Most people will think of the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone when they think of action movie stars, but Fred “The Hammer” Williamson was kicking arse long before they were. Having started his career in low budget ’70s action films and is still going strong today at age 77. He will be coming to Melbourne for the premiere of his latest action flick Atomic Eden for Monster Fest. We got to speak to this legend on his awesome career.
What made you interested in becoming an actor?
I never wanted to be an actor, it wasn’t on my plate. I studied architectural engineering and played football season. I didn’t want a 9 to 5 job, it just didn’t appeal to me after football. After 9 months, the walls closed in on me. I saw this one show called Julia, starring Diahann Carroll; she was the first black actress with a TV series. She would have a new boyfriend in the show all the time, and I was better looking than them, so I auditioned and then I got signed on.
What is your favourite film out of your own movies?
I have a standard rule in Hollywood if I was going to be an action star. One, you can’t kill me in a movie. Two, I win my fights. Three, I get the girl at the end of the movie if I want her. If you do two out of three of those, I will work for you.
What was it like to be a part of the Blaxpoitation movement? Did you know they would become an iconic moment in cinematic history when you were making those films?
I don’t know about them, those films were quite different from what I did. I never understood the terminology “Blaxpoitation”. The audience were happy, they had heroes when that were black. Everyone got paid royally. The problem was the movies were negative and that’s what created the problem, but they didn’t last long. They were all “let’s get back at whitey”. The problem is the film I did I didn’t get into the “get whitey” thing. I killed white people, black people, yellow people, pink people. I didn’t fall into that Blaxpoitation genre. They tried to get into that, but they didn’t I’m the one still standing and starring in their own movie. Everyone else has disappeared.
How was it working on From Dusk Till Dawn?
I sell a brand. I’m like the black Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson. Quentin Tarantino put me in a movie that allows me to do my thing as The Hammer. When Juliette Lewis said, “I can’t take it anymore”, you cut to me leaning on the wall lighting a smoking a cigar and saying, “Sure you can”.
What was it like to work with Robert Rodriguez?
Robert Rodriguez is one of the brightest directors I’ve ever worked with. He listens to the talent he’s hired with ideas he couldn’t think of. So when vampires are attacking, a vampire’s heart keeps pounding in my hand. Harvey Kietel puts a pencil in his hand and stabs the heart. It was an idea Robert hadn’t thought of.
What are your thoughts on the recent From Dusk Till Dawn television series?
It’s over the top. It’s a little more gory and bloody. It has less story than the film. It was two movies in one, a gangster movie and a vampire movie. When you go totally vampire, you just have ugly people shooting each other and dying. The story is lacking in the TV series.
How do you feel film and television has changed since you started back in the 1960s?
You see more black faces with meaningful parts, not just comical parts. It’s really created great satisfaction in the black community by having black actors with meaningful parts, who aren’t pimps or drug dealers. It’s a nice change.
Have you been to Australia before?
I’ve been to Australia twice. I came to do a sequel to Black Cobra; the Italian company went to Sydney. I got paid to play golf while I waited. They didn’t sort out visas, so I left. The other time was when I was a judge at the Miss World contest. I got a message to come back to the States since my agent signed me onto a movie that was to start filming in 2 days. I had to get on a plane to come back the States.
Tell me about your latest film Atomic Eden that will be screening at Monster Fest.
Atomic Eden has a great storyline. Hitler had hid an atomic weapon before his demise. A lot of bad people had been searching for his weapon. I had been hired as a mercenary to find it before they do. “You’re safe, I got it”.
Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Thursday 19 November 2015