There are actors that need only 10 acting credits to be considered real stars, and be remembered. And, there are other types, who are being cast in TV-series, low-budget films, Hollywood blockbusters, and independent movies. That’s how you become a cult actor. William Smith is just that. The man has nearly 300 roles in both films and television. He started his career way back in the 40’s and is still going strong. For movie fans, Smith is best remembered for his 70’s biker movies, and TV-series. In the beginning of the 80’s, Smith starred in a number of well known, to-be-cult films, such as Conan The Barbarian (with Arnold Schwarzenegger), Red Dawn (with Charlie Sheen and Patrick Swayze), Rumble Fish (with Mickey Rourke, Nicholas Cage & Dennis Hopper).
Smith is fluent in 5 languages, he used to study martial arts, and was a bodybuilder. Back in the day, he also taught Russian in a university, and fought California wildfires. Oh, did I mention that Smith also fought in a Korean War, is one of the honorary members of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures, and has just recently published his book of poetry? This is an exclusive interview with a Hollywood legend.
Mr. Smith, according to your biography, you are fluent in Russian, German, French and Serbo-Croatian languages. On screen you’ve played many Russian characters, and earlier even taught Russian at the UCLA University… Where did you learn the language? Have you ever been in a Russian-speaking country?
I learned the Russian language at Syracuse University while I was in the National Security Agency, during the Cold War. I have not been to Russia.
You are an honorary member of a Motion Pictures Stuntmen Association. Looking back now, which of the many stunts you did, was the most difficult, maybe the most dangerous?
One stunt that comes to mind is when I was attacked by the War Dogs in the film “Conan the Barbarian.” Even though I was heavily padded, I could feel the Rottweillers, starting to bite down thru the padding. Once the dogs got started they didn’t want to stop. It wasn’t easy for the trainers to call them off.
Another dangerous stunt was on the film “Piranha, Piranha” which was shot down in South America. I did a stunt with a very large Anaconda in the water. The local snake wrangler, who did not have the experience to handle this snake, had a hard time and the snake almost crushed me to death.
You starred in a now cult «Conan The Barbarian» with Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 1982. What was it like working on that film? Since you and Arnold were both bodybuilders, what can you say about his bodybuilding achievements from a professional point of view?
It was a pleasure to work with Arnold. We enjoyed each others sense of humor. The film, “Conan the Barbarian” was the beginning of a big movie career for Arnold, which led to his governorship of California. In Arnold’s day, he had the best physic around. That he proved by his winning the Mr. Olympia contest numerous time. And of course it was great working with John Milius, who I worked with again on “Red Dawn,” as well as my friends and fellow cast members, Franco Columbu, Sven-Ole Thorsen and Ben Davidson.
Among your many appearances as an onscreen villain, which one of your evil characters did you yourself like the most and why?
My favorite TV screen villain would be “Falconetti” from the “Rich Man Poor Man” Miniseries and “Rich Man Poor Man Book II.” I really enjoyed working with Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss. The fight scenes with Nick and I were good ones.
One of the most discussed topics of your fans seems to be your onscreen fights with different actors, from Rod Taylor to Clint Eastwood. Which one of them all, you yourself consider the best? Which one was the most difficult to stage?
The fight in “Any Which Way you Can,” with Clint Eastwood, was the longest two-man fight scene on screen, at the time. It was very well choreographed. It was a very mobile fight in the fact that it moved from one area to the next. Clint was great to work with. He was quite an accomplished on-screen fighter.
The classic fight between Rod Taylor and I in “Darker Than Amber.” That was a different story. Fight choreography and staging went out the window when Rod decided to really hit me. And so the fight was on. That was a real fight with real blood and real broken bones. Rod is a skilled fighter, and, at the same time a real scrapper. Now that was a good fight!
Mr. Smith, among your achievements, there is one, that to some fitness fanatics stands out the most. A long time ago, you lifted a loaded barbell with an overhand grip (some websites have it as «reverse-curling bodyweight»), which is very difficult to do. There were some rumors, that Guinness book of records actually has a record of you and your achievement. Is this really true? How much weight did you lift back then?
I did hold a record for reverse curling. But it did not appear in the Guinness book. That’s a long standing rumor. Back then I reversed curled 163 lbs.
Your biography states, that back in the day, you were to have a classified position in the US Government. Have you ever thought of a career as a politician?
I had considered a career in the CIA but never had an interest to be a politician.
It really seems like you’ve done a lot throughout your life and career. Asking you this Mr. Smith – is there anything left, that you would love to do? Please, share with us.
I have recently had my first collection of poetry published and I plan to do more poetry and writing in the future. My poetry book “The Poetic Works of William Smith” is available at my official website, and in some select stores.