EDITOR'S NOTE: Some while back, I was watching cable and a Perry King TV movie started showing. I had always been a great admirer of Mr. King's work and wondered what new projects he may be working on. I researched Mr. King's project history on the internet and came across www.absolutelyperryking.com, his official website. I was impressed by the non-gossip content and the way that the website was professionally done. I emailed Deb Gholson to compliment her on the work and as we began emailing, I knew that I was lucky enough to find a new good friend. As our emailing continued and her site progressed, it was quite evident that Deb was a very good writer. It was at that point, I imposed upon her and Mr. King. I asked if she would interview Mr. King. She gave it great thought. Finally, to our delight, she agreed. Then she asked Mr. King. He also gave it great thought and agreed, just as long as Deb did the interviewing. I promised them both creative and editorial control and I promised them that this would not be a run-of-the-mill gossip interview. Here at Chicagoactor.com we wanted something different, something unique. And I am proud to say that this interview is just that...something different, something unique.
I know that you will enjoy it. I sure did.
Chicagoactor.com would like to thank Deb Gholson and Perry King.
Be sure to visit the official Perry King website at: www.absolutelyperryking.com.
And now on to THE INTERVIEW..........................
-A. Jones Chicagoactor.com
Three Hours With
By Deb K. Gholson
When I was asked by Chicagoactor.com to do an interview with one of their favorite actors [and mine], Perry King, my first response was to turn it down flat. I have no clue how to do an interview because I’m not a journalist. I’m a stay-at-home mom in the Midwest and stay-at-home moms don’t do this kind of thing. Although I had an ‘in’ -- I run Perry’s website and have talked to him many times before -- it’s totally different to interview him for someone else. So I pondered the idea, asked Perry what he thought and if he’d be willing. It didn’t take him long to agree and look forward to it because he knew I wasn’t a journalist. I told him in advance I wanted something completely different than the same old boring-as-hell questions that he could answer in his sleep. We set the time for the interview to take place and after three hours, a lot of laughs and branching off onto other discussions -- sometimes very serious and personal -- my first interview is in the can. Or is that on the paper? However journalists refer to an interview completed, this one is.
I’ll give you a brief background first: Perry King -- actor in the business for thirty-seven years, Golden Globe Award nominee and known in the 80’s for being ‘king of the mini-series’, Perry has starred in such motion pictures and television films as The Captains and the Kings, Mandingo, Aspen, The Last Convertible and The Day After Tomorrow. He starred in the NBC television series Riptide -- second season is scheduled to be released on DVD this fall, by the way – Melrose Place and the short-lived NBC series, Titans.
One of my last questions to Perry was what would he like everyone to know about him. After a quiet moment of thought, he said he guesses he’s perfectly fine the way he is and didn’t know. Perry might not be able to answer that question but I certainly can and that’s why I put it first: Perry King is a neat guy. That’s right. Guy. There’s no ‘star’ quality, no ego whatsoever. He’s refreshingly honest, candid, warm, down-to-earth, has a terrific sense of humor and a lousy memory. He’s an actor’s actor. One that knows how the craft is done and knows how to do it extremely well. He’s from the old school – the school that says go to school to learn your craft and achieve what you want.
For Perry, acting today is different than it was 20-30 years ago. “Special effects are much more prominent and the actor lives on a second tier of importance,” he states. “The actor today is there to support the effects, and, with exceptions of course, the human story is less important.” He feels Hollywood is changing and doesn’t like the direction it’s going. “Producers and studios are pushing away from actors. It’s a power play. Everything is under the thumb of the producers and CEO’s of the film business and that’s how they want it to be. They’re phasing the actor out and bringing the CGI’s [computer generated images] in.” That’s why, he feels, more than ever most actors love stage work. “The actor is the king on stage. It’s much harder work but much more satisfying. You lead an audience through the intricacies of a story. Films today are more like cartoons. They’re geared more towards visual effects than the telling of a story.”
King goes on to give an example of the difference in today’s filmmaking. “I was in a mini-series. The Captains and the Kings. There was a scene where my character went to Cuba during the Spanish-American War to find his brother. So we went out on a back lot of Universal and there was turn-of-the-century Cuba! There were soldiers from both sides of the conflict, cannons, cavalry-- everything I’d ever dreamed of doing as a kid was right there in front of me! I got to pretend I was in a war searching for my brother while dodging bullets—the fantasy was completed for me—and because of that, the acting was effortless and joyful. Today, you don’t have that. You have a blue room, nothing there, and you have to pretend you’re in this war, dodging bullets. You can’t see anything and you won’t see anything until it’s finished. It’s completely different and simply not much fun—and that lack of fun shows up on the screen. There’s a reason we love the old films of the thirties so much!”
What advice would he give a budding actor in today’s world? “I think the most important thing to know and remember is it’s a technique. A skill and a skill that you need to learn. You need to figure out why and how you do it and you need to train and exercise that training. So you can use that big break to ratchet yourself up to the next notch. James Dean comes to mind. He got a big break and he used it. He had amassed the skills that could ratchet him up to the next level. If you can’t use that big break to better yourself, what use is that break going to be?” Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Is any actor worth 20 million dollars? “Sure. Any actor who brings in 20 million plus into the theaters is worth it. You’re worth whatever someone’s willing to pay.” Perry sees himself as one of the lucky ones. “I’ve had a career for thirty-seven years. That’s a hell of a long time. I’ve been extremely lucky to act when I did because I don’t know if I want to do it any more.” Wait a minute… what? His love of acting hasn’t diminished that much has it? “No, acting hasn’t diminished for me at all. Love of the business has. There are still three or four things I’d like to make happen, that I’d like produce and I’m working on them. One is a one-man show about my grandfather, Max Perkins. I’m working on that with my sister. There’s a one-man movie… a 45-page monologue that will be brutal to memorize. The director of The Captains and the Kings, Douglas Heyes, one of the greats, wrote it for me. It was the last thing he ever wrote and he wrote it with me specifically in mind. His son, Doug Jr., will direct. For the past few years I’ve been working on a movie about Steve McQueen and I’ve also been working on a father/daughter western I’d like to film on my ranch.” He chuckles. “I just need the money for it.”
Okay, after thirty-seven years and countless roles, is there one role that still eludes him? King doesn’t hesitate. “Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew. I’ve always wanted to play him and right now I’m at the perfect age and perfect frame of mind. I’ve got it all set up and know exactly who I’d want with me, but I just can’t take the time right now.”
Ah, yes – the time thing. What does he mean? At this stage of his life – Perry turns 60 next April 30th -- his priorities have changed and those priorities are his family. Twice divorced, King has two daughters, Louise and Hannah. “I’ve been incredibly lucky. The biggest question in my career early on was should I stay in New York City or move to Los Angeles. The craft was in New York City, the money and business was in Los Angeles. I had to find a way to pay the bills so I followed the money. I don’t regret the choice I made then, but it certainly hurt the artistic realm.” King continues, “Show business is masterful at ruining your personal life and these days I don’t let it take priority. I’ve made sure my family comes first. I didn’t when my oldest daughter [Louise] was younger and it cost her a lot. Now that I do it benefits her little sister so I’m hoping that will make it up to her in that way, in a small way. Nothing comes before my youngest daughter. Nothing—except perhaps Louise. My career has suffered, it’s never been as rock bottom as it is now, but it was my choice to let that happen and I don’t regret that choice for one single moment.”
Speaking of choices, was there ever a career he would have chosen other than acting? Does he regret choosing to be an actor? “No. You don’t choose it; you’re compelled to do it. Acting is a compulsion, a neurotic tendency to seek attention.” He chuckles, “I’ve released some of that compulsion now and it’s a great feeling. I’m so grateful to be less compulsive.” But wait – he didn’t answer the first part. I repeat the question and it takes him a while to think of a response. “If I had to choose something other than acting I’d probably race cars. That was something I really enjoyed.” Have his daughters considered acting? “Yes, they have and I told them if you want to do it, this is the way it should be done. You need to go to school, train and continue to train. In the end they decided it wasn’t what they wanted to do.”
What does he see lacking in today’s acting world and what would he like to see? “A story. That’s what acting is all about – telling a story. The artistry is changing. The impulse to be an actor is to be expressive. Nowadays CGI experts create expressive characters. It’s still art, but it’s a different way of doing artistry and the story is lacking.”
What films made early on in his career does he think will stand the test of time? Again, Perry doesn’t hesitate. “A Different Story. Making that film was absolutely joyful. When we finished, all of us went out to eat and all of us sat around the table and just cried because it was over. I feel so lucky to have ever had a project I feel that way about.”
Today’s Hollywood also seems focused on looks. Many actors have had cosmetic enhancements or surgery and say it’s to stay ‘young’ in the business. How does he feel about that and would he have it done? “I’ve been pressured, yeah, but I want to look like a real person. Beauty is an attitude, far more than appearance or an age. Anne Bancroft. I was in Lipstick with her. She hadn’t had anything done and to me she was so beautiful and sexy. Victoria Principal’s another. I just gave a quote to People magazine about Victoria. She’s very comfortable in her own skin and with who she is, and because of that attitude, more than anything else, is one of the most attractive women in the world.” He chuckles, “If I were a single guy, I’d love to date her.”
Okay, let’s not get too personal just yet. I’ve got more acting questions to answer. How about this one… in The Day After Tomorrow King played the president of the United States. How did it feel playing such a powerhouse figure and in playing the part, did it open his mind to running for a political office? Perry bursts out laughing. “I’d never run for office! We need good politicians desperately, but I won’t be one of them. Talk about your life being ruined for your profession!” He continues, “When I got that part, I had nothing to measure it against. I don’t know any presidents. I’ve never met any of them. It was purely through imagination.” Then King gets quiet and ponders that question again. “Well, wait. I’d like to be mayor of the little town where I live. Maybe I’ll do that a few years down the road. We need to be incorporated first, and then I’d like to run for mayor.”
What role required the most mental/physical changes for King? “The Possession of Joel Delaney and The Lords of Flatbush. Digging deep into those dark parts. Chico really changed me. Made me tougher. [The director] Marty Davidson wouldn’t let me go skate past anything—he made me dig deeper than anyone else in my career. I became a totally different person.” Does he enjoy those types of roles or prefer something closer to himself? “My character in The Cowboy and The Movie Star wasn’t anything like me and after I did that film, I became more like him because I loved him so much. I’ve sort of ending up living his life now.”
Has he given any thought to becoming a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] board member and being a part of the building block to insure fair treatment of actors in the industry? “I might consider that seriously in three years. When my youngest daughter goes to college. The union needs a lot of help. I’d also like to see about doing a seminar on finances for actors. I think that’s another area that needs attention.”
Many people feel actors or entertainers should not have an opinion on any matter whatsoever. Some have the attitude they should ‘shut up and sing’ or ‘shut up and act’. What’s his opinion about that? “I’ve never understood that. Why shouldn’t actors have an opinion? Now if they’re using their notoriety to push it, that crosses the line, but I don’t see why actors or anyone else can’t have or state their opinion.”
Finally all my business questions are over. Now it’s time to get to the fun stuff, the personal stuff. Stuff fans like to know. First question: Do you have an iPod and if so, what do you have on it? King is surprisingly quiet for a moment. “I don’t have one. Hannah does, but I don’t. I just bought her a new iPhone the other day, too. I’ll tell you what would be on it if I did have one, though,” he continues, “Paul McCartney’s new album [Memory Almost Full] would be. I have the CD and love it. It’s all about being older,” he chuckles, “Something I can relate to.” So he was a big Beatles fan then? “They were tapping into what was real for me, so yeah, I listened to them because I related to it, too. It sometimes felt like they were singing right to me—something I’m sure millions of people felt about them. That was their genius.”
Speaking of music, does he sing in the shower, sing on horseback or does he sing at all? Perry laughs, “ I don’t sing at all. Tried to, but it doesn’t work. I play harmonica.” His chuckle continues, “Sometimes when I shouldn’t, but that’s what I do.” What does he think about singers becoming actors and vice versa? “I think it’s a wonderful thing because it increases their craft. It’s another form of artistic expression. Dorian Haywood – he was in Foster and Laurie with me – he’s a wonderful singer. A really great voice. If you want to improve your speaking voice, take singing lessons.”
What book is on your nightstand right now? “There’s two right now. One of them is my favorite book ever -- Long Hunt by James Boyd. My grandfather, Max Perkins, edited it, along with every other book Boyd ever wrote. There’s only like three copies still in existence and I have two. The other is Short Stories by Beryl Markham.” What kind of novels does he get into? “No kind, really. I’ll read anything and everything, although I do prefer fiction. I’ll read four or five books at once. My grandfather always said you have a right to be tough on a book. You go into a bookstore, open a book and start reading. If it doesn’t grab you, flip ahead 50 or 60 pages. If it doesn’t grab you then, slam it shut and put it back on the shelf. It’s done. That’s exactly what I do.”
If he wrote a book, what would it be about? King’s quiet a moment. “Racing. I might be able to write a book about racing.”
What thrills Perry King? “Motorcycles. Watching my kids grow up.” He starts chuckling. “I just thought of something else but don’t know if I should say it or if I do, if you should put it in.” Oh go for it, I tell him. After all, it’s an interview, right? So he does. “My girlfriend when she gets out of the shower!” We both laugh at that one and I tell him I’ll definitely include it because it’s a brilliant response. He quiets, “Sometimes I’ll ride my motorcycle out onto the middle of my property and I’ll look around. As far as I can see, you know? And when I realize I own what I see, I get chills.”
On the flipside, what irritates him? “As I get older I find it’s less and less.” He chuckles, “My teenage daughter sometimes, but teenagers are supposed to.”
As someone who has a ranch and respects animals, the land and the environment, what scares him the most about the condition of our planet today and what does he do as his part of saving the planet? “The planet’s not going to take much notice of what we do. I think we’re much less significant than we think we are. I don’t consume much and try to conserve when I can. I ride my motorcycle a lot and it gets about 40 miles to the gallon, but the planet and the oceans are so much vaster than we realize. Most people don’t know, for example, that 97 percent of the earth’s biological habitat is on or under the water. We only think dry land matters so much because it’s where we live. I don’t think we count nearly as much as we think we do.”
If he had a crystal ball, what would he ask? He ponders a moment. “There’s very little I’d really want to know. What stocks would be good to buy, I guess,” he laughs.
What legacy would he like to leave for his children’s children’s children? “Go to school as long as you want and I’ll make enough money to pay for it. I’ve been paying for Louise’s education for thirty-three years. That’s a long time. She’s asked me the same thing I asked my parents, ‘How can I ever repay you?’ There’s no way you can monetarily, so I tell her the same thing my mother told me. You repay me by doing it for your children. Make enough money to be affluent enough to afford your children’s education.” Perry goes on to tell me about his daughters. Louise, once an attorney, has gone into medical school and made ‘Intern of the Year’ at the hospital where she’s completing her residency. Hannah is enrolled in a “tough” private school and made all A’s her last year.
Final question: If Hollywood were to do your life story, who would Perry King pick to play Perry King? This one throws him for a loop and he thinks about it the longest, with a lot of “I don’t know‘s." Finally he starts laughing. “Adrian Brody. Hannah adores him!”
Perry’s daughters and family mean
everything to him. So many times throughout the interview our
conversations turned to his children and the pride in his voice
is full and evident. Fortunately for everyone, Perry has the
ability to be everything to them at this time in his life. A
loss for his fans, perhaps, if you choose to look at it that
way, but when you talk to him, you wish nothing more than for
him to be ‘dad’ and ‘grandpa’ because you know it’s everything
he wants and what makes him the happiest. You can’t wish
anything more for someone you care about than their happiness.