Actor Perry King (Class Of '84, NBC's RipTide) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the making of a cult classic: Andy Warhol's BAD (1977)
TV STORE ONLINE: Boy, I was tickled to hear that you were up for talking with me about ANDY WARHOL'S BAD (1977)...
KING: (Laughing) Sure. Why not? I loved working on that film...It was like a trip to the moon! TV STORE ONLINE: And it might have been the only time as an actor that you got to lay around on a sofa for months on end and gotten paid for it...
KING: You know we actually all worked very hard on that film. Both Carroll Baker and I worked very hard especially. You could tell what Andy Warhol was going for with that film. I think it was their attempt at a mainstream film. They cast Carroll "BABY DOLL" Baker, Perry "MANDINGO" King and Susan "FAT CITY" Tyrell... It was cast like it was a Hollywood film.
Carroll Baker and I were having a hard time by the time we reached the half-way point of the shooting of BAD. We just weren't clicking. Finally, we both went to Susan Tyrell--who had been just wonderful and stunning the entire time we were working--and we said, "Can you help us? We're really lost here. We don't know what we're doing..." We couldn't count on help from [director] Jed Johnson because he was just a kid and he didn't really know what he was doing either.
Susan Tyrell in BAD
Susan said to both Carroll Baker and I, "You've both made a terrible mistake. You read the script, didn't you? I've never read the script, so I have no idea what is going on..." (Laughing)
It sounded insane to me, but you know, she was absolutely right. If you're working on a Andy Warhol film you can't approach it like it's a conventional film with a beginning, middle and a end. You had to forget about the character arc. That had to go out the window, even though that was how Carroll Baker and I were trained to work. And certainly Susan knew how to work that way too, but what Susan understood was that, this was an Andy Warhol movie. You had to give yourself over completely to that world. You had to embrace that world and one of the things you did was to improvise everything. They didn't want to do anything conventionally.
TV STORE ONLINE: Had you been cast in BAD early on or did you come in late? I'm asking because of how Vivian Vance [I Love Lucy] was originally cast in the Carroll Baker role but dropped out later...
Carroll Baker & Perry King in BAD (1977)
KING: I didn't know that actually. I'm glad that I got the opportunity to work with Carroll Baker because she was just a great actress. Near the end of the shooting of BAD, I got into a disagreement with Jed Johnson. It was during the shooting of one of the last scenes and Jed and I weren't agreeing on the approach for the scene. I said, "Jed, this is a comedy, right?" My question was rhetorical.
But Jed stopped me and said, "This isn't a comedy? What are you talking about?" It was then that I finally understood the world I was in. Everything in the Andy Warhol world was upside-down. When I realized that--I began to understand that, to them: ugly was pretty, fast was slow, funny was sad, sad was funny.
TV STORE ONLINE: And for some unexplained reason--knowing that Carroll Baker was BABY DOLL (1956) adds something extra special to it when you watch BAD...
KING: Oh, absolutely.
"bad women and incompetent men.." Perry King & Stefani Cassini in BAD (1977)
TV STORE ONLINE: Your character "L.T." bedded Warhol actress Stefani Cassini in the film... Joe Dallesandro's one-time girlfriend and co-star of the Paul Morrissey films...
KING: That's right. Everybody during the shooting of BAD who didn't know me assumed that I was Joe Dallesandro. Some of the crew actually called me "Joe," and after a while I just got tired of correcting them so I would just answer to Joe. I may be mistaken, but if I remember correctly--Paul Morrissey might have originally been attached to direct BAD. Because I did hang around Los Angeles for a little bit with him prior to the shooting of the film. Or maybe that just lead to me being cast in BAD--I don't remember now.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you meet with Andy Warhol?
KING: I did. I hung out with him a few times. He was incredible to spend time with. I asked him once what BAD was about. He said that he wanted to make a movie about "bad women and incompetent men..." (Laughing) Andy wasn't always around but he'd visit from time-to-time and every time I saw him he would constantly be taking photographs of you and recording our conversation. I said to him once, "Why are you recording me and taking pictures? Are you going to use this in a article or something?" He said, "Oh no. I just want everybody to be as uncomfortable as I am." (Laughing)
Now that he's gone, and he's now such a icon and a mystery--his hair was white, but the back of his head was black. He was obviously coloring his hair or wearing a wig. I said, "Andy, why don't you color the back of it?" He said, "I can't see it in the mirror, so I don't care..." (Laughing)
While we were shooting BAD I had to report to The Factory every morning. I used to enter through the back entrance. It was close to my apartment then. When you'd walk in--there would be stacks and stacks of Warhol paintings. They were stacked up like Gold Bullion. Andy was so smart, because he knew that if he put out a painting once it was done it'd diminish the value of his own work on the market.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you have to audition for BAD? KING: No I didn't. I think I was cast because Andy wanted to try to work within the boundaries of a Hollywood movie. At the time, MANDINGO (1975) had just come out and that film was a big deal because it was kind of trashy. And trashy, to the Andy Warhol universe, was what they liked. Trash was big art to them.
Warhol & BAD Director Jed Johnson
TV STORE ONLINE: Going back to what you mentioned a moment ago about Andy's take on BAD....The whole thing of incompetent men in the film...Is your character, L.T., incompetent in BAD? I don't see L.T. as being incompetent really... Isn't he more about conscience in the end?
KING: Absolutely, but he was also incompetent. He couldn't make it happen with Stefani Cassini. While we were shooting--I also tried to make him physically incompetent. I would practice doing pratfalls. I didn't base the character around that idea though, because Andy didn't tell me that that was his take on BAD until we were nearing the end of shooting. But I think that was just Andy's view of the world really. Bad women and incompetent men...
TV STORE ONLINE: How about the shooting of that big end scene in BAD...That scene where L.T. goes to assassinate that mentally-handicapped little boy. You had to throw that little kid across the room...
KING: Well, that was hard. I've never been comfortable with kids in movies that are asked to do something uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable for me. I worry all of these years later about how that scene effected that little kid in the aftermath.
KING: I wasn't. Carroll, myself, and Susan Tyrell threatened to quit the film if that scene was shot. We made Jed Johnson promise us that he wouldn't shoot that scene. The minute we finished shooting and had left--they went and shot that. As much as I hate it--it really fits in with the rest of that over-the-top universe.
TV STORE ONLINE: What are you working on now?
KING: I'm in pre-production now for a film that I'm going to direct myself. It's a small, sweet film about ordinary life and redemption that I'd like to think John Ford would've appreciated. It's going to be called THE DIVIDE. I have a cow ranch in Northern California that I spend a lot of time at these days and we're shooting it up around there. It features a young actor named Brian Kaplan who's just wonderful in this little film that's out now called THE FRAY (2012).