RICHARD HARRIS (1)
Par Prairie Miller.
Looking more like an apparition from his latest movie
Harry Potter than Richard Harris himself, the rambunctious
actor seemingly floated into the room in a long wine red cloak and dangling locks of white hair framing his animated facial expressions. But there was no doubt that I'd be in for a highly unusual rendezvous when I caught a glimpse of his scruffy running shoes peeking out from beneath the regal cloak.
Projecting an image that was part princely wizard and part bagman, Harris dove quickly into more serious territory, such as why Harris went for Harry, despite his own most adamant reservations. It turned out, according to the thespian vet, to have something to do with ultimately accepting an offer he couldn't refuse, due to a child's spell cast over him of nearly Harry Potteresque proportions. In other words, Harris revealed himself during this interview to be not such a man's man that a little lady can't still twist the big bloke around her finger. Harris also spouted some homespun philosophy about the pub battlefields that have come and gone in his admittedly boisterous life.
RICHARD HARRIS: I see you're recording this, so I'll have to behave myself. Well look, before you turn your tape
recorder on, let me say this.... #%&*$#!! Okay, no more of that. Carry on.
It may be a little more difficult after that, but here goes. How do you feel about complaints from your co-stars that they're not being paid fairly for their work in Harry Potter?
RH: Oh really? I didn't know that. Well, they paid me very well, I must tell you. I will say this. I may have to do the whole lot of these Harry Potter movies. But I think Robbie Coltrane's agent is better than mine, because he's got a choice to do as many of them as he wants. But I have to do the lot. And I agreed to do them all for free. But I wanted two and a half percent of the royalties from the merchandising. And they told me, we'll pay you any money you like, but you're not getting any piece of the picture! But hang on now. The thing in England is this. If you do a picture in England with an English equity contract, your salary includes a residual buyout. And that would have nothing to do with Warner Bros. That's the law. That's England.
I also heard they cyber-scammed you for the video
game, so you won't get any piece of that.
RH: No, not a thing.
What made you want to do Harry Potter for free?
RH: Two and a half percent! That's two and a half percent of the merchandising. They're anticipating 700 million in profits. That's two and a half percent of 700 million. C'mon, quick, quick!
The money aside, what particular sorcery lured you
into the Harry Potter movie?
RH: I didn't want to do the pictures. I never read the books, and I never will read the books. It's not my kind of reading. But the script was super. So I said okay, I'll do it. And then came the rough part. Which was, if you do one, you've got to do them all. So I said no to it. I turned it down.
What made you change your mind?
RH: My granddaughter. She was eleven then. And she's a Harry Potter fanatic. She read in the papers that all the actors in the world were queuing up to do it, but that Richard Harris won't do it. Typical Harris, they said. Anyway, she rang me up and told me that if I didn't go and play Dumbledore in the movie, that she'd never speak to me again. And since it meant an awful lot to her, I said okay, I'll do it. But acting is perfect, it only lasts about ten weeks. Then I have the rest of the time to go to the pub, and have free time.
So was that a good career move, or what?
RH: I don't know. What's a good career move at my age? I mean, I'm at the pinnacle of my decline!
Do you ever worry that your very provocative observations
about the movie world might come back to bite you on the butt?
RH: Hey, I've done that all my life. And I'm still working. I'm still in demand, and I've done that all my life. I've said exactly what I feel like saying. Wait a minute, what did I say that was naughty?
You know, that comment about Tom Cruise.
RH: Oh that...Okay, yeah. But I'm sorry, I don't mix in my profession at all. My mates have got nothing to do with acting, directing, or those lovie dovies in the English theater. I don't hate them, I just don't want to be around them. It's not my life. I make a movie, I love to act, and I like being an actor. But I don't like the acting profession, or the people associated with it. That's all. And they're probably very happy to be without me in their company as well.
Because I can be very rude... Now, what was your question?
It was about Tom Cruise.
RH: Oh yes! Look here, my first movie that I did, was with James Cagney. Now, wasn't he a huge star? Well, he came to Dublin himself. And there weren't fifty-five bodyguards, and there wasn't a private jet. He didn't have his dietician. He didn't have his psychiatrist to motivate him. He didn't have his makeup artist or his hairdresser. He came on his own. On my second picture, Bob Mitchum, the same thing. My third picture, Gary Cooper, all huge stars, same thing.
What goes on now is so stupid. It's like creating importance around themselves. On the other hand, I like a guy that a lot of people don't like here in the States. And that's Russell Crowe. A down to earth guy. When I was finishing up on Gladiator, Russell and I kind of hung around together. He'd come to my pubs, he'd walk in, sit down, no fuss. He took me to his pubs, the Australia pubs in London, no fuss. That's what I like. And I hope he stays like that. And that's why people don't like Russell in Hollywood. He says what he feels, and he doesn't play the game. He's really from my generation, from the O'Toole, Harris and Burton generation. You know, no bull.
Maybe that was a different time. Actors would fly
alone to Dublin, but you didn't have planes flying into buildings back then.
RH: Ah, listen up. Sorry. Do you actually mean to tell me that if somebody wants to kill Tom Cruise, that they would get through fifty bodyguards? That's crap. And let me tell you something else. When Russell Crowe walked into my local pub in London, there was no fuss. If he walked in with eight bodyguards, there'd be a fuss. He would draw attention. He would aggravate people. There'd be a rout. You're inciting it yourself. You're inciting an importance. And now these actors who surround themselves with bodyguards, they're all mini-talented for a start. And now they all have opinions about world politics. Give us a break! Read a script!
Speaking of scripts, somebody should make a movie about the lot of you.
RH: I don't think anyone would finance it. And I wouldn't give 'em the rights. No, no. I wouldn't even write my autobiography.
RH: I've been offered fortunes for it, but no. You know, you've got to write about all the women you've been with. They're all grandmothers now. But sexuality between two people is private. You don't capitalize on it and make money out of it, just to show what a great ladies man you were. You don't do that. I think people who do that, I hope the money burns in their pocket. I don't need that. I wouldn't do that. And that's what they want when they ask you to do it. They'll tell you, we want to know, give us the lot. No, no. I won't do that. I'll tell you, I'm a great man about my freedom. That's why I really have to suffer this Warner Bros. thing. Because I don't like authority, and I don't like having to ask somebody's permission to do something. That's why the only two times I've been miscast in my life, was in my two marriages. I'm not a good husband. I hate to be told, you're late for dinner. Excuse me, you have dinner. I may not be here. Where will you be? I have no idea. And if you're not here, I won't ask you where you are.
But you'd have some good stories to tell if you wanted to, right? Like your bedroom exploits.
RH: Ah, yes! I would have a lot of good stories to tell, but I'm not going to tell 'em. Even now, to you.
What goes through your mind when you get in an elevator, and MacArthur Park is playing?
RH: I pretend I'm deaf! It was too long. Seven minutes and twenty seconds. We were the first seven minute and twenty second record. We broke the four-minute barrier. Then the Beatles came along after, with Hey Jude. They went on and on repeating 'hey Jude,' just to beat us.
You don't seem to mind much right now, but do you
care what people will say about you when you're gone?
RH: Nope. I couldn't care less about reputations, not at all. For a start, I won't be around!
What about those ripping yarns we hear about you
movie star guys, are they true or fabricated?
RH: No, they're all true, I'm afraid. What surprises me is that we're still alive. We're still here to talk about it! O'Toole, I think he's a bit younger than I am. So he's not quite seventy, and I'm seventy-one. But it's a phenomenon that we're alive.
You mean after all your hard living?
RH: Oh Christ, yeah! You could fill the Titanic with what we've drank!
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