The veteran actor discusses his star-making role in the original Greek mythology film, now available on Blu-Ray
With fans extremely excited for the April 2nd release of Clash Of The Titans, the new 3D remake of the classic '80s Greek mythology film starring Sam Worthington, it only makes sense that the original movie, Clash Of The Titans, starring Harry Hamlin would now finally be released on Blu-Ray, beginning March 2nd. Besides playing the hero Perseus in the groundbreaking film the actor is probable best known for his role as attorney Michael Kuzak on the hit '80s show LA Law and being named People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1987. Most recently both Hamlin and his wife, former Melrose Place actress Lisa Rinna, have been featured as contestants on the very popular Dancing With The Stars and are currently shooting a reality TV series based on their life together. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Harry Hamlin while he was taking a break on the set of his new show to talk about the Blu-Ray release of Clash Of The Titans, shooting the film, what it means to him personally and the upcoming remake. Here is what the busy actor had to say:
After appearing in "Clash Of The Titans" did you have any problems with typecasting or receiving different kinds of scripts and how did you ultimately deal with that?
Harry Hamlin: Well I did after LA Law get a lot of lawyer parts offered to me but there are very few toga movies made out there. A lot of big actors who are out there at my age all had their toga movies that they made back then when I was that age and in 90% of the cases they all went away, they all disappeared and you don't remember the "Tom Cruse toga movie" or the "Richard Gere toga movie" anymore. But somehow for some reason you remember Clash Of The Titans. It seems to have had these legs that went on and on and on. Even now that its some thirty odd years later its back. Like I said a lot of these guys have they're toga movies but no one remembers them. But somehow mine sort of lives on. And now they're doing a remake in 3D so obviously its drumming up a lot of renewed interest in the old movie, which is now out on Blu-Ray in combination with the new Clash Of The Titans film that's coming out.
When you made "Clash Of The Titans" it was before the term "franchise" had really been coined in Hollywood and before series like "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and "Superman" films really changed the way movies are made so when you were shooting this film did you think that it would have such a lasting affect on pop-culture the way that it has and what do you think is the films ultimate legacy?
Harry Hamlin: You know that's an interesting question. The word franchise at that time had never been applied to movies. That was before the official word franchise had ever been used because Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope I guess was one of the first franchises. Then on the heels of that came Raiders Of The Lost Arc and I think they made a few more Jaws films so Spielberg was kind of involved with the first kind of franchise film movement. But at that time it was still sequels, you know. If you did a movie they did a sequel to it. No one was speaking about it as being a four or five movie deal. With Clash Of The Titans certainly no one thought of it as being the beginning of a franchise because the producers had done several movies in their lives that had been quite famous but none that had inspired multiple movies. I think Jason and The Argonauts had a few rip-offs after that. I know for a fact that I did not think of Clash Of The Titans as being the beginning of series of films. I never thought of it that way and I'm afraid that I pissed the producers off so much during the making of the movie the film that they never would have used me anyway if they had done a multiple series of films.
They were mostly angry with me because I refused to do a worldwide publicity tour that was to kick the film off on its opening. The only reason why I refused to do it was because they wanted the kick-off party to be in Johannesburg, South Africa. I happened to be on a committee of anti-apartheid activist actors and apartheid at that time was a very under appreciated issue. It was very early on in the anti-apartheid movement and I just said to the producer, I'm sorry but I cannot go to South Africa to celebrate this film when I'm on this committee of anti-apartheid actors. I said I'd go anywhere else in the world that they want me to go but I could not go there and they said well, "If your not going to South Africa then we are canceling the tour." I don't think, well I never spoke to the producer again. That was it. But that was one of a multiple of things that happened on the set that created friction between the producers and me.
The other of which was that they wanted me to kill Medusa in apparently a different way and I quit the film when they told me the way they wanted me to do it, so I quit half way through. That caused a little friction with them. But as far as it being a franchise movie, no and I certainly didn't expect it to live on as it has lived on over the years. I thought it would come and go especially because there was an owl in it named Bubo and the only other definition for Bubo in the English language is that of a "bleeding, lymph node that appears under the arm that grows the bubonic plague."
Obviously the new "Clash Of The Titans" will utilize a lot of CGI effects that were not available when you made the first film, do you think it's a good idea for Hollywood to go back and re-invent these classic films with modern effects or do you think part of the magic of the original is the lo-tech effects that force the audience to use more of their imagination?
Harry Hamlin: Well I don't know that I have a positive or a negative opinion about that. When Clash Of The Titans came out there had been some embryonic CGI in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and I think they used it somewhat in Raiders Of The Lost Arc, which we opened against on the same day by the way. You know people were getting accustomed to CGI even in its infancy. We were I think moving away from stop-motion and into this new world of computer generated animation. I think you know that it is a matter of taste. Now of course the appetite is really only for CGI and I think people who do stop-motion are considered a relic and it gets appreciated as a relic but I don't think it's considered current. It'll be very interesting to see Clash Of The Titans using CGI and all the new technology. I think Sam Worthington is a great young actor and I'm hoping that he uses the same sort of Joseph Campbell template of the hero as he created the part because I think it's important to follow the hero's journey even in an updated version of this and I'm pretty sure he will.
Looking back on "Clash Of The Titans," it was such a big film for you both professionally and personally as it was really the film that made you a star, not to mention that you met the mother of your son on the film, so I was wondering if you could talk about the importance of the movie to you both in your life and career and are you looking forward to owning a copy on Blu-Ray for you and your family to watch and keep forever?
Harry Hamlin: Well one of these days I'll pick up a blu-ray player then I'll be able to watch it on blu-ray. I don't own one yet but I'm always a little bit behind in the times when it comes to that kind of technology. I wait for all the kinks and stuff to be ironed out and I haven't gotten one yet.
You know it was the fifth film I had made and I was kind of renascent about it. I wanted to do a movie at the time that was called Tristan & Isolde that Richard Burton was in. I was offered that, Kate Mulgrew played Isolde. A guy named Nicholas Clay played Tristan and he had wanted to do Clash Of The Titans and it just so happened we ended up doing the opposite things than we wanted to do. I thought the Clash Of The Titans script was a little hokey myself and I spent a lot of time trying to dust it up with the producers and the director. There was considerable friction around that. Also I wanted to meet Laurence Olivier, he was a huge hero of mine. I guess Maggie Smith was married at the time to the writer of the movie and Maggie called up Laurence Olivier and asked Olivier if he would do her a favor? He said yes and they were able to get Claire Bloom. From that they were able to get the rest of the cast that they got. So I think they were all doing it because they had multiple mouths to feed? But the movie did end up having a real impact on a whole generation of kids who loved the movie and to this day are still kind of die hard fans of it. You know I think it was an important moment for sure and wow it was a really fun movie to make. It's one of those toga movies that lives on, a lot of actors would rather have their toga movies disappear and kind of drift away into the fog but this one didn't.
And yes you're right. I met Ursula (Andress) on the set and she is the Mother of my son Demetri who, you know, is a huge part of my life. So there you go, I mean, how much more impactful can a movie be than to have it be the genesis of your progeny.
Since making special effects heavy films was still a relatively new process when you made this movie, can you talk about how you dealt with that as an actor back then and was it awkward reacting to something that was not there when you were acting?
Harry Hamlin: Well I mean the process is we use our imagination for that. It's just like when we were kids and we played as monsters, enemy soldiers or something like that. In the back yard you imagine that they are there. You're just using the same muscle that you used when you were a child imagining your secret worlds and all of that. In the case of the giant scorpions though, Ray Harryhausen (producer) had a big tiff over that because I thought, hey wouldn't it be cool if one of these scorpions comes down and tries to sting me but I actually grab it's stinger with my left hand and then cut the thing off with my sword and he said, "No you can't do that it will never work." So just for fun while the camera was rolling I put my left hand up and I imagined that I was cutting off the tail of this scorpion and he was really pissed off at the end. The camera finished and he said, "What did you do that for?" I said, well you can cut it out if you want and I didn't see the big deal. It ended up being in the movie. There is this scene where I catch the tail of the scorpion and cut it off.
So you're just imagining it there and then back in the studio at Pinewood I was riding on an old barrel, an old oil drum, which was the horse with a green screen behind and a couple of fans blowing wind and stuff. They do the same thing today except I guess when James Cameron is doing a scene like that he's got you all attached up to these monitors and the wind is all computer animated and everything so it's a different story today than it was then. But still the process was unknown to me at the time. I had never done green screen work before and it had not been done that often in fact. So it was kind of interesting.
I understand that the original "Clash Of The Titans" is shown a lot in grade schools to teach kids about Greek mythology and I've also heard that some law schools actually show episodes of "LA Law" to help teach certain legal principles so how does it feel to know that your work is also being used as an educational tool.
Harry Hamlin: I know that's weird. A lot of kids watch Clash Of The Titans, in fact my eleven year-old who is in 6th grade just came home last week and said, "Dad we all watched Clash Of The Titans today in school." She said she was so embarrassed because it was her dad that they were watching. They showed the Medusa scene because they're studying Medusa right now. I though it was really odd. It was certainly odd for my eleven year-old who had to suffer through the indignity of having her father in this odd predicament.
But as far as LA Law goes I'm amazed that they would use a TV show in law school. But then again I was in New York one time during the show and a guy came up to me during the intermission of a Broadway play. He was a product liability lawyer and said, "Hey you know I just used you summation word for word from the show that you did like a month ago and a case you had and I'm so happy because your summation was great." The odd thing was that in the show I lost that case. It was one of the only cases that I ever lost in the five years that I was on LA Law and it was that product liability case. And this guy is coming up to me telling me that he used my summation from that case so there is irony in that. But its odd definitely odd that they would use that but I guess there are a lot of instructive things to take from film and television. I'm just amazed that they would ever use anything I did.
Finally, do you think you could beat Sam Worthington on "Dancing With The Stars?"
Harry Hamlin: Could I? No way! I couldn't beat anybody on Dancing With The Stars. Anything I did, as far as I got was all smoke and mirrors. I am not a dancer and there you go, there's the answer to that question.