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Interview de Max Thayer

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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Max Thayer

Max Thayer has been a favorite player of ours, ever since we discovered him in an insane and obscure Filipino actioner called "Deadringer". Hero of the most bizarre quickies in underground cinema, Max also had a long career as a supporting actor on stage and in more mainstream movies. Needless to say, we were overjoyed when we were able to track him down and even more when our idol agreed to an interview. Always the perfectionist, Max took the time to answer our questions with humour and gusto, offering us a pretty unique insight on the life of a B-movie actor and on an often-neglected side of cinema. Thanks, Max, and keep up the good work!

Interview menée par Team Nanarland


My real name is Michael Thayer. Max is… a character from a Harold Robbins novel (The Carpetbaggers), or maybe the summer of ’72 in Amsterdam or a professional name I took when I joined the Screen Actors Guild.

I was born June 18, 1946 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. I was drafted into the Army in ’66, served 3 years and came to Los Angeles, California USA in ’69 to try and break into movies. I was twenty-two. After that, New York, Europe, Asia and South America have all been homes for awhile but I seem to keep ending up here in Hollywood where I have been based for the last 25 years.

This was how I was introduced to acting :

I was fresh out of the army when I arrived in Los Angeles, California in 1969. It had never before crossed my mind to become an actor but I thought it would be a cool job so I went to MGM to ask for an application to apply for work as a movie actor. They laughed me out of the office.
Untrained and completely ignorant, my entrée into an otherwise closed world of acting was joining an experimental theatre group and performing street theatre in Venice, California. We would listen to Captain Beefheart, Trout Mask Replica and do improvisations. Absolutely wild ! It was my first step as a performer and the beginning of a life-long adventure.
I began to read plays for the first time and became familiar with Brecht, Joyce, Miller and O’Neill. I read books about acting by Uta Hagen and Michael Chekhov. I learned to play Growtoski‘s Theatre Games. It was the seed planted that would eventually grow into performances on stage in New York and Los Angeles.
Theatre is the basic core of acting and, I believe, it is from theatre that an actor gets their soul. A live audience is the scariest thing this actor can do. I have been more nervous waiting in the wings before a stage entrance than jumping into any movie stunt I’ve ever done. But the exhilaration of performing before a group of people who have come to be informed and entertained is incomparable. The more the risk, the bigger the thrill.

Trying to compare film and theatre is like comparing apples and pears. A deeper discussion is required that I am not prepared to pursue. Let me just say that I enjoy them both immensely and will continue to gorge on them as long as fortune allows.

Liquid Theatre

Paris, France. 1972. I have some stories about an experimental piece called “Liquid Theatre” that was performed at the Espace Cardin. I was a cast member of the New York ensemble that performed it at the Guggenheim Museum before it moved to your fair country. I took the opportunity to join the legion of American backpackers who flocked to Europe in the spring and naturally wound up in Paris, meeting the French ensemble.

As for my early influences regarding film and actors :

Sample Answer Movies : The Pawnbroker, The L-Shaped Room, Jules and Jim

Sample Answer Actors : Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Alain Delon

Sample Answer Actresses : Julie Christie. Jane Fonda, Brigitte Bardot

It may seem that I remember too much. Hmm… getting old, but I really don’t care. This is an opportunity to be brutally honest with you and myself.

My first film was, “Ilsa : Harem Keeper to the Oil Sheiks.” 1975.

There, I said it. Yes that was me, credited under my real name, but not my voice. It was dubbed for reasons I won’t go into now but I learned a great lesson on that film about how to survive acting in movies. Talk about getting thrown to the sharks. The less said the better. A truly atrocious piece of merde.

The biggest star in the film was the tarantula from Dr. No. The most outstanding aspect of Ilsa are the production values. Considering the fact that the Director of Photography was Dean Cundey and the Production Designer was J. Michael Riva (look THEM up and be amazed at their collective bodies of work), it should come as no surprise.
As I mentioned before, Ilsa was my first experience as a film actor. I suppose one of the few consolations of participating in this dance of fools is that I‘ll never, ever, come remotely close to having to waltz through anything like that again.

I followed with “Planet of the Dinosaurs”, then, “Hot Ice” directed by the notorious Ted Apostolof and also Ed Wood’s last attempt at acting. In 1977, I starred in - along with Frank Sinatra Jr. - “Do It in the Dirt”, a dirt-biking film that my riding, as much as my acting, skills, landed me the role. I don’t know what happened with this film. I don’t think it was ever released and I have yet to see one frame of it.

On an off-day from, “Do It in the Dirt”, I met with Elliot Hong, who was to direct, “The Retrievers”. Right now I’m too lazy to dig for the records but I think it was ’78 when we started the film and I remember meeting and training with Bong Soo Han. He had been the martial-arts coordinator on “Billy Jack” and numerous other pictures and he was a stern task master. Although since ‘66, I have been aware of, and practiced some aspects of different schools, I am not a martial-artist. Let’s get that straight right now.

I am blessed with a love of sports and a lot of playing as a child in Detroit. Ice Hockey, Baseball, Football, Basketball, Boxing and Swimming. In the course of doing action-films it has all served me well.

I’m also not a stuntman. During a big fight scene on the roof of a building, getting thrown around by the bad guys, I was too ignorant to wear pads. It was only afterwards, bemoaning my aching body to a stuntman pal that he asked me incredulously, “You didn’t put any pads on?” I bought my own pads the next day.

I’m an actor, that’s what I am.

By the way, “The Retrievers” and all the movies previously mentioned were shot at various locations around Los Angeles, California USA. Not the Philippines. I wouldn’t arrive there until 1983.

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