Exclusive Interview, Part 3: Clu Gulager on Working with Family


Did you ever do a soap opera?

About five soap operas were written for me over my lifetime that I know about. I had to turn them all down. I said, "I can't remember those lines. It would kill me." I had to turn them all down. As I turned them down, friends of mine took the parts and within about two weeks most of them were in the hospital. That's how tough it is to go into soap operas. You have to have a phenomenal kind of memory. Jim Drury has one. Barry Sullivan had one. My wife had one. There are many people who are actors, good actors, who have photographic memories. They look at a page and it's, "Okay, let's shoot it". They are literally that fast. I can't do that. So I had to do it the hard way and it was really hard on me. I thought I'd be dead by the age of fifty. You say that's just something I made up. It's not. I really thought I would be and I'm 83. So I've lived much longer than I had anticipated. I really thought I'd be dead with so much pressure and tension with what I had to do with my memory that I just thought it would be too hard on me. I ran and everything to try to keep the tension away. I did all kinds of things and it worked for me. But I retired very early. I quit acting early because I just couldn't do it anymore. Burned out.

The films with your son are kind of a fun thing on the side. Prior to those what was the last thing you did?

There was a thing I did for a friend of mine who's dead. He died about a little while ago, Sage Stallone. He had an idea when he was sixteen and had it developed later on in life when he became an adult. He made a 30 minute short subject with my son filming it and me acting in it and my youngest son acting in it, my sister-in-law acting in it and my wife acting in it. So it was really kind of a Gulager production. But he directed it. It was his baby. It's really a good short called Vic. They're going have a memorial for Sage at the New Beverly Cinema and they are going to play Vic and some of the films that he made. He had a distribution company called Grindhouse with a partner Bob. I think that was the last thing that I did that was legitimate. (Editors note - since this interview Clu appeared in Piranha 3DD) It was a good… a very good piece of work that he did. But he died at the age of 36 from a heart attack. He just didn't make it. Very sad for all of us. The Gulagers liked him very much. Life is tough. Life is hard.

If you could do over any part of it what would you choose?

I'd like to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'd like Errol Flynn's face. I'd like to have breasts like Marylin Monroe. I'd like to have a professional vulva and male penis all wrapped in one package.

You'd never have to leave the house.

(Laughs) I never thought about that. Hey that's good thinking. My God no wonder you're a writer, you can think of these things.

You've always been a big physical fitness person as far as walking goes.

Yes, I walk a long ways many times to movies and your bookstore. I like to come here to Dark Delicacies to see signings and look over the new books. But basically it's easier to walk distances when you have a goal. It can be a make-believe goal but nevertheless a goal. You strive for a goal. That's easier than just walking at random for exercise. I can't do that. But I can walk when I have a goal. I go to the Nuart Motion Pictures in Santa Monica. From my house in Hollywood it's quite a walk. For an old man like me it's an easy way to exercise, Del. I have the time but you wouldn't because you have to go to the bookstore and work. I don't do anything. I just go to movies and eat.

You obviously have a close family because you work with your son.

Yes, we did a show at the New Beverly Cinema a while back about my film acting workshop. We did a film about what we do on Saturdays. That was interesting to me and to my son. (Laughs) At least two of us. I don't know how many other people were interested. It doesn't matter. It's just something that I do.

You teach a workshop on a regular basis?

Yes. A film acting workshop. I don't know where we are going to do it next time. Film acting is a little different than stage acting. Film acting you go on location. We have a camera and my son is a professional cinematographer and director. John, he films it. He films the students doing their scenes and exercises. Then we show them back that night. So it's about 12 hours every day that we teach. We teach on Saturdays. We go on location. Like we'll go to Cal Arts and film there. We'll go to UCLA in the sculpture garden and film there. From there we'll go to Lake Arrowhead, Tijuana. We'll go to different places and film locations. The way we do in the movies. The way we actually do in the movies. I think that's a good way for them to be less spooked about going and getting in front of a camera on the desert. It can just shake you. It's just ungodly. It's fearsome. This will help them to get rid of a little of that.

Did you have that fear first time you shot?

Oh yeah. First time I did it was in New York City on the number one show in America called Omnibus. I was to go on and I froze because Martha Scott, a big stage actress, forgot her line and said the wrong line. I just froze off camera. It was live television. You had to keep on going. So Harry Townes, a very good character actor, pushed me on. I luckily remembered my line. But I froze. That happened my first time out. I blame it on Martha but it wasn't Martha's fault. I was too frightened.

Then another time I worked with John Wayne. He was a big legend at that time. I mean he was like the demigod. I was just spooked all the way through the picture. I vowed then after the picture I said, "I'll never ever do that again no matter who it is." It can be the President of the United States I'll still just try to bury him with my acting like he is trying to bury me with his acting. That's kind of a facetious way to put it but you can't let your mind play tricks with you. You have to do your part. That's where your mind should be focused.

We will wrap up our interview in the next installment. Clu is certainly a pleasure to speak with and I'll be sad when this is over.

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Clu can be found roaming the Hollywood Hills or eating a Pink's chili dog.

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