Ciclo Robert Woods | Entrevista exclusiva

Não acreditamos que haja por aí um único fã do western-spaghetti que não conheça um punhado dos filmes de Robert Woods, ele que foi um dos actores mais activos nos anos dourados do western europeu. Em pleno século XXI damos graças ás benditas redes sociais que nos permitiram chegar à fala com o actor, que amavelmente aceitou responder a algumas questões que nos ecoavam na cabeça e que agora partilhamos convosco. 

How does an American actor end up making Westerns in Europe?

I went to Paris on The Queen Elizabeth I, in the Winter of 1962, with an invitation to go to Rome to play the role of a priest, in Otto Preminger’s ‘The Cardinal’, in the Spring/Summer of ‘63… Arriving in Europe early with very little money in my pocket, I found a job dubbing films into English to sustain myself while I waited. When I finally settled in, I was asked to audition and was accepted into a repertory theater, called ‘The American Theater in Paris’. There, I continued to work Chekov’s ‘The Seagull’, a play that I had labored on for over a year at New York’s famed ‘Circle In The Square’. As a side story to remaining in Europe...one afternoon, while I was taking my lunch break from a dubbing studio near the Champs Elysee, I met the Internationally famous photographer, Helmut Newton, who asked me to do some photographic tests for him… Because of him, I was also blessed to become one of the highest paid male-models in France… I spent much time on location for this new job, working all over Europe… but I continued to work in the theater whenever I was back in Paris, my new home away from home… One Spring evening, Spanish producer/director, Alfonso Balcazar, was brought to the theater by my friend, actress Renata Benedict, to see me perform… After the curtain closed and I had taken my bow, Alfonso made his way back stage to offer me a contract to star in ‘El Rancho De Los Implacables’ (Arizona Gun), the first Paella/Spaghetti Western, as it turned out... It was to be filmed mainly at his newly built Western Village and studio in Las Plugas City, a suburb of Barcelona…. I actually turned it down…mainly because the money he was offering for it wasn’t satisfactory, given… Luckily, Alfonso was determined…and the following night he came back-stage again, but this time with a contract for five films…the money was exactly the same he had offered before for the first film, but it became clear to me that if was able to successfully do the first two in the contract there would be a pot of gold, the likes of which I had only dreamed of, waiting for me to star in the remainder of Alfonso’s films… so I accepted, flew to Spain the following week for a screen-test… and the rest is history…

I’ve read somewhere that the original ending for “My Name Is Pecos’ was quite different…the hero died in the end. This would be changed by the producers. Can you enlighten us about that fact?

Yes Pedro, we shot two endings to the first ‘Pecos’ film… The first one (where I died) they released, as I understand it, as a test in Naples. They say that the audience ripped up and threw their seats at the screen because they wanted Pecos to live…so they recalled the film and went with the other ending… re-releasing it to a very successful World run…

‘Pecos’ was most likely your most successful character in the genre. The movie would have an official sequel and the ‘Pecos’ trade mark would be used to capitalize audiences. ‘El Puro’, for example, was re-titled ‘Pecos Acerta As Contas’ in Brazil. Do you feel that this is the character that the Spaghetti-Western fans identify you with?

‘Pecos’ was surprisingly successful everywhere, Pedro, and fans everywhere loved it. But I starred in many films and it was my goal when I began acting, to play each role at least a little differently than the last, so I was never excited to be type-cast, or do the same character over and over again. Sequels were something I always thought of to do when there were no other options… Pecos was an exception…and I did the sequel because the second script had little to nothing to do with the first. I turned down the second McGregors because it was similar to the first and at the time I had more than my share of work… It has always been my belief and hope that my fans identify me with every character I played… It’s a lot more fun that way…

You have been in Venice in 2007 to present ‘ El Puro. This film has gained cult status over the years. Is it a film you were particularly proud of?

I liked ‘El Puro’, Pedro. Before they brought me to Venice in 2007, earlier that year, they presented it at the Torino Festival… I must admit, I didn't care for two cowboys kissing in it and objected heartily on the set… Because of the controversy, It was originally released without the kiss but they put it back in and I believe it obtained ‘cult’ status because of it… It wasn’t, to my knowledge, repeated until ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was shot many years later…

Despite not being credited, you had some responsibility in writing this El Puro. Did you give such input on any of the other films you starred in? 

I did, Pedro, but only if it was necessary to improve the final product. We saw the concept of ‘El Puro’ as the death and rebirth of a gunfighter… a kind of Buddhist Western. We did everything toward that end, until El Puro dies… The final scene which I had written…we ended up NOT shooting. It is the twentieth century. A dilapidated tour bus with all the characters in the piece, dressed as hippies, stops at a dusty, old, Western cemetery, next to the tomb-stone of El Puro… The bus driver, (I was going to ask my friend Clint Eastwood if he would do it as a favor to me, but I didn't because the producers liked the ending the way it was released), delivers a few words about the era, as we observe a close-up of each character… then the bus drives on, kicking up dust and disappearing into the sunset as the end titles run…

In Klimovski’s Challenge of the McKennas’ you played the villain. Some of your better known characters were antiheros…for example: ‘Black Jack’ and ‘El Puro’. These tortured minds fit you particularly well. Did you feel more comfortable doing these ‘tough guys’? 

I’m still crazy after all these years, Pedro, and although I was sometimes way over the top at the director’s requests, I love a creative departure from the norm. I truly have been comfortable in front of the camera with almost every role I have accepted to do…

Your ‘Black Jack’ was particularly fierce. The fight scens with Mimo Palmara are very realistic. They say that you declined stunt actors. Why? 

‘Black Jack’ was an example of one of those over the top ‘crazies’ many, in this case, Baldanello asked me to do. About the stunts…Mimmo [Palmara] and I have been friends since we shot ‘Black Jack’ in Italy and Israel. The major reason I always did all my own stunts, with the exception of horse-falls on rocks, was that I am six feet, four inches tall, thin as a post… it was truly difficult for me to find a stunt man. The truth however, was that I loved doing stunts, the fighting, the riding…all of it! It is after all, a ‘fierce’ gender of film and without the violence it would be just another dance…

You have played some light hearted cowboys too. In ‘Starblack’, you played a true classic hero. You even sang the theme. Is this something you do naturally?

After I did ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in Spain, one of the other actors in it (Steve Rowland) went off to England to become a record producer and flew me to London to audition. The head of Phillips, Jack Baverstock signed me to a contract as a country/western recording artist for Fontana Records (a division of Phillips). I recorded a single for him and was working on material for an album, when the starring role in Starblack came along… I flew to Rome and was immediately asked to write the lyric for and sing the theme for the movie. Music has always played an important part of my life. When I was very young, I was a big band singer and a jazz musician, playing trumpet and valve trombone…

In Europe, you worked with several Spanish and Italian film-makers. With most of them you have made more than one project. Was there one that was particularly important to you? 

If I accepted the work, it was all important to me. The directors who meant a lot to me in my career were Ken Anikin, Franco Giraldi, Paolo Bianchini, Edoardo Mulargia, Lina Wertmuller, Jesus Balcazar, Demofilo Fidani and a very special one that almost every actor in the Universe would have liked to have worked with: David Lean. I did Geraldine Chaplin’s test for ‘Doctor Zivago’, that he wonderfully and diligently directed… Favorite films that I was in: ‘Battle of the Bulge’, ‘Gatling Gun’, ‘Pecos’, ‘Seven Guns for the McGregors’,‘Black Jack’, ‘Four Dollars Worth of Vengeance’, ‘El Puro’, ‘A Colt in the Hand of the Devil’… and more… Actually I liked all but two of the ones I was in… and I refuse to tell you which two, but you might be able to guess…

Under Demofilo Fidani’s direction, you have starred in ‘His Name Was Sam Wallash, But They Call Him Amen’. Fidani has achieved cult status. How was it to work with him?

Apart from working together, Demofilo and his costume designer wife Mila were very special friends of mine… He was an happy, overgrown, hippy/ lots of fun to work with… Amen…

Many years have passed since the golden age of the European Western, but currently your movies continue to be rescued for the DVD format. Do you follow this trend? Do you try to re-watch them? 

I think it’s great to be reborn, Pedro, to watch events come full circle and I do follow this current trend, because it has miraculously allowed my career to achieve new life… yet I have only seen my films when they were first released and at the festivals. My friend, director Salvatore Silbergandio, has gone a step further and put the majority of them and a fan page up on Youtube/Myspace/Facebook, etc. I am always amazed and grateful for the current interest in them…

If you had to pick five memorable Spaghetti Westerns during that era, which ones would they be? 

I really liked the Terrance Hill/Bud Spencer comedy Westerns…and Clint’s films of course… that’s a bit more than five…

Your movie ‘Gatling Gun’ was referred by famed director Quentin Tarantino as one of his favorite Spaghetti Westerns. Do you think there is a window for the Westerns to comeback? 

I don’t believe that Westerns of any gender have ridden off into the sunset. There are always new television mini-series westerns and at least one film a year out of Hollywood… Like everything with history, the trend will continue to grow and diminish but never die.

With the decline of the genre in the seventies and some less interesting movies were released. Which one did you consider the least interesting? 

That’s a difficult question to answer, Pedro. I guess I’d have to say anything with plagiarized, dull and unoriginal material. But I really can’t answer that question adequately…

Spaghetti Westerns are always subject to many preconceptions. John Wayne and Anthony Mann strongly criticized the European way of doing Westerns, arguing that only Americans should make Westerns. Do you think that this prejudice still exists within the American public? 

I think that the prejudice was by and large a bit envy for the European neuvelle vaugue of innovative creativity…not to mention the natural collaboration among cast and crew that simply does not exist here in America, yet the Spaghetti Western has been accepted with open arms by the American public as an epic and historical genre. There is a surprising amount of incredible fans here…and the fan-base seems to be growing...

9 comentários:

  1. Excelent interview! It's a great honour having a spaghetti-western superstar in this blog.
    Robert Woods, if you're are reading this: Thank you very much!

  2. Great Job.
    Congratulations for this Interview.
    Bob Woods is a great man.

    1. Yes he is.

      Obrigado Edelzio.

      Pedro Pereira


  3. I just loved the interview, Pedro! Only today I had the opportunity to read it and i have to say it: Robert Woods is a gentleman! Thanks again, my friend1

  4. :)

    Pedro Pereira


  5. Fantástico Pedro. Todo un actor de culto para un sitio de culto!

  6. Robert es muy asequible y dispuesto. Y forma parte de la historia del western europeo. Se merecía realmente aparecer por aquí. Gran trabajo.

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