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Always

Don the Fire Boss

Director Steven Spielberg delivers an old-fashioned romantic adventure, as firefighting pilot Richard Dreyfuss perishes in the line of duty and comes back from the beyond to watch over his replacement (Brad Johnson) and his true love (Holly Hunter). Exciting, romantic and featuring Audrey Hepburn’s final screen appearance, Always reaffirms the adage “What you give away, you keep forever.”

My small role in this film led to a long and lasting relationship with Steven Spielberg. Steven had always been a great fan of a 1940’s film called “A Guy Named Joe” and starring Spencer Tracey and Irene Dunn. He wanted to remake the film, so he took the WW II plot recounting the adventures of two military pilots and rewrote it to concern two daring pilots who fly for the firefighting arm of the U.S. Forest Service. Richard Dreyfuss and Brad Johnson played the competing pilots and Holly Hunter stepped into Irene Dunn’s shoes as the love interest. What Seven needed was a credible firefighting crew boss to be on the ground and in trouble so the pilots could fly to the rescue.

Primarily because he was a fan of my on-screen work as the Company Commander in “Platoon,” Steven sought me out and offered me the role of Don the Fire Boss. We became friends and mutual fans during our time filming in Montana and elsewhere during the making of “Always.”

During one scene we shot in on an LA soundstage, I even solved a knotty technical problem for Steven and became a close friend of Holly Hunter’s. The scene called for me to dance with Holly at a Fire Service celebration during which she makes a sweeping entrance in a lovely white gown given to her by boyfriend Richard Dreyfuss. During the waltz and under the admiring eyes of the gathered firefighters, we exchange some insipid dialogue about her boyfriend and his competitor for her attentions. All well, except that I’m 6’1” and Holly is barely five-feet tall. It just didn’t look right on camera. She was craning her neck to look up at me and I was creating multiple chins trying to look down at her. We tried everything to make it work and for a while it looked like I might lose this juicy bit to a shorter man. And then, I simply picked Holly up off the floor, held her tight and whirled her around into the designated camera focus marks. It worked fine. No one ever knew her feet were dangling in mid-air, …and she got a big kick out of the simple solution.

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