Hector Elizondo, veteran character of many movies, TV show and stage appearances, was interviewed by a website recently concerning his lengthy and amazing career. Not a fan of this particular website so I won’t name it here. I am, however a huge fan of Hector Elizondo and was pleasantly surprised when he spoke of the influence Lee Marvin had on his work. Any Garry Marshall film shows off Elizondo’s versatility (1984’s The Flamingo Kid is a personal favorite) but discovering his anecdote on working with Lee Marvin on Pocket Money was a revelation! I wished I had interviewed him about it myself for Lee Marvin Point Blank but didn’t remember them having any scenes together. It’s okay, though, as I did get PLENTY of other exclusives that did go in the book. So, with that in mind, below is the part of the interview in which the great Hector Elizondo relates his tale of Lee Marvin’s influence.
Oh, one more thing. As Marvin fans know, Elizondo is mistaken when he says Marvin was a Ranger in the Army. He was of course, a scout/sniper in in the USMC. That aside, enjoy this rarely told tale!
Well, the secret to playing a bad guy… I was aided in this by another wonderful actor, Lee Marvin. We were on our way to camera when we were doing Pocket Money, and I said, “Lee, excuse me, I have to tell you something. I’m usually not a gusher…” And I wasn’t, because by then I was already a veteran actor from the New York stage. But I said, “I gotta tell ya, I just love the way you play bad guys.” And he stopped and he looked at me. And, you know, Lee was tall with a deep voice—he was a Ranger in the Army, by the way, so this guy was a tough fella—and he said [Gruffly.] “I’ve never played a bad guy in my life.” And I said to myself, “Okay, this is another teaching moment!”
He said, “Have you known bad guys?” I said, “Well, yeah, I’m from Harlem, New York. I’ve known a few bad guys!” He said, “Uh-huh. Did they think they were bad guys?” And I thought, and I said, “Not one.” “Uh-huh. No, they thought they had a job to do, that they were victims. They didn’t think they were bad. They were just doing their work. They have a point of view. You can’t play a ‘bad guy’ because then you’re playing a stereotype in a cartoon.” And that helped me in Pelham 1-2-3 . I didn’t play him like a bad guy. He had a job to do, that’s all. I had some inner thing that people read into, but that’s up to them.
Oh, and Lee told me something else: he said, “If the camera likes you, that’s something ephemeral. You can be as ugly as the dog’s breakfast, but if the camera likes you… You can be playing bad guys for the rest of your life, but for people to pay the price for a ticket to see you, something has to come through about you that cuts through the bad-guy stereotype.” So after Pretty Woman , I don’t get a chance to play bad guys anymore! [Laughs.] I mean, I love Pretty Woman, of course. I just find that interesting.
– Dwayne Epstein