This Week at PCA: Gary Lockwood

I like talking with Gary Lockwood.  He’s one of those “guy’s guys” who can shoot the breeze and talk a blue streak.  Personable, smart and straightforward, Gary is full of great stories about breaking heads and breaking hearts throughout Hollywood during his days as one of the tinsel town’s most notorious rogues.

One of the few actors during the 1960s who managed to go back and forth from television to movies and back, he worked with some of the biggest actors and directors, and romanced some of Hollywood’s prettiest starlets. Gary was livin’, drinkin’, fightin’, lovin’ and cussin’ while looking for his next hustle, and he loved every second of it.

Originally from Van Nuys, California, Lockwood first came to Los Angeles on a football scholarship to play quarterback for the UCLA Bruins, and study English.  But as a guy that didn’t always adjust well to authority, and liked to make his own rules, Lockwood eventually dropped out of the program and sought his own fortune as a Hollywood stuntman. It was while working as a stand-in for Anthony Perkins that Lockwood got his first on-screen exposure as a Russian basketball star in the 1960 film, Tall Story. Relocating briefly to New York to study acting on stage, Lockwood was spotted by famed director Elia Kazan, who cast him in the supporting actor role of Allen “Toots” Tuttle in the controversial 1961 film Splendor in the Grass alongside Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. Splendor in the Grass would win the Oscar for Best Screenplay and Lockwood became hailed as one of the future stars of Hollywood.  Throughout the decade Lockwood would act alongside Elvis Presley, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Basil Rathbone, Ann-Margret, and Jack Palance, as he made a reputation of being one of the era’s most versatile actors.

However, what made Gary unique is that at the same time as he was becoming a successful big screen actor, he made an almost immediate transition to television, during an era where the two mediums were still considered exclusive of each other. In 1961, Gary was cast in the short-lived ABC drama, Follow the Sun, as Eric Jason, a “researcher” who worked for two adventurous reporters, played by Brett Halsey and Barry Coe. Follow the Sun wrapped up in 1962, but a year later Gary was cast in his own series as William T. “Bill” Rice in the NBC military drama, The Lieutenant which was created by a first-time television producer named Gene Roddenberry. Although it was a favorite of critics and considered one of the best dramas of the year, Roddenberry wrapped up The Lieutenant after a single season in order to work on a new project he had brewing, called Star Trek. Casting a number of former Lieutenant guest stars in the series, including Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols, Rodenberry also cast Gary Lockwood in a pivotal role in Star Trek’s second unaired pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before.

But much bigger sci-fi fame was to follow Gary when he was cast in one of the most iconic fantasy films of all time, and one of the most spectacular films of the decade.  In 1968, Gary played Dr. Frank Poole in Stanley Kubrick’s film epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Battling the  deranged super computer HAL opposite Keir Dullea, audiences would never forget Gary’s horrifying death as he floated away through space. One of the most important films of the 20th Century, 2001: A Space Odyssey would be the film that ensured Gary’s place in film history.

For over six decades Gary Lockwood has continued to be a familiar face on television and films, and today he is still looking for his next hustle, and is a regular at autograph shows, science fiction conventions, memorable shows and connects with fans via his official web-site at http://www.gary-lockwood.com/. I spoke to Gary just weeks before he was about to go on a tour of Australia with 2001 co-star Keir Dullea, where he gave me the straight dope on his career in Hollywood.

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