Interview With Dennis Weaver by Tim
Weaver is all that you would expect. At
78 years of age, he is fill of boundless energy and enthusiasm for the next
frontier. In a career spanning 50
years, he has lived through Gunsmoke, seen through McCloud, and will soon
be singing "Home on the Range" with Disney in Christmas 2003.
I was privileged to have a
conversation with him this November, the text of which follows.
reading about your career, I am quite fascinated by your work in television and
movies, and more recently, your work in alternate energy and alternate vehicles.
You have done a lot of work on television, and Gunsmoke in particular.
When you were working on Gunsmoke, did you feel you were part of
something special? What were the
working conditions good?
They were excellent working conditions, and I did feel there was
something special about Gunsmoke.
The one thing that was quite obvious that it was a groundbreaker, a new
formula for a television western,
It was the first adult western on television, and certainly a departure
from anything being shown at that time which was the singing cowboy, The Lone
Ranger, or anything of that ilk that were really aimed a the young audience.
You appeared in an episode of the Lone Ranger once did you not? What do you remember about that?
Yes, I certainly was. That
was around 1953 or 1954. I don't
remember much about that except that it was shot in such a simple fashion to be
inexpensive. I don't even remember
what I played.
Were you a good guy?
I must've played a bad guy. The
Lone Ranger and Tonto were always the good guys, and everyone else was the bad
(according to IMDB "The Tell Tale
Bullet", 1955, Jeb Sullivan)
Did you ever think you would be acting 50 years later?
Yeah, I figured that I'd be acting all my life.
I just didn't know how long I'd live.
I didn't think I 'd do anything but act.
That was always your goal in life was it?
Well yeah. I went to
college, and majored in Drama. I
was a fine arts major preparing
myself to work in New York and study further and do stage work.
I didn't realize it at the time, when I went to college in 1946
television wasn't around and when I got to New York, that's where it was born.
I got involved in the birth of television, and it was all live.
What we did in front of the camera was what the audience saw at home.
It was rather challenging for the actor and somewhat frightening.
If you blew your line, it was what the people saw.
Foy, the Lone Ranger radio series announcer said if the guy muffed his line, you
kept on going.
Yeah. You just covered it.
In your portrayal of Chester Goode, how much of Dennis Weaver was there.
was the character of Chester, the limp, and his mannerisms, were all written for
Amanda Blake, James Arness on Gunsmoke
Do you think westerns will ever be the same again, in terms of the
philosophies that they presented, or the themes?
The world is changing, it will never be the same again.
That doesn't mean that I think the western genre is going to die.
I don't think it ever will , I think there will always be westerns.
It's such an interesting theatrical romantic period in our history.
We will always revert back to that time for good story material.
The western will never be the same as at it's height during the 1950's
and 1960's on television. The genre
was so popular then. Gunsmoke was
so popular, and made such an impact on the industry that within three years,
there were 35 major productions on the air.
Bonanza, The Rifleman, and Colt 45 were only a small part of the flood.
I read somewhere that there were 120 plus western productions on the air
in three different years.
There was a tremendous output in that time.
When you did McCloud, were you asked to help develop that?
They called me in, and presented this concept, and asked me if I would do
it. I immediately jumped on it
because I thought it was a good match.
I thought it could be commercially popular and also at the same time,
artistically rewarding. I loved the fish out of
McCloud was one show my father let us watch.
My favorite image of McCloud is you, on your horse ridingÖ
Downtown New York City.
I'm surprised it hasn't made a comeback on some of the satellites yet.
They are still playing McCloud in some places, and the old Gunsmoke
episodes are being played on Encore Westerns Channel.
I'm the host of Starz Encore Westerns Channel.
I just signed for my seventh year, so I've been doing this for a while..
Do you have a lot of fun hosting the Channel?
It is rewarding. I have a great time doing that.
I enjoy relating anecdotes and telling stories about people that I've
worked with. It is just fun.
It does add to the station, and gives a bit of garnish on the meat and
I understand they are making a new McCloud.
It's supposed to be a feature film I understand.
Are you going to be in it?
I donít know. I'm
certainly not going to play the lead. They
need a young McCloud. I could easily play McCloud's father or Uncle or
something. Somebody has made me
aware of what the script is about, so I donít know.
Do you have a favorite co-star?
All of my co-workers were
terrific. I would be remiss to single out one.
Looking at your Filmography, you have done some recent movies.
Are you still taking on projects if they come up.
I'm doing a "Touched By An Angel" episode in January. It is going to be a story written around a character that I
am playing. I have done some added
scenes for an animated show for Disney "Home on the Range", where I
play a rancher.
"Home On the Range" will
be released Christmas 2003.
When you were younger, did you see yourself being involved in the
socio-scientific community as you are now?
I was always concerned about peoples welfare in this country and in the
world really. I didn't know I would
get involved to the degree that I have, but I have always supported good causes
and have been concerned about the hunger problem.
As a matter of fact, my wife Jeri and I, and Valerie Harper,
founded a feeding program in Los Angeles in 1982 called LIFE .
(Love Is Feeding Everyone).
Is that still going on now?
Not under the name LIFE now. When
I moved to Colorado, it started to have financial problems. Some people are still picking up food at pantries from local
feeding agencies. So,
in a sense, it is still going, but not under the same name.
Tim: We should all support that. You have written a book "All the World is A Stage"
as well, what prompted you to do that?
Well, I've led a very interesting life and my wife, to whom I have told
many stories related to my youth and days in college, my naval air corps.
experience, how I got into films, and the different people that I have worked
with. She said, that is such an
interesting story, you've got to write it.
For the kids, and for your grandchildren.
So I did.
is there a message in the book?
got something to say to the country, and to
the world. I cover Ecolonomics,
which is a combination of ecology and economics.
We have to, as a world, have a sustainable economy and ecology.
The two are intertwined and interdependent.
a blend that we have needed for so long.
We have to stop fighting and work together.
I use the image of two horses on the same harness.
If they are both pulling in different directions, they really aren't
getting anywhere. Ecolonomics pulls
both in the same direction, and together both forces can create a sustainable
future. A sustainable economy
cannot run without a sustainable energy source.
This is where I get excited about it, Hydrogen energy.
Bill Horn, of Ford Motors, has said that the internal combustion engine
will be obsolete in 10 years. Even
the oil companies a referring to Hydrogen as the
What do you see as your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement was to stay active, productive, and creative in
the film business for over 50 years.
Do you have a closing comment?
One of the things that made the westerns exciting was the opportunity to
explore. The early west was about
land, and today the future is about technology and that is what makes this
exciting to me. I must have a
little western blood in me. I like
to explore. I like new frontiers.
I like new technologies, because it represents an open book to me.
What is left for Dennis Weaver?
I don't know what is left for me and I really don't want to know. It is
the unknown that is exciting. To know the future would be unbearable and life
for me would have no meaning.
Thanks for your time.