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Richard Harrison

Si nous aimons rire d'un certain cinéma déviant, nous sommes très loin de mépriser les hommes et les femmes qui s'y sont impliqués ou compromis. Il nous a ainsi paru enrichissant de faire raconter le nanar et son univers par les gens qui l'ont vécu de l'intérieur. La diversité des intervenants et de leurs réponses nous a rendu encore plus proches du cinéma que nous aimons : vous découvrirez, au fil des entretiens que ces différentes vedettes ont bien voulu nous accorder, des informations précieuses pour le cinéphile et le cinéphage, des anecdotes cocasses et, en esquisse, le portrait attachant de personnages souvent hauts en couleur.
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Richard Harrison


All through a long career led on every front, he worked with some of the greatest names of the silver screen in general (Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Errol Flynn, Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee, Isabella Rossellini...) and of the B-Movie in particular (Vampira, Umberto Lenzi, Alberto De Martino, Gordon Mitchell, Antonio Margheriti, Enzo G. Castellari, Joe D'Amato, Bruno Mattei, Jesus Franco, Teddy Page, Fred Olen Ray, Godfrey Ho...).
Some time ago, Richard Harrison and his son Sebastian have started Gladiator Electronics, an online shopping resource for multisystem electronics which name is a tribute to the "Sword & Sandals" movie genre that made the actor famous.
If the image of the great Richard Harrison is so deeply rooted in B-Movies, it is because the actor is indisputably a mainstay of the genre. As he kindly accepted to answer our volley of questions, the master goes back over his career in the following, pretty instructive interview exclusive to Nanarland. All with sharp lucidity, exemplary outspokenness and a definite contempt for cant !

Interview conducted by
John Nada (November 2003)


Originally, you belong to this generation of actors who made a name for themselves in the cinema thanks to the sword and sandal films, following the example of Steve Reeves like Gordon Mitchell, Gordon Scott, Ed Fury, Mark Forrest or Reg Park with whom you were forming a kind of "community of American actors" in the Cinecitta studios. Was the nature of the relations between you and these actors at the time more of the kind of a conniving, friendly solidarity or of a harsh, fierce rivalry ? Would you explain why the career of Gordon Mitchell and yours are the only ones which survived the decline of the genre ?

Before going to Europe I was under contract to two different studios, in fact, I still had a picture contract with American Int. when I accepted a contract with Italo Zingerelli in Italy. I had made my living as an actor for six years, and I was not a body builder, but someone who worked out to keep fit. The people you mentioned were chosen because of their physiques. Most of them had not been trained to be actors. I was able to play in many different genre of films that had nothing to do with muscles. Except for Gordon Mitchell almost all of my friends were European. I prefer the European culture, and even now most of my friends are from Europe.
Gordon had a great face, and a very sweet personality.


"I was able to play in many different genre of films that had nothing to do with muscles."

How did you go from the body-building world to the movie industry ? If we ask you this question, it's because it seems to us that your father-in-law was running the AIP company and that it's how you have been hired, thus being on the verge of becoming an AIP " stock actor ". So, how have you eventually been casted for The Invicible Gladiator (Il Gladiatore Invincibile, 1963) ? Did the Italian movie industry appear to offer more parts and a better career opportunity for you than the Hollywood of these days ?

I was never considered a muscle man in Hollywood. I had a picture deal with AIP, but I chose to go to Europe instead when I was offered the contract. I had a great desire to go to Europe, especially Italy. I knew I didn't have the tools to be a great actor, nor the desire, but I felt I had what was needed to have a career. Certainly there were more films being made in Italy than Hollywood at that time.


"I knew I didn't have the tools to be a great actor, nor the desire, but I felt I had what was needed to have a career."

What was the atmosphere like in the Cinecitta studios ? One can often hear that several films were sometimes directed at the same time, that the movies were made in a great number just like in a factory. Did it happen to you to act in several movies at the same time ?

When you are the lead actor you are required to be on the set, or available at all times. Gordon, on the other hand often would play a short part, then go on to another film. On the set I usually stayed to myself. My favourite pass time is reading, so that is what I would do when I was not needed in front of the camera.When you are the lead actor you are required to be on the set, or available at all times. Gordon, on the other hand often would play a short part, then go on to another film. On the set I usually stayed to myself. My favourite pass time is reading, so that is what I would do when I was not needed in front of the camera.


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