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IANN

 

TEN QUESTIONS FOR STEFAN ARNGRIM

Interview conducted for Escape Velocity Magazine

Stefan Arngrim

1) Irwin Allen is an established legend in both sci-fi for television and in his film efforts. What was the most fun thing you remember about working with Allen?

Answer: His toupee. 

When I first answered this question re: Irwin, I flippantly said that I best remembered 'His Toupee'. Well, okay this is because I am probably not the most qualified person to extol the virtues of Irwin Allen; for several reasons.  I was 11 yrs old in 1967 and although I certainly knew who Irwin was and was familiar with Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Lost In Space and Time Tunnel, I can't honestly say I was a big fan. No disrespect, I've just never been a big TV series viewer. Mostly because I was working in the medium and my schedule made regular viewing difficult. This is true to this day.  I was also not Irwin's first choice for Barry Lockridge, don't know who was, but it was ABC who hired me.

Orphans like Barry were a departure from Irwin's family formula, but that was what I was known for (playing orphans), hence ABC's enthusiasm.  Also, I was not the 'red haired, blue-eyed, freckle faced American boy' that worked so well in Irwin's formula. I think that if Irwin could have hired Ron Howard, or for that matter, cloned Bill Mumy (both of whom are my peers and friends), he would have felt more comfortable.  I was just a little too 'European', pale and dark for Irwin's demographic.  And although Irwin was always kind and congenial, he was my 'reluctant' boss.

I also don't think Irwin cared for the network pressure on casting HIS show. This somewhat tainted our relationship, and I know Irwin didn't care for butting heads with an 11 yr old, which I'm afraid we did, mostly over my hair!

Yes, folks, in the second season of Giants, I was in fan mags, making records and touring with my band, and therefore wore a very expensive and 'negotiated' short hair wig! Yes, that's right, second season Barry has shoulder length locks tucked up under a pricey little wig.

So, I can't say that Irwin 'liked' me that much.

My personal tastes in Sci Fi ran more to novels by Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury and films by Kubrick, Truffaut (Fahrenheit 451) and Jean-Luc Goddard (Alphaville), and so on.

One thing is not in question though, and that is Irwin's vision and Herculean ability to get it made and seen. Believe me, anyone who can get a film or TV show made and seen with the success and longevity that Irwin enjoyed has my respect and admiration.

I often thought Irwin had captured the awe and wonder of a nine year old. This is likely the secret of his success.

I could not and would not take anything away from his brilliance at realizing his vision, both in the many films he made before conquering TV and then with his move from Fox to Warners, the ground he broke in essentially creating the disaster film, i.e. The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, etc, etc.

He always knew what he wanted and always managed to get it on film.  A miracle!  For that alone, his greatness will always be legendary.

We may not have shared tastes, but at no time did I ever feel anything but respect and admiration for his contribution, not just to the world at large, but to my own film making education.  There is room for everyone who has something to show and tell in this weird Art/Business of pop entertainment.

Kurt and I were well aware that we were essentially reprising a brilliant chemistry brought to life by Jonathan Harris and Bill Mumy, and it was always a challenge to 'stay within the lines' and still create our own unique relationship. Which, I believe, we did.

Irwin Allen was a great producer and if possibly not always an innovator, he most assuredly cut his own path with a rare success and a career that spanned decades. I don't think it gets better than that.

.....but I still remember that toupee......

I do hope this overview satisfies some curiosity and helps to put Irwin in perspective as I write this however, so much more fills my mind. Maybe someday soon (and with some encouragement!) I will put it all down on in text.  It is history, after all, and all history improves with age.

Oh yes, and if nothing else, Irwin gave me one of the best memories of my life, when he took me to lunch and introduced me to one of his closest friends - Groucho Marx!  Now there's a story!  For that alone, I will always be grateful and humbled by Irwin Allen's memory.

2) Of all the actors on Land of the Giants, it seemed you were closest to Kurt Kasznar, at least onscreen. You and he had many scenes together. Do you have a favorite anecdote about the two of you during your time on the show?

Answer:  Not one but many. Kurt came up with the name Spindrift. Kurt taught me much about music, about Vienna, and of course about film tech. He has probably been the greatest single influence on my professional ethics. I could write a book about Kurt, and U know Jet, I just might.....

3) What is your opinion of the science fiction television shows coming out these days, such as 'Stargate' and the newer version of 'Battlestar Galactica'? Do you have any favorites? Or do you gravitate more toward the classics when you watch?

Answer:  I have terrible TV viewing habits and rarely watch any series for more than two episodes. I watch science and nature shows, oh and my new favorite series is UK's "New Tricks", which is in rerun here Sunday nights. Other than that, I watch DVD's, go to films. I like that one can visualize anything today. I just wish the visualizers had some imagination.

4) New websites that carry classic television shows in their entirety are springing up all over the Internet. Many of them are doing LOTG and other sci-fi shows. Traffic to those sites is extremely heavy. Why do you believe there has been a resurgence of interest in classic sci-fi shows such as Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Land of the Giants?

Answer:  Because it's there?

5) In the years since Land of the Giants finished its run, have you been in contact with your former cast members at all?

Answer:  Not as often as I would like, but yes, Gary and I chat from time to time. As I do with Deanna. Don Marshall still seems to think I am 11 and just gets pissed off and tells me what to do! And I love him for it! But of all the cast members, the one I wish I had a standing communication relationship with is Heather. She was 19 when we did the show and being closest in age, some bond formed. Plus, I had a crush and her and several hundred other actresses at Fox in the sixties! Heather has always been able to make me forget my Little Big Self and laugh. And I love her voice and her country music!

6) What is your all-time favorite sci-fi film, past or present?

Answer:  That I have done or that I have seen?  I still believe that the film "The Final Cut", that I had only one scene in, starring Robin Williams in a stunning, frightening dramatic performance-Mira Sorvino and James Caveziel will someday find an audience.  It was written and directed by first time filmmaker; Omar Naim, whom I guess is in 'movie jail' now.  Still don't know what happened to this film, but I personally hold it up with "Blade Runner", an all time favorite.  Others? "From the Earth to the Moon" - "Things to Come" - "Fahrenheit 451" by Francois Truffaut and of course "Alphaville" by my personal directorial hero the great Jean-Luc Godard! There are so many more. I love film and its derivative media and again, could write a book on the subject, from Sergei Eisenstein to Steven Spielberg (Does that date me? Okay, Micheal Bay then).

7) Irwin Allen liked to use formula in his productions, as he did with the 'Will Robinson/Dr Smith' relationship on 'Lost in Space' and your own 'Barry Lockridge/Major Fitzhugh' relationship on 'Land of the Giants'.  Did you and Bill Mumy ever get a chance to compare notes?

Answer:  Irwin hated me for Barry because I was not Bill.  ABC loved me and trumped Irwin.  Bill and I went to school together on the Fox lot when not shooting, but the parallels were so obvious, there was never any discussion.  We knew we were formula 'fx'.  I did produce Bill's first record when we were 14 though and despite that, we have remained cordial.

8) Sooner or later, it seems Hollywood likes to make a big-budget production out of those classic TV shows.  If they did a big-budget production of 'Land of the Giants', would you be open to the idea of a cameo or perhaps a larger role?

Answer:  Not much chance of that happening or certainly of being asked. I think no, except if it was funny or if the Fans really, really wanted it.

9) What do you like to do when you are not working?

Answer:  Make more work.

10) Can you tell us about some of your current projects?

Answer:  Writing two novels, one done and being proofed, demoing songs for new CD, writing script for likely un-makeable film. Play a lot of guitar and listen to old twenties/thirties American Blues.

 

"I am not nothing, but the Haunted Man"

Stefan Arngrim (nee Barry Lockridge)

 

 

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