It has been often said that screen villains are even more interesting then the heroes. Fabled villains such as Darth Vader, the Joker, the Wicked Witch of the West and Hannibal Lecter have proven this time and time again. However, some of the screens most complex villains are the ones who seem to often miss out on the iconic status that they deserve. Bernard Posner, played by David Roya, is one of these villains. The mean spirited mayor’s son in the grassroots independent hit film Billy Jack, Bernard Posner is a bully, a rapist, a bigot and a murderer. However, despite his crimes, the viewer understands that the reason he is a bully is because he was bullied, and the reason he commits the atrocities he does is in a twisted attempt to gain his father’s acceptance.
Released in 1971, Billy Jack, the story of a kung fu fighting Indian who protects a freedom school by battling against rednecks, law enforcement and “the man” in an attempt to promote love and peace, has become one of the most important grindhouse films in the history of cinema. Written, directed and starring the enigmatic and controversial Tom Laughlin, Billy Jack became the first major independent film success story in an age when independent films were only released in porn houses and drive-ins. Although the film has become dated and preachy as the decades have moved on, Billy Jack is still a beloved film for film fans worldwide, and still lends a powerful impact in a world where political corruptness and social injustices are as much as a reality as they were four decades ago.
Yet every good film needs an even better villain, and David Roya stepped up to plate to play the emotionally damaged young stud Bernard Posner, in which he gave, only after Laughlin and his leading lady/wife Delores Taylor, the most memorable performance in the film. Whether he is dumping flour on Indian kids, striking out with Little Miss Up Yours or driving his car into the lake, Bernard Posner was the villain you loved to hate, but you also hated to love. In David’s portrayal of the character a third dimension that is rarely given to grindhouse villains was created. Underneath the cocky bad boy was a timid and tormented kid who was just as victimized as the people who became his victims. While you wanted to see Billy Jack kick his sorry ass, deep in the viewer’s hearts you couldn’t happen to feel sorry for Bernard Posner.
So if his performance was so unique and so powerful, why has David Roya disappeared from the pop culture radar? The answer lies in the filming of Billy Jack itself. A combination of what could only be described as a stormy relationship with Tom Laughlin which lead to a lawsuit, mixed with a number of mistakes that David himself made, created a negative reputation for the dynamic young actor, eventually putting to an end what was a promising career in Hollywood.
Today David Roya lives in New York City with his two children. A former school teacher, David has found a new career as a martial arts and yoga instructor and a health advocate. Taking a strong interest in health and fitness, David Roya has been busy filming a yoga DVD and enjoying a successful life that he was unable to find in Hollywood. However, despite his success and happiness, he admits that his heart is unfulfilled for the stardom that he never found. Out of the public spotlight for decades, and not talking to the media for years, this is the first time in decades that David Roya has had a chance to tell about his career, his mistakes and the challenges of working on Billy Jack. Join us as
CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS
THE MAN WHO MADE BILLY JACK GO BERSERK:
A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID ROYA
I spoke to David Roya via telephone in January 2009
Sam Tweedle: What originally got you interested in acting David?
David Roya: Well Jeff Chandler was my cousin, and as a kid everybody said I looked just like him. His real name was Ira. They’d say “David looks just like Ira and he has a low voice and he’s just a little kid.” So I always wanted to be just like Ira. But I was very shy in social situations. I had my friends and played ball and everything, but with girls I was very shy. But I used to act tough. My father was kind of like a tough guy, and he was my idol so I used to act tough, but really I was quite shy. I used to think if I acted tough enough I wouldn’t have to talk too much.
But secretly I wanted to be like Jeff Chandler, but I never told anybody. I really would have liked to be an actor. So, when I was a senior in high school some teacher in the lunch room told me to clean up some garbage on the lunch table that wasn’t mine, and he touched me or something, and I threw him down on the ground. So I got suspended. All my friends were athletes, but all my friends were also very smart. So we all applied to the top schools and the Ivy League colleges and everything and I always wanted to be with my friends. But [the suspension] went on my record and [although] I had very good grades, I got rejected from all the schools and I had to go to the Brooklyn College, which wasn’t very far from where I lived. That was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do. To be in town. I wanted to go away. So I went to this school and I was very lonely there, and brooding, and didn’t wanted to be a part of the fraternity stuff. It just didn’t interest me at all. And I was kind of a non conformist kind of guy. One day after school I wandered into some area…I guess it was the theatre area…and I just looked inside and everything was all dark and smoky and some girl came out and said “Come in!” I said “No no no. I don’t want to come in.” Anyway she convinced me. I came in there and there was a stage and they were doing improvisations and they said “Come on. Do this.” I said “No no. I’m just gonna watch.” Finally they got me up to do something and when I got on stage. I think I did something about picking up a girl, and as I told you, I was very shy with girls. But as soon as I got on the stage I was a total different person. I could be myself really. More myself. I didn’t have to be afraid of anything. Afraid of making a fool out of myself. So I did that, and it was very real. People were laughing, and I never made people laugh. And then something got me angry, and I got real mad…and then I could hear a pin drop. But I did it in the context of the improv. I felt fantastic! I felt like I was flying and I remember coming home and I said “That’s it. I want to be an actor.” It was so powerful to me. The feeling of it. Not that I wanted to be in movies. It was just the actual sensual feeling that I could be myself. It was like I was drunk but I didn’t have any inhibitions. So then I started doing the plays at school, and that’s how I started acting.
Sam: What got you to head out to LA? Did you head out soon after college?
David: Yeah. Pretty soon. After college, which was around 1965, I did summer stock and off Broadway. Summer stock was very interesting. I did something with Karen Black. I fell in love with her. She was wild. At that time she had just gotten into scientology. Scientology was brand new and she was one of the first people into it. Also in Summer stock was the famous Yiddish star named Eli Mintz, and he was in one of the first popular TV shows in the 50’s called The Goldbergs. He played Uncle David on that show. He was a star of the Yiddish stage, but his brother was the top star and he always had this thing about how he wanted to be as good as his brother. He acted like a Prima Donna. On the TV show he played this little meek Jewish guy, but in the theatre he thought he was the top dog. I also worked with Christine Jorgenson. You know who that is?
Sam: Yeah. That’s the first sex change operation.
David: Exactly! The first sex change! This was in North Port, Long Island. We lived in this big farm house, and there was many many acres and her family lived out there. She was great. She was so funny. A wonderful person. It was a real interesting mix of people. So I did that, and then I went to Off Broadway. I remember this one incident having to do with altercations that seems to come through a lot of my stuff. The director was gay and he kept being lascivious with me, which I didn’t like much. Anyways he kept saying “How come you didn’t smile” and I said “You never saw John Garfield smile.” John Garfield was one of my heroes. So after I said that somebody found a picture of John Garfield and they put it in my room. Well anyways, the play went to off Broadway and I got into the union. Before that I wasn’t in the union, and before that the actor had to do everything. Clean the theatre, clean the outside, mow the grass, pull up the bamboo shoots. We had to do everything. Well when I got into the union I said “I’m in the union now. I’m not cleaning the theatre” and then I got fired. I couldn’t say that’s why they fired me, but I got fired. From that I headed to California. I thought I’d try it out and I was there for sixteen years.
Sam: You said your first acting job was on F-Troop but I found an earlier production called The Love Statue, which was an LSD movie or something.
David: The Love Statue? That must be some piece of crap thing that I don’t want to remember. I don’t know. I don’t know the titles but there was some crap I did. Actually, through those kind of things is how I heard about Tom Laughlin.
Sam: You wrote to me about something about a film that almost mirrored the Charles Manson murders before the murders even took place.
David: Yeah. That was some weird thing I did where the money ran out on it in the middle, but there were people getting slaughtered and slashed and death rituals and crazy stuff. I didn’t even know what the hell was going on! It never got completed, unless they pieced it together and put something out. I don’t even know.
Sam: So it was through this sort of thing that you got involved with Tom Laughlin.
David: Yeah. Someone on there said “You ought to send your picture to this guy, Tom Laughlin. He’s looking for people.” So I sent the picture and then he called me to his house.
Sam: What were your first impressions of Tom Laughlin.
David: Controlling sort of figure. He had to run the whole show. He seemed to have a group of people who had worked with him before. He had a lot of young people. He had some sort of montessori school that was closed down because there was some kind of murder that wasn’t solved. I didn’t know that at the time. I just knew that he had some kind of acting class and he had some young people who were part of his deal.
Sam: Can you tell us about the audition process at his house?
David: It was an audition where I’m doing an improv on the scene in the car where I rip off Miss False Eyelashes’ bra. So we were doing the improve on that and I didn’t have the script. He just kind of told me what was going on. Everyone was there. It wasn’t separate and it was at his house and there were a lot of people there. So I just got up, and I had no idea what I was going to do. So I just looked at this girl and I didn’t say anything, and just by the fact that I just looked at her and wasn’t saying anything she was getting very nervous. I just held that silence for a minute and all of a sudden I grabbed her and threw her down on the ground and they stopped me. One of the reasons I did that was because I heard that Tom Laughlin is a real method actor and he likes things very real. Now I thought “Forget it. I’m not getting it after that” because nobody wanted to talk to me after that. They thought I was really like that, which I’m not. But they called me back again. So I came back, and there was another improvisation. This was the scene in the candy store where they go to get the ice cream.
Sam: Which is one of the most iconic scenes in the film.
David: Right. So we were doing a take off on that scene, and the girl who eventually [played Kit], who was one of his students, made it real when she was made to hit me. She really hit me in the ear and I said “You do that again and I’m gonna punch you right in the mouth.” So Laughlin came in and he said something and I’m in the role, but I’m also angry that she hit me. I mean, that’s not acting. She didn’t need to hit me. He said something and I said something to him like “Shut the hell up” or something. I don’t know what I said, but next thing I knew I’m down on the ground and he’s on top of me and ripped my shirt and was trying to punch me. I was blocking the punches and he was going insane. And he said “Get out of my house’ and he throws me out of the house. He comes and throws my jacket at me. My shirt is ripped up. I’m scratched up and I think I’m bleeding and he’s outside of the door and I said “Boy, that was some good acting Tom.” He said “What? You were acting?” I said “Of course. Weren’t you?” He said “No! I was trying to kill you!” I said “What the hell?” He said “That was the greatest acting I’d ever seen in my life!” So I said “Do I have the part?” He said “Yeah, you got the part, but don’t say anything yet.” So that was kind of what I had in store for me. This kind of guy.
Sam: Well the part about the method acting makes a lot of sense, because when watching Billy Jack, a lot of the time the actors were just playing themselves. However, Bernard Posner was a more interesting character because, unlike a lot of the villains in most grindhouse films, he was a lot more three dimensional. I mean, he is a bully because he is bullied by his father. Yet that doesn’t stop him from being a murderer, a rapist and a bigot.
David: Well I hated the role. To me he was just a coward, and I didn’t like that. He was written as a coward and it seemed like that name was in there from the beginning. Bernard Posner. Why would he create a name like that? Such a stupid name like that out in the west? It makes no sense whatsoever. Just to annoy me? I don’t know. I hated it. I didn’t like it. So I tried to bring a different dimension to the character. Like when I’m looking at him through the scope of the gun on top of the cliff and I’m thinking “I could do this.” I’m supposed to be a coward in the movie and I say “I could do that.” But I was actually thinking “I COULD do that!” I could have shot [Laughlin]. Also, when he [killed me] at the end. Terrible. It was awful. I told him. It was a crap scene. There was no kind of fight. All of a sudden he comes in there and chops me in the throat? It was pathetic! I guess I was a kind of a little antagonistic.
Sam: Did you find that by playing the villain that you were alienated by the rest of the cast?
David: It did alienate me from the rest of the cast! I really felt the alienation because the people really thought that I was like the character. I was very lonely on that set because people were treating me like I was this guy. I got a little friendly with the Miss Up Yours girl, but all of a sudden she kind of turned on me. And then there was one instance, and when I look back this had a lot to do with me. [Members of the cast] were in my room and we were playing guitars and singing folks songs and all of a sudden I got a knock on the door and it was one of the town girls that wanted to see me. Now no matter where I went there were always girls. They always came on to me. I was a young guy and I didn’t think much of this so I cleared everybody out of my room and took the girl in. Looking at it years later I thought that one of the people who was in the room with me was Tom Laughlin’s daughter [Teresa Laughlin, who played Carol]. That young little girl. Thinking now, years and years later she probably told him and he though “What an asshole!” So I felt this chilliness from all the young people, and Tom Laughlin also.
Sam: So you and Laughlin didn’t have a good relationship during the filming.
David: I don’t think so. I remember one time [during filming] in Arizona, we were waiting for a car to take us to a location from the motel and we’re waiting for Miss Up Yours and she was late. So she finally came but he was screaming and yelling at me, but I was ready the whole time. But he was taking it out on me, and I was real annoyed. I remember doing the thing where I drove the car in the lake. I said “It doesn’t feel right to me. What’s my motivation? You tell me to drive my car in the lake and I’m going to drive the car in the lake? That’s bullshit! I’m not driving no car in the lake!” He tried to make it like “If I was the toughest guy in the world and you were afraid of me? What if I was Master Han?” So when I was driving the car in the lake the stunt coordinator said “Oh it’s very simple. You just floor it and it’ll actually go slower and it’s no big deal.” So I floored it and it went in head first and when it went under the water the suction, even though it was a convertable, had me under the water for what seemed like an eternity. Its like I couldn’t get out from under the water and it was very scary. When I finally got out of it I had a kind of a smile on my face like “Jesus…what the hell was that?” Incidentally, a number of years ago, there was some kind of show where they watch movies and they make comments on it. So they were watching Billy Jack and commenting on it, and Tom Laughlin called in and he told him “Yeah, the guy who played [Bernard Posner] was a real coward. He was afraid to drive the car in the lake so I had my son drive the car in the lake.” Of course that was a complete lie. What kind of idiot are you that would have his thirteen year old son drive a god damned car in the lake? So this was years later he still had it in for me!
Sam: Shouldn’t you have had a stunt double of some sort for that scene?
David: Well the man who played my father, Bert Freed, was the vice president of the screen actors guild. Well in the scene after I drove the car into the lake, he was really yelling at me in real life, and we used it in the scene, “Why the hell didn’t a stunt man do that, and why the hell did you do that? I don’t give a crap about you, but if you got hurt the production would have been stopped.” I didn’t know. I was a young guy. They say drive the car in the lake I was gonna drive the car in the lake! I didn’t know. The way that scene was supposed to be was that I was supposed to say “Because I was scared” very meekly but Freed was banging me around and slapping me and whatever, and I was real angry and it came out “BECAUSE I WAS SCARED!” I did it real strong. I wasn’t scared. I was just angry. The sound guy had it tuned to low and said that I almost blew his ear drums out. He wanted to kill me, but I think they used it that way, which is to Laughlin’s credit. So afterwards Freed is really yelling at me and saying “Why the hell did you drive that car? Don’t you read the union rules?” So I’m in the screen actor’s guild, but in this movie Laughlin got everybody to not sign a contract. Somehow Bert Freed found that out and said “What? You’re doing this without a screen actors guild contract?” I said “No, well he said I could trust him.” So when I went back to speak to Laughlin about it, he was very angry. He was very angry that I wouldn’t trust him anymore. He said “I’m a man of my word.” I said “This is what Bert Freed said. It’s against the rules.” So Laughlin gave me a contract. He wasn’t happy about it but he gave me a contract for the last three or four weeks at the minimum of five hundred dollars a week. If it wasn’t for that I would have never got any residuals after that, so it’s good that I did that. So Laughlin was angry at me for that and after the movie was over it seemed that somebody called the screen actors guild and he was getting a lot of flack for that and he thought that I did it. I didn’t do it. I had nothing to do with that. But he was accusing me. But after we did the scene with the car in the lake the money ran out. He came on set the next day and said “I have to shut down the shooting because we don’t have the money to complete it. We have to wait.” That was in November or December 1969. I was waiting for the thing to resume.
Sam: Did you think that the film was going to restart, or did you go on to do something else?
David: Well during the hiatus I got offered to do a play with Sal Mineo. Sal Mineo was having auditions for Fortunes in Men’s Eyes. He was doing the play in Hollywood, and he was going to take that play to San Francisco and then Broadway. He was acting in the one in Hollywood, but he was going to direct the other productions. So he was looking for someone to play his role and I got casted. I hadn’t seen the play. So he said “Come see me in the play.” So I went and saw it and I was shocked. It was about reform school, but there was a homosexual rape in it. Now I might see it and might not feel nothing, but at that time I was shocked. I remember going back to his house, were he actually got murdered, and the walls were all painted black and there were bars on the windows and pictures of James Dean all over. He said he communed with James Dean. I asked him “Why do you have it all black and with bars” and he said “I have it like a prison so when I go outside I feel so wonderful.” Very strange. But he was a very interesting character, and I thought working with Sal Mineo had to be great. But I didn’t know when Billy Jack was going to start again because it was off for about six months. So I called Laughlin and told him that they offered me the play and he said “If you do that you’re fired. I’m not going to have you back.” So I didn’t do it. I felt real bad about it. The guy who got the role was Don Johnson. I worked with Don Johnson years ago and he was a real cool guy. We were doing push ups together and he said “You must have made a lot of money from Billy Jack.” I said “Naw.” He played a rock star on drugs and I played his manager and we were filming in the amphitheatre at Universal and there was this young girl, about fourteen years old, who was in the audience. Don pointed her out and said “You see that little hippie girl? She’s after me. That’s Tippi Hedren’s daughter.”
Sam: Ha! Melanie Griffith.
David: Yeah! Isn’t that interesting?
Sam: Can you tell me about working with Bong Soo Han?
David: Bong Soo Han was the guy who really did the martial arts on Billy Jack, who was a very good friend of mine. I studied with him. He just died about a year ago. He was one of the fathers of Hopkido in the US. Wonderful guy. Sweet guy. If you look at the scene in the park…you know that scene? Where Billy Jack’s jumping up and he does that double kick? Well if you slow that down you’ll see a Korean face. Laughlin, I might add, was telling people in the industry that he was doing everything, which was total bullshit. Just before that movie Laughlin had a bit of a weight problem. He was taking some sort of injections to get real thin, and after the movie finished he got really fat again. We didn’t finish it and we had to redo it and he had to get thin again. But :Laughlin really thought he was Billy Jack.. He really got into that character.
Sam: Now when going through the different Billy Jack commentary tracks on the DVDs Tom Laughlin never says much about you personally, but he always goes out of his way to mention a lawsuit between the two of you. He doesn’t go into many details though. Do you care to discuss that?
David: Well what the lawsuit came out of was that I was supposed to get co-star billing.
Sam: Well that makes sense because after Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor you give the most memorable performance in the film.
David: Yeah. Anybody who saw that movie can say that! So he told me that I’d have co-star billing, but after the movie was over and it was being edited I started seeing his secretary, who was a pretty girl, and he told her “If you him anymore you’re going to be fired.” When I found out about that I was really livid. So I went with her to see a rough cut of the movie and many parts that I really liked were cut out. So I wrote him a very angry letter. So then the movie came out and, if you see the movie, I’m down at the end of the credits! My name is somewhere at the end of the movie! So the movie was getting publicity and I wasn’t on any of the posters.
Sam: The poster says “co-starring Clark Howat.”
David: Clark Howat was the tall guy with the hat. I’m not sure what the heck he did. Well that was ridiculous. That really pissed me off. Well as you know, when the movie came out it did nothing. Laughlin stole the master tape and he was withholding it, and he had a lawsuit against Warner Brothers that he won, and they had to bring it out again. That’s when it became a hit. Well I was getting no kind of publicity and I was trying to get by and nobody knew who the hell I was. Those were the days when Hollywood was not interested in independent films. Well I had a friend who was a lawyer. At the time he was district attorney and he worked for the government and when he was not being a lawyer he was hanging out at the beach. Well he said “You know, you ought to sue Laughlin for breach of contract.” I said “Nothing is written” but he said “All contracts are good.” I said “I don’t know.” He said “I’ll do it on contingency. I’m starting a new law firm. Let’s do it.” I said “Okay.” Looking back on it it’s a very stupid idea. You don’t sue anybody in the movie industry that has power. But we did it, and of course it took many years before it even got to court. But in the meantime this lawyer friend of mine started his law firm and before you knew it he had ten lawyers working for him. So a day before the trial he says to me “No, I can’t make it.” I said “What?” Instead he sends a guy who looked like a substitute teacher, only this was a substitute lawyer. He had a smoking jacket on with patches on his elbows. Meanwhile, Tom was saying “This guy’s a punk and he’s lucky to be doing anything and I got this punk off the streets” and since I kind of acted that way anyways people were thinking I was this person. Of course I lost, and right afterwards my lawyer ran after Laughlin and had a script in his hand and said “Can you read this? I’m a big admirer of yours!” So I did myself in in more ways then one. Afterwards I really tried to patch things up with Laughlin. I tried to get in touch with him a number of times but he would never have anything to do with me. I wanted to bury that hatchet. I thought a lot of it had to do with what I did and my attitude and I could see how things could happen that way and I wanted to bury the hatchet but it never happened.
Sam: Did you find it hard to get work after that?
David: Yeah. There was this famous casting director named Joyce Selznick, who was the niece of David O. Selznick, and she once said to me “You’re one of the best young actors in town and the reason that your not working is because Tom Laughlin said this and that” and she said “Look. A lot of people know that he’s off the wall but it doesn’t matter. Once the rumors stop that’s it.” And also, my choice of representation was terrible. I was being represented by this guy who was representing Michael Parks, John Gavin, and me. And everybody who this guy handled had their career go downhill. But I was doing other stupid moves. There was this famous director named Sidney Furie. He was making a Viet Nam movie called The Boys in Company C. It was going to be filmed in the Philippines for two months. He kept interviewing people and he had the cast and then we started rehearsing before we were going to the Philippines. Well Furie says “I really like you, but how come you haven’t made it? There must be something not quite right?” I said “I don’t know.” I was so stupid and naive and I didn’t know it at the time, but he took the cast out to eat and I was a super health guy. I was a vegetarian and I said “Naw, I don’t want to eat.” So I didn’t eat. And he said one of the reasons he liked me was because I was so outspoken. So this is how stupid I was. Not only did I not eat, but I was criticizing what he was eating. I was saying “You’re putting ketchup on your eggs? You’re smoking over your food? This is insane!” I went on and on like that thinking that he said he liked me because he said I was outspoken so I’ll just be myself. So a few days later he decided that he’s just taking me out to eat alone. He takes me out, I do the exact same thing. I don’t eat and I criticize him. By the end of the week a car was supposed to pick me up and bring me to the airport where I was supposed to be going to the Philippines. My bags were packed. I had rented out my place. I was supposed to go for two months. So I’m waiting and the car is supposed to be here and there was no car. I called the office and I asked “What’s going on?” His assistant said to me “I asked [Furie] if he was sending a car to you and he said ‘No, I don’t want that guy.’” I remember racing to the airport myself where I was going to tear him apart myself but I never got there. I never heard from him again. Never had an explanation. I was so stupid that I didn’t figure out that Furie was thinking that he had to be on location with me for two months that if I was a problem here, what kind of a problem would I be in the Philippines? But I was to dumb to realize that at the time. So you put all these things together plus my reputation and there you have it.
Sam: So what films did you manage to make despite your reputation.
David: I did a western called White Buffalo. Charles Bronson and Jack Warden were the stars of that. Jack Warden was a great guy. A terrific actor. A real pro. I really liked him. Clint Walker, was in it. When I was a kid he was in a TV show called Cheyenne and I loved Clint Walker. He was one of the guys that I really liked. We worked together and he was such a great guy. Big, 6 foot 7. Deep deep voice but a real warm guy. He told me a story about when he was skiing and he had an accident and he remembered himself lying there and he had a ski pole in his chest and he remembered somebody saying “That’s Clint Walker. He’s dead.” And a doctor came and opened up his chest and did open heart surgery right there and he was saved. After that he became a born again Christian. Kim Novak worked on that film also, but I didn’t get to meet her. There was another guy named Stu Whitman who was also a big star at one time. John Carradine was there. He was an old man at the time. Interesting people.
Sam: So what was working with Charles Bronson like?
David: I remember that we’d be hanging out but Charles Bronson would be in the corner and was very unfriendly. I said to Jack Warden “What’s with Charles Bronson?” Warden said “That’s just Charlie. He’s alright. That’s the way he is. He’s just stand offish.” But I remember that Bronson had his wife, Jill Ireland, and he wouldn’t like anybody looking at her. Well he was one of my heroes too. I really liked him. But when they first introduced me to him I went to shake his hand and said “It is really great to be working with you” and he kind of looked at my hand for what seemed like an eternity before he shook it. So right away it seemed like a weird feeling. I had a really small part in the movie. I played this gun fighter named Kid Jelly. There was an advisor on the set who was telling me how to do a fast draw. He would say that a gunfighter would have the hand on the gun. He’s not going to fight a fair fight. So I was practicing that way for a good long time. So the scene involved Bronson and Warden sitting at a table in a bar and I call Bronson a “Dirty old windbag.” So when we started doing the scene, I kept beating Bronson to the draw, which wasn’t supposed to happen.. So what happened was that we ended up doing this scene over and over and over until Bronson finally said something. I knew he had to draw first, but I didn’t mean to keep beating him. So each time we did I would get shot with a pellet gun between the eyes and I’d fall over a table, and it was a whole big scene that would have to be reset each time. So this is going on for a very long time. So Bronson finally said something to me and he speaks very low. I couldn’t understand it. I said “Excuse me Mr. Bronson but could you repeat that.” He said it once again but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. So he called over somebody and Bronson whispers something to him and the guy comes over to me and says “Mr. Bronson said you can’t walk around with your hand on a gun like that. That’s like a fighter with his hand cocked.” Well; I said “I don’t know. I’m just following what this advisor guy told me.” And I’m looking all around for this guy and he’s no where to be seen and nobody seemed to know who he was. So I’m there with the egg on my face. So when he finally said something to me I went over to him and said “Excuse me Mr. Bronson. Why did you wait so long to tell me? We’ve been doing this for hours,” and he said “I wanted you to learn for yourself.” He was calling the shots more then the director.
Sam: Did you do anything memorable after White Buffalo?
David: I also this science fiction thing called Escape from DS-3 with Bubba Smith. It was written by Steven Spielberg’s sister Anne Spielberg. She wrote a few popular scripts, but this wasn’t one of them. It was a low budget thing but it was pretty good. So they liked me in that and three or four months later I did another one called Warp Speed with Adam West. He was loads of fun. He’s a character. He was trying to crack me up every chance he had. We’d have both cameras on me and he would look at me and make one eyebrow go up and he’d get me hysterical. Well those movies didn’t go anywhere.
Sam: So what made you decide to quit acting and move back to New York?
David: Well I wasn’t getting any acting work and I started going to this acting class. There were a lot of people in that class. Cheryl Ladd and Bob Urich but I just couldn’t get any work. I wasn’t getting any money and I started working on the docks, and I was in love with a girl and we broke up and from that I met another girl and got married in a rebound thing. Before you knew it we had a child. I’m not going to say much about this ex-wife of mine. A beautiful girl but marriage wasn’t one of her things. So we had a little baby and she didn’t know the first thing about what to do. I didn’t know what to do and I wasn’t getting any work so I figured I should get back home where my parents were with the baby. So I came back and I had to make money. So I started teaching and before you know it I was pretty much out of the business. I still did a little bit here and there but I didn’t pursue anything. We had another child, but before you knew it the marriage was broken up and I was just trying to survive with two children and being a single parent. I started teaching a lot of karate classes and I didn’t have time to do any acting. Every once in a while I’d get involved and go off and do an off-Broadway show, but I never had anybody good behind me. Years passed and there you have it. But I just have this feeling that I got to do something. I have this unfulfilled feeling even though I’m happy and healthy and have two beautiful kids. I’m basically a very creative person and I need that creation. I’ve been very successful but I have this yearning that I was never fulfilled.
After years away from the film industry, the ego of David’s youth seems to have been stripped away, and replaced with a highly enlightened and confident man who has had experiences beyond most people. Although not dedicated to a single doctrine, David is one of the most spiritual and intense individuals that I have ever spoken to and he has been a valued friend to me since I conducted our interview. Whether we are just talking about movies, or if he is sharing wisdom that he has to offer, David has a calm way that puts me both at ease and peace and always leaves me with something to think about for hours, even days, after we talk Yet, obviously, David is still searching for that place on the pop culture radar, and brings a world of experiences, many that he learnt by his own mistakes, to the pop culture journey. Hopefully it’ll only be a matter of time before somebody takes notice and David can finally meet his unfulfilled goals as an actor. He defiantly deserves it.