THE BASEMENT CELEBRITY INTERVIEW: Eddie Deezen, star of GREASE and THE POLAR EXPRESS!
Thinking back, I do not remember a time when Eddie Deezen wasn’t in my life. In his long career he has appeared in so many great films. Films my friends and I would often watch on the weekends. Eddie made me laugh in every one of his roles and because of the fond memories, I wanted to seek him out and interview him. I really want to thank his manager Steve for making this happen. It was so much fun talking to Eddie on the phone about his career and this interview is one of the highlights of my life. This interview was conducted on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
David: So, just to give you a little background, when I was younger, like in the 80s, my friends and I used to get together every weekend and watch a lot of movies that you were in. We have a lot of really good memories of that. You were such a big part of our younger years.
Eddie: Sure. First of all, you’re very kind. I appreciate what you said. Thank you very much!
David: So, let’s get started. What did you enjoy doing growing up?
Eddie: Um, let’s see. Well, I loved you know, watching TV, going to movies. I was a huge fan, uh discovered kind of later, I really was in love with the Three Stooges. I think starting when I was in kindergarten, I was always a bad student. I was always put out of class, you know. Even in kindergarten. Out on the steps. They separated me from the other kids. I was always in trouble. Always in the principal’s office. Always in detention.
Um, let’s see. I started to love girls when I was six. I fell in love with girls. My first crush was when I was about five or six. So that goes way back. I’ve always loved dogs. I love dogs. Always had a pet dog.
David: Did you always want to be an actor?
Eddie: No, that came later, David. When I would say, when I was about 16 or 17. You know those years are kind of, you know, what am I gonna do after high school? You’re kind of safe in school.
You know you have something to do but when you turn 18. You’re gonna do something. So, I’m wondering what am I gonna do now? So, I worked at my dad’s jewelry store and Dave, I fell asleep in dad’s uh display window. I took a nap in my dad’s display window! He got curious to where I was, and he fired me. So, I never worked there again.
And then he offered to buy me a Dairy Queen franchise. They had a Dairy Queen for sale in Cumberland. I grew up in Cumberland, Maryland. He offered to buy me a Dairy Queen and I, you know, I thought it would have been fun. I would like to have done that, but I turned that down.
So, dad goes “Why don’t you go to Hollywood and try your luck?” And in those days, I know it sounds ridiculous now, it seems unbelievable, but he sent me $400 a month which got me by those days. Nowadays you know, $400 gets you nowhere. That’ll last like three days in a big city. But he gave me $400 for my rent. I think when I first moved to Hollywood, was like maybe $100 or $125. I first lived in Santa Monica. A place called the Village Motel in Santa Monica and I think the rent was like $100 or $125 a month. And, you know, with food that kept me going. So that’s how I started my career. Dad kind of gave me the idea and I thought yeah, let’s give it a try!
David: That’s great! Were your family and friends supportive when you decided to go the acting route?
Eddie: Well, my mom was very sweet. Dad offered a payment. I remember clearly, I remember talking to mom and I’d been out there for two weeks, and mom goes “all right I think you’ve been out there long enough. Why don’t you come home?” You know mom and I were always inordinately close and she’s a very special lady. That was her way, I think she just didn’t like being separated but she wanted me to come home after trying for two weeks. And, um, you know, mom has to give it a little longer than that, you know two weeks isn’t enough time.
David: Yeah, exactly. So, what would you say was your biggest influence? Just in general, like growing up. You said you worked some other jobs. Was there anything that influenced you as far as what direction you were going to take?
Eddie: I’ll tell you an interesting little story I didn’t mention, but you just brought to my mind. Uh, when the showbiz thing was brought up by my dad, I wanted to go to New York. I figured let’s get started in New York. I thought in New York before Hollywood. I figured New York was closer, you know? I was in Maryland so that’s probably why I thought of it. I’ll tell you a story that happened to me that changed my life. I was in New York and, you know, it’s exhilarating. I had gone to the ’64 World’s Fair. That was the only time I’d been to New York before that. But now I was 17, this was 1974, the summer ’74. Now I was really feeling my oats, you know, the exhilaration in New York. You know the excitement of people, the stores, the neon lights and all that.
So, I went out alone one night. Mom and dad went out and I went out alone They gave me maybe like $20 to buy something, you know? I had a little money in my pocket. So anyway, I was walking down the street and this guy stops me. He was an African American guy. I’m only mentioning because it happened that way. I’m not saying anything about anybody, but he happened to be an African American guy, you know, this guy was just a bad apple. But anyway, he goes “hey, hey man, can you give me a dollar? I’ll give you change.” So, you know I figured sure, so I give him a dollar. I go “Okay, where’s my change?” He goes “What’s the matter? What do you mean?” I go “I gave you a dollar, where’s my change?” He goes, “You didn’t give me no dollar!”
I started to feel woozy, a little weak. I started getting vertigo. You know, I was starting to feel shaky. I realized I was being hustled. I was being conned. Now, I grew up in a small town in Cumberland, Maryland. I never met a con man. This guy was a street hustler, you know? God knows what he did. Right then I changed my mind. I thought New York was a mean city and I swear to God, Dave, that incident changed my mind to go to Hollywood instead. If I hadn’t met that guy, I would’ve gone to New York. I would never have gotten GREASE. My whole life would have changed. I might have never got into show business, I might have never gotten a movie or anything. I might have failed. You know, looking back I might have had the Dairy Queen store!
David: Jeez. Wow, it’s amazing that something like these little things can change our lives so much.
Eddie: These little things that change our lives. That’s the first time I ever told that story to an interviewer. But that’s a true story.
David: So, your first movie was LASERBLAST from 1978…
Eddie: No, here’s what it was. The first film was GREASE. GREASE was the first movie I ever did. Then I did LASERBLAST after that. Then I did one called I WANNA HOLD YOUYR HAND. They released in the order of LASERBLAST, which was released first on March 1st, 1978, I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND was released second on April 21, 1978. GREASE, even though I did it first, it was released third, my third one to be released. it was released June 16, 1978. So, they were all released IN pretty quick order but in reverse order.
David: Oh, okay. So what was it like working on LASERBLAST?
Eddie: LASERBLAST was, you know, I come off of GREASE, so we had the luxury of Paramount. GREASE was actually a major film. It was pretty low budget, was only six million, and you know it made like half a billion. It was an incredible investment, but you know, you were still treated, you know you’re on the Paramount lot. We all had our own trailers, and the food was very good.
So, when I got LASERBLAST, it was a grade Z movie. It was super low budget. To say it was a B film, was to give it too much credit, but it was low budget. We all worked together in the same warehouse; we didn’t have dressing rooms. We would all dress in the same place in this warehouse. The men the women, we all dressed together so they would just cover you up. You know when you got dressed, they’d have somebody hold up a sheet or something, or whatever it was. Whenever it was lunch, we ate on crates and apple boxes. We all ate there. So, I thought this was a big come down from GREASE. You know, this is probably the lowest budget film I ever did. I only worked on it for three days. I remember I had a crush on the script girl, her name was Betty Goldberg.
David: Wow. Did you get to work with Roddy McDowall at all on this film?
Eddie: No. I know we were just watching TV. We saw my Colombo episode me and Stevie my manager. I was thinking he was in later, but I never did see him. Sometimes when you do a film you never get to meet your costars. I only worked on it for three days. He probably had a bigger part than me, I guess.
David: So how did you feel the filming went?
Eddie: LASERBLAST is the only film I’ve been in where I literally die. I get blown up in a car. First of all, I play a really bad guy. Not a comic guy, but I played a bad guy. Yeah, I think me, and my friend were rapists in that film.
David: Oof. So overall, how do you feel about the film?
Eddie: Well, I love the Mystery Science Theater version of it. It’s hilarious. I always recommend that to people who haven’t seen it. It’s entertaining. I mean, it’s not the worst sci fi film, you know. It’s an enjoyable sci fi film but the Mystery Science Theater version is a classic It’s hilarious.
David: So, let’s move onto 1941. Being a Steven Spielberg movie, with pretty much an all-star cast, did you feel more pressure on that movie compared to GREASE and LASERBLAST?
Eddie: GREASE was huge. You know, because John Travolta was so big. People always ask me what it was like working on GREASE and I always go “it was like going to the greatest party of your life and it lasts for two months.” Every day was like a party. Everybody, we all loved each other. It was a love fest.
John was the nicest guy in the world. He would always call me buddy. And my first scene coming down the stairs you know you’ll see me in GREASE where they messed up my hair, John would make sure after every take to say, “Are you all right buddy? Are you ok?” He would always make sure I was ok.
My biggest story I remember of him was one day on GREASE I came onto the uh the carnival scene. It was like a big football field, and I was all alone with a little ice cream cone. I think it was chocolate ice cream, but it could have been anything. Nobody cared, you know, it was my first film. I was all alone. Eugene’s rather unimportant in the film and I look across the field and there’s John Travolta. He’s surrounded by press, the media, all these cheerleaders were there, actors, actresses. He’s actually got this mob around him and I’m all alone licking my ice cream cone. John somehow spotted me. He left this mob around him. He trots over to me and shakes my hand. He says, “How are you buddy? How you doing?” So, he shook my hand That’s the kind of guy John Travolta was. He cared about me and was a deeply nice guy and um, just a really beautiful guy.
So yeah, going back to 1941. You work with Steven Spielberg; you work with John Belushi, who at the time was the hottest comedian in the world. Dan Ackroyd was really hot, you know. So, we thought it was a sure thing. Uh, it didn’t turn out as I thought, you know I think it was pretty disappointing for everybody. But some people like it, it’s kind of a cult film. There are some laughs in it. I was happy with my stuff; I think it came out good with Murray. Murray Hamilton was a great guy to work with. I love the cast. I really enjoyed working on 1941. It was fun.
David: Do you have any like behind the scenes stories that you can share?
Eddie: I can tell you about the day I threw up in Steven Spielberg’s toilet. One day Steven was whipping us around on the Ferris wheel real fast, you know? And I had him stop it and I went over to Steven, and I said “I don’t feel good. I feel nauseous.” He goes, “Why don’t you lay down in my dressing room.” So, Steven’s secretary, I remember she was a pretty girl, she walked me over to his dressing where I laid down on his cot. So, I started feeling really, really nauseous and I crawled on my hands and knees like a dog into his bathroom and I threw up in the toilet. And I go “oh my God, I just threw up in Steven Spielberg’s toilet!” I go “this is one of the highlights of my career, one of the highlights of my life.” So that was a big highlight for me.
David: Oh my God (laughing)! Did you get to work at all with Nancy Allen?
Eddie: No, I worked with her on I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND before I worked with her more. We had scenes together. I think the big scene, where the house falls over in 1941, when the house falls off the cliff, you know. I think we were all together but even then, we were all kind of separated. I was always pretty much with Murray and my dummy. That’s who I pretty much was with all the way through uh, in 1941.
There’s one scene where we’re all in a water tank because once we were all in the water, you know, and I go let’s do it again, and Murray strangles me, you know, and I’m like AIGGH. Then there’s Frank McRae. Big guy, really nice guy. He was holding me up. I wear, David, a big tweed coat and it was a really heavy. Thick tweed coat, and I was in the water. It was like weighing me down, I was being pulled under, even though you could stand in it. But it was so heavy. You know, I was so skinny. I weighed like 115 or 120 and Frank kind of held me up in that scene. That’s what I remember being with people.
John Belushi was a delight. I knew John in real life. I didn’t see him much in the filming though. I had met him; he was at the premier party for I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND. John was there and I met him. We sat on a piano stool together and we talked for like 15 minutes and he was a great guy. And then the last time I saw John I was coming out of an audition It was a really bad audition and I walked out the door and I happen to see John walking there, he’s all alone. I was like “It’s John Belushi! Hey how are you?” He goes, “What’s the matter Eddie?” He could see I was a little distraught. I said that I just had this bad audition These guys hated me, and he goes “They’re assholes” and he walked off. That was the last time I saw John.
David: Oh wow!
Eddie: Yeah, well he was a wonderful guy. Super nice guy.
David: Yeah, that’s awesome that you got to meet him. There are so many people that would love to meet their idols like that and you were able to.
Eddie: Yeah, he was definitely an idle of mine. He still is. Super great talent. Obviously, like we all say, he left us way too soon. He was only 33. He had so much more to give the world.
David: Yeah, such a talent. What would you say is your best memory from 1941?
Eddie: Um, let’s see, the one that I told you, Steven was just a super guy. Oh yeah, okay. I’ll tell you one. I was walking, it was lunch break one day, and I walk out, and Steven Spielberg goes to me, “hey, you wanna join us for lunch?” So, I’m thinking, “you’re going with Steven Spielberg for lunch?!?” So I go to the Universal commissary, and who joins us? John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. So, we sat in a booth way in the back. It was Steven, John, Dan and me. And David, I didn’t say one word through the whole hour. I’m sitting there, you know trying to keep my jaw from dropping down onto the table. I sat and they chatted you know for like 45 minutes or an hour. I just listen, listen, listen, you know, then finally I reached in my pocket. I didnt have money to pay for my lunch! This is embarrassing! I won’t be able to afford my tab! Luckily, Steven picked up the tab, but that was the coolest lunch I ever had.
David: Oh wow, that’s great What a great story!
Eddie: Yeah, it was fun.
David: So, now we’ll go into CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE. Did you just go for a regular interview for that? How did you get involved with that movie?
Eddie: You know I don’t remember the audition for that. I remember working on it; I was in drag in that film, I remember. I never saw CRITTERS one. The big story about that one, David, is what I missed. CRITTERS 3. I don’t know if you know movie history. CRITTERS 3, which I just missed, was the film debut of Leonardo Dicaprio. So, I missed meeting Dicaprio by one film. So that’s my story about two. But I remember I dressed in drag, and I remember I say, “kill more Krites.” I’m kind of a zombie and I remember that line saying, “kill more Krites.” I repeat that over and over. I remember being made up in the makeup room. One girl was flirting. There was a dark-haired girl, and she was flirting with me on the set, and she sat in my lap, I remember. And she was, I didn’t know who she was, but she was like a real flirty girl. Yeah, that’s all I remember. I only worked for a day or two on that. That’s kind of like LASERBLAST.
David: Oh okay, so you really didn’t get to see any of the behind-the-scenes special effects footage with the actual critters or anything?
Eddie: Not so much, not so much. I was just in make up for a good long while. It was, you know, when they put you in drag it takes a while to get all the makeup on you for a guy. Men are so much easier to make up than women.
David: Right. So how about BEVERLY HILLS VAMP? So, was this is your first time working with Fred Olen Ray?
Eddie: Is that the one I did with Britt Eckland? Did I do MOB BOSS before that??
David: Um, so BEVERLY HILLS VAMP is 1989. MOB BOSS was the next year, but I don’t know if they were filmed in that order.
Eddie: Oh okay, because I prefer MOB BOSS over BEVERLY HILLS VAMP by a long shot. MOB BOSS I love. My sister always thinks MOB BOSS is the best thing I ever did. She said it was my funniest role. But BEVERLY HILLS VAMP was Britt Eckland, who was married to Peter Sellers. She was a nice lady She was a very nice lady. I remember working with her. Now we didn’t talk a lot. I love Fred as a director and he’s just, he’s the best comedy directors I’ve ever worked with. He’s wonderful.
David: What was it like working on this film?
Eddie: Everybody was nice. The Fred Olen Ray films are always a happy cast. They’re always a fun set. So, everybody was nice on that one. MOB BOSS I have more stories about; I just remember it much more clearly than BEVERLY HILLS VAMP. It’s interesting, I would have thought MOB BOSS was the first because they put me in the starring role. I don’t know if I’m the starring guy in BEVERLY HILLS VAMP. I don’t know, it’s probably Britt Eckland; she was a bigger name than me.
David: That’s true but I think most of the story did revolve around you because you were in the whole film.
Eddie: Okay. I think I only saw that one time and it came out pretty funny. Fred’s a funny director. Both of them, you know, they’re not some of my films, you know, that I’m really embarrassed about, they’re so bad. But Fred always adds something to them. These were both good films. Yeah, there were a lot of vampires on that film I remember. Tim Conway Junior, I think, was on that one. Right
He’s a super nice guy. I worked with both Tim senior and Tim junior and they’re both two of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Tim was great! I remember I was having trouble with my lines even in those days and Fred let me put index cards around the set, you know like Marlon Brando. I’d write my lines on index cards and I read them off, you know, at different places on the set.
David: Oh wow! So, there is one scene and in BEVERLY HILLS VAMP where you run up the stairs and you trip. Do you remember that scene? Was that a real trip?
Eddie: Yeah, I know. I can do good pratfalls so I might have suggested that. But yeah, I love doing pratfalls. If you watch I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND, I do a great pratfall on the sidewalk.
David: Oh, okay. It’s so believable and if it was real, I wanted to compliment you on keeping the scene going.
Eddie: Oh, thank you. No, I’m great at pratfalls. I’ll tell you a terrible story. I did a film called MILLION DOLLAR MYSTERY and it was between shots. It wasn’t even on film. But I was coming around there was an opening called for Rich Hall. Do you remember him?
David: Yep, yeah.
Eddie: He used to be on a show called “Fridays” I remember. He didn’t last that long but he was all right. But anyway, I was just clowning around on set and I go “Hi Rich” and I did a pratfall over one of those, you know, those concrete things in a parking lot, you know, those concrete block things. I did a pratfall and I swear to God, I really hurt myself. I hurt my foot and to this day my toenails are hurt. There’s like three of my toenails and they look horrible because of that bad pratfall. So, I haven’t done many pratfalls since then. But I used to do them all the time. I just, I loved doing them growing up and I can always do them. You know, I’ve just been able to trick my body and fall and be able to do these pratfalls. Watch I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND and you’ll see me do a really good one.
David: Yes, I definitely want to see that. So, was BEVERLY HILLS VAMP the first movie that had such a tight schedule? I know Fred Olen Ray makes a lot of his movies in like a week. Did you find that challenging?
Eddie: So, probably it was. But I remember how much fun we had. Fred is so much fun to work with. I believe Christopher Lee was in that one, or no.
David: No, he wasn’t.
Eddie: That’s right. Christopher Lee was in 1941. I did three films with Christopher Lee. I forget what they were. One was 1941 and there were two others. But he was a total nice gentleman. I loved working with him. You think he would be in BEVERLY HILLS VAMP but I guess not.
David: So, let’s move onto MOB BOSS. That’s one of my favorites that you’ve been in.
Eddie: Thank you, that’s my favorite. That’s a B-movie I’m proud of.
David: Yeah, I mean, everything about it is just so well done. There are some great character actors. Um, so William Hickey played your father. What was it like working with him?
Eddie: Oh, wonderful guy. He was so, so nice. Such a wonderful guy. Morgan was a delight. She was a joy. Um, oh yeah. I’ve got a couple of Morgan Fairchild stories. One day, we’re on the set and Morgan goes, you know, we’d all been having lunch, you know, whatever it was, for four or five days and we all have lunch with all the cast. But Morgan would have it alone in her dressing room. So, one day she comes up and she goes “Eddie, do you want to have lunch with me?” So, you know, I’m a guy. So, what goes through my head? “Oh my God, I’m gonna have this May to December romance! I’m gonna go to bed with Morgan Fairchild!”
I swear to God that went through my head. It really did! I go, “She wants to go to bed with me. I don’t know maybe she’s lonely.” So anyway, I go and knock on the door thinking this is gonna be the summer of ’42, you know. She comes in, she just wanted to have lunch. So, we just had lunch. We chatted. She told me about her whole life, Dave. She told me growing up in Texas, her affair with Warren Beatty. I remember she did a little appearance in BONNIE AND CLYDE, the movie. She told me everything about her life. It was one of the nicest lunches I’d ever had. She’s a very sweet girl and, it just was, uh, one of the great lunches. But, you know, in my sordid mind I thought it was gonna be something different.
Anyway, also in MOB BOSS there’s a scene where Morgan and I kiss. It’s a scene, you know, the nerdy guy kisses the beautiful girl and then he turns around and his glasses are fogged up. So, we were gonna do that scene and Morgan turns to me and goes, “Eddie, do you want to rehearse?” So, you know I went through the roof. Morgan Fairchild wants to make out with me, you know? So, I kissed Morgan a little and she held my head to the left. She also went to the right. We kissed straight on. She held my head back and I got to make out with her. And let me tell you, Dave, she’s a great kisser! She’s a beautiful, beautiful kisser. She’s wonderful. I just I loved every minute of working with Morgan. She was a delight.
David: Oh, awesome. That’s so funny to hear. Everything she’s done that I’ve seen shas been enjoyable to watch. She’s a great, great actress.
Eddie: Yes, she absolutely is. And she can play comedy. She played really good comedy in that movie.
David: Yeah, I’ve seen her do other things where she’s funny too. She can do everything and do it well.
Eddie: Yes, she’s an incredibly beautiful woman who can do everything. You’re right. What more is there to say? And she’s nice.
David: So, also in this movie is one of my favorite Scream Queens, Brinke Stevens. What was it like working with her?
Eddie: Brinke is so nice. We’re still friends to this day. I don’t know if she was dating Fred at that time. I might be wrong. Maybe they were dating either during MOB BOSS or during BEVERLY HILLS VAMP, but I might be wrong on that. But we’re still friends. She’s, she’s really funny. She has a funny sense of humor. She likes to laugh. She was really fun to work with.
David: What do you think was your best memory from MOB BOSS? Was it the kissing Morgan Fairchild or something else?
Eddie: Well, that would be kissing her and having that special lunch with her. Um you know I’m telling you being directed by, oh here’s one. You remember Mike Mazurki? The character actor? It’s one of those everybody knows him by face but they didn’t know his name. He’s the guy with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. I do a terrible impression, but Google him, you’ll know the face right away. He did like, probably 300 films and TV roles. But I did a speech in MOB BOSS and I usually need cue cards because I forget my lines. But this time I memorized the speech. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever done on film. It’s a speech I made. So, I did the whole speech. It’s at the conclusion of MOB BOSS, you’ll see it. Anyway, the next day, I was always a little intimidated by Mike Mazurki because, you know, I’ve always seen him as this stud, this gangster, this tough guy. But he goes “hey kid, come here” and says “You made a good speech yesterday. That was a real good speech.” That moment meant a lot to me because I was scared of the guy. And I realized, you know, like most people, he’s basically a nice guy. He was a really nice guy. That, I think, was his last film. Check the records on that, I don’t know if that’s gospel, but I think it’s true (I did check, and it was in fact his last film).
David: So, the last movie I really want to talk about is TEENAGE EXORCIST.
Eddie: Yes, that was Grant. That was Grant Austin. Yeah. He was always on the Fred Olen Ray films, and they were friends. I think he was always on the set, so I already knew him. But he was a delightful director. He was a wonderful director. I remember his mom was in it. His mom had a bit in the film. She was the cleaning lady or something. But his mom is in that movie too. Grant is a superb director. Did he direct after that or was that the only film he ever directed? But that it was a fun experience. I remember it was fun. I think we filmed in their own house. I think we it was so low budget, you know, we actually filmed in Grant’s house. I’m pretty sure we shot there.
David: Any good stories from that from that shoot?
Eddie: Not that I remember particularly. Just again, it was a really fun shoot. Grant was a joy to work with, the cast was all super nice. Was there anybody famous in that film? Maybe like Tim Conway, JR?
David: He was actually in BEVERLY HILLS VAMP. Wasn’t Robert Quarry in that?
Eddie: Robert Quarry was there. Yes, Robert Quarry was a great guy, super nice guy. I don’t remember any talks or moments with him, but I remember he was a really nice guy. Fred’s sets were nice and then Grant’s set was very nice. You know some sets are a little uptight. I’ll tell you the story if you want to hear. The only set I was really unhappy on was MIDNIGHT MADNESS.
There were a lot of mean people even though it’s a great film and it’s a film I’m proud of it but there were some real jerks on the set. Even though, I love Michael J Fox. He was the nicest guy. We used to have lunch together and we talked about our favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and I had a super ball I would carry. It was larger than average, and we would go to a brick wall and play handball together, Michael and I. So anyway, cut to like five or six years later. I’m on the Paramount lot. This red car, it’s a Ferrari. It skids up in front of me. I look and it’s Michael J Fox. He said “Hey Eddy. How are you?” The same sweet guy. This is after BACK TO THE FUTURE. He’s like the biggest star in Hollywood. He’s the same sweet guy. The exact same sweet guy. Totally nice, totally there. And we caught up, you know, and then he drove off and I’ve never seen him since then. You know, God bless, you know he has a tough life now but he’s handling it beautifully. Really great guy.
David: That’s great to hear. In more recent years you’ve been doing voice over work on various animated series. How would you describe that kind of work compared to actually acting on screen?
Eddie: I like doing it. Yeah, it happened, Dave, what started my genesis of being really attracted to it. It was when I did WAR GAMES and I kept screwing up my scene. I have like one scene in WAR GAMES. Now John Badham was not my director. John Badham is credited as directing. People ask me to this day “what was it like working for John Badham?” He’s like this legendary director. I did my scene in WAR GAMES for a director named Martin Brest, who later did BEVERLY HILLS COP.
But Marty did 12 days of shooting on the film and there was like different scenes. He was fired by the studio. They looked at his dailies and they didn’t like them so finally he was fired. But luckily John Badham came in and John Badham saw all the rushes and he said the one scene he was keeping was mine. So, they kept my scene in it. Anyway, to answer your question, I did my scene with Maury Chaykin who was a great guy. Sadly, he left us about 10 years ago or whatever. He was a wonderful, wonderful guy to act with. But, um, I did the scene. I kept screwing up the words “data encryption algorithm.” They’re like ingrained in my mind now but when we shot the scene, I was ready to do it and I kept messing up take after take. So, Marty calls me over. He puts his arm around my shoulder and goes “Eddie let’s take a walk.” So, we took a walk around. He goes “look, you’re costing the studio money. We’re gonna get you these idiot cards. You can read it off, you know, these idiot cards and read your lines.” So, we had my lines written on there and I did it in one take, Dave. This is incredible. And that’s the first time I dealt with that, it wasn’t a voice over, but the first time I realized how easy it is to just read your lines as opposed to memorizing your lines.
Memorizing, it’s always been a bit of a problem for me, you know? I could do it better in my younger days but, you know, even then I had a hard time sometimes. But, you know, looking back in my younger days I didn’t have that hard of a time but nowadays it’s a bit harder. Like POLAR EXPRESS I did and the whole thing I did with cue cards, my entire role. We’d act out, I’d act out scenes with Tom and Peter and Nona, but I read them. They had cue cards for me you know, and I did that for ten weeks.
So, you know, I did a lot of cartoon stuff. I enjoy doing it because again, you don’t have to memorize your lines. Voice over, any voice actor will tell you, it’s easier than being on camera because you basically just sit there You don’t have to shave or look good. You just come however slovenly as you want, and you read your roll off there. So, it’s a piece of cake.
David: So, are you still doing that now?
Eddie: Well, I’ve had heart trouble. I’ve been in and out of the hospital, you know. So I’m recovering here with Steve in South Carolina. But, you know, he’s getting me podcasts, you know, and that’s what I’ve been doing now. Podcasting interviews right now but we’re hoping to get back into the movies. Steven, you know, is a really good manager. He set me up with some stuff. Hopefully for the future, I’ll be able to tell you about some movies I’m working on.
David: Can you talk about it now?
Eddie: Well, I don’t know the exact title. Steve is working on a couple of things in the fire, that’s all I can say. I honestly don’t know, but they look good, you know? I’m not saying they’re GONE WITH THE WIND or anything but I wanna get back to the movies. That’s what I love.
David: Yeah, yeah. So, what was your last movie before switching over to voice acting or when you had your heart issues?
Eddie: Yeah. You know what it was? The last movie, before I went to the hospital, it was I think, it was POLAR EXPRESS. So, I was bookended with these two classics: these two highlights of my career. My first one was GREASE and my last one was POLAR EXPRESS. So, if I ended here, it wouldn’t be that bad of a career because those were my two best films. And you know, throw WAR GAMES in and that was a good film. So those are the three best but that was the last time I worked. That was in 2004. Nineteen years ago. I just kind of fell out of it, even before my heart trouble, you know? I fell out it. I started doing lots of voice overs. I did DEXTER’S LABORATORY and I did a lot in those years. You know, I just turned into more of a voice actor, and I signed with ICM, the Voice Over Agency, and we just pretty much concentrated on voiceovers. Looking back, I kind of wish I’d stuck in and done more films, but again, like I said, voice acting is so easy. It’s such easy money. I kind of fell in love with them.
David: Right, right. What was it like on POLAR EXPRESS working with Tom Hanks?
Eddie: Oh my God, greatest guy ever! He was the most wonderful, lovely guy. The first day I went on POLAR EXPRESS, I, my agents booked me for POLAR EXPRESS. They said we have you booked for this film POLAR EXPRESS, and I swear to God, I had never heard of it and they didn’t tell me that Tom Hanks was in it. I swear to God. Incredible as. that sounds. So, I got on the set on the first day. Of course, I knew Bob Zemeckis. I did his first film I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND. He remembered me and he hired me for POLAR EXPRESS. I didn’t have to audition; he just hired me. So, I am going on the set we’re all standing around. Bob shows me a little bit of footage and he goes “Eddie we’re doing this new procedure called motion capture.” Then he showed me how we look, it’s really bizarre, you know?
But anyway, we’re hanging around and who comes bouncing in but Tom Hanks. Just like that. There’s like 100 of us there and he comes bouncing to me first. He shakes my hand and says “Hi Eddie, I’m Tom” I’m like “No shit, Sherlock” but he came to me first. He was the nicest guy. Anyway, when we wrapped the film he goes, “Eddie, I hear you’re a baseball fan.” I go “yeah”, and he goes “How would you like to go to a Dodgers game with me?” So, he takes me to sit in his box seats, you know. Anyway, the first Dodger game I’m with Tom and he said can I bring a friend. He goes, “yeah you can always bring a friend.”. So, I brought three different friends. The first Dodger’s game I brought my friend Tommy. Now Tommy was this friend I had, he had, Dave he had Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was dying. So, his body was atrophying, you know, he was losing control of his motor controls. He couldn’t even talk, you know? It was hard for him to even walk across the street. At this point his body would sometimes give out and I would literally catch him. We would be walking together, and I would catch him before he hit the ground. You know, he was in pretty bad shape by this time. But you know, I wanted him to meet Tom Hanks, to make this a special day for him.
So, I bring him to a Dodgers game. We’re sitting in the box seats waiting for Tom and I go to myself, “Oh my God. did I do something where this could be a train wreck?” You know, when Tommy would try to talk, he would spit. He couldn’t control it. He would just spit. He would spit in my food, and I would, you know, control my temper even though he ruined my dinner. But whatever, he was a great guy.
So anyway, Tom comes and I look over to the food or something. I looked away. Then I looked back. Tom and my friend. His name was Tommy too, his name was Tommy Shepherds. I call him Tommy. Him and Tom Hanks are talking and he’s saying whatever to talk. And Tom is really listening, he’s really engrossed. I look at Tom Hanks and he’s nodding his head up and down listening to every word, you know, talking to him and all. Then Tom gets a baseball, and he signed it for him, you know, and this was probably the greatest day of Tommy’s life. So I’m glad I did it. And the stories about Tom Hanks, to what a great guy Tom Hanks is, he made the day really special for Tommy. He made it really special and important for him.
My favorite Tom Hanks story. Dave, do remember a show called Captain Kangaroo?
David: Yeah, yeah.
Eddie: Captain Kangaroo was a little kiddie show. Now this was the first show I ever fell in love with. I was about four years old and I would watch Captain Kangaroo every day before I went to kindergarten. You know, I was four and five and every day I would watch it. I loved this show. So anyway, Captain Kangaroo, the guy who played him was named Bob Keeshan. He died in 2004. This was while we were shooting POLAR EXPRESS. So, I was really depressed when I heard Captain Kangaroo died. You know, I’m sitting in the makeup chair being made up and Tom Hanks comes in. “Eddie did you hear who died?” I said, “Yeah, Captain Kangaroo.” And we traded stories. So, we both grew up watching Captain Kangaroo. You know, we both loved him. Anyway, I go out of the make-up room, It was a real bright sunny day, I remembered. I was really bummed out and sad, really grievy, you know. Who comes out Tom Hanks and he looks at me and he starts singing the Tom Terrific song. Now if you don’t remember the Tom Terrific song, you can look at it on YouTube. It’s called the Tom Terrific song from Captain Kangaroo.
Tom sings me the entire song, word by word, verse by verse. I was totally stoked, you know, I almost cried. And then when he was done I was totally speechless. I go to Tom, “You know what? You’re a great guy!” Then I repeat it. I go “Yeah, you’re a great guy!” I said it twice and Tom just walked off. He didn’t want thanks. This is the way this guy is. He’s like a real-life Santa Claus. He lives to make other people happy. This is what brings him joy. You can see it in him, when you hear him interview or go see his movies. He’s like a real-life Santa Claus. And then ironically, he plays Santa Claus in the POLAR EXPRESS. But that’s who he really is. I think he was Santa Claus in another life.
David: Jeez that’s great, a really great story!
Eddie: He was something else. Him and John Travolta. When people ask who’s the nicest actor I have ever worked with, I single out John Travolta and Tom Hanks because they are my two favorite contemporary actors, and I got to work with both of them, and they really are the two of the nicest actors I’ve ever worked with it. It’s really true.
David: Oh, that’s great! Is there anybody out there today in today’s movies that you’d love to work with?
Eddie: Um. Let’s see, I’m trying to think. That’s a great question. You know, as far as comedians I’m pretty much a reactionary there. I love Martin and Lewis, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges. I love Laurel and Hardy. Um, I haven’t seen Saturday night live probably in 10 years, I don’t know what’s going on there. I don’t know any of the recent stand-up guys, so I really don’t have an answer. I can’t really think of one. You know, I’m always trying to work with good people and I’m sure there are so many great comics out there I’m just I just don’t keep up with them anymore.
David: Yeah, yeah. What was it like doing I LOVE YOU, EDDIE DEEZEN?
Eddie: Oh, that was, she was really nice. Sherry was her name, really gifted director. Uh, my part wasn’t much in that, you know, I just come up in the end. It was flattering for me that she wrote a film about me, but that film is hers. You know, it shows how talented she is. She directed, produced, and wrote that song, as well as starring in it. And you know, she needed her big break, you know, she needed just to get the right break, the right part of the movie, because she’s a very talented girl. I love Sherry. We talked; I spoke to her on the phone. Stevie brought me home, you know, I’ve been here almost two months, I think. I talked to her on the phone either at the hospital or here. I spoke to her but she’s the same old lovable Sherry. Yeah, you can see her on Facebook. Sherry Mattson is her name. She’s very talented.
David: Nice. So, what do you do for fun?
Eddie: We, um, Stevie and I went to a couple of movies. We saw 80 FOR BRADY, we liked that. We saw the ELVIS one. By the way, I’m surprised with that one that Tom didn’t get nominated. We were bowled over by Tom, he played the Colonel. Did you see the ELVIS movie?
David: No, not yet. Not yet.
Eddie: Yeah. Tom, you’ll see, plays Colonel Tom Parker and you won’t believe this is Tom Hanks! You won’t believe he did it. It was incredible. I can’t believe he wasn’t nominated for best supporting actor. I mean he really deserves the nomination. You know, I’m a huge Elvis fan and I, you know, I’ve seen every Elvis movie, I’ve read every book on Elvis, you know, everyone worth reading. I thought the Colonel was a Southern huckster. I thought, you know, that he was like from South Carolina but no, he was from Norway, I think, some foreign country. Tom portrays him in a light I’ve never seen. I’m sure it was a surprise for all the Elvis fans. That’s my one prediction, by the way. I’m predicting the guy that played Elvis, I don’t know his name, I forget, but I’m predicting he’ll win tonight; his performance was great as Elvis. Stevie and I went to like three or four films when I was out but we haven’t seen any since. There’s nothing we really want to see. We watch Columbo on TV. We watch a lot of Colombo’s. We watch old movies. We were watching um, A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA, the Marx Brothers film. We watch a lot of stuff here. I read a lot, you know, and I got caught up because I was in the hospital for three or four years and I didn’t have books. My sister sent me some things, I have a backlog now of about six Beatles books I’m going through. My friend just sent me, uh, the GET BACK tapes. You know, we have to watch those. I hear they’re incredible. I’m reading an excellent Beatles book now it’s called, “150 Glimpse of the Beatles.”
I’m also enjoying the southern food, the incredible southern cuisine. They are they have so many good restaurants out here, Dave. It’s unbelievable. I like all these great restaurants It’s so good. Yeah, I found my favorite, Dave. My one thing I miss most from LA is Bubbies Pickles. I don’t know if you’re into kosher pickles. Bubbies Kosher Pickles are the best kosher pickles in the world and I finally found them in a store this week. So that was my big thing.
David: Nice, nice. So any last words for the interview or anything you want to add?
Eddie: No. You are a super nice guy. It was a pleasure being interviewed by you and I wish you all the luck in the world.
David: I really appreciate you taking the time out This was a really good time.
Eddie: My pleasure, my pleasure, Dave. Take care and have a great day!
David: Thank you. You too!
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