Howard Ross - Video Interview

Uploaded by giofre on 26.03.2012

The frenzied jazz rhythm is based on the perfect sound
of the deep rumbling of a powerful car engine
forcing the man to put his foot
down hard on the accelerator.
Renato Rossini. Artist's name: Howard Ross.
Your career didn't begin in film
but with photo stories.
How did you come to work in film?
l came to the cinema as a stuntman.
As a double or acrobat.
l began working as an actor in the film ''Giant of the Lost Tomb''.
The main role was played by the American actor, Ed Fury.
And it was directed by Domenico Paolella.
Ed Fury had been to the States. l don't know why.
And they were looking for a double who looked like him.
Domenico Paolella asked me if l wanted to play a double.
l accepted. There were dangerous scenes.
He was tied up near some lions. And l did all that.
We shot the film and it all went well.
Paolella was very enthusiastic
and he said to me, ''Rossini...''
l was called Renato Rossini
''Give me your number. l'm making other films too.''
''lt was a pleasure working with you. Thanks.''
l gave him my number and he called me
for other films he was making like ''Hercules Against the Mongols''.
How did Howard Ross come to be? lt was my agent who talked about it.
lt was Giuseppe Perrone,
who looked after a lot of the muscular American actors,
like Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott or Mark Forest.
He said to me, ''Listen, Rossini, if you want me to be your agent,
''you have to change your name.
''Because Rossini is too much like a musician's name.''
''What will l be called?''
''How about Red Ross?''
''Red Ross? Why not? lt's not bad.''
l filmed under the name of Red Ross.
But afterwards, l wanted to have a name
as l was starting to get some lead roles.
From Red Ross we moved on to Howard Ross.
That's how Howard Ross came to be.
When making a sword and sandal film,
what were the main risks that an actor might encounter?
Certain films required a lot of physical preparation.
We always had to do physical training,
as well as psychological training.
There were lots of risks.
ln rehearsals, if we were sword fighting,
if we were fighting duels, we would get hurt.
lt was possible to get hurt in rehearsals
because with the fencing master we did fifths.
There were accidents. Moreover, we did leaps
even if there were mattresses during rehearsals.
We finished the scene and our fingers would get hurt
and we'd have scars, even on our faces.
So it was really tough...
during rehearsals. lt wasn't easy.
We had to be prepared mentally
and physically, of course,
because these were action films.
That required a lot of preparation.
You've also made westerns.
What was the difference between doing an epic and a western
in terms of preparation for the character?
My first western was with Primo Zeglio.
lt was ''The Relentless Four'' with Adam West.
l remember going from period or mythological films
to westerns and that wasn't simple
due to the ltalian mentality...
When spectators are used to seeing you in mythological films,
they don't find you credible in another genre, here, the western.
Personally, l liked most of the films and my performances.
l liked all the films l made.
l always adapted well.
But between the mythological film and the western,
for me, there was no difference.
The only difference was in the costume.
For mythological films, l was barechested
and for the westerns, l was dressed.
But it was the same thing.
When you like what you do, it's easy to get into the role.
Nothing is impossible.
We can play all roles.
Working with the Americans is special.
lt's really full on.
l made a western
which doesn't appear on my CV,
''The Man Called Noon''
made by Peter Collinson.
l only filmed for seven or eight days.
But l was treated like Richard Crenna.
l was treated just like the main actor.
l had my caravan, my armchair.
When the weather was bad, l was taken back to the hotel.
ln that way, the Americans are special.
An actor who has never worked with Americans has no idea
that that's what real cinema is.
You really feel like an actor, you're a Marlon Brando.
For an actor, what was the significance
of the agent at that time?
The agent is very important.
And why is he important?
Because an actor with an agent is well regarded by the production team.
They'll call the agent directly
and they'll ask for Howard Ross for this film in particular.
The agent gets the script,
sends it to the actor going for the role.
The actor reads the script and dissects the character
either for a main role or for a role sharing the limelight.
And he says, ''Perfect, l'll accept the role.''
And what does the agent do? He just agrees.
He draws up a contract with you and asks you for money.
lf l agree, l accept.
lf l don't agree, l refuse.
But we always find a common ground,
because work is sacred.
And from time to time, we helped a bit in production.
l always make sure, albeit in a good way,
that production remember me.
That they take note of my professional nature
and that if another two or three hours were needed
l wouldn't ask for anything in return, not even a coffee.
l helped them in production.
Producers back then or even now...
are heroes.
This way of doing things doesn't happen these days.
Particularly because of television.
ln 1967, you made a film with a great director
called Umberto Lenzi, ''Desert Commandos''.
What do you remember about this director?
Umberto Lenzi is an excellent director.
lt's a pity he was so nervous.
lf he was nervous, it's because he was asked by production
to finish the film in seven weeks.
''lf the film is finished at the end of eight weeks,
''you'll pay for the extra week out of your own pocket.''
He had to do it in seven weeks
and if he finished on time,
he would get the credit for it.
We arrived in Casablanca on the film set
and he said, ''OK, let's go.''
l remember, l had to play with an orange.
And it kept falling to the ground.
He shouted, ''l must finish the film!''
''What are you doing with that orange?''
The desert was on a slope and we only had one orange.
ln the end, production only gave us one or two oranges.
l had to juggle with the orange but it kept slipping from hands.
l said to him, ''Listen.
''lf you stay calm, l'll manage to get this scene done.''
''Every five minutes you worry about something.
''You've become too nervous.'' But he had to finish his film.
We finished the film in time,
but none of the actors were happy with Umberto Lenzi,
because of his way of directing.
He made everyone nervous.
But ''Desert Commandos'' did well.
ln 1970, you made a film with the great Mario Bava,
''lsland of Terror''.
The great Mario Bava.
He had been the assistant director,
and he made some beautiful designs.
He managed to make a castle larger than life.
Mario Bava is a great man of the cinema.
Edwige Fenech was in this film
who was working with him for the first time.
Edwige Fenech.
There was also Helena Ronee
and two or three other French actresses.
l remember Mario Bava directed actors according to their pace.
We rehearsed the scene and our exchanges of dialogue.
When we were ready,
and when filming could begin,
he filmed, but in absolute calm.
Mario Bava was a film great
and he left his mark on ltalian cinema,
through his distinguished manners and through his talent.
He never got wound up. l never saw him angry.
He was always...
ready to clarify things, to communicate.
l remember him fondly.
You also filmed with Sergio Grieco.
Sergio Grieco was also a great.
We made several films. l had the main role
in ''One Man against the Organisation''.
He said, ''Don't worry.
''We'll do the scene when you're ready.
''We'll watch it back together.''
l have to say that he really was a great.
l have great memories of Sergio Grieco.
ln 1973, you filmed with another master,
Fernando Di Leo, in the film ''The Boss''.
Another film great.
There was nothing to teach him.
He knew everything about cinema.
When filming a scene, he could already envisage the editing.
He already knew how he would edit it.
He was someone who smoked a lot on set.
He always seemed to be angry,
but it was because he sensed...
the script, the story as he was also a scriptwriter.
His way of filming was special.
lt was also a pleasure to work with Fernando Di Leo.
He was a great, great director.
When he positioned the camera,
it was as if he already saw how to do the editing.
When his films came out, they all did well.
The film theatres were always packed.
He was someone who believed in what he did.
But he never would have guessed
that some day his films would be so well received.
He believed in what he did without really caring
about whether one day his films would become masterpieces.
But in the third millennium we're still enjoying his films,
the films of Fernando Di Leo,
or Mario Bava or other ltalian directors.
That made me particularly pleased
because l performed in them.
l am happy that l'm remembered a bit.
lt gives me great pleasure, for example, to be doing this interview
because it gets me going for a few days.
l enjoy it.
The following year, you made ''Five Women for the Killer'',
directed by a director
who had a very special sense of action
and who recently passed away, Stelvio Massi.
What do you remember of him?
A great director. He had also been an assistant director.
He had even been assistant director to Sergio Grieco
for the film ''Man of Legend''.
He was assistant director.
Then he became a director and he made some good films
which did well.
He was also very gifted
and knew how to handle the camera.
He was also a great professional.
lt's a pity that these directors are dead.
Because today, they would have a lot to offer ltalian cinema.
They have a great experience of the cinema to offer.
Without wanting to sound bad, today's directors
do strange things and make bad films.
lt's may be our times that demand that.
l don't know but l don't enjoy their films.
l'm repeating myself. Directors of that time...
lt's a pity they are dead.
Their experience would have been a great help.
Let's hope that directors manage to stand out,
emerging as spiritual sons, great directors,
like Fernando Di Leo,
people who have been assistant directors like Di Leo
or Sergio Grieco. They were training with great people.
You have switched between genres.
Among others, you made a littleknown film noir, ''The Pyjama Girl Case'',
by Flavio Mogherini, made in 1977.
Yes, Flavio Mogherini.
He is also a great director.
This film was made in ltaly and Australia.
ln this film, Michele Placido was excellent.
ln the film, we are friends. Dalila Di Lazzaro was also in it.
Flavio Mogherini made his films well,
because he also believed in what he did.
He was a great in the world of cinema.
The only problem that l had
was that Flavio Mogherini wanted to create
a character with brown hair and a character with blonde hair.
l had to dye my hair blonde
in order to be the opposite to Michele Placido.
l had to wear blue contact lenses.
To have blue eyes!
l had never worn contact lenses before.
As soon as l put the lenses in,
it felt like l had sand in my eyes.
''Flavio, how much time is it going to take?
''l can't carry on with these contact lenses.''
l had to be patient,
because we spent hours on a scene.
When l took the lenses out in the evening, l was a mess.
lt was as if l had sand in my eyes.
The film is good and everything went well.
But l won't do it again.
All that for blue eyes...
The contrast between Placido and me was nevertheless perfect.
But that was a difficult shoot.
lf you were called to make an epic, would you accept?
Of course. Physically, l'm in better shape
even if l'm not so young.
But l'm 65 years old.
l still have an acceptable figure. l keep myself in good shape.
Today, l could do
the ''Maciste'' series and l would be better.
Because now l have the experience.
l would like to start again, but it's difficult.
lf only!
''lt is 7:30 pm on a clear summer's day.
''The solar disc, while it starts to go down,
''brushes against the top of age old trees,
''while Melvin Devereux abandons the city limits of New Orleans
''and imprints the entrance of the state highway heading north
''through 250 miles of tarred road,
''redirecting the owner of the house in Shreveport.''