“California Split,” 40 Years Later: An Interview with Elliott Gould, George Segal, and Joseph Walsh in Three Parts

WE’VE ALL AGREED to meet at Canter’s Deli. George Segal, Joseph Walsh, and Elliott Gould. It’s mid-September, one of those absurdly hot Los Angeles days, and I’m there early, cooling off and biting my nails, excited, but a little nervous to talk with these three men, two of whom I’ve already interviewed, one, at this point, I’ve only met.

After presenting Robert Altman’s California Split at Telluride, doing a Q&A on stage with Segal and screenwriter Walsh, we wanted to extend our discussion. We wanted to include Gould who wasn’t able to attend due to shooting conflicts. It’s the 40th anniversary of Altman’s masterpiece, and we all think it’s worth noting. Gould shows up first. He’s every inch the movie star, absolutely fascinating, disarming, but down to earth, sensitive and warm — and yet, you can’t read him easily. He’s mysterious, but intently philosophical and, of course, still very funny. Amused and bemused — that Gould way of virile masculinity mixed with offbeat, unexpected humor and intelligence that’s gone unmatched. No one is like Elliott Gould. Screenwriter Walsh follows, apologizing for being late (he’s only a few minutes late); he’s gracious, sharp, and comical — and ever the charming gambler. A guy full of stories. Wonderful stories. He always knows the score but is exceedingly generous. You get the feeling a lot of gamblers are. Segal is next, a bit more reserved, but once he opens up, a man who will burst out with a laugh and a quick, brainy quip or observation. You see his Blume from Blume in Love — you see him observe and soak in the discussion. You see him think. You can see why he’s a star.

The conversation starts immediately. This may be the 40th anniversary of California Split, but these guys have known each other for 50-plus years. And because of that, the conversation goes everywhere. This is living Hollywood history and the conversation is flowing almost like an Altman film. It’s an honor to be at this table.



Part 1:

GEORGE SEGAL: Let me tell you how far back this all goes. The first time I met Elliott was at Adolph and Phyllis Green’s apartment. They were every kind of with it. They wanted to be with Leonard Bernstein and all that. Where everything was happening. They lived in the Beresfield. Beautiful! And so I guess Barbra had just starred in …


GS: Was it Funny Girl? Yeah, it was Funny Girl. And Phyllis called Marion and me and said, you’re the youngest people we know and we’ve got these two people coming …

EG: [Laughing] And we don’t know them at all …

GS: [Laughing] No, we don’t know them at all … So, it was Barbra and Elliott. So all the women are talking at Marion, and they’re on the sofa, and by the piano is Elliott and me, and we don’t know each other, and Elliott is in a three-piece suit. And he tells me the funniest show business story, which involves me, which I didn’t know, which is all about you, Joey, and it’s about the story of Billy the Clerk. And I’m thinking this is the hippest, funniest guy I’ve ever met in my life. Because he told this story beautifully and built it. I was so completely involved. And it’s based on my movie, Invitation to a Gunfighter, which I was in with Yul Brynner, and I have no idea that there is this simultaneous story going on with Joey who was also in it. So, [to Joey], that’s who you were in my eyes when he was telling the story. I had a vague memory of the poker games. I wasn’t in them.

JOSEPH WALSH: Right. Brad Dexter was in it. I was playing cards every day on the set. Brad Dexter was very funny. Yul would get him in every picture. That was his friend.

GS: Because he saved Sinatra.

EG: He saved Sinatra from drowning …

GS: He saved Sinatra from drowning, and Sinatra would call Yul and he’d say, “You got something for Brad?”

JW: Here’s the story. I’m in Invitation to a Gunfighter. I think I’m playing Billy the fucking Kid in this picture. I think I’m one of the stars of this picture. It turns out I’m Billy the Clerk. So now I’m saying: “Room 310.” I almost hit the director at that moment. I said, No don’t ruin your career right now because he’s really in my face. So, cut, print. Let’s go. That was it. I went back to play with Brad Dexter. Let’s get the poker game going again …

GS: Billy the Clerk. It’s a classic show business story. Because, talk about gambling. It’s all so sad — the whole thing.

JW: Brad, we got very friendly. We’d play poker every day because there’s endless waiting for whatever, especially with the amount of work we had to do in that picture, which wasn’t much. Brad told me: “You know I do every picture with Yul? It’s in his contract almost.” And I say, “Oh that’s great you have a friend.” And he says, “Well … it’s kind of half great. He likes it because I play gin, and he beats me for most of my money.” [Laughs] I said, “You gotta be kidding.” And he said, “No. I gotta play gin. And I lose a lot of my salary on every picture I do with Yul.”

EG: I just saw him in The Asphalt Jungle. I didn’t realize he was in The Asphalt Jungle.

GS: Brad Dexter?

EG: Yeah, Brad Dexter. He was the private detective who worked for Louis Calhern who got shot by Sterling Hayden. It’s a fabulous movie.

GS: He brought a quiet menace with him, Brad Dexter. He was always behind his eyes. You didn’t know what he was thinking. Not much, maybe … [Laughs]

KM: Did you see that Quentin Tarantino has taken over the New Beverly theater and programming himself for three months? And the double feature he’s going to open the theater with in October is [pointing to Elliott] Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice [pointing to George] and Blume in Love.

GS: I’ll be goddamned.

EG: That’s wonderful of him. Really touching.

GS: He came to the Mazursky breakfast table, and all he talked about was Blume in Love.

KM: Yeah, he loves that movie. Well, damn, he loves so many things. We both share a mania for Ralph Meeker.

GS: Nice! I was in a Ralph Meeker movie!

JW: You were?

GS: Damn right! The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Oh, I loved him. He was great. The Dirty Dozen. They were really getting drunk those two, Marvin and Meeker. And I remember him closing the door in the Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer movie. Closing the drawer on the guy’s hand! Uh …

KM: Percy Helton! I think that’s how he became a hunchback. [joking]

GS: He really was. He was a hunchback. And with that high voice. [Imitates voice]

EG: The first time I remember seeing you, George, you were singing with Mike Nichols in Sardi’s. It was the time when The Knack was off Broadway. And I was just: This is George Segal. You were very handsome.

KM: Elliott and Joey: you two met in Children’s Professional School, correct?

JW: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. First time I saw Elliott, he was coming off the elevator. There he is — he’s in his shorts and he’s got a mask on and he’s got a speargun. He’s a frogman. It was April Fools’ Day.

KM: How old were you?

JW: Fourteen or 15.

EG: Fifteen or 16. Probably just to take the liberty of Seniors’ Day. I was a senior. They skipped me in Brooklyn. They skipped me.

JW: I remember saying to you as you were coming out of the elevator, I said, “You’re in big trouble, kid.” This kid thinks he’s coming to this school … Let’s put it this way: he was the last person I thought I was going to become best friends with.

KM: You two have been friends for so long. Joey, you told me that you and Elliott would go to movies together all the time and saw Psycho together. And Kubrick’s The Killing.

EG: Oh, yeah. Many times. Timothy Carey Jr. Peanut butter, right.

JW: Elliott and I were kids. All we knew was, whoever directed this picture is great. And then we got his name. I actually wrote a piece called “Stanley Who?”

EG: Mazursky had worked for him.

JW: But that was a great discovery. And, again, Timothy Carey.

KM: Timothy Carey, Sterling Hayden of course, Vince Edwards, Elisha Cook Jr.

GS: I worked with him later, Elijah Cook Jr.

EG: He was so great.

JW: Was he in The Black Bird with you?

GS: He was in The Black Bird with me.

EG: When he was young, Joey was a significant star.

GS: Oh, yes, yes.

EG: I mean, unapproachable. I mean, how do you do that? And with television. I mean, it was like, the keys to this industry.

JW: I’ll tell you George. This’ll flip George out. First of all, Milton Berle, you remember the show very well, how big he was. Guess who went up against him? Yours truly.

GS: Really? In what?

JW: With The Frank Sinatra Show. Cast in The Frank Sinatra Show. But nobody is watching The Frank Sinatra Show, they’re all watching Milton Berle and now I’m unhappy because I’m not on The Milton Berle Show.

GS: This was live?

JW: This was live. Everything was live. Your career was always on the line back then.

EG: What a career.

[George laughs]

EG: The Texaco Star Theater … There was nothing else but that and The Ed Sullivan Show on Sundays …

JW: And Your Show of Shows

EG: Texaco Star Theater … That’s when we were doing the bar scene in California Split, we say, “Captain Midnight!”

[Everyone laughs]

JW: With Sinatra … there I was in the 1950 show. Joey Walsh. I was there. I was absolutely crazed about Ava Gardner. And she would pick Frank up on the weekends. Frank would get after me a little bit. He would say to me, and he was giving me a little shit, in a little way, he’d say, “What are you doing this week, kid? What are you doing on this show this week?” And I’d say, “I don’t know Frank. I just show up since I have a contract. So you want me to sing ‘The House I Live In’?” And he says, “Yeah.” So anyway, the show is all over. Ava’s picking him up. And I decide I’m going to buy him a tie as a going-away present. I buy him this tie, and I give it to him. A little later, I remember that I forgot something and that I have to go back and tell him. So I go back to the dressing room. It’s completely empty. Just my tie is hanging there.

EG: Aww …

JW: [Laughing] Poor little kid. This Slim Jim you buy for a buck and quarter. I give it to Frank Sinatra.

KM: So you, George, and Elliott were both in movies with Sterling Hayden [Loving and The Long Goodbye].

JW: I loved Sterling in the movies, but I never met him personally. [To Segal and Gould] Did you love Sterling?

EG: I loved him. Dan Blocker was supposed to play the part. He was a very good friend of Altman’s. Dan Blocker died and the picture almost went south. And so then we were talking about John Huston, who I loved. Bob cast Sterling Hayden. So Sterling had been in Ireland doing something with R. D. Laing, the poet and philosopher who wrote a book called Knots. And so I asked to spend a little time, a moment alone with Sterling in the house where we shot, where Kathryn and Bob lived, down in Malibu. So we spent that moment alone. And so I knew that Sterling knew that I knew that Sterling knew that I knew that Sterling knew that I understood him. So I just loved him.

KM: Did you ever read his book Wanderer?

EG: Yes. When he kidnapped his kids, right?

JW: I liked the way he wanted to live his life, Sterling Hayden.

EG: I visited him on his péniche, which is like a barge. He had it in France on the Seine and I saw him there. And then he had it sent to Northern California and I visited him there too. He was a great guy. I think he worked in the Yugoslavian Underground during World War II.

JW: Did he really? Wow. Okay.

KM: And what’s interesting in The Long Goodbye is this modernized Marlowe, from what Bogart or Powell did but …

EG: Oh, Humphrey Bogart was perfect. Our Marlowe was not perfect at all.

KM: No, of course. But that’s what I love about it. And that Sterling Hayden, who is now an icon in film noir, he’s really this counterculture type of guy in real life. He fit perfectly in that Altman universe.

GS: Yes.

EG: The Long Goodbye has held up too. Not dated. I’m thrilled that it’s held up.

KM: It feels more modern than movies now.

GS: That it opens with that cat. Oh, that’s just fabulous. To take that time and to open with that. At that time, at the top of a movie.

EG: [Laughs] Yeah, and the guy’s sleeping. Oh, Bob. Oh my God [sigh]. We thought Bogdanovich was gonna do it and he couldn’t cast me. He couldn’t see it. And David Picker gave it to Bob Altman. And Bob was in Ireland finishing Images with Susannah York and he called me from the White Village and he said, “What do you think?” I said, “I’ve always wanted to play this guy.” And he said, “You are this guy.”

KM: Casinos are like movie sets. You know, an enclosed world of playing, making money, losing, performing, with the big star and the character actors and the extras. Rules and chaos at every turn. It’s a separate universe that anyone off the street walking into feels immediately intimidated or confused by.

GS: Yes. I like that analogy. It’s a lot like that. We are the living embodiment of a sequel to California Split 2. I mean, this is it.

EG: The level of risk what you’re talking about is for sure …

JW: And they split … these two magnificent actors in this picture, these characters, they split. The beauty, certainly aided with Altman too. And then the idea of gambling. We’ve all been to Vegas. Do you ever watch the faces there? Do you ever watch the people who have never gambled? They are so excited. And you pay for that excitement. But to look underneath, underneath all that, there is a trap. There is a sadness. And for the George character, I always thought, this is the kind who would always end up in trouble. He gambles because something is missing in his life. I didn’t even know what that was. What was missing. Even when I was writing. And we didn’t need to know. His gambling is a way to kill the something that’s missing. Whereas Elliott’s character gambles as a way of life. His emotional content for everything and the laws that he steals time away … these are the words, “I steal time. I can’t steal any more time.” And to see that come together as a writer, and to see the two actors pull that off to such an extent, I’m not even that amazed anymore. You watch it again and it’s not dated at all because these feelings and these things are never gonna stop. In the world of gambling, they will never stop. These emotional feelings.

EG: I take nothing for granted. In our life, I was George’s character. I was Bill Denny, right?

JW: Right, right.

EG: That’s what we lived so …

JW: And … in our life, right. He did Bill Denny and I’m Charlie Walters. That’s how we lived it.

EG: Then it’s a matter of responsibility and so my evolution in relation to Bill Denny in not knowing what to do and not knowing what he was going to do and where I was coming from. Oh, yeah. And I have remembrances almost as far back as an infant. I mean, three and a half, I’ve already had a couple of memories. So it’s really interesting because as I said, it’s not about gambling. It’s not about gambling at all. It’s about staying alive.

KM: And I think that it’s so inclusive in the gambler’s world, and they get everything that you’re saying.

EG: Oh, they love it. And they can relate.

KM: But I think some people outside of gambling can too. Anyone who’s had a substance abuse problem, anyone with a freelance life. It’s a gamble.

JW: Oh, yes. And show business. If you go into show business you could be broke forever and waiting on tables and you have no other skills.

KM: And so, I mean here’s part of the timelessness (and how modern it still feels today). It certainly received good reviews at the time, but the movie has increased in popularity, I think. It’s always been popular for those who love Altman, but it’s moved up. Anyone I talk to, they love it. A favorite Altman. I think my favorite. If I had to choose.

JW: Your favorite and Ken Burns’s favorite movie. And Mike Leigh was there at the Telluride screening. He loves it too.

KM: And, apparently as I heard before, Robert Morley?

JW: George, you told me that, that he loved, on a plane …

GS: No, no, I was in two movies, I was in two things with him.

KM: Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

GS: Yup, yup, yup.

KM: I love that California Split was Robert Morley’s favorite movie.

GS: He had a bookie come with to the set. His bookie. They do that in England. He would come to the set. So, he was a veteran.

KM: So, yes, it obviously speaks to a lot of people …

EG: Well, Altman’s work does. Altman’s work is fundamentally all in the now. It just works. Even with MASH. Cause, again, I don’t think we were crazy about MASH when it first happened. Well, I loved doing it, it was great. I remember seeing it, it had a sneak in San Francisco with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I thought what? But now when I see it I see — every time I see it I see something I haven’t seen before.

GS: You know how I got California Split?

KM: How?

GS: I came out of a screening of MASH in New York City in a screening room and I said to somebody, “That’s the greatest movie I ever saw.” Or some words to that effect. That remark got back to Altman and that’s how it started, how I came to get the part. Guy McElwaine, I was his client. He had to talk and talk and talk to get me to do it and finally I did it. And he wouldn’t let up on it because he was so convinced I’d be right in it and I didn’t see myself in it at all. I didn’t gamble and I wasn’t interested. It would be like putting me in a hockey film. But he was so convincing and obviously I’m so glad I did it. But back to MASH … that was before anybody even knew what it was. I mean, nobody’d seen it then.

EG: I think Mike Nichols who you know very well was somewhat flummoxed because Catch-22 was supposed to be the picture.

GS: It was the demise of Catch-22.

EG: I only had very limited contact with Mike Nichols. He said to me, I grew up with improvising. I said, well, why don’t you do some in the movies? But then looking at Catch-22 now — it’s a flawed masterpiece. But it is something of a masterpiece.

GS: But Catch-22 was it. That was the war novel to beat all war novels. It caught that spirit of it all. And out comes MASH, which was informal. They had all the antic players in Catch-22, Alan Arkin and Bob Newhart. Wonderful. Marty Balsam. They had a great supporting cast. Everybody. But then came MASH.

EG: [Working on MASH] sometimes Bob would get flustered. We were fighting the clock and he has got to do it a certain way by a certain time otherwise you go into golden hours. And I remember the scene in MASH — and it was actually around that scene that Sylvester Stallone, who I’ve only met a couple of times, said he doesn’t admit that he was ever an extra in any movie but he admits that he was an extra in MASH. And when I told that to Bob he said, “No. I don’t accept that Sylvester Stallone was in my movie. I don’t accept it.”

[Everyone laughs]

EG: So that day we have a really complicated, delicate crane shot and we’re fighting time for lunch. And, you know, it’s all the surgeons are working triple shifts and we’re talking non sequiturs and there was the script and then we go to lunch. We were at the Fox Ranch out in Malibu, and Bob said to me, “Why can’t you be like someone else?” And I had my lunch on a tray. And he pointed to Corey Fischer, you know, and said, “Why can’t you be like him?” Who was a part of The Committee, an improvisational group that Altman hired. And I shook my lunch, I threw it up and I said, “You motherfucker. I’m not gonna stick my neck out for you again. You know and I know where I come from. I know precision, I know repetition. You’ll tell me what you want and that’s what you’ll get.” And he said, “I think I’ve made a mistake.” I said, “I think so.” He said, “I apologize.” I said, “I accept.” And that’s when Paul Lewis the production manager for Getting Straight came out to meet with me for the movie which was my next picture. And Tarantino said it’s a part of his library. He’s got Getting Straight there.

KM: Yes, he loves that movie.

EG: Mike Nichols and, if I can take the liberty, Mike Nichols and I double-dated once with me and Barbra and Nichols and Zohra Lampert. The four of us.

JW: Zohra!

GS: I was in a movie with her.

EG: Which one was that?

GS: Bye Bye Braverman.

EG: Oh, that’s right. That was wonderful. What a good picture.

JW: I had left New York before the Barbra thing.

EG: Just before, I was in the chorus. I was in Irma la Douce.

JW: Yes. And Elliott had written to me … You had written something to me that I remember. You wrote, there’s a girl in the show, she’s dynamite. She’s terrific, I’m falling in love with her. I said, oh good, my friend is involved with a girl. That’s good! I knew at the time, you had one schoolyard crush …

EG: Oh my God, I had crushes but, just like that, I couldn’t find myself. There was no one there to calm me. I told Ingmar [Bergman] about it, you know.

GS: What had Ingmar seen you in that got his attention?

EG: He had studied … but Getting Straight. He said, when he saw Getting Straight.

GS: I’ll be damned.

JW: Oh, so that’s how Ingmar Bergman came about?

EG: Yeah, also I was really hot. So, you know, I mean …

KM: What was it in Getting Straight that he responded to so much?

EG: He said it was a scene in Getting Straight — there was something where my character was in such a rage. There was just a rage in me. It would almost be like me facing the Tea Party right now, you know. There was just a rage and an insult and Ingmar said to me, “You showed great restraint in that scene.”

JW: Taking an American actor, that was a big deal at the time.

EG: Oh God, yeah, everybody in the universe was up for it. [For The Touch] I almost didn’t do it. I said, but how can I say no. You know, let’s see if I can …

KM: You almost said no? To Bergman?

EG: Well, here’s the deal. I was making a living for my family for the first time. And you know, and I didn’t understand anything. We had Begelman and them but they were in it for what they could get out of it. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand myself. I didn’t know anything about meaning. You know, if I could do something for my family but even then you get to the family. You’re more educated formally than the rest of us, George? Dartmouth, right?

GS: Columbia.

EG: Columbia? I met somebody who was at Dartmouth. I have his card. I like to get it clear.

JW: I’ve got a few dollars on Columbia.

GS: Oh right, yeah.

[Everyone laughs]

EG: So that sort of worked out. But it was tough. Oh yeah, making a living. I don’t know how I’m gonna act with the best actors in the world with Bergman. I mean, Bergman didn’t write scripts like we do with indication of direction; it’s like a novella. I thought, oh my God, I can’t expose my ignorance to that, but I can’t say no. So they had him call me in the West Village. [Does Bergman voice] “Hellloooooo. Little Broooootherssssss.”

JW: What did he say?

EG: [Bergman voice] Liiitttttlle Brottttthhhherrrrrr.

JW: Little Brother?

EG: Little brother. He called me that. And so my hair stood up. And I thought, oh, I can trust me with him and him with me. It’s like I talk to a dog or a baby. And so I came. And, whoa, that was really interesting.

KM: You really liked him …

EG: I loved Ingmar. He showed me Fellini’s The White Sheik. He said with Fellini, there’s always music. Fellini will endure and survive. So, working on The Touch, we met in his office, read everything, I met with the whole team. And it was more than that. I’m doing this to see if I can work with the finest actors in the world, Max and Bibi. And then I had a week off so I went to Paris and that’s where Peckinpah wanted me to do Straw Dogs.

KM: Really?

EG: Do you know this?

KM: No.

EG: Straw Dogs. And so he called me, I was at L’Hôtel in Paris and downstairs in the lobby on the phone Peckinpah said, Elliott. You do read between the lines, don’t you? And I said, Sam, I live between the lines. And until such time as I understand the lines it’s way too terrifying for me to think where I live. Now that I’ve started to learn how to work with this instrument, you know, where we can get ahead. Like how I said to Warren Beatty, we’re fucking elderly. Elderly, you know, we are elderly. But our spirit is not.

GS: Well what about Peckinpah?

EG: He just wanted me. But there was Danny Melnick, was, you know, and one of the reasons I didn’t do it is in terms of Jack Brodsky and David Begelman. Because Bobby Kaufman, you remember him? He said, “You’re a moneymaking machine.” And just doing so many things and I didn’t know how to stop. Because Altman also wanted me to do McCabe & Mrs. Miller. And I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I did I Love My Wife, which means a lot to us. Not the picture, but the concept.

[Everyone laughs]

EG: Oh my God, so that’s where Altman had said with McCabe: “You’re making the mistake of your life.” And I knew there were two reasons. One, I’m being pushed by the boys to do I Love My Wife. And I thought we all know I do. I’m married to Barbra at the time; there was no question about that. But they wanted me to do, at that time, “The Candy Man” in Gene Wilder’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And me in my putzdom said, “Yeah, I’ll do it, but I want to be Elliott Goldstein. Nobody knows Elliott Goldstein. Introduce me as Elliott Goldstein.” They said, “No, we want Elliott Gould. I said, well. So I didn’t do it.” In my career … there was a big, big logjam which had to do with business people who were here before I understood myself, I felt I couldn’t allow myself if I had the opportunity to be a slave to early success. I want to always continue to grow, you know. I’m very grateful.

But these are mistakes that you gotta make to find out where things are at … For me to be out here and to have to come into contact with people who are running the show, people who are in charge, I don’t know … that’s different. Because that’s how I got into so much trouble. But I had to crack the egg. I had to. I had to. I had to.

JW: No mistakes. It happened exactly — the only way it could happen is the way it happened.

EG: I agree, I agree to that too. I don’t disagree. You might say that that was gambling but gambling to come out here and not know what you are.

GS: It takes time to catch up to yourself. That’s what you said.

EG: So, the week I had off from going back to work with Bergman and when I had that conversation with Sam Peckinpah, I went to Sorrento, the Sorrento Film Festival for a screening of Getting Straight and they sat me next to George Stevens and I didn’t even realize I’m sitting right next to George Stevens. I win best picture. I beat out Jon Voight. I never expect to win anything. But that’s also what it’s not about, right? It’s not about winning, and so I realized, I’m sitting next to this guy where, I could just start to talk to him, we would have perhaps devised a picture.

KM: George Stevens’s last movie, it was a gambling picture. Strange movie I actually really like, The Only Game in Town with Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty.

EG: I know! Right, right. I don’t think the movie worked. Frank Gilroy wrote that. Oh, it’s so weird because Frank Gilroy wrote it and, we were friendly, it was a play first and I went in to read for the play and there was this speech and Willie Mays’s number, I’m sure it was number 24 and they didn’t have it right. And I said, “Listen you know, I understand, but Willie Mays’s number was 24 and not the number you have in the script.”

JW: They had Willie Mays as a different number in the script? They blew the number?

EG: Yeah …

JW: That’s like not having Jackie Robinson as 42. You don’t have his number wrong! I mean, I’ll be offended if you don’t have number 4, Duke Snider.

EG: And number one.

JW: Come on! You give him a bad number on that. Forget that.

EG: So, this guy Douglas Slocombe. You know Dougie?

GS: Cameraman, cameraman.

EG: Dougie … Douglas Slocombe … [mimics a stutter] talked like that. I used to call him Dougie-the-the-the-v-v-v-v-v-very-Slocombe, and, now he had shot Indiana Jones, he had shot Julia for Fred fucking Zinnemann, he had shot the sequences that Steven Spielberg shot in India for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A major, big-time cinematographer. And he says to me, “How did you escape?” And I said, “Well, first of all, I think you’re paying me a compliment so thank you. But there is no escape. No one escapes life. How I was able to endure and survive is that I hid in my worst fear, which was darkness. And even my beloved parents when they would project a conscious thought to me that was less than positive or divine I withdrew deeper into my worst fear. And I lived in darkness forever until I learned to see through it into the light.”

JW: Your parents could have been easily my parents.

EG: Our parents. But like when you said there are no mistakes. Just think about that then. Because it was necessary. I live with a picture of Sigmund Freud. I can analyze just about anything. I’m studying. I’m trying to get to know my father. My mother, she was extremely influential to say the least.

KM: There’s a lot of family here. It’s interesting that you had worked with George, Joseph, you grew up with Elliott, you know each other’s family and share mutual friends. And, Joseph you’ve talked about Butch Cavell who is in Invitation to a Gunfighter and he’s also in California Split.

JW: Yes, he is. He’s also one of the poker players.

KM: And so all of these people end up in the movie. Just all of these interconnections in life show up in that movie.

JW: Yes. It does interconnect.


Kim Morgan is a film and culture writer who has written for numerous publications, including Salon, LA Weekly, GQ, and Playboy.