Interview: Robert Vaughn
UNCUT DVD: How did you hear about the film?
VAUGHN: We were called to Mexico, happy to work with John Sturges, ’cos he’d done such a great job with films like Bad Day At Black Rock. But there was no script ready when we got there. It was based on The Seven Samurai, and John was in negotiations, but the Japanese had agreed to some things but not others. Debates were ongoing, so the script had to be kept flexible.
Do you recall the formation of the seven actors?
Yul Brynner was the only big name at the time, after The King And I, but John cast me second, as I’d just had an Oscar nomination for The Young Philadelphians [UK title: The City Jungle], and at 26, I was a hot young actor! He said, I need a few more hot young actors – you know any? At that time I knew barely any other type of guy, and when he said he wanted a Gary Cooper type, I thought of my old college mate, Jim Coburn. Jim had this tough, taciturn thing. I promised I’d call him. Problem was Jim was smoking lots of dope with his mainly black friends back then, and didn’t always answer the phone. Luckily for him he picked up. He always said I saved his career!
Did you bond with the other guys?
Brynner had star treatment, but the rest of us were in this little hotel. I roomed between Steve and Charles, with connecting doors. So, yes! Charlie was a lifelong friend; Steve we didn’t know at first but he was great fun. Those two had a contest over who’d had the worst childhood. I’d go: guys, OK, you both had shitty childhoods, move on! We were cocky: I mean, I’d tell Sturges I was improvising something, like it or not. The arrogance of youth!
Why has it lasted so well?
A damn timeless story, a charismatic cast who mostly went on to become film icons, and Bernstein’s music, which my daughter just put on my mobile phone. After Casablanca it’s the most-screened film ever on American TV. It’s poignant for me now, ’cos I’m the only one still alive.
Interview: Chris Roberts