In 1958, David Hedison had a horrible transfiguring accident in his teleportation device. He shared that accident with an insect and the mad scientist film The Fly became a cult classic featuring a half-man, half-fly monster. David didn't particularly care for that film when it came out but it was work and he was reportedly paid $750 per week to star in it opposite Vincent Price.
He is quoted as saying, "Of course, there are pictures you never want to see again -- most of the films I've made like The Fly (1958), The Lost World (1960), Marines, Let's Go (1961). There's a whole slew of shit I avoid like the plague when I know they'll be on TV. I have a dinner party and invite my friends over so they can't see them."
He recently dropped by Dark Delicacies to sign copies of the book The Fly at Fifty and has, obviously, come to terms with that film's effect on the horror and science fiction film genre. An icon in the business, I found him delightful in every aspect. Here is our conversation.
What was the last thing you shot?
Monsters in the Atomic Age. It's coming out. It's mad scientists, monsters and maniacs, horror in the atomic age. It's a documentary. They interviewed me and a lot of other people. So that's coming out soon.
So that was as yourself?
Yes, that was as myself. Lately I've done mostly stage work. I've been working at the Actor's Studio, working with Marty Landau and Mark Rydell, and I've just completed the run of a play called Marriage Play by Edward Albee with Julie Janney. It was very successful, very difficult play, but it was great fun doing and that's it.
Do you prefer hitting the boards over film?
I love the theater. I always have because I started in the theater and that's all I knew. Then came television, it was in the days of the live television, where I had small parts and five line roles. That kind of thing. That too is a great experience because doing live can be terrifying. The smaller your part the more terrifying it is. Because you think you are going to screw up the whole thing or whatever.
That was great training and then a lot of summer stock and theater stock so when I came to Hollywood it was a whole new thing. I had to learn film and close-ups and all the technicalities like dubbing and looping and all of that. So that was difficult at the beginning. It's really been a good career.
When people ask me "What's your most popular thing?" and I would say it would be three - It would be the two James Bond films I did, one with Roger Moore, one with Timothy Dalton. Then, of course, the cult film The Fly in 1958 which was very popular.
How long did Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea run?
Four years. It's very popular now in Europe and playing again in London and Holland and Germany. I'm getting fan mail from all over the place. I'm doing something in November in London, in Birmingham in London it's called the “N.E.C.,” and I'll be there with my pictures and all that stuff.
Which stands for?
National Exhibition Center, I think and it's a big show called "Memorabilia: at N.E.C." and it's held twice a year.
What do you think about the complaints I hear from critics that we have no training ground for actors because nobody does theater? So we're getting film or television people that really don't have acting training.
And you see it on television. You watch some of the reality shows or whatever and you can see there is no training and they are just sort of winging it. They're doing something that they think is fun and silly. I don't know. It is something I haven't watched a lot of. I should watch it more to make a serious comment on it. But I really don't watch a lot of it because I appreciate watching actors, you know, Alec Baldwin, people who are really good at their craft and who have had great background experience. In my day – 1895 when the history books were very small – I was in summer stock and we'd do 14 plays in one season. So you'd do one play and the next day you'd start rehearsals for the next play while you're playing the other play at night. It's really tough. You learn a lot. In some of the plays you're horrible, some of the plays you're brilliant. But it's a wonderful place to learn your craft. Another good place to learn your craft – but not to stay there too long – are soaps.
You did soap operas?
I did two of them. Young and the Restless for about a year and then for several years I did a wonderful soap called Another World in New York. It's no longer on the air. I worked with Jeannie Cooper in Young and the Restless which is still going strong. That's it.
I feel great. I just turned 85. You could be my son.
Are you ever going to write a “tell all?”
I'm writing a little bit of it myself right now. I write a chapter and then I put it away and I go back to it. So when I die my wife will have it published. I might die next week.
So you'd better write another chapter.
I may get hit by a truck, who knows?
Mr. Hedison's official website is at www.david-hedison.com
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies “The Home of Horror” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.