There’s film history and there’s insider scoop history, and usually they come from different sources. But last night we got both when Bonnie Bedelia dropped by. She is one of the stars of “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” which played this past week, and though she went on to make “Die Hard” (she was Bruce Willis’s wife) and is now in the show “Sordid Lives,” her career began with “They Shoot Horses,” and she brought some great stories.
Her first film was “Gypsy Moths,” an old-school Hollywood film directed by John Frankenheimer. She said it was “terrible,” not least because Frankenheimer was making use of artificial things like tape to lift her eyes and s so old-Hollywood, even in 1969, that her eyes were taped up and they applied body make-up to her. A few months later, on the set of “They Shoot Horses,” the director was Sydney Pollack and he was so interested in authenticity and the new wave of realism that he wouldn’t allow the women to wear flesh-colored underwear under their dresses or make-up on anyone. “Maybe a tube of lipstick,” she said. “But that was all.”
In a way, the best story was the last one because it had to do with the emerging indie film world. “They Shoot Horses” stars Jane Fonda – it was a serious role for her after “Barbarella” – and a couple of times Jane’s brother, Peter, showed up with his friend Dennis Hopper and their other friend Jack. All three whistled at the “Horses”’ set; they were making this low-budget biker movie, they said, and were amazed at the scale, at the number of extras, at the spectacle!