When Stars Collide, Part Two: Fellini and Peckinpah

One's a straight-backed master of his craft, the other's a drunken auteur... but mutual respect made this meeting special. Even if Peckinpah was rat-arsed. More gold from the Jack magazine archive.
Publish date:
Updated on

James Coburn: "We were in Porta Rosa shooting Cross of Iron and every other weekend we had Saturday and Sunday off, and I would drive to Venice and stay in a hotel called Dela Venice. Sam was getting pretty weird towards the end of his life, and I thought he needed a weekend somewhere, because during the time off he would hole up in his hotel room and just get drunk and not get out of bed. I managed to get him in the car with the help of Katie - who was his girlfriend at the time - and after arriving at the hotel we had a little dinner. The following day we wanted to go out and buy Sam some clothes, because he was all out of clothes and we were going to pick him up in his room. Katie was ready but Sam was still in bed.

We knock on his door and Sam shouts, 'Get the hell away, goddammit. I'm gonna stay here. I'm not goin' shopping for clothes, for Christ's sweet sake.' So we left him there and Katie and I went down to the lobby of the hotel thinking, 'What the hell are we going to do with him?' When we arrived I saw Federico Fellini with a couple of other Italian filmmakers - the hotel catered for the Italian movie crowd. I'd met Fellini a couple of times in Rome so I went over and said, 'Hey, maestro, how are you?' and Fellini said, 'Oh si, si, good, good, what are you doing here?' I said, 'I'm over in Porta Rosa shooting a movie with Sam Peckinpah.' And Fellini says, 'Oh, a very good director I believe.' I said, 'Yes, would you like to meet him?' I thought it would lift Sam out of the doldrums, but Fellini was a bit hesitant. I said, 'Hey, c'mon, I'm sure Mr Fellini would love to meet Sam Peckinpah and I'm sure he would love to meet you.'

"They talked a little and I think Fellini kind of liked Sam, despite the unconventional way he was greeted. Although if I remember right, I think he got out of there pretty fast."

So we go up to Sam's room and we pound on the door. No reply. Katie had a key so she opened the door, and Peckinpah shouts, 'Whaddaya want, dammit?' and I shout, 'Sam, there is somebody here who wants to meet you.' He shouts back, 'Who in the hell is it, goddammit, what the hell is wrong with you? Can't a man get some goddam peace in this terrible place?' I can see Sam is lying flat down on the bed in his shorts and T-shirt, several discarded bottles on the floor. I look at Fellini, and he is looking pretty nervous by this time. But I say to him, 'It's OK, go and say hello.' So Fellini slowly walks into Sam's room, avoiding the debris, and Sam is just flat out with his arms spread wide. Fellini slowly makes his way to the bed and kneels down and touches Peckinpah lightly on the hands.

After a minute or so, Sam begins to stir and opens his eyes, and he sees Fellini sat at his bedside. Sam suddenly sits up and tries to straighten himself. He looks like a child for a moment and just stares at Fellini and says, 'Oh, Mr Fellini, thank you for all those wonderful films you've given us.' He seemed so full of joy to see this man he so admired. Well, when I heard Sam say that and saw his eyes light up I just laughed, and so did Katie. Fellini didn't know what to think, he just said he was very flattered. They talked a little and I think Fellini kind of liked Sam, despite the unconventional way he was greeted. Although if I remember right, I think he got out of there pretty fast."

Click here for more People stories

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook