Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Very Candid Conversation with Linda Haynes

Linda Haynes was a memorable presence in 70s cinema. In addition to her great beauty, she often appeared in gritty cinema cast as women who fall in love with the wrong men whether they be Robert DoQui’s pimp in Coffy, Jason Miller’s gangster in The Nickel Ride, Andrew Robinson’s con man in The Drowning Pool,  William Devane’s psychologically damaged Vietnam vet in Rolling Thunder, and Tim McIntire’s prison trustee in Brubaker.  The male characters are incapable of loving Haynes’ character back, but all of them are aware of how much she loves them and how loyal she is to them.  Linda did one leading role in Human Experiments, where she played a country singer falsely convicted of murder who eventually finds herself in prison, only to become  subject of the prison psychiatrist. The psychiatrist performs experiments that reduce Linda’s mental state to that of an infant, and then tries to rebuild her psychologically to function in  normal society.
After Brubaker, Linda’s career came to an end as she left acting and the industry. Though her career ended, she had not been forgotten by viewers. One of those viewers was Quentin Tarantino. He had tried to cast Linda in an episode of E.R., which Linda turned down. Since Tarantino was unable to get her, it would seem that viewers would not hear from Linda again.

But in 2013, viewers reheard from Linda.  Although she was not back in the industry, she agreed to do interviews for the blu-ray edition of Rolling Thunder and now maintains her Facebook page where she freely communicates with her friends and fans.

In this candid conversation, we discuss Linda’s acting career( from the beginning where she acted in a Japanese film Latitude Zero to the end in 1980), her life after her career ended and what she’s up today. I really want to thank Linda for taking the time out to do this interview. 

Jeff Cramer: Well how did you get started in the industry anyway?

Linda Haynes: Quite by accident. It wasn't that I was wanting to pursue that. I eloped when I was 16. We eventually moved to California, to Los Angeles. We had a dog. We were walking on Beverly Drive I think and a guy pulls up, a silent screen actor by the name of Ben Bard. He was running an acting class and asked if my husband and I wanted to attend. My husband didn't want to, but I did because I didn't have anything else to do.

I started there with Ben Bard and then I did a showcase. Ben invited people in to view his talent. I got an agent from that. His name was Maury Calder. I think the first thing I got was a screen test with Richard Zanuck. They didn't like the screen test. So that's really how I got started. And I went on 'cause I didn't have anything else to do. It was the path of least resistance.

I was approached and I figured, "Well okay, I'll give that a try." Maury sent me out on auditions and I got a bit part in the movie In Like Flint. It was a non-speaking role and I was dressed out like a boy kidnapping the president off the golf course. I believe after that my next thing was Latitude Zero in Japan.

JC: Okay, so how did you get that Japanese film?

LH: That's a good question. [laughter] I must've auditioned but I don't remember auditioning for it. I was 20 when I got that job.=

JC: Yes.

LH: I remember how uncomfortable I was because I knew I had to go to Japan – to Tokyo for two months.

Linda(far left in Latitude Zero)

JC: Right.

LH: And I hadn't been away from home. And Tokyo was foreign – very foreign. The movie was foreign and there were translators – God love them, they were really helpful. But the whole thing was kind of uncomfortable for all of us because we got sick. It was cold there. We got the flu and Joseph Cotten and his wife talked about that in interviews too. The only one who was really comfortable was Richard Jaeckel because he had been in Japan so much.

So he knew people there and so on. But it was certainly an experience. Later I went back to Japan and I was a lot more comfortable, but that was of course decades later – not to work.

JC: Now one of the things I had heard about that film was that Joseph Cotten and his wife said that you did not get any money until six months after the film was there because the American producer left you.

LH: Yeah, there was some problems there and Joseph Cotten was the one that took care of it. He was like a spokesperson for the rest of us 'cause I didn't know how to deal with them. We were in a hotel and I don't remember ever having any problem paying for it. We weren't under threat of being evicted or anything. So I don’t know if it was our paychecks or our per diem or what it was that was at issue. But apparently somebody didn't want to pay or didn't pay or whatever it was.

But we survived it, and we did get paid in the end. I don’t know what it was that triggered that problem, but he solved that for us. At least for me he did because I can't remember exactly the particulars. I guess in Joseph’s biography – I know that there's a biography (a short little book about him) where he talks about it there. But it worked out, and then I went to see the movie in Santa Monica and it was really a laugh at that time.

The kids were laughing and they thought it was pretty funny. [laughter]   

JC: Well, it’s hard not to laugh when you see a flying lion.

LH: What was it, a flying lion?

JC: Yes. [laughter]

LH: Well, that is a little bizarre.

JC:; Yeah, I just recently watched the movie as I was getting ready for this interview.

LH: Well, bless your heart, because I haven't seen it but now, going back years ago because I have to force myself to do this stuff. And it's good in one way because when I saw it initially I was very critical of everything I did. Now I'm not so critical because time has passed and you figure, what the heck. I know that I was really uncomfortable 'cause I wasn't used to acting. That was like a foreign thing and it was uncomfortable.

IshirĊ Honda didn't speak English although he was able to get his points across even in Japanese. You know, you kind of got a sense of what it was he wanted. He was a very, very nice person.

JC: Yes.

LH: Everybody was really, really, really nice on the set. There was no problem with the actors, crew or anything. Everything was amicable.

JC: Okay, then it would be a couple of years, although I think there was some TV. Coffy is the next movie you did, you know?

LH: Yeah, and that was fun. I think I recently watched it before I went to California to do an interview. I had to watch a string of them. I was surprised. I was surprised at the movie itself – you know, what it was about, and so on. But it was fun working with Pam Grier and Bob DoQui and you know. It's tough to remember this stuff going way back. I mean I'm going really far back. And three years I didn't even think of it nothing because I was too busy living the life that I've been living.

Linda(far right seated) in Coffy

So I just saw I did Room 222 with Karen Valentine.

JC: Yes.

LH: And I can only remember – and I watched maybe a week ago – that there are exactly two things that I remember and that was one on the scene of the outside. The kids were circling me, haunting me. And I remember that Karen Valentine ate the biggest breakfast I've ever seen anybody eat before she started work.

JC: Really, and she's not heavy.

LH: She's not heavy, no. She's like a healthy normal person, and she looked great today. I saw a picture of her. But that is all I remember. So it's like I couldn't remember that anything – I couldn't remember the clothes that I wore, nothing, nothing, nothing. It was so novel to see that. And again I hadn't had a lot of training when I did that. So I was uncomfortable as usual. But again I did the job okay, looking at it now, for as young as I was and as inexperienced as I was.

But that’s all I can remember. It's amazing how one can forget. Usually, you remember clothes that you wore in a movie or something. And I didn't remember that. It was all foreign.

JC: The thing with Coffy, though; that was the beginning of a bunch of characters you would begin to continuously play. In Coffy, your very devoted to Robert DoQui's pimp character. You would continue to be very devoted to other criminal characters in the roles you play.

LH: Yeah, right, that kind of was a thread through my career, playing a girlfriend or whatever, or a wife. And I guess that’s how they saw me and cast me. Today, were I to do that many years later I would be cast differently, I would think. You know that's how it was then and I just simply took what was offered. There were a few refusals. There were a few things I didn't want to do and I think – I'm not sure what it was.

It was another movie in Japan and I think Roger Corman. Maybe it was the Big Bird Cage. It was something like that that I didn't want to do. I'm not sure.

JC: 'Cause the next one is – and this is where you are very comfortable in it because it's a major role now: The Nickel Ride.

LH: Yeah, well that was comfortable to make. By then I believe I had had some training. Somewhere along the line I had gone to workshops and I had become a life member of the Actor's Studio. So I began to get some tools, some craft. So it wasn't so difficult then and what I did – I improved. And then the people around me made it easier I guess to do well or to feel more comfortable in what I was doing. But there's definitely a craft and tools to use.

Then I began to feel very comfortable with the camera. I decided, "I've got to be friends with this camera and I have to be really intimate with it and not be intimidated by it." And also make what's going on in the scene, the person or whatever it is – actually just let the life flow that was going on. Then things got easier. But they didn't have those tools in the very beginning, so it was just like, "Well let's see, do the best we can here no matter how uncomfortable I am."

In some ways that worked, like in Latitude Zero. I was so young and played a doctor. Well a doctor – usually they don't act like comedians, with a few exceptions. I've had a few doctors that have been – You know so the fact that I was kind of stiff – reserved. I guess that worked for me but that was what I was. I was very, very uncomfortable. And I know Pat Medina, my co-star in Latitude Zero, and I, were in a car driving somewhere.  I had said, "Well I wonder what something said about the actresses," or something. Her retort was, "Well as far as I'm concerned I'm the only actress in this film." I didn't say a word. No argument there. It takes time. It takes time.

I look at the credits and I see with The Nickel Ride there were people – John Hillerman and Victor French went on to their own TV series and got major roles in TV series. So it's really a matter of staying with it and delivering the goods.

Linda in Nickel Ride

JC: One thing about The Nickel Ride there's a moment there in the thing where Jason Miller's character is describing your dancer past. And you do a little shimmy just in front of Victor French. From there we could see right away what also attracted Miller to you and it gives a good idea from your past. It's just a one little moment there you know?

LH: I didn't remember doing that either until I saw it on the little clip on whatever. [To see the clip, click here.]

JC: YouTube, yeah that is a popular clip from it.

LH: I thought that was okay. That was all right with me 'cause I'm always watching to see when there's BS going on: where I was uncomfortable, what worked. And through that scene work we were all comfortable and it works. I'm satisfied with that. So that was okay, and I didn't really think much about it, about developing a past character, being in the – whatever, more depth or carney or whatever it was we were talking about. I just gave them a little shimmy.

JC: The next one would be The Drowning Pool where you shared it with Paul Newman.

Linda with Paul Newman in Drowning Pool

LH: Right.

JC: Let's talk about that.

LH: Well, he was easy to work with. I mean, he's a super nice guy. That was a cute scene. I don't know. We did a little bit of rehearsing but the scene just kind of worked. It was easy to work with him. Again, that was fun.  Of course I had Monty Westmore on hair and makeup, and you can't ask for better than that. I looked glamorous rather than weather-worn like in Rolling Thunder where we were outside and it was hot.

Tommy Lee and Billy Devane would call me greasy because I would get greasy all the time from the heat. But it was fun. Paul Newman of course; he had his own chauffer which was Mario Andretti's backup driver. So when we went from Lake Charles where that trailer scene was filmed back to where Lafayette is where we were staying, he said, "Do you want to ride with me?" I said, "Yeah, okay.

We were riding in the car back to Lafayette and I looked out the window. We were drinking a bottle of French wine after work and I looked at the cars and I said, "How come all these cars are stopped on the highway." Over the wetlands they put like a freeway. Well it turned out that those cars were going 55 miles per hour. In those days maybe that was the speed limit. And we were going like 120.

JC: [laughter]

LH: It was hilarious because I'm not really fond of driving fast. In fact if you drive too fast or too carelessly in the car with me today I will probably ask to be let out on the spot because I don't like it. But it just looked like all the cars were stopped, relative to how fast we were going. And anyway we made it back to Lafayette in no time whatsoever. But that was fun. And he was a super, super nice guy. I was really sorry to hear when he died. Anyway, that was a good project.

JC: Now we come to Rolling Thunder. Again, the one line of dialogue you say would be true for all your characters, "Why do I keep getting involved with crazy men?"

LH:Yeah right. [laughter] I don't know. I don't know why they saw me that way and cast me accordingly. That worked. The idea is to work. I don't know what it was but apparently that's the way I was seen and what I took. And I was comfortable enough to play that. It's like an old shoe I guess.

Linda with William Devane in Rolling Thunder

JC: But anyways let's talk about that film. Tell me what you remember about it.

LH: Oh let's see. Well we were in San Antonio I think for a couple months. Geez it's tough to think back that far.

JC: I know this is the one that is Tarantino’s favorite film and he even contacted you about it.

LH: Well, I can believe that because when he contacted me about that I was married, and we were living between here and Florida and the Bahamas. I didn't know who he was. I wasn't particularly interested in watching movies. He wasn't as big as he is now. And I figured, "Now why would I fly to California?" Number one he called and I had just awakened from a nap.

I really had finished with all that because my life was into something else. I wasn't working in any law office at the time but we were commuting between Florida and the Bahamas. I was more interested in snorkeling and relaxing than I was in working. At that point I wasn't very interested in it. If you were to call me today I'd have a different reaction altogether. But you do what you do and I'm glad he liked the film. I'm glad he liked my performance in it because again it was comfortable.

We had a good time in that film as well. I remember Billy Devane saying, "Well, she should go with us to the end," where they have that –

JC: The massacre at the end.

LH; He threw his two cents into that but they didn't go for it so I was left at the motel room and he went on to do his thing there. I didn't argue with anybody. I just did what they told me to do. I figured it's their job to make these decisions – John Flynn and the writer and so on. So I just figured, "Whatever."

JC: What do you remember about Tommy Lee Jones?

LH: Super nice guy. He's super smart. My sister came to San Antonio so after working hours were over we were able to talk as friends, etc. These were really super nice normal people. He certainly got to be a colossal star. Well they all did – Billy Devane too. But I had chosen to go another way. I don't know where I'd be if I continued, but anyway it was fun. It was fun doing that. It was fun. The scenes were fun to do.

JC: By the way were you really that good of a shot in that scene?

LH: I think I was 'cause I hit the mark, and I had never fired a shotgun before. So I may just be really talented in that. [laughter] Because I remember – I mean it was shooting blanks but I remember when I shot the gun it hit what I was looking to hit. And of course the kick on the shotgun gave me a good bruise. They must've covered it or something 'cause I had never shot anything like that before. But I guess I was a good aim. So that was fun.

JC: Now you had your first – I guess it was your only starring role – Human Experiments.

LH: Yeah, right.

JC: Okay what was it like there where you had to carry the whole film?

LH: Well it's like you just trust in other people that it's going to be okay. I did my part of the work, and Greg Goodell was a great director. He was just starting out. He had been, I think, doing documentaries before that. I just thought when I saw the script that there was a vast array, all the way from singing to getting nuts and having bugs dumped all over me. I thought, "Well this is a good vehicle to really be able to fill a lot of facets, or a lot of range." So I wanted to do that.

And we had a lot of fun doing it. The bug scene of course was really – When they started dumping stuff from the scaffolding, garbage buckets full of crickets. I wouldn't let them use roaches because that's too icky. I'm from Florida and crickets were one thing. But it still was icky having that many around me – or dumped on me. But I did it, and then I went in my trailer and I composed myself. It was kind of tough. Then I told Greg, "Listen. You've got one chance. You can do anything you want." And he went in with a handheld camera with me and he suffered the same as I did because I'm sure he got full of bugs.

We shot it and it was over with. But that was creepy. I didn't mind it when they put the tarantula because those were well-placed. I knew where they were. They had put Styrofoam in the tarantula's mouth so he couldn't bite, and the same with the scorpion on his stinger. So I knew that I wouldn't get stung or bit. And also the tarantula decided he needed to urinate so he urinated on me.

Linda with bugs in Human Experiments

JC: Eh.

LH: And I didn't know tarantulas urinated. I thought, "Oh that's an interesting thing." But that wasn't so bad. It was just crawling through a thing with those on and I was careful not to squash them. I had to crawl through some kind of tunnel, and they were on me. As long as I knew where they were and what they were doing I was okay with it. But it was a fun shoot with Jackie Coogan and Aldo Ray. And then Ellen Travolta is super nice. Everybody was nice. I never had any complaints about anybody.

JC: Were you actually singing?

LH:No, no, I said that I could sing. And of course we can all sing but whether we sing good or not is a whole other story. But I said, "Yeah, sure I can sing." But as it turned out, they dubbed it. And they dubbed with a lady by the name of Linda Handelman, which was my first married name. That was just coincidental. It was spelled a little bit different but she sang and I lip synced. Or I guess I sang and it looked like I was singing it. 'Cause I've seen the footage and it worked out well.

That was good.

JC: Okay then we come to your last film Brubaker.

LH: Brubaker was my least favorite of what I did.

Linda in Brubaker

JC: Really? The Robert Redford one would be the least favorite of what you did. Why is that?

LH: Well it wasn't Robert Redford. It was my own performance that I don't like because I didn't really probably have a clear idea of what it was that I was to do. There were just some things that worked better than others. I mean the film itself; people liked it – and Robert Redford. I didn't really get to know him very well because I only had the one scene with him. I did the best I could but it was – Actually when I look at it I didn't really like what I did too much, certain scenes anyway.

I know I was the trustee's girlfriend.

JC: Right, and he gets killed.

 LH: Yeah, but I haven't really seen that movie in a long time so I'm not that familiar with it to talk about, it but I do know that when I looked at it, when I did see it last, I remember thinking, "I'm not real thrilled with that performance." And then the very last thing I did was the Guyana Tragedy. That was okay. By that time, my life started changing, and I decided that it was not a healthy life, and I wanted to change it.

I wanted to have a baby. Greg Goodell and his wife had had a baby and I thought, "When am I going to do this?" And living – It was a lot of drinking and drugging. And on that last set on the Guyana Tragedy there was more drinking and drugging and I decided that I didn't want that anymore. I figure, "Hey is this all there is?" And I had been doing that kind of work – either working or being rejected for 15 years more less I'd stayed in California. I decided, "I'm going to stop and I'm going to change all this."

I was married, and I didn't have to work if I didn't want to. But I decided to change everything radically. I did. I divorced, moved across country, got remarried. And that didn't work out at all, but I wanted a baby, and I knew that in order to have a baby you need to be healthy. And you need to provide, give a basis for children, and take care of them. Eventually, I moved back to Miami and I lived there. I didn't have any money.  I didn't even have a car. So when I arrived in Miami I didn't have anything. I was pregnant and decided that, "Well, I think I'd better get my GED," because I'd never finished high school. I eloped when I was in the tenth grade. And then I went on to a business college.

I had to learn how to do something fast. It wasn't like I could start college. So I just figured, "Well, if I can work in the legal field there are always a lot of law suits and stuff like that." So I learned that, then learned on the job. I did that for decades. I'm now a grandmother. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. My son is happily married. He turned out really normal, and I think it was the right decision. I just recently retired from litigation. There was no shortage of work, because we were doing defense work: slips and falls, accidents, and that medical malpractice.

You get your work from insurance companies when someone gets sued. So there's no shortage of work there. But there came a time when I knew it was enough already. And plus, I had gotten sick. I'd had quite a few surgeries. So it was time for me to retire. And now I'm deciding what I'm going to do again – another metamorphosis. I don't know. I don't know what exactly I'm going to do. I love the craft – the art of acting. Even though I don't want to live in Los Angeles, I still remember it. That never leaves you, once you know something. We'll see.

JC: Since you reached out on Facebook and I notice you've been pretty active on there –

LH: I know. It's because I'm used to sitting in front of a computer. [laughter]

JC: Also, I guess, probably now more than ever, just like you got in touch with me, but you also probably got in touch with people who said, "Hey I remember you from So-and-So now during these years."

LH: Well I can't believe that would even happen. I know that you can look me up and cross-reference me with Linda Sylvander and Linda Haynes.

JC: Yes.

LH: I checked out that in certain search engines or wherever they look up people. So I figured – I don't know. Somebody contacted me. Well then Tom Graves wrote his book and then it became – He probably mentioned my last name so then people had friended me under my maiden name. And then I decided, "Well, what the hell. I'll just put Haynes in there because I'll always be known by that." I still take residual checks under the name of Haynes. I just put it in there. And then people – I was surprised that anybody would remember. I figured that's long forgotten.

But I'm really pleased. I couldn't believe that people would be – have any interest and then things coming out on Blu-Ray. And now there are reviews of performances given, of the movies and so on. That's really cool that that would happen. It's another lifetime. I mean I quit acting in '80 – 1981. So I find that amazing and very – I'm honored and flattered that they would remember.

Linda Today


Anonymous said...

Linda Haynes is an honest actress who does not give herself enough credit for her roles and contributions to her co-stars! She steals every scene she's in because of her ability to be vulnerable, sincere and a little broken sex kitten.
I wish she would make another movie. She would be so great to watch a drama full of great 1970s stars! Redford, Tommy, and Pacino and James Cahn would make a suitable bouquet of co-stars for this leading lady.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview; and with a happy ending too. Thank you for posting it, and thanks to Linda Haynes for obliging. Add'l questions: Since most of Linda Haynes' work was for independent companies I wondered what her experiences were like filming "Room 222" at 20th Century Fox and "My Three Sons" at CBS Studio Center. At 20th, where Richard Zanuck had rejected her, what actors did she encounter on the lot? How did the cast of "Room 222" treat each other -- and her? Did the episode's director help her. Did she explore the famous studio lot? Dine the the infamous commissary? Attend a wrap party? I would like to know answers to similar questions about her "My Three Sons" guest shot. In the 1950s Beverly Garland played the kinds of roles Linda ended up getting in the 1970s. Who in the cast did she converse with? Had she ever seen "Room 222" or "My Three Sons" before working on them and how was reel life different from real life? Finally, in what parts of Los Angeles did she live? And how did she compare Florida living to Southern California's lifestyle?