Jordan Rhodes Interview

Jordan Rhodes: Landscape With Figures

Jordan Rhodes imageJordan Rhodes is the epitome of a character-actor, blending in with subtle precision and skill in both television and film roles. He’s appeared in movies ranging from “Mr. Majestyk” (1974) to Sean Penn’s directorial debut “The Indian Runner” (1991); and an eclectic assortment of projects before, after, and in-between. He is currently portraying iconic American author Ernest Hemingway in the play “Ernest Hemingway on Stage”.


Charles Bronson imageHow was it working with Charles Bronson?
This was the first time I had met or worked with Charlie. He was certainly a loner. It appeared that his wife and kids were his center of focus. We had very little conversation on a social level but he was an absolute professional to work with as long as you did your job.

How about Al Lettieri?
Al Lettieri imageI not only got to know Al but we became casual friends. He was a terrific actor and fun to work with. I thought he was a great guy and he could really be funny and charming even as intense as he was. One morning we had to drive to a remote location where a plane was going to land and Lee Purcell’s character was going to meet Al. Al and Charlie were scheduled for a big fight scene that same morning. On location, the group of actors working that day always travel together in cars or sometimes by bus.

Al had talked one of the crew members into letting him drive a car to the location. At the location nobody could find Al. So, a search was started by backtracking the route we had taken to the location. A few miles back on the road, one of the assistant directors saw a small bar tucked back into the woods and upon investigating he found the car that Al was driving.

Obviously the bar was closed at this time of morning, we’re talking 7 to 8 AM, but Al had convinced the owner who happened to live in the back of the bar to open up for him. When the a.d. walked in and saw Al sitting at the bar having a large drink with a couple of raw eggs in it, he asked Al what the hell did he think he was doing? Everyone was on the set waiting for him! Al turned around, looked at the a.d. and replied, “Am I not entitled to have breakfast”? He finished his drink of breakfast and followed the a.d. to the set. Al was a hell-of-a-guy.

Linda Cristal?
Linda, as I’m sure all her fans are aware, is a stunningly beautiful woman. From the first day we met, we got along very well. She enjoyed playing canasta and on location she didn’t like to go out very much, so I would join her in her room after dinner and we would play canasta. Once the word got around the set that I was spending some time with her in the evenings, the “rumor mill” started that we were having a liaison.

As a gentleman, I would never address or even discuss this “rumor” and we both had a laugh at the whispers and obvious imaginations running wild. To this day, I confirm that we both enjoyed each others company and enjoyed playing cards together. She was a very classy lady and in my opinion, an excellent actress. I enjoyed meeting her and having a very friendly relationship.

Paul Koslo?
Paul and I had said hello a few times at Universal Studios where I was lucky enough to work a lot. Mr. Majestyk was the first time we had ever worked together. Paul is a good actor to work with; he always brings something to the “picnic”. We both enjoy playing the guitar and singing. Paul would get up and sing anywhere. I had a Woody Guthrie song book that he really liked, so I gave it to him as a gift.

Any memories of the shootout/breakout scene?
As most actors, I enjoy the opportunity to do action scenes. The shootout was one of my favorite scenes in the film. The precision with which the stunt coordinator and the stunt men & women perform their work is truly amazing. I don’t believe this group ever gets enough credit for the enjoyment they bring to the audience.

The scene where I roll out of the car and the trunk lid blows up and off was right on target. The stunt coordinator asked the director how high he wanted the trunk to go, and that’s how high it went. Of course the shooting sequence was pretty intense and later back in Hollywood, when I had to go into the dubbing room and try and match up the dialogue, it was a fair amount of work. This is a process the public doesn’t know much about – “looping your lines from the action scenes”.


How was Sean Penn as a director?
Sean is not only a great actor, but he is one hell of a director. After he gets what he wants from a scene, he’ll ask you if there’s something you want to do with the scene that you haven’t done. I believe he gets some of this from his dad, director Leo Penn. Sean’s dad really put my career “on the map”.

I’ve known the family for years and Sean’s mom, Eileen, is my daughter’s God-mother. I’m proud to say that I had a small part in the early success and beginning of Sean’s career, which he’s given me credit for, both in an early Rolling Stone interview and the book written about him.

Your character “Randall” is a very nice guy who’s not treated nicely by the characters in the film – is there a reason for this?
It’s the way Sean and I discussed playing the character. Because he’s older than David Morse’s character and is still the “deputy”, we wanted him to be just a “bubble off the plum”, a nice guy that is very capable of doing his job but was never taken very seriously by Viggo and David’s characters. It’s a shame so much of the film had to be cut, because there were many scenes that showed this “funny quirky” side of Randall.

How was it working with Viggo Mortenson?
Viggo was very good to work with. He would discuss scenes with you and we talked a good deal about certain approaches he was taking for his character. A couple of our scenes together were edited out of the film. I like his work a lot and believe he should have won the Oscar for “Eastern Promises”.

How about David Morse?
David is very easy to work with. He always gives you something to work with in the scene. He’s a very giving actor. We’ve seen each other a couple of times since the film and I would love to work with him again. Sean had scolded me for not contacting David when he had his series and asking him to find a character for me on the show. During the interview for Indian Runner, Sean told me David had asked him to give me the role of Randall; of course Sean had already made his decision to cast me in the role.

And working with Charles Bronson again?
Charlie had experienced a lot of tragedy during those 20 years: he’d lost his beloved wife Jill Ireland to cancer and two of his sons had died tragically. I didn’t know if Charlie would remember working with me or not and I was pleasantly surprised when he did. The producer of the film, Thom Mount and Sean had asked me for some insight about Charlie based on working with him. I told them Charlie could seem a bit “distant”, but as an actor he always gave a 100 percent. I had left a note for Charlie upon his arrival, expressing my sympathy about his loss and welcoming him to the set.

I was knocked out over when the producer picked me up with his car and driver the day of Charlie’s arrival and while driving me to the set, the producer thanked me for welcoming Charlie. Since it was a private note I had left for Charlie, I asked Thom (the producer) how did he know about the note. Thom told me Charlie wouldn’t stop talking about it on the way to the set that morning. When I arrived on set, Charlie came over to me, greeted me, we shook hands and talked for a while. We had a number of conversations during the filming and I could see the change in Charlie. He was still a loner, but much more outgoing and social than all those years before. I had occasion to run into Charlie a couple of times before he passed away and he was always very kind to me and my wife on those occasions.


How was it acting alongside Karl Malden?
As the viewers and fans of Streets of San Francisco will remember, Karl always wore a raincoat whenever he was out on the Streets. One very warm day we had just started shooting a scene on the Streets, on location, and even though it was getting late and we were starting to lose the sun, it was hot and I noticed that the make-up people had to keep patting Karl’s make-up from the sweat. I turned to him during one of the breaks, and said, “It’s kind of warm in that coat isn’t it?” He just looked at me and nodded knowingly. We had to wrap for the day and got the call to return to the location the next morning so we could finish the shot.

The next morning we both arrived at the location from our wardrobe truck, me in my suit, shirt and tie, and Karl, once again in his famous raincoat. I don’t know how many people have spent September in San Francisco, but in the mornings, sometimes it’s very cold. This morning, it was very cold. I was standing there in my suit, with no overcoat – because I had not established one in the scene we had started to shoot the previous day, and I was freezing! While we were waiting for the cameras to roll, Karl looked over at me, all comfortable in his overcoat, tugged the collar up around his neck and said, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it”. Obviously that’s the last time I ever kidded him about wearing his overcoat.


Tell us about the play “Hemingway on Stage” where you play the title role…
If anyone takes the opportunity to visit the site, they will see what the critics and the press have written about this play, and be able to read the various comments from a variety of people. My friend and writing partner, Ken Vose, is a real Hemingway aficionado so we are able to bring a lot of esoteric information about Hemingway to this play. I believe we also got lucky. I think we brought the right amount of character to the play, and were able to structure the play in such a way that the audience never knows what’s coming next and thoroughly enjoys the information we give them about Hemingway; information that isn’t found in every book about Hemingway.

We’ve been invited to bring the play to Broadway but haven’t been able to find the funds as of yet. There is now talk about taking the play into Chicago, which is a lot less costly than going into New York. If I had a wish, it would be that I could reach out to at least 24,000 fans of Hemingway and make each one of them a partner in this play for ten dollars, then we would take the play into Chicago and make it possible for thousands more theatre goers to have this theatrical experience. A Final Note: This play will make a terrific interesting, informative and entertaining film.

Interview by James M. Tate


Jordan Rhodes Official Site

“Hemingway on Stage” Site

Facebook fan pages for:

Mr. Majestyk

The Indian Runner

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