailer is directing this film. So I went to see him, and I just fell in love with him. I was really excited. One of the film’s producers was like a real fan, and they’re talking to me like I got the role, but I actually had to go back and audition six times. I found out that Norman wanted to cast a good friend of his in the role, who wasn’t even an actor. The producers were fighting him on it. So they made an agreement with Norman. They agreed to allow him to cast Deborah Sandlund in the film in exchange for me being cast in the film. Norman wasn’t happy that I was in the film.
We arrived in Provincetown, Massachusetts and immediately Norman and I started fighting. It was absolute hell. I gotta tell you, and I want you to put this in writing, cause Ryan O’Neal has gotten so much flax. Ryan O’Neal is the kindest actor that I’ve ever worked with in my life. This guy got me the role I’m pretty sure. I think he kept me in the film, cause Norman wanted to fire me. We were going at it, Norman and I. Rehearsal and all. There were coffee cups exploding off the walls, tables being flipped over. Screaming and yelling, there were almost fist fights. Norman was a fighter, and Ryan was a boxer. This is important to know.
About halfway through the filming, I went to Norman and said, “why don’t you just rewrite the fucking ending and let me go home. You and I hate each other right?” So he said, “Let’s go upstairs and talk.” So we’re for the first time really talking about everything. I’m telling him what I really think. All of sudden, I see tears well up in his eyes. This is Norman Mailer for god’s sake. I felt bad that I was making him cry. He took me downstairs and he apologized to me in front of everyone over how he was treating me. It was like if he treated me a certain way, he thought he was gonna get a different performance or something. After that day, we became dear friends until the day he died. We stayed in touch over the years. We’d write letters to each other. I have some really stunning letters from him. It was so sad that he passed away so suddenly.
BOZUNG: So working on TOUGH GUYS, are you allowed the option of improvisation on a Norman Mailer film? Especially since he’s written the script?
HAUSER: No, not really. These were Norman’s words. By the way, some of the stuff he got pissed off at, was stuff like you saying “THE” instead of “THEE”. He would be screaming saying, “Say the goddamn lines right.” No improvisation on that at all. You gotta respect a writer like that. If you got a bad script, you gotta throw some things in here or there. But with words by Norman Mailer, you don’t have to do that. When you have lines like, “I thought I saw my wife at the end of your high beams…at the end of your high beams?..” I’m sold…laughing
BOZUNG: So for the ending of the film, your character arc – did you study any type of stroke victims or anything like that?
HAUSER: It’s was amazing. Isabella Rossini’s mother, Ingrid Bergman died from a stroke. So when we were rehearsing it, she got very angry cause we weren’t portraying it properly. So we worked on it together, and that’s what we came up with. I don’t know if she’d say this, but I think she more or less coerced that performance from me at the end.
BOZUNG: Moving on to NO SAFE HAVEN, what was the inspiration for the script that you wrote for that?
HAUSER: What happened was that the producers from Texas came to me and said, “We have three stunts. We have a guy that’s gonna break the record for high falling while on fire, and we have a guy willing to jump out of a helicopter.” There was another stunt but I can’t remember it right now. Anyhow, that’s what they wanted the script wrote around, those stunts. If you remember in the film, there’s that guy that I threw from the building that was on fire. He came close to killing himself. He barely landed on the corner of the bag below. He hit the corner and bounced. It was horrible.
BOZUNG: So writing that script and then acting in NO SAFE HAVEN did you experience any type of eternal struggle? I mean, was the film being directed how you saw it being done in your head?
HAUSER: No…I didn’t have that feeling at all. I felt lucky. I thought it was cool that I had been paid to write. I felt good. Then you turn the film into an editor, and sometimes they fuck it up and sometimes they don’t. There were a couple things that bothered me about the final film, but that’s the nature of the game. The best thing probably was that when we were shooting, and something didn’t work I’d just rewrite it.
BOZUNG: Why do you think the whole “vigilante” film or revenge film genre is so popular with people?
HAUSER: I don’t know…laughing There you go. I think in my own case, there are some people I’d love to get back at. But you’d end up in prison wouldn’t you. Some people say that success is a great revenge. I say, “no…these people need more.” I was actually gonna make a film once. My wife and I. It was gonna be, “how would you treat somebody who betrayed you?” Like what would you do, if your husband or wife betrayed you? I asked this waitress at a bar once. At first she kept saying, “I don’t know. I wouldn’t do anything.” So when I finally pressed her she said, “we’ll I’d used Lidocaine to numb his mouth and throat, so that he was aware of the fact that I was shoving his balls down his throat.” It was amazing. She had it all planned out.
I don’t know what it is about it. I heard about this new book the other day, about this 1920’s terrorist attack that took place on the lower east side in New York City, that’s never been documented. It was huge, the biggest prior to 9/11. In the book he talks about Freud, and a death instinct. Freud says that this exists in all of us, the desire to kill and an attraction to death. If you really look at all our television shows and movies, all these cop and lawyer shows and films, death is the major thing. It might be, the desire to get back at somebody, or a desire that’s within us to taste blood or something crazy. I don’t know.
BOZUNG: So you did a film next called, THE SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA. Where do you think the character of “Dinardo” comes from inside you? Does any of that surface from you because of your experiences talking with your friend who was in Vietnam?
HAUSER: Yes, sure. But more importantly I think that character questioned the war. I think he questioned what a communist was. I wrote a couple of my scenes in that film. I wrote that scene where he’s sitting talking about his son with “Hafner”. Then that scene about where I talked about these guys running through the rice patties with pajama pants on, they had no idea who Karl Marx was. I wanted to talk about what was really going on there. I think “Dinardo” was trying to expose the truths of what was really happening in that country.
BOZUNG: One of my favorite films that you’ve worked on was one you directed, THE ART OF DYING. How did you discover that script?
HAUSER: Well, you know I really wrote that script. All that dialogue in there, no-one could have wrote that dialogue, come on. Joseph Merry took the credit for it, and that’s cool. I got enough out of it, I starred in it, and directed it. I had made a couple other films for the producers, and I thought it was a great idea with the other movies in it and to take on other filmmakers. It’s ahead of it’s time I think. It still holds up today, and it’s lite at the same time.
BOZUNG: So do you think that the film is a sort of message film on Hollywood culture to a certain extent?
HAUSER: Well, it’s amazing. After I did VICE SQUAD I got an incredible amount of letters from people. Cause back in those days it was letters. I’d get letters from mothers saying, “thank you for portraying such a horrible person. My daughter’s not coming out there now.” Or, “Thank You I’m never coming to Hollywood.” It was a positive thing. I’d travel around the country promoting other movies, and I’d always hear this from people.
Also, watching through the years what Hollywood Boulevard had become. It started out as the Boulevard of dreams and that gave way to transvestites, and hookers. Every three hours there is an entire different type of people walking down Hollywood Blvd. A lot of times kids see the glamor of Hollywood, and when they get here it’s a harsh reality. Stuff like TMZ and the Insider or whatever promotes that. If their runaways, they’re looked into in a matter of time by a strange clientele. They’re watched, and people are waiting for them. As an actor, their watched too. I’ll take your picture, I’ll make your famous. There’s a lot of crap on the doorstep to artistic freedom. It takes a tough tough man or women to make it out here. So that’s why I’m pushing that girl in the film to get the hell outta town.
BOZUNG: So let’s talk about one of the greatest sex scenes of all time, if not the most bizarre. It’s the one you had with Kathleen Kinmont in THE ART OF DYING, the one with the milk. Was that in your original script, or did you come up with that last minute during?
HAUSER: I think it was in there originally, but I can’t remember. We may have added to it on the last minute. Like we just used the milk cause it was all we had or something. That was great though. It was a lot of fun. Kathleen was wonderful. She came in to the office, and I knew she had the role when she walked in.
BOZUNG: I love the visual aspects of THE ART OF DYING. Also I was wondering if the orgasm and death structured sequence was written in your script or was that something you saw that would work in post production?
HAUSER: Yeah, that was in my script. I loved that. It just made sense. That was intended all along.
BOZUNG: You directed a film that’s kinda hard to find these days called, SKINS aka GANG BOYS. Wasn’t this the first time you worked with your son, Cole?
HAUSER: Well, Cole did a film right after SKINS that was called, HIGHER LEARNING. In SKINS, he played a convincing Aryan racist. Days after we finished shooting SKINS, Cole auditioned for HIGHER LEARNING with a shaved head and a attitude, that he had developed while working on our project.
Cole has this great head of hair. So when I decided to make SKINS. I went to him with it, and he told me that he didn’t wanna shave his head. I told him, “the film is about skinheads, you have to.” But he didn’t want to. So I told him, “if you show up tomorrow with your head shaved we’ll do it, but if you don’t I’ll cast someone else.” So the next day, I’m in the parking lot at this office where we were casting and I see this guy with a shaved head. I said, “that’s great. who’s that – he’s perfect.” It was Cole.
It’s funny, someone asked me once if I was ever jealous of my son. The only time I’ve ever been jealous of him was when he was 14 years old. I was shooting a film with G. Gordon Liddy called, STREET ASYLUM. He was spending the summer with me. There was an actress I was working with, she was this drop dead looking 30 year old women. So she was always standing around him, and rubbing his head, cause he had this great head of hair. She was just always hanging around Cole. He has these like Shirley Temple ringlets. After we were done shooting the film, she came up to me and said, “If you’d like I’d be happy to take your son’s virginity.” I said, “Absolutely not.” Cole hates me to this day for that. I was really thinking, “What about me lady?, I’m starring in this thing!”
BOZUNG: You’ve done a massive amount of television work. Do you have any stand-out favorites that you’ve taken part in over the years?
HAUSER: Tons of stuff, yeah. I just did a thing on The Defenders that I just loved, but they cut out a couple of things that made the character more rich. Working with Belushi on that was great. It was just terrific. Also, I worked with Ava Gardner for gods sake. Can you imagine? I’m sitting there holding hands with her going, “Whoa.”
BOZUNG: Do you still enjoy working with such a prolific career to date?
HAUSER: I still love it. I get nervous when I work. I’m still passionate. I don’t take short-cuts. I just enjoy the whole damn thing more. I just think that I’m enjoying the hell outta life more this days. It would’ve been nice to start out this way. You know to wake up at 12 years old and say to yourself, “I’m gonna really enjoy this day!”
BOZUNG: So what are you working on now?
HAUSER: I am VERY excited about the future. Especially the Indie Company that Cali and I have created. This company will allow us to do the projects that are near and dear to us. Our first project is “Out of the Box” and “In the Can” as they say.
Cali Lili, co-starred in this indie film (as of yet “Untitled” ). She also wrote and directed the film and is now prepping to edit it all together, as we speak. When the editing is complete, the next step will be for us to record an album of original songs together, with lyrics and vocals by Cali Lili and music by Wings Hauser. The album and film will be released simultaneously, hopefully in the Fall of 2011.
BOZUNG: You’re sixty three years old now, how does that feel to you? Are you comfortable with getting older?
HAUSER: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think so. You know I think you know what’s really important. It comes down to being able to enjoy life, especially as Americans. We don’t take a lot of time for ourselves like they do in Europe. Over there they’re taking six or eight week vacations. Here we’re really stretching it by taking ten days off. If it’s one thing that I’ve learned in 63 years, is to let me NOT miss this. I’ve been around the world twice, and I’ve seen a lot of great stuff, but I’ve missed things too. But it’s like, you get home and go – good god I was there and I didn’t look at that? Cause I was too busy thinking about career or money. I think this life is a gift, and you should enjoy it. Enjoy the hell out of it.
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