Thursday, July 22, 2010

"I think there's just a couple o' guys up there and this asshole is one of them!"

I had a conversation with a really good young actor the other day. At one point he mentioned that a young female actor — who'd had a recent decidedly brief and unfruitful stay in New York — told him that he should only do film. No TV, no stage, no nothing. Just film. I replied that while his friend was probably a perfectly nice young woman, she also happened to be a first-class dingbat.

Like being a working actor isn't impossible enough already. And isn't that the point after all? To, ya know, work? Well, the great (and sadly late) James Gammon seemed to think so. All he did was work. And work. And work.

In 1967, he did his first guest spot on TV — on The Wild Wild West and his first film, a little thing called Cool Hand Luke . Am I the only one who finds it completely awesome that on IMDb the credit right before Cool Hand Luke is Gammon's appearance in the original Batman series?

Its okay if I am.

Gammon did nearly every hour-long drama from The Virginian to Grey's Anatomy and was a series regular on Nash Bridges — that last bit makes me so jealous of my old friend Jodi O'Keefe, who got to play his granddaughter and hang out with him, that she and I can never have a normal conversation again.

James Gammon was such a sellout that all the poor bastard could do was be the muse for the greatest American playwright of the last fifty years. Sam Shepard repeatedly wrote plays with Gammon in mind. Over the years Gammons became the most reliable interpreter of Shepard's work, acting in Curse of the Starving Class, A Lie of the Mind, The Late Henry Moss — and the two shows I was lucky enough to see him in — Simpatico and the Broadway revival of Buried Child for which Gammon nabbed a Tony nomination for his spectacular turn as Dodge.

He was simply great on stage.

Oh — and he did a few more films as well. Most of you may love him most as manager Lou Brown in Major League and rightly so but he will always be Dawson from Silverado to me. Rent it and the title of this blog entry'll make sense. A close second is his great performance as Double D in Traveller.

James Gammon was a gifted acting lifer who was, by all accounts, a great co-worker and who had no need to do anything but stay married to the same woman for 34 years and raise two daughters and work with everyone from Sam Shepard to Adam West to Wim Wenders to Robert Conrad to Paul Newman to Don Johnson.

He didn't give a shit. He was a working actor. He worked.

Please, my young actor friend, aspire to be a sellout just like James Gammon.