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Christopher Mitchum

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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Christopher Mitchum (page 3)

You appeared in "Commando Mengele" (aka "Angel of death"), directed by Andrea Bianchi. The film reportedly included a lot of stock footages from "El Hombre que mató a Mengele", a Jess Franco film on the same subject starring Howard Vernon. Were you aware of this? Did you work with Franco on this production? Would you have any comments on the French producing company Eurociné in general and its boss Marius Lesoeur?

Funny story about the Mengele film. When I was contacted by Daniel Lesoeur for the film, I had a herniated disk in my lower back. In fact, after the film, I had surgery. I was in constant pain and could hardly walk, but I needed the work so I took the job. I arrived with cane (and pills) in hand and had a meeting with Daniel. I gave him this spiel that my character was a Viet Nam vet, wounded in Nam and partially crippled, and he hated the Commies for doing that, which is why he worked for Mengele. Daniel, God bless him and understanding little of actors, said, "Fine." So, we walked down the hall to Andrea's room for a meeting, at which I made the same pitch. Now, picture the star telling the director how he'd like to play it, and the producer there nodding. Andrea said "Fine." So, I played it with the cane, which I really needed. When we got to the first fight scene, Andrea wanted me to do all these high, spinning kicks. We were about two weeks into shooting. I said, "Andrea, the guy's a cripple." He went ashen. Being a black belt in Kenpo, I had already worked out a routine using the cane which is what we shot. I had heard that Andrea is also Drew White who made porn films. I never checked that out. Jess? Had not yet met him, but he and Daniel were good friends and, of course, Howard was on the film. I loved working with Daniel. A very "family" company. I have met Marius, but can't really say that I "know" him.

Did you ever feel that you were used mostly in order to have your family name in the credits? If so, how did you feel about it?

In my early work, I had to be ten time better than anyone else tested so that, if the film bombed, whoever cast me could not be accused of putting me in because they knew my father. No one's going to hang millions on just someone's last name. You have to deliver, too. Same thing when I was working in Europe and Asia. I had my own name. In fact, my father told me, when he was in Japan shooting The Yakuza, a young woman came up to him and asked, "You Robert Mitchum?" "Yes," he said. "Father of Chris Mitchum?" "Yes," he said. "Could you please get me his autograph?" He loved telling that story. In the later years, when my star has dimmed and my father's still shown bright, I'm sure the combined power of the name "Mitchum" helped. Hey, it's work.

In the 1990s, you appeared in many supporting roles, as in "Tombstone" for instance, and made fewer movies. Did you deliberately wish to take a step back from acting?

No, I did not. I got mad at my agent and fired him, unaware of how much the business has changed. Now, with the extras all in SAG, work paying less except for the big names, it's hard for the small, really good agencies to get enough work for their clients and they aren't interested in taking on someone new... unless you're already working. The bigger agencies work for the agency, not for their clients... well, I like the more personal touch. So, I've been without an agent for 14 years. Makes it hard to get work.

Your son Bentley is also an actor. Did you support his career choice? You are also starring together in one movie, "Soul Searchers", directed by Bentley. Could you tell us more about it?

Robert, Christopher et Bentley: three Mitchum generations.

If that's what he wanted to do, yes. I had preferred that he stayed at USC and graduated from the film school. It would have opened many more doors for him. His career started when he starred with my father and me in Promises To Keep, a CBS MOW. Soul Searchers is a little horror film he wrote, directed and produced down in Texas. He got some good talent to come in for him. It's been edited and he's marketing it, now.

What are your (other) current projects? Do you concentrate only on your acting career, or do you have other activities? Are you involved in the management of your father's films' rights?

If I had an agent, I'd love to do more acting. We'll see. Right now, however, I'm doing a great deal of writing. I've written nine screenplays that have been filmed, all overseas. I am working on a western, have two finished scripts I'm marketing, have two children's stories for which I'm trying to find a publisher, and am writing a murder mystery (novel). There's not much to manage of my father's film rights, other than collect checks when they are shown.

During your career, you have worked all over the world, in the US, in Europe (France, Spain, Italy, Germany...) and in Asia (Hong Kong, The Philippines, Indonesia, Japan...), with some of the biggest stars and also in some of the baddest movies in the history of Cinema. With the benefit of hindsight, what look do you take at your career, as a professional and more specifically as a human experience?

I was shooting American Commandos with John Phillip Law in the Philippines. I was lamenting about not working back in the majors in Hollywood. "How many films do you do a year, Mitch?" JP asked. "Three." "You making a living?" "Well, yeah, a pretty good one," I said. "Mitch, do you know how many actors in SAG would kill to be doing what you're doing?" JP asked. I did know. I knew the amount of work I had, and my earnings, put me in the top 2% of all actors in Hollywood. I stopped complaining.

I've worked in 14 different countries and starred with the world's top stars. I've made a good living. I did the best with that which I had to work, tried to maintain my values by keeping my clothes on and profanity out of my dialogue. I wanted my children to be able to watch me in my films. I met wonderful people and wonderful characters and travelled to wonderful places... being paid for it all the time! It's said the "Life happens while you're making plans." It certainly did to me, but I've always tried to make the best of it. Regrets? Sure, I wish my career had stayed in Hollywood, but I'm not dead yet. So far, Life's been a terrific ride... and it's going to make a great book!

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