I don’t normally post a blog as frequently as this but the recent passing of Robert Vaughn compels me to do so. I interviewed Mr. Vaughn at the Beverly Garland Hotel on January 18. 1998. I was well aware of his impressive career and would loved to have talk to him about it at length. However, my purpose for speaking with him had to remain at the forefront, which was his work with Lee Marvin. Since he had known Lee’s first wife, Betty, my mentioning of her gained me entry into a discussion with Vaughn. He was erudite, literate and most of all, a consummate pro. I was nervous but my fears were quickly allayed once we began. Would have loved to talk with him about his wonderful book about the blacklist, Only Victims, or his work on The Magnificent Seven or “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Bullitt, or countless other projects worthy of his talent. Sadly, I never got the chance.
However, here is the actual interview below, unedited and put to good use in fleshing out Lee Marvin Point Blank. Enjoy.
DWAYNE: You worked with Mr. Marvin in Delta Force, right?
ROBERT VAUGHN: Yeah, I worked with him in Delta Force. We shot that in Israel. I guess it was the 80s. He was not well at the time.
D: Yeah, that was his last film.
R: Was that his last picture? [I nod]. He was very pleasant but he was fragile; getting up very slowly, getting down very slowly. He was not in good health. But I knew him from many, many years ago when he was married to his first wife and they lived out in the canyon area. I remember I was going with a girl named Joyce Gibbs who knew Betty and we used to go out there. Lee used to greet us with a Bloody Mary in his hand about 10:00 Sunday morning. So I knew him very many years, before he did “M Squad.”
D: Do you recall when you first met him?
R: I believe it was in the late 50s. When was “M Squad?”
D: That was in the late 50s.
R: Then it was around that time. I don’t think he had done it…I believe he was a member of that which I was a member of called the Stage Society. I don’t know whether he was a member but I know he was around there. It was a little theater group out on Melrose & Doheny. It was around 20 years in the late 50s and early 60s. It was founded by Gary Cooper and people like that.
D: I’m not familiar with this.
R: Well, Betty was obviously a member of the group but I think Lee was around the theater quite a bit. I don’t think he was actually a member of the group but that’s when I first met him.
D: Was there any shows that he did?
R: He didn’t do any plays there as far as I know.
D: I know he did some plays, like in La Jolla.
R: He didn’t do any there [stage group] while I was there. I know that for sure because I was very actively involved from around ‘52 to ‘56. Maybe that was the time I met Lee.
D: When you think of Lee Marvin, are there any specific incidents that that stick out in your mind as to the kind of man he was?
R: I just thought he was a classic case of movie star appeal. There was just nobody else like him. The X-factor, sex appeal, whatever you want to call it. Lee was Lee and he was just a tremendous force on the screen.
D: What was he like to work with in a scene as another actor?
R: I really didn’t work with him in Delta Force.
D: If I recall, the scenes you had with him in conversation…
R: I was in a room talking, he was on a monitor and I was on a monitor talking somewhere else. Although I saw him quite a bit while we were filming, I didn’t actually work with him in a scene.
D: It’s one of those cases of working with an actor but never actually working with him.
R: I did a movie called Black Moon Rising where I was the principle heavy and the lead was Tommy Lee Jones and we never met. We had a whole sequence at the end of the picture where I was chasing him around a garage in a car but we never actually personally met on film. So, movie magic works its ways.
D: Yes, it does. When you were working on Delta Force, how did he get along with the rest of the cast?
R: Very well. The fellow who directed it was also the producer, Menachem Golan. He was very kind to me. He gave me his chauffeured car and drove me through Jerusalem and various other sights in the Holy Land. He gave me his chauffeur and his car and it so happens his chauffeur was very knowledgeable, as most Israelis are, not only of the history of the state of Israel, but roots to the bible. So this guide took me all over Israel, which is impossible to do in a tizzy, but he was a wonderful tour guide.
D: That was a pretty eclectic cast, with people like Joey Bishop, Shelley Winters and…
R: Chuck Norris. I worked with him on his show a couple of years ago.
D: How did he play with the rest of this kind of cast?
R: As I say, I didn’t really work with any of these guys. Most of my scenes were shot in one room, as I recall. I was talking to somebody on a TV screen. I didn’t really work with any of these people. I just saw them around Israel.
D: Was Marvin drinking during the making of the film?
R: He may have been but not that I could see.
D: He did taper off a lot towards the end of his life.
R: As I say, he looked very, very frail. He was very gingerly getting in and out of chairs and so on. He was obviously very weak but he had a lot of energy and his spirits were good. He was very popular and very well-liked. We had a good time on the rare moments we had to talked together.
D: Do you recall any of the conversations?
R: I do not.
D: Do you recall when the last time you saw him was?
R: I think it was the last time because he died shortly after that.
D: Yeah, that was his last film. Well, thank you very much for your time, Mr. Vaughn.
R: It was my pleasure.