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Hey kids, we had the great pleasure of an exclusive chat with Hollywood icon George Hamilton.  The Tanned One sat down to talk about My One and Only, the biopic loosely based on his own years as a teenager. 

Mr. Hamilton spoke about his years in Hollywood, sneaking drinks with Lana Turner, going on benders with Robert Mitchum, Cary Grant on LSD, cleaning up after Jim Morrison and his thoughts on the Twilight vamps and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

Dig it!

 

My One and Only

George Hamilton 

 

LMD:  Renée Zellweger plays your mother as a person a bit out of step with the times; she has a sensibility and set of manners that doesn’t fit with the world changing around her.  It reminds me a bit of you.  These days, the suaveness and charm that you are known for is almost a dying art.  Ann Deveraux of the 1950’s reminds me of George Hamilton of today.

GH:  Well, it’s certainly where I learned it from, but it’s part of me that was the feminine side, and the masculine side had to come from something else. I knew that inherently as a child and I forced my way out of the family, looking constantly for my father.  Because when I lived with my father – in real life {as opposed to in the film} I lived with my father for a year and I got his side of it and I understood what my father had faced, so that gave me a way of looking at my family differently.  Then I went to military school and got away from the family.  If I hadn’t had that, I probably would have had much of the qualities that my brother had.  My brother was joined at the hip with my mother, it wasn’t good for him.  I told him, “Don’t you wanna go to your father?  Don’t you wanna know about your father?”  He didn’t get that.  He related totally to her, he had become like her. So, for me, it was imperative that I get away, and I did.

 

LMD:  Did you ever feel like you were forced to grow up too soon because of your parents’ decisions?

GH:  No, I think I grew up just in time to get to the place I was, cos to go through Hollywood for fifty-two years and not be some totally off-base maniac, alcoholic, drug addict is a miracle in itself, cos I’ve lived through eras where we went through everything from the sixties.  I remember helping Jim Morrison across the street from the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and he’s throwing up on my shoes, for God’s sake, and Lenny Bruce, hanging out with him.  I mean I’ve gone through some pretty extraordinary experiences.  Spending all night with Robert Mitchum; I’m blind drunk and he says to me, “Let’s go to the set now,” and I said, “Mr. Mitchum, it’s six o’ clock in the morning, I gotta get to work,” and he said, “No, no, no, you come with me,” and we went over to the set, nobody was there yet, he made me lie down on the floor next to the camera and he laid down in another place with a camera blanket.  An hour later, they were waking him up, giving him a Bloody Mary and they gave me a cup of coffee.  We shot our lines and we were out by eleven o’clock.  I said, “God I’ve never done that,” and he said, “That’s the way to do it. You don’t get up early, you stay up late.”  I thought, ‘Hm, Mitchum’s got it.’ Then the next day, he’s sitting there with me, we were working on a scene, he said, “You know, they say I don’t know my lines.  It’s not true; I’m just too drunk to say ‘em.”   That was him.  But so many of those guys and so much of that era, I went through it, I saw it firsthand.  I worked with Lana Turner and she said to me, “Tell ‘em that there needs to be chinchilla on the bottom of my dress,” I said, “What?”  She said, “Just tell ‘em that,” so I went, “Well, there needs to be chinchilla…” “Oh, we forgot.”  Then she would say, “Okay, that gives me a couple of hours to have a couple of vodkas and learn my lines.”  That was the way it worked.

 

LMD:  You came into acting at a very interesting time.  You were one of the last stars signed to a studio contract, yet everything in Hollywood, from the studio system to the styles of acting was changing.  Were you aware of those changes as a young actor?

GH:  No, I wasn’t aware of it.  I didn’t really know what acting was about, you know?  I was just there and it was like going to college, except over on one set was Marlon Brando shooting Mutiny on the Bounty and over on another set was Cary Grant shooting North by Northwest.  I’m thinking, ‘Well, which do you wanna be?’  Marlon reading lines off the ceiling, or on the back of watermelon and something in his ear that would give him his lines and Cary Grant, who was on acid thinking he had to have his hands like this {Holds open hands, palms in, five inches from face} because if he didn’t have his hands like this he wasn’t being honest with you.  And the cameraman saying, “I can’t shoot Mr. Grant if his hands are in the air,” and they’d have to go above it.  I’m thinking there’s something going on here, there’s something in this water.  Then you’d see a lot of this Method acting coming in, where the people were the characters.  I mean, they didn’t pretend to be, they were those characters.  Then I’d be sent off to England to do something with Vanessa Redgrave and she was out espousing Socialist causes and then in the meantime, going back and having caviar and champagne for lunch.  Her whole world was that of RADA and the British, ‘Let’s just get on with it. You don’t do it, you just act it.’  So, you saw all these different worlds.  I saw Lee Strasberg teaching the Method and I would go and watch it and it was riveting to watch actors who were really good at it, because it was happening for the first time in your eyes.  Other actors did the same take over and over and never changed one iota of it, and I was told not to change it, because the continuity girl would say, “Don’t change it because I have to know where I have to come in and cut.  You have to do it exactly as you did it.”   So, you had wars over where the soundman was saying to the Method actors, ‘You’ve got to speak up, I can’t hear a word you’re saying,” and the Method actor would say, {in a mumble} “I’m just here like this. This is where I stand, I don’t yell.”  And I’m being taught the old way in an era where all this new stuff is going on.  And then I finally worked with really good actors who really taught me how to do both; and you would actually take on what the other actor was doing.  To play the game, change the rhythm.  I did a movie with Bridget Bardot and Jeanne Moreau {Viva Maria}, one was good for three takes and the other was good only after fifteen.  You didn’t know when to be good!

 

LMD:  You’ve worked with some of the greatest movie directors, Louis Malle  {Viva Maria} , Woody Allen {Hollywood Ending},  Francis Ford Coppola {Godfather 3}, twice with Vincente Minnelli {Home from the Hill, Two Weeks in Another Town}  …

GH:  Three times!  Minnelli shot an ending to All the Fine Young Cannibals that no one knew about.  He was brought in the middle of the night shooting with me, it was so strange.

 

LMD:  He must’ve adored you.

GH:  He was the one who got me under contract there.  He brought me in after my first picture, when I was in South America and he had me sign because he thought that I was right for this and wanted to use me several times in movies.

 

LMD:  In opposition to that very gritty style of Method acting, you were very big during the boy pin-up era that catered to teenage girl fans, with stars like Fabian, Tab Hunter and Troy Donohue.  Somehow, you made some very good pictures and survived.  How did you make it through when so many of your contemporaries did not?

GH:  Well, when you think about it, they were major idols.  Troy - A Summer Place was a big hit, he was a heartthrob.  Fabian, we didn’t know where he was.  He was singer, and you didn’t know if he was in a Gidget movie, or what.  And there’s a whole Henry Willson bunch of actors, like Tab Hunter and all, who were credible actors.  And to think about it, I mean, so I got in Godfather, but Troy Donohue had been in the second one, which was a better one than the one I’d made and I thought that’s what they wanted me for.  I didn’t know they wanted me to be the conciliere, I mean, I was blown away when I heard that.  But you hung on as long as you could, the problem was success in Hollywood; you go up, and then there’s always the drop.  Now, you have to make a decision:  Are you finished?  Are you over?  Can you take the down? How do you reinvent yourself, what are you gonna do?  I said, “Well, it’s real simple, I’ll go and find people to put up money and I’ll just cast myself.”  I was thrown out of the studio so many times.  I played Hank Williams in Your Cheatin’ Heart only because Elvis had turned it down and The Colonel told me to go down to Nashville and find Hank Williams’ wife and convince her I was right.  She said the picture won’t be made unless I made it.   And then I reinvented myself after I’d been thrown out of the studio, three or four times like that.  You just keep doing it.

 

LMD:  People have been asking for years about a Love at First Bite sequel.  Any progress?

GH:  We’re doing a sequel to that, it’s called Love at Second Bite; Batrimony.  It’s like Birdcage meets Meet the Parents.  It’s a very cute movie and we’re working on the script right now.  We’re gonna see how it goes because we’re not trying to make it so much a sequel, because in a way since Twilight there’s a whole modern version of what the vampire is, and I want to observe that because it’s a whole new history, but I want my character to be absolutely the same guy facing this modern world still.  His son is a sort of perennial student in California and he doesn’t want to acknowledge his father, Dracula, at all and he’s getting married into a family of televangelists. {Laughs} He met this girl that he’s in love with who’s a zoologist in a cave somewhere; he was a bat in this cave in South America.  So now, Dracula’s forced himself to come to Hollywood for this big wedding and bring all of his relatives who are pretty ridiculous people.  There’s a wonderful scene at the bachelor party in a strip club, it’s great stuff.  So, we’re working on developing that right now.

 

LMD:  Both your big comedies were ahead of their time: Love at First Bite made Dracula a handsome romantic hero, now pretty vampire boys are everywhere.  Zorro the Gay Blade gave us an out of the closet gay hero.  Did you know then how well they would stand up today?

GH:  I think things hit you in the air when an idea’s time has come, and it isn’t you, you’re just a conduit.  If you’re sensitive enough, you pick it up and many people pick it up in advance.  All these reality shows, I got it early and had an idea for a reality show before they happened and I didn’t do it at the time, but I think it’s because when you’re in this business long enough, you kind of get an idea of where a trend is going or a feeling is going and you grab onto it.  I went to see Inglourious Basterds.  I mean, Quentin is such a violent, wonderful crazoid, but he did in many ways such a well-crafted, detailed film.  Only Quentin would wanna go and make it almost into a comic book hit.  And also the idea that Hitler (*spoilers*) died; well, we know that’s absurd, so it took the credibility away from that.  I don’t know it’s so him and I wish they’d left it with some twists that were hidden – they got out and Brad Pitt kills the guy because he welshes on the deal, but I guess that’s banal.  And of course, Quentin put that music in there that’s all very modern – Bowie and stuff - and I’m going “Whoa.”  We’re not listening to Marlene Dietrich in that period.  I’m purist in that way, and so I want if the two eras come against each other, they gotta come against each other their era purely.  In other words, Dracula has to come in his era; he doesn’t understand his era, he’s trying to get hip, but he doesn’t get it and the kid is completely divorced from it.  He’s not of it, he doesn’t wanna know it.  And I wanted so much for when the character is dancing in the movie, that he would be dancing something out of 1500, a minuet, and making her dance to a dance she never danced with.  Instead it looked like he was at the high school prom, doing a high school prom dance.  But that’s me, and I’m thinking, “Well, Quentin’s got it right. What am I doing?”

The producing, you get the chance to make things your way.  My One and Only, I didn’t, I backed out of this because I wanted it to be warts and all.  I wanted it to be as other people saw it from the material, not from me trying to force the way my mother was down other people’s throats, you know?  And the director {Richard Loncraine} got it, the writer got it, but then to see Logan Lerman give a wonderfully sensitive performance with every emotion that I actually felt as a kid, and for Renée to do what she did, which is not my mother - because that is not my mother in looks – but she got the emotions right and that’s a great actress.  She deserves an award, she’s so good.

 

LMD:  What do you think audiences will take away from My One and Only?

GH:  I think there’s several incredible things:  One, what a mother would do to keep a family together, including loveless marriages and how strong that bond is.  What kids to do protect their mother when there’s no father involved.  There’s an amazing plethora of emotional things that {Renée} was able to do and the director was able to bring an audience into, because that’s what will make this picture be remembered.  And when it gets to TV, I predict this will be one of the most rented/played movies, because it is so good.  It’s so very good and I wouldn’t be pushing it because I have my own agenda in life and other things to do, but I said, “Yeah, I really believe in this movie.  I believe in the performances.”  My mother had this sense of optimism that believed that if you were born, you were also divinely supported, like a tree is gonna have flowers, and she always said that poor was a state of mind that people had and it was all around them.  Broke was just a bad hand in a poker game. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  Any advice for your son, Ashley, as he gets ready to defend the Hamilton family honour on Dancing with the Stars?

GH:  Well, on Dancing with the Stars, I told him to get a Red Bull.  I said, “That will get you through a minute and fifty-five seconds of dancing.”  Then I said, “The next thing is you find a very attractive girl and flirt with her.  Don’t get serious about all the dancing, just flirt as much as you can.”  And he’s got Edyta {Sliwinska}, who will do everything for him.  She said to me, “My little prince, don’t worry about a thing.  I’ll spin you.  You can turn me, I can be there.  I’ll make you look good!”  I know that woman can change a tractor tire, should could have a baby, and dance all at the same time.  She’s a Polish whiz and he’s dancing with her, which is just amazing.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

August 18th, 2009

 

 

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive Photos by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Herrick Entertainment

 

 

 

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