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 Larry Hagman  interview

Uncut Channel 4 transcript exclusive to Ultimate Dallas

Interviewer : Luckily we didn't do this interview on a Sunday. Are you still not speaking on Sundays?

Larry: I don't do it as often as I used to. I don't do it as often as I want to. But that was when I was working and I haven't been working as much recently. It wasn't anything religious, it was just to rest my voice.

Interviewer: So first of all, how did you actually get the part of J.R?

Larry : Well I had worked with the producer of Dallas before. He produced a show called Edge of Night back in New York years ago, and he also had something to do with Genie, I can't remember exactly what he was. Anyhow he sent me this script, I was in New York with my wife and I got two scripts.One was the Waverly Wonders about a Basketball coach I think, that was more down my line at that time, my wife was reading Dallas in the other room and I heard this "whoop" come out and she said "Larry this is it, there's not one nice redeeming character in the whole of this and you'll love it ". So I read it and called them and said Id love to do it. It was a secondary character, the stars were Bobby, Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal ,I was the older brother who was a pain in the ass. So it turned out they liked my rendition of the character so it went off in that direction.

Interviewer: Did you audition?

Larry: I didn't audiition. I just took the job.

Interviewer: How would you summarize JR?

Larry: I modeled J.R after a guy I worked for in Weatherford Texas when I was a kid. My father was a lawyer and he was on retainer to this firm, and this old guy had four sons and at one time had been a professional wrestler to raise money to paten an Oil tool, it was a scratcher, it went around a column and would clean the inside of a drill stem. So he made allot of money. I used to work for him, digging ditches for him, building swimming pools for one of his sons and I learnt allot about digging ditches not the Oil business. I was sitting at this machine and I would take a long piece of steal wire stick it in then give it to another guy. I did this day in and day out and it was soul destroying. Especially since he had invented a machine behind me which was putting out a 1000 a minute of the same thing and it was just make work to keep his lawyers son busy. I figured that life was not for me so I became an actor. I called my mother and said Iv had enough of this, you've talked me into it, I want to be an actor. So I went up to finish college in New York but I learnt not so much about the Oil business but about Oil families and when he died there was kind of a war to see who would takeover the business and one of the sons won and I modeled my character after that son .

Interviewer: What control did you have over the character?

Larry: Initially I had no control, I don't feel I had control anyhow. They just decided to go with the character I gave them. I was the only real Texan on the show and they used that.

Interviewer: So you used a real Texan accent?

Larry: I guess I was the only one with a real Texas accent, there is no real Texas accent. I suppose real Texas accent right now is from Chicago because most of the people who live there now are from the Northern part of the United States.

Interviewer: Did you play J.R for laughs? How did you find the balance?

Larry : I always thought Dallas was a cartoon and it had very little to do with the real Dallas culture. I mean the real Dallas people are very cultured and this was not a cultured family by any means. It was kind of a working class family who had made allot of money and were kind of straight forward people as a matter of fact, they didn't mince words alot, they lied, cheated and stole but everybody does that don't they?

Interviewer: But why with so much money do they all live in one house?

Larry: How they can all live in one house and have that amount of money is beyond me. I don't know, Iv never met anybody who does. Bobby and J.R and their wives living in one bedroom each and one bathroom each and living with mom and dad. I think that was one reason it was such a success, especially in Europe where people do have an insular family, also in Asia, its big in Asia because families live 2 to 3 generations together.

Interviewer: Are there any similarities with the actors and characters?

Larry: Well I don't know. Patrick's pretty similar to his character, he's upstanding, honest, faithful, he's a good guy. I think he plays his character very close to his own personality. And me? Well I don't know if I'm JR or not. I would prefer not to be but perhaps I have alot of that in me. I summoned that character up fairly quickly and also the public want to see that character so I play it because people want to see it. Linda is very far from the lush she was, she doesn't drink, she has the occasional drink but she doesn't have any problem with it, she's very straight forward, she's one of the most honest people I know, so she's nothing like poor old Sue Ellen. You wouldn't call Linda Gray "poor old Linda Gray" and that's for dam sure.

Interviewer: What about Victoria?

Larry: Well Victoria is really smart. She's gone onto great success in her own career which is skin care and exercise and she's a sales person. She really knows how to sell products, she was in Asia at one time and I guess she picked it up from there. But she is very adaptable, when she got on the show I didn't think she was a particularly good actress but when she left I thought she was an excellent actress and it helps being that pretty.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about your experience of England?

Larry: Well I spent five years in England, I went over there with my mother in the show South Pacific and I just love it. I go back there three or four times a year. I joined the American airforce because the Korean war was going on at one time and I got my call up papers and I was supposed to report back to the United States and get my ass shot off in Korea which I didn't think was a smart idea and not only that I couldn't understand what the war was all about, I guess alot of people could at that time but I still can't even more than I can the Vietnam war, so anyhow I enlisted in the American airforce and I was stationed in London for four years which was pretty good because I never gave up my civilian apartment in St Johns Wood. I got married, met a Swedish girl there, we've been married 46 years now.

Interviewer: How about when you were in Dallas?

Larry: It was interesting because I remember getting out of the airport and there were a thousand photographers there and it was really out of hand as only the British can get, well they've taught other people around the world how to get out of hand but frankly I was scared because it was so aggressive. I remember walking across the street in Kensignton and there was a bobby (old U.K. term for policeman) directing traffic and he stopped the traffic and kept them stopped while he got my autograph, people got out of their cars to get one too and we caused kind of a mini riot. It was really funny because it got out of hand. But it was a wild time.

Interviewer: You were in London just after J.R was shot.

Larry: That was when I was renegotiating my contract, I figured this was my time to go for the big bucks and if they refuse I`ll never work again in the industry, so they didn't refuse. We all did well, I made money , they made money.

Interviewer: How long did you keep them waiting for?

Larry: Ten days, we negotiated for ten days over the phone and I wanted to go to London because to be out of the country is best and London was like home to me. I did all the public things , I went to Annabels, Ascot, stuff that would pick up alot of publicity and that would filter back to the States and they would see that I'm having a good time and that I obviously meant what I said or they would think I was crazy and pay me off anyhow. But it succeeded.

Interviewer: Was there any problems with censorship on the show?

Larry: God I don't know. We were in bed all the time, not semi nude like you can do now in day time soap operas, it shocks me when I see what goes on there. At that time we couldn't get away with anything like that. I didn't feel censorship. It never came down to my level, we had a guy called Mr. Katzman who took care of all of that. He was the genius behind the whole show.

Interviewer: So what was Leonard Katzman like?

Larry: Well Leonard was one of those guys who really knew the industry. He worked over at Columbia as director and associate producer so he really got his training. I was working over there too but he was a great guy, he wrote, he directed, produced, he didn't act. I tried to get him acting sometimes ,"Come on Lenny take a small part", "no , no"". But he was the driving force behind Dallas, he was the creative force.

Interviewer: Out of the mistresses who was your favorite?

Larry: Oh that's hard, Id offend alot of them. I don't think I had a dud in the bunch , they were all wonderful girls. As a matter of fact one called me yesterday and said "what are you doing Larry?" and we reminisced, you know, Lois Chiles and she's a beautiful girl, there were so many, its hard to remember all of them.

Interviewer: Lois was Holly Harwood, then April Stevens, Marilee Stone

Larry: Marilee, right, good old Marilee

Interviewer: Did you have any problems that bad JR was so loved?

Larry: J.R wasn't that bad, he was a business man which is bad enough right away. But I don't know, he took care of his family, I wouldn't call him bad, he was just an Oil man.

Interviewer: How did you find the experience of directing?

Larry: Well when I was directing all the actors got along, I wasn't going to tell them how to act. If they didn't know their character by the third or fourth year then they ain't on the show. So I loved directing, it was alot of fun. Your the first one in and last one out so its alot more grueling than acting on the show, you have to be there for the whole process which is 7 days shooting. We really had alot of fun, we got people out early, Patrick did too and Linda, she did a wonderful job.

Interviewer: People say that you helped other people alot on the show and became a focal point. Did that become wearing?

Larry: No its not wearing to be helpful on the show because we were such a large cast, took alot of energy to keep everybody up. I'm not particularly out for my own thing, I wanted the show to become successful. If there were problems with people, personal problems, family problems, and there were alot of them, and you would ask if there was anything you could do. I got angry a couple of times but that was with the production people not the actors.

Interviewer: Did you know the show would be a success?

Larry: Not the success it was. Who could possibly know you'd get 13 years out of a series and have a wonderful time doing it and an international success which is mind boggling, its everywhere except in China, its even in Russia now.

Interviewer: How did it impact on your privacy?

Larry: well sometimes I had a security guy but I never had anyone threatening, so when it gets 3 or 4 thousand people it can get disconcerting to say the least. One time I was having a lovely lunch in a hotel and I saw an old woman coming down the way and she must of been about 85, she was on a walker, I thought she was coming down to ask for my autograph , and she got down to me and took her handbag and hit me upside the head and knocked me off the chair and it really hurt , I saw stars, she said "I'm so sorry my husband gave me my pistol when I was 22 years old" she had a 38 in her bag. I thought that was funny , she said "You dirty rascal you, what are you doing to poor Sue Ellen" then bam.

Interviewer: Did you get alot of fan mail from women?

Larry: Oh yeah, some very suggestive pictures.

Interviewer: What would you say was your most favorite plot line?

Larry: Oh my god. In thirteen years and at my age Iv forgotten most of them. But least favorite, there was one year when Mr. Katzman was not producing, he had left the show and I felt that the show was going in the direction of Dynasty or "Dienasty" as we call it over here. And that was not Dallas, that was alot of glitz and it was not the direction I thought Dallas should go in and I fixed it.

Interviewer: That was the so called Dream season? What were your thoughts on that?

Larry: Well the shower season as we call it now, that was a wasted season. It alienated alot of people who watched the show because it was so far fetched, but no one could figure out how to do it, unless they brought him back as a twin brother who married Pamela again so the dream season was the only way out. Lost alot of audience but we stayed on for three or four years after that too.

Interviewer: Dallas is apparently huge in Romania.

Larry: wow yeah Romania. It was the most bizarre thing. I was contacted by a friend of mine who's ambassador to Luxembourg and he said that he had a friend `Prince Paul` who's grandson to the King of Romania, and every year he has a fund to raise money for children with AIDS so he asked if I would come over as a big name to raise funds and I had just gotten off the plane when somebody rushed up to me with tears in his eyes saying "J.R you saved our Country", apparently they had 3 programs on everyday on television, two were the dictator giving Political speeches and the other was Dallas. Dallas was on to show how corrupt America was and instead of that the people saw all the glitz and the people asked "why don't we have that". So to some people I was seen as the savior of Romania.

Interviewer: Watching Dallas now you notice that everyone drinks alot.

Larry: I always did, in all the old sophisticated English films they always had a Brandy and a smoke. We didn't drink real booze on the show, couldn't do it, have to do 30 takes and 30 shots and you'd be pretty well shit faced by then.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about your illness?

Larry: Well I have predilection for champagne and I drank about 4 or 5 bottles a day. Id get in and open a bottle of champagne about 9am, I never got drunk, I kind of just coasted along and I did that for a number of years, fifteen, twenty maybe and it caught up with me and I had to have a liver transplant and here I am feeling good and looking good, a happy man.

Interviewer: So your feeling much better?

Larry: much better, you bet ya

Interviewer: What's this about gall stones being taken out?

Larry: Oh yeah while they were in there they took my gall bladder out and out came the gall stones and I had a ring made out of it. A friend of mine made the ring and its worth about half million dollars.

Interviewer: Another thing you have been a big anti-smoking campaigner can you tell us a bit about that?

Larry: Well my good friend and publicity manager Richard Grant said we are going to have to have one charity so he said "which one would you like?" So I had quit smoking at that time about fifteen years ago so I joined the Cancer society and joined their anti smoking campaign and I did it for ten years. I feel good about that, I feel I helped alot of people quit smoking, kills almost half million people a year in America alone.

Interviewer: I read on the internet that you caught 250 trout in one day. Is that true?

Larry: It said that I said that? Well I never said that, the biggest catch is about 75 or 100 on an Indian Reservation that had been reopened after 40 years. I fished down in New Zealand and you can catch Trout until your blue in the face down there.

Interviewer: Through the Dallas timeline what social aspects do you feel the show reflected?

Larry: Well when Dallas started we were in like a major recession and so I attributed its success to the fact that most people couldn't afford to go out, they would stay at home. As the show went on things got better but people were hooked by then, of course there's a curve to everything.

Interviewer: How did Texans react to the show?

Larry: When you come to make a film about a persons city they are going to resent you. I remember going to the Country Club in Winter and we were going to watch some football. I had a cool reception but anyhow when I got up to leave, there were all relatively young men and very successful I said "thank you boys, I really want to thank you for having me here" and I was just about to go out the door and I heard "thank you too BOY" and a chill wen up my spine, I thought Uh oh, we're in for some trouble. We did have some cool receptions until the show was a success. It took about a year and then suddenly people turned around, they said we had brought something to Dallas that they had never had before.

Interviewer: Tell us about the Stetson.

Larry: Well alot of them are actually made in China, they are a great hat, I wear them all the time, I wore them before. I read once where Lawrence Olivia , who is one my gods, would try on a hat, when he got a character, he would look for the character and he'd find a hat that represented his character, he would then build around that. I always took that, you can change your image by the hat you wear. So I started collecting hats years ago , I have 100`s of them, occasionally my wife will put them all together and put them somewhere and I never see them again, she swears they are still around. She must have built a big store house for them because I had 1000`s of them, when people know you collect hats they send you hats from all over but I collect hats from every place.

Interviewer: JR used to wear one with a feather

Larry: well when Dallas first started there was alot of the big feathers , that was in vogue then, but as time went on they fell out of favor.

Interviewer: What was the funniest gag on the show?

Larry: During the show after I was shot we did this gag reel where everyone comes up and shoots me. At the end I had rigged up a vest with alot of holes in it and pump it and water would come out. So they all came up to me and shot me, then I said "missed" and drank a drink and he pumped it and water came out all over the place, It was a wonderful gag.

Interviewer: The timing between you and Patrick on the gag reel is wonderful. My favorite is when you sing `When your balls hang low"

Larry: One of my favorite songs by the way

Interviewer: Why is that?

Larry: Oh I don't know, its just so irreverent. Its an old English song

Interviewer: Yes from World War I

Interviewer: Everyone says you a Patrick were very comical on the set.

Larry: Well there was one occasion I pulled this prank on Patrick. We shared this corridor which had these little cubicles which were on wheels and called dressing rooms, they were freezing in the winter and boiling in the Summer. They were maybe 8 by 8 and built in the 1920`s , we all had one of these things. Patricks one was right across from the men's toilet and we used to make jokes about how he got the shaft there. We have this thing called OSHA which is how to make living conditions better for workers and they had issued a writ which said you had to have crappers for disabled people, so they redesigned all the other crappers and they made them so short to make that one room big for the disabled toilet that you'd shut the door and it would hit on your knees. So I always used the disabled and everyone else did too. So I was in there doing my duty and there was a knock on the door and this guy said "who's in there?" and I said "well I am" and he said "well what are you doing?" , I said "well I'm taking care of business in here", he said "well are you disabled?" , I said "well what's it to you?" He said "well I'm disabled and I have to go to the bathroom right away", I said "well I'm sorry your gonna have to wait, I'm you know doing my duty", so he said "listen your in real trouble here" I said "listen fella your gonna have to wait and that's all there is too it" So I finished what I was doing and I opened the door and there he was in a wheelchair. He said "you know your in real trouble you son of a bitch" and I said "well I'm real sorry about that, I had to go and I was using your facility and I'm sorry about it" , he said "what's your name anyhow?" I said " Patrick Duffy now go fuck yourself" . Well Patrick got a call from the heads of studio, he got in alot of trouble for that.

Interviewer: Why did the show end?

Larry: Well it started to loose it audience and we couldn't think of much else to do, we couldn't event anymore people to get on, we had some celebrities on, Barbara Eden came on the show which we hoped would help ratings and I suppose it did but not enough to keep the show going another fifteen years. Everybody I guess was tired of it, I wasn't tired of it , I enjoyed the hell out of it, I would of gone on to this day if they had wanted to.

Interviewer: What about the Reunion Movies? Did you enjoy those?

Larry: Oh yes I enjoyed those , the first one was 6 months after my liver transplant, so I wasn't in the greatest shape but good enough to do that and the second one was a couple of years later.

Interviewer: What did you think of the finished product?

Larry: I thought they were ok, its hard to go back, hard to go home,e after that long a time but we did and it was fun.

Interviewer: Anything else you want to say?

Larry: I would like to thank everybody for listening to an old friend. God bless you all.

The End for now.

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