David Hemmings On Sinatra, DiCaprio And Jane Fonda

Jack was the last magazine to interview this much-missed man of the Sixties. So raise a glass to the Blowup star as he celebrates the lives of Richard Harris and Oliver Reed, and pours scorn on 'lightweight' Russell Crowe
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Jack was the last magazine to interview this much-missed man of the Sixties. So raise a glass to the Blowup star as he celebrates the lives of Richard Harris and Oliver Reed, and pours scorn on 'lightweight' Russell Crowe

Oliver Reed - Oh, Oliver - so many stories. We made three films together and each was a wonderful adventure. One thing I'll say about Oliver, you never wanted to do a fight scene with him because he could be very rough. We were shooting The Prince And The Pauper and our very first scene together involved him beating me up in the back of a carriage. To make things even worse, I'd recently nicked his bird. So anyway, we went for a take, the director Richard Fleischer shouted "Action!" and the next thing I knew, I was out of the carriage, running at full pelt with Oliver not too far behind! Then on another occasion, we were meant to have a little scuffle and he ended up ripping the front of my shirt off. He looked down at the torn material, smiled and then roared "Excellent!" God, he was wonderful. And the day he died... well, it still upsets me today. I'd just returned to the hotel in Gozo where we were both staying and the producers took me to one side. It was terrible, terrible. I do miss Oliver. You don't meet too many like him in a life. It was a privilege to call him a good friend.

Jane Fonda - Jane was a great girl - lots of fun and not bad looking as I'm sure you've noticed. The film we made together, Barbarella, was insane. It's the sort of film that could only be made in the Sixties. I liked the director Roger Vadim who was lucky enough to be married to Jane at the time. He was quite content for us to do as we pleased. So when I had to make up a password at one point, I whispered to Jane that it was Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. She went, "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?" And I said, ".Yes, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch" All that, and I was on set the day she did her famous striptease, plus I got to play a character called Dildano - absolutely crazy!

Michelangelo Antonioni- I've always been grateful to Antonioni for taking a chance on me with Blowup. He'd originally hired Terence Stamp, who was a massive star at the time, but that didn't work out so he gave the gig to me. It was a brave move. Richard Harris couldn't stand the man. When they were making The Red Dessert, Richard got so pissed off with Antonioni that he laid him out cold. If you watch that film, you'll notice that whenever you see Richard, he's usually got his back to camera. That's because they had to use a double - Richard walked off set and went to America to make Major Dundee with Charlton Heston.

I wasn't having any of that, so I had a word with the grips. Within 20 minutes, they'd constructed a makeshift bridge, which meant that Dennis and I could now walk straight over to the pub, have a skinful and stagger back to the set in time for afternoon filming.

Leonardo DiCaprio - I didn't care for DiCaprio. We were making Gangs Of New York in Rome and I was enjoying a nice chat with Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis when he came over and moved his chair to another part of the set. No "Hello" or "How are you?" I thought that was terribly rude and told him as much. Actually, I told him in a few more words than that. Manners don't mean much to some people, sadly. Did I call him the only actor I've actively disliked? Yes I did and I stand by that.

Richard Harris - I loved Richard Harris - a real great. You've never met a person with so much personality. One of my fondest memories of Richard was bumping into him on my first day on Gladiator. He said, "David! How the devil are you? Had lunch with O'Toole yesterday. I said to him 'Peter - chaps like us, after all we've done, we should all be dead, shouldn’t we?'" I looked at him and said, "But, Richard, we already are!"

The A-Team - In the Eighties, I made so few films that a lot of people assumed I was dead. But I wasn't - I was making The A-Team. I directed a lot of American TV shoes - Magnum PI, Murder She Wrote, Quantum Leap, the pilot for Airwolf. The A-Team was my favourite because the chaps were so much fun. George Peppard knew how to tell a story and always had good cigars to hand. Dirk Benedict was every bit the ladies man as his character. And Mr T was genuinely tough. He'd boxed, wrestled, studied martial arts and played American football, and he'd worked as a bouncer and a bodyguard. I remember him once saying in an interview that he was the best bodyguard in the business because he wasn't scared of pain. "Next to God, nobody is a better protector that I," he was fond of saying.

Frank Sinatra - I played Sinatra's manager in The Night We Called It A Day, a movie about his disastrous tour of Australia during the Seventies. I was an appropriate choice I suppose because I actually met Sinatra. Only once, but it was a memorable occasion because it was the night he recorded 'My Way'. I was friendly with his daughter Nancy and she asked whether I'd like to go to the studio to see her father at work. Coming from Guildford, where you don't get many singing stars, I jumped at the chance. I can't say I remember him saying much - just a few pleasantries. But then he went into that booth and recorded one of the most famous songs in the world. Even at the time you knew this was special. Everyone in the business has their Sinatra story. I have mine and it's a bloody good one.

Donald Pleasence - I made a couple of films with Donald, neither of which was memorable except for the good times we had away from filming. He was a nice bloke who enjoyed a drink like my good self. One time, we were filming in Surrey and we noticed this lovely pub across the way from the location - the sort of place to spend a long, lazy, liquid lunch. Unfortunately, it was on the other side of a stream. To get there, you had to walk half a mile to a bridge. I wasn't having any of that, so I had a word with the grips. Within 20 minutes, they'd constructed a makeshift bridge, which meant that Dennis and I could now walk straight over to the pub, have a skinful and stagger back to the set in time for afternoon filming. When movie people say British technicians are the best in the world it's because of that sort of ingenuity.

Dario Argento

Argento was another crazy Italian. Making Deep Redwas one of the weirder experiences of my career. I can't say I ever really understood the film. The script was pretty baffling and I wasn't that much wiser after I attended the premiere. But you never feel like you're working when you're in Italy. And thanks to Argento every day was different - he really knew how to keep you on your toes.

Michael Caine - It's odd that Michael and I didn't make a film together until 2001. Most people would assume we'd have crossed swords in the Sixties. The film that finally brought us together, Last Orders, was a belter, mind - a story about a group of friends carrying out their old mate's last wish, to have his ashes scattered into the sea at Margate. After that and Gladiator, I'd ceased to be a memory - I was a working actor again. And what a joy of a film it was to make, what with so much of it being set in pubs. You were never short of a good chat either with guys like Michael, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay and Ray Winstone around. A lot of the film takes place in a car, and when you have a bunch of actors like that together, each trying to top the others' anecdotes, you've an entertaining day on your hands. It was good to be out on location, too. You'd be surprised how many pubs there are between London and Margate.

Russell Crowe - A lot of people talk about Russell Crowe being an old-fashioned hellraiser. Pah! He wouldn't have lasted five minutes with the likes of me, Oliver Reed and Richard Harris in our pomp. Back in those days, it wasn't uncommon for lunch to consist of five or six pints, a couple of bottles of wine and a drop or two of the hard stuff. That was an ordinary day for us. Some of these blokes today, they wouldn't have been able to keep pace with us for an afternoon, let alone a night on the town. We'd be swaggering from pub to pub while they'd be sat in the gutter, crying like babies.

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