When Bruce Davison was a young actor, an experienced director advised him not to become a leading man. “Robert Aldrich, who made The Dirty Dozen And What happened to Baby Jane?, said, ‘You don’t want to be a leading man. You’ll take six pictures and no one will ever hear from you after you’re 30,” says Bruce. Closer. “He said, ‘Be a character actor. Play supporting roles, play villains and victims, doctors and lawyers. And that’s what happened to me, basically.
It was sound advice. Today, Bruce, 76, has more than 300 credits in a career that spans five decades. The Philadelphia-born artist and father of two burst onto the scene with the 1971 horror film Villard. Just over a decade later, he won a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for his performance in 1989’s groundbreaking Tearjerker. long time companion. Bruce recently appeared in the fourth and final season of ozarkand he can currently be seen as Arthur in the hit historical drama 1923.
Tell us about your character in 1923.
I play an English lord in the Africa sequence. I feature the lead actress, Alexandra, when my son is engaged to her. The wedding toast is given when she meets Spencer for the first time.
Did you shoot on location?
Yes, all of our stuff was shot in Africa, Malta and the queen mary. In Africa, we went into the jungle in places that could replace the Nairobi of 1923. There were so many wild animals there. The production would say things like, “Wait until the herd of elephants come out of shot.”
What do you attribute to the longevity of your career?
I have to say just survive. I’ve been through so many ups and downs in the business. I learned to accept it as a river. It will still be there and you have to jump into it. Sometimes you can swim and other times the boat sinks.
Did your family support you when you told them you wanted to be an actor?
Not at first, no. Above all, I wanted to be an artist and go to art school. They said, “No, you don’t know who you are yet. Go to Penn State and take liberal arts. I fell in love with the theater there. I found my crowd, my people, all the weird outliers who walk around mumbling lines to themselves. Everyone thinks they’re crazy, but they repeat.
You starred in the hit horror movie Villard very early in your career. How has this changed your life?
Well, for 15 years after kissing that rat, I never kissed another girl! [Laughs] But people still remember it. This started a whole series of great creature movies. You know, I find myself at the beginning of a lot of eras. The same thing happened with x-men. After that movie, suddenly there were all these Marvel movies.
You were also featured in Dating of the Third Kind. How did it happen?
I used to be neighbors and friends with Steven Spielberg before becoming Citizen Kane. I was on my way to New York and he said, “Come to Mobile. He was firing at the mothership. I had just done Villardso he hid me behind a hat and a mask in the shadows.
But it’s pretty cool.
Yeah, I had a lot of friends hanging out at Margot Kidder’s and Jennifer Saltthe Decker Canyon beach house at the time. Every Sunday there was a party. No one had made a movie yet, but it was people like Brian DePalmaSteve, george lucas, Martin Scorsese And robert de niro. It was funny to see everyone get away with it and become the great filmmakers of this decade.
In 1991, you won a Golden Globe and got an Oscar nomination for long time companion, which was the first theatrical release to address the AIDS crisis. Did someone warn you not to make the film?
Everyone told me not to. But I had to. During this period, it was like the Holocaust. My agent, my manager, and my sales agent all died within six months of shooting this movie. There were also cast members who only lasted a few months before their deaths. It was a very different and very scary time.
You have both directed and acted. Which do you prefer?
Ah, play. Achievement is for adults. It’s just too much hard work. You know, the actor says, “Come on, when’s lunch?” But the director says, “Lunch? I’m three strokes behind! As a director, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades because you are responsible for what everyone else does.
Who have been some of your favorite co-stars?
Oh, I couldn’t choose one. I can think of a few great ones though. Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball come to mind.
It’s true, you played a part in Mom. How was Lucy?
I was friends with Desi [Jr.]. She said to me, “My son says you’re a good actor, so okay, you got that part.” I walked in and in the first scene I kissed her and said, “I love you, Aunt Mame.” I made the take. All good. The director says, “OK, print.” She said, “I couldn’t believe it. Go one more time.” So I thought this was going to be tough! We did it again and she said, “I knew you had it in you!” It was Lucy.
You have two children. Did any of them follow you into the business?
My son is a writer in New York. We also have a 16 year old daughter. She got into musical theatre. She likes to do plays.
Did you encourage them to enter the industry?
No way. [Laughs] But everyone must follow their dreams. Like when my daughter plays two plays at once, she doesn’t take to the air. She’s so passionate about it. That’s what it takes to be in life. If you’re in a job, it should be something you enjoy.
What’s on your to-do list?
Paint. I started college with a major in art, but never got far. Henry Fonda was very instructive in reviving me. He said: “It’s not about the results, it’s about the journey. You will never be Rembrandt, but you can still enjoy doing it. So during COVID, that’s what I went back to.