Top left photograph courtesy of Morgan Paull © 1999
Morgan Paull is no stranger to playing supporting but meaningful characters in films that
delve deep in the social consciousness. Since his debut as Captain Richard N. Jenson in 1970's
Academy award winning film Patton, Morgan Paull has played in several powerful
and poignant films.
Though he has all but left the big screen, he is far from forgotten. And, as you will see in
this close-up interview, he has never, by any means, been a small part of the over all
PR & News Editor
Know what a turtle is?
When I called Morgan Paull I was kind of nervous, he was quite disarming in the fact that
he was just a normal guy. He put me at ease, I told him that I wanted to interview him for
BladeZone a Blade Runner web fan magazine. He seems surprised that I wanted to drive to Lake
Arrow head to interview him about the part he played in Blade Runner, the part being Dave Holden.
Although he was shot in the first scene, he was supposed to have had another scene in the hospital.
So he should have his opinions and insight into this movie.
BladeZone Editorial Manager
We arranged a day and a time to meet at his house, condo in Lake Arrowhead. The meeting time was on Saturday
January 15th at 1:00. Lake Arrowhead is nestled in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino
National Forest about 90 miles from Hollywood.
Saturday arrived and I was nervous about meeting a character/ actor from my favorite movie Blade Runner. I left in
what I thought would be more than enough time so if I had problems finding it I wouldn't be late.
Several freeways later I arrived in San Bernardino, stopped at a restaurant for a bite, then started up the
mountains taking the "rim of the world highway". I case you hadn't guessed it was named for a reason.
You look down and you certainly look like you are on the rim of the world, climbing up and up above seven
Lake Arrowhead is actually said to be at 5,300 feet, but the signs said seven thousand on the way up. I
meandered around the highway going ever further up till you felt like saying, "Come on now, does this end".
Finally I arrived at a small town of Blue Jay, a beautiful town, you could see why they called Lake Arrowhead
"the Alps of Southern California" normally there would be snow there they have four seasons a year unlike
I found Morgan Paull's condominium complex, he had given me excellent instructions, I nervously knocked
on the door to his condo, and was greeted cordially by the actor himself. He ushered me into his living
room, not a thing out of place. I introduced myself and we chatted briefly, before I turned on the tape
recorder. I had many prepared questions, but the interview was much more like a conversation. After many
questions, both he and I had dry throats and he asked me if I wanted something to drink and I replied that
I would like some ice water if it wasn't too much trouble. While he got the ice water from the kitchen
I looked around in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen. I did notice a greeting card sitting on a table,
with a movie theater on the front , he noticed my interest and handed to me, I opened it to find the words
"Merry Christmas 2000" from Chuck" it was from Charleton Heston. The use of "Chuck" I thought that was great.
Mr. Paull was friends with many other actors of course.
I pressed record and so our conversation began...
Gary Willoughby: It's a pleasure to have this moment with you Mr. Paull. It means a lot to BladeZone readers that you are alive and well. And thank you for having us to your house.
Morgan Paull: My pleasure.
GW: Though it isn't Blade Runner related, I have to ask about your experience in Patton, back in 1971. I know Gerry, the creator of BladeZone, is a huge fan of this film, as am I, and we wanted to know, what was it like working with the late George C. Scott?
MP: my working experience with George C. Scott was terrific. He's a very giving actor… A wonderful actor. My working experience was terrific.
GW: (laughs) So, your off camera experience with him was something else?
MP: I would call it unmentionable.
GW: (laughing more) Ok. So he was a professional in front of the camera?
MP: Yes. When he was there.
GW: When he was there?
MP: Which was most of the time. Yes, he was wonderful on camera. (he ponders for a moment) He resisted doing the opening speech because he thought it ruined the character. They just started fighting him until he agreed to do it.
MP: Well, it won him the Oscar ®.
GW: The scene where he's standing in front of the giant flag.
MP: yes. Which was a compilation of several real Patton speeches.
There wasn't a word in the movie that wasn't approved by General (Omar) Bradley and the Pentagon,
there wasn't a word that Patton didn't say. Although some were from a combination of three or four
speeches he made. But, he became Patton, and he suddenly felt that the opening speech would make
him look like some sort of fanatic, which in many ways Patton was. So he got protective, and started
balking about doing it. Which he had to do it, they had an agreement. And he did it brilliantly.
When he finally agreed, he said "All right, I'll do it once." So it was one of the first movies
where they had multiple cameras covering, because he might have really meant he'd only do it once.
And he did. Once he shot the scene, he said, "There… You got your speech. Goodbye."
So, all the cuts in that one scene are based on all the cameras running simultaneously.
GW: That's incredible. Of course I'll have to watch that scene again when I get home now knowing how that happened. Patton was your first film, let's move on up a decade to 1981 and your involvement in Blade Runner playing replicant hunter Dave Holden. How did you get the part of Holden? Did you have to read for the part?
MP: No. I didn't. There was this strange request from my
agent, and at this point I'd already starred in or co-starred in some 15 films already,
and he said "Ridley Scott wants you to be Harrison Ford, to read with ten girls," apparently
for the Daryl Hannah and Sean Young roles. And I said, "What? What do you mean read as him?"
And he said, "They're going to pay you a lot of money. They just don't want to have Harrison
Ford to have to go through the experience nor actually be a part of the (final) decision."
Although he may have made a test scene later, but I don't know. So, I tested five of them,
while being Harrison Ford, for the Sean Young and Darryl Hannah roles.
And, at the end of the day when they asked me my opinion of who read the best for
Priss, I said "Hands down, Darryl Hannah." And I actually had another choice for the
role Sean Young took, because I'd felt that she might be difficult.
GW: Can you say who that other person was?
MP: Yes. A lady, Nina Axelrod, whom subsequently became a casting director.
And now lives, I think, in Colorado… running a theatre company there. When she didn't get that role,
which she'd dreamed of and had studied for. It was such a disappointment (not getting the role) that
she quit the business as an actress there.
MP: She was actually my first choice for Rachael.
GW: So, you never had to read for the role of Holden then?
MP: Oh no, So what happened, Ridley... because it was such a long process,
I would WORK with each of these different girls two hours each for two days, these were actually screen tests,
with sets and everything just like they were shooting the movie. Those screen tests exsist someplace. Anyway I would
work with them giving them a fair shot. at the end of it Ridley decided he liked me around. So, I'd been paid for this experience. When I wrapped on the
second day, and by the time I'd gotten home, he'd called my agent, David Shapiro, and then Dave called me and said
"he wants you in the film, and it's a good role." I said fine and had a new deal. So, that was a surprise.
I'd thought I was simply being hired to test with these girls. Which I would have balked at the offer to read
as Harrison, but Dave told me they pay really well to do this. And what's ironic is that I'd worked with Harrison
for years. We'd competed for roles for forever. I had guest starred on TV shows where he'd been just a small player.
And, as fate would have it, he lucked into Star Wars when I was actually busy elsewhere.
GW: Now you might not be aware of this, but many fans believe that the reason why Ford's Deckard was a replicant
was because of the similarities between you as Holden, both facially, vocally and even in your mannerisms.
MP: We had similar coloring, we had similar voice patterns… I mean… I can't do
it right now, because I haven't heard him recently, not right at the moment, but he was unavailable or whatever
at the time to do the voiceovers for the trailer so I did him.
GW: So, you did do the trailers?
GW: how long were you actually on the set then, for Blade Runner? Were you on just for your scene…
MP: No. Ridley kept me on the set for six weeks, about three after which
I'd finished everything I was involved with and he just asked me to be there on days that I wasn't involved at all.
He just liked me around. I guess during that testing process… and he'd just say, "what do you think?" Sometimes
he didn't take my suggestion, like for the girl, but sometimes he'd say, "I agree." And I was very flattered,
getting to watch him… and watch the scenes. Like all the scenes with Joe Turkel. I didn't know if he'd even
remember me (Joe had called Morgan a couple weeks before this interview). It was fascinating to get to watch Joe and Ridley work.
How Ridley had his hands in every thing...
GW: Every little detail?
MP: Yes, and enthusiasm. He had more energy… He could wear out anybody. He'd be raring to go when people were ready to drop.
GW: In the book Future Noir, that I gave you a copy of, it speaks about the people behind the scenes having problems with Ridley's way of doing his job, and he would respond to this by sating how he would never have these kinds of problems if I were in England.
MP: That's correct. It was basically a union problem. As I understand it… a camera operator, or the cinematographer, could not be displaced by the director so that he, Ridley, could run the camera. And Ridley, in some shots, wanted to operate the camera himself. So, they finally found Jordan Cronenweth who didn't care if he wanted to operate the camera or not. So, initially the thing was that the union protects those people, saying you can't just take their jobs from them. And it wasn't that he didn't think they were qualified, it was that he wanted a certain look and would want to get behind the camera. In England he'd shot a lot of commercials and film and though he had the monitor, it wasn't always enough, and if it came up where he needed to get behind the lens of the camera they'd say go ahead and jump in.
GW: I'd heard that the crew had made up T-shirts bearing derogatory comments toward Ridley that you'll see in Future Noir…
MP: I didn't see them on the set. They might have been around in certain other groups.
GW: I though that was rather ballsy to do that right in front of the person. And as you'll see in the book, he went out and had a shirt made up in response. It was the T-shirt wars. Now, I had been asked about Laurence Paull and the similarity of you last names. Now, there's no relation between you two, distant or otherwise?
MP: I'd seen his name around and had finally met him on my third day there on the set,
and I'd been very curious. I'll tell you what I said to him, which explains the whole story. I met him, as I said, on the
third day. I said, "My name's Paull…" He says "Yes?" I say "Morgan Paull. And you either made up your name within the
last couple generations or we're cousins." He says "We made it up. We added the extra L."
Because, when my family came to this country, we were descendents of John Paul Jones, and he being a revolutionary,
we'd changed our name back in Scotland and added an L to make it look like a last name. For the next couple hundred years,
there were no (Paull's) with two L's in America that were not related to him. That's why, when I met him (Laurence)
I had said that about making up his name, and he answered, "Yeah, my father did it."
GW: So his name was just "Paul"?
MP: Yes, with one L.
GW: When I'd checked and saw his name, I thought there was more than just a coincidence here having two Paull's.
MP: Well, I'd already checked with my family which is mostly been in West Virginia,
where we'd been since the 1700's. First it was Maryland, then Virginia and eventually it became West Virginia, the same land.
I said to them. "You'd told me nobody in our family works in film. Our family goes to movies, we don't work on them."
And a family member said, "nobody in our family is in show business." Well, I told him, "Somebody thinks he is"
MP: He's a great guy, Laurence, and he admitted right away that it was added recently.
GW: How many films had you done before Blade Runner?
MP: well, I don't have a list here. What year was Blade Runner released?
MP: By '82, I had done… Uhm…
GW: BladeZone has a list. (pulls list out and shows it to Morgan) it looks like about sixteen. No, eighteen.
MP: Yeah that sounds about right.
GW: Did you personally know any of the cast before you'd come onto the set?
MP: Just Harrison.
GW: Harrison Ford?
MP: Yes. I knew him quite well. We met again there and we hadn't seen each other in… Oh, about five or six years. I think the last show we'd done together was a show called "Petrocelli" we had shot in New Mexico.
GW: I remember that series.
MP: I was a guest star and Harrison was a (smiles) smaller part. And, I remember our first table read through, for Blade Runner, the whole cast was assembled, and Harrison walked in the room and went around the table introducing himself, "Hi, I'm Harrison Ford, welcome to…" He passed right by me, and I wondered if he even remembered me. Then, he did this double back, it was really a great double take, he walks over, leaned down and whispered to me, "Morgan, I got top billing this time." (Laughs) He was great, just great. He showed me his dressing room and told me to use it. He had all these toys and was sharing. He was wonderful.
It's just a luck-of-the-draw.
GW: it just goes to show what happens when one actor isn't available and another is. I watch AMC all the time, and they discuss before each film how often a choice actor is wanted for a particular role, but a second actor ends up with it because the one they wanted was busy or contracted elsewhere at the time.
MP: I remember when my agent called me, I was shooting a film called "The Last Hard Men",
I don't know if that's on there (referring to the film list Gary has), with Charelton Heston and James Coburn and Barbara
GW: (studies list) "Last Hard Men", 1976.
MP: Right. He said, "We need you back in Hollywood in a week.. two weeks at the most.
They're interested in you for a movie called "Star Wars." So I went to the director Andy McLaglen, a legendary director,
and I said "My agent thinks I ought to come back for this thing..." He said "Well I could arrange the schedule and get
you out of here." Andy loved me, and he'd put me in eight movies. I called my agent back and told him the director could
get me out, and my agent said "Look, Andy's been good to you, so why ruin the ride.This other director's last film was a
turkey, a bomb, who knows what this sci-fi thing is going to be at all." So I took my agent's advise and stuck with Andy.
When I got back to Hollywood and heard and found out more about Star Wars, I met with my agent and said "Mike? Let me try
and explain this without going into any great detail. You're fired." (laughs)
GW: (laughs) Oh, man!
MP: I mean, not that I actually knew I had the role. They (Star Wars casting director) knew I was on location, it looked like I pretty well had it. I enjoyed Star Wars anyway, and I enjoyed Harrison in it. I enjoy his work today.
GW: You know, we feel that Dave Holden, the other RepDetective in Blade Runner, was a pivotal character in the plot, especially when reading the final draft of the screenplay. We know there were at least two more scenes, hospital scenes, and I know we would like to have those two scenes restored to the final cut…
MP: (Laughs) So would I.
GW: As you know, Cinescape magazine recently quoted Ridley Scott as saying he was re-editing the film for Warner in January and Ridley has said he was adding 8 to 10 minutes back into the film. Even after the Warner's release of the Director's Cut back in 1992, he's thinking of re-cutting it again…
MP: Well, because really I think that (the director's cut) was a studio cut. I know that Ridley's actual first cut included those two scenes. I also know he was very disappointed when I saw him at the initial screening at the academy. He had tears in his eyes because the studios had opted to use more special effects, that they had paid a lot for, which gave more time for the effects and that made the story suffer. And part of that was that I had suffered.
All of the exposition, which was covered by voice over, was all done in those scenes between Harrison and me. This breather device where I'm basically a vegetable, except I can read books on a screen and shoot myself with dope whenever I wanted to, I was mentally alert… though none of the rest of me worked. It was there that Harrison comes to visit me and asks "What happened?" That's where all the voiceover exposition was actually exposed, during the visits with me. Which then essentially made the voiceovers unnecessary.
GW: Then the scenes with you and Harrison would have explained everything then. Tied up those proverbial loose ends and make the narration useless.
MP: Yes. They in fact did explain.
GW: Now it was reported that in one scene in the hospital, in order to enhance the paranoia within of the film, Bryant and Gaff were watching from behind a two way mirror the conversations between Deckard and Holden. Is this true?
MP: You know, I don't recall because I was in that device. All I could see, other than certain camera shots, was Harrison leaning down to talk to me, so what there was in a wider shot, there might have been, I have no idea. I was in that thing all day long except to get out occasionally to stretch, and we shot many, many, many, many takes.
GW: I know I can get hold of, through Hollywood Book & Poster, some of the shots of you and Harrison in that scene.
MP: I'd like to see one. I don't know how good they could be and the lighting was hard and it was critical how it was lit… to be able to see me communicate with him and let you know I was actually in a bubble.
GW: It was pretty sophisticated looking contraption.
GW: the whole room the way it looked.
MP: Yes. A very good effect. And it was an emotional one too. At the end of the day I was completely drained.
GW: I know we, as well as you, want those scenes added back in.
MP: Yes. And for the careful watcher for the film, which I'm sure the fans BladeZone are, know that I didn't die where as most audience people say "Its too bad he got killed in that first scene." Because there is the subsequent scene where Harrison is called back where he asked what happened to me...
GW: Right, and Bryant says, "He's ok as long…"
MP: "…as no one unplugs him." (both laugh) Very few non-fans catch that, people still assume I died.
GW: later in the books by William Jeter, he has your character walking around on new limbs and with a new spine.
MP: I never got to that. You know, what was clear was that I could live forever in that bubble. It was state-of-the-art, which much of what was in Blade Runner was, and so much of that is common now. It could control my respiratory system and everything. And I was so completely physically destroyed and it took every device that are now really coming about, were at that time just in their imaginations.
GW: Yes. We didn't even have the PC in 1982. And in the film, Deckard has this device called the ESPER. A detective device that interacts with him by verbal commands. Now, thanks to a company called L&H that designs programs that translate any language. Now they are making something very similar to the ESPER, where the system follows your verbal commands, and acts out what you need done.
MP: (Morgan lights up a cigarette) As you can see I am still smoking. The one thing embedded in my mind from that role.
GW: Smoking that big cigarette.
MP: It was like a cigar, this fat cigarette.
GW: In the scene with the late Brion James…
MP: Oh, sorry, I wanted to mention that I had worked with Brion before, and after Blade Runner.
GW: He seemed like such a nice guy.
MP: He was.
GW: In your scene with Brion, your character is shot twice. The first sends the character through the wall, the second is in the back after your character comes to a stop. Did you perform your own stunt in that scene?
MP: A portion of it. I think I did the first spin around, the chair was rigged on a thing.
GW: Like a wire?
MP: It was more complicated than that. It had to spin it and then propel it into the wall. Think of a railroad crossing where the train can transfer from one tie to another tie.
GW: Oh, I get it.
MP: Anyway, I'm a coward and hate to do stunts anyway. Stuntmen get paid well and you can't tell in the shot anyway. So I did just a bare, little bit at the very beginning of the shot. (Gestures with fingers showing and inch between his index finger and thumb) They wanted it to go as quickly as possible, so they put a stuntman in for me because they didn't know how the wall would crash or if it would go through his neck or whatever because the chair was going, that we knew.
GW: (laughs) I ask only because in Paul Sammon's book "Future Noir" it mentions your stunt man doing the scene, but because he never got a chance to speak with you for the final book, we wanted to check with you now.
Now, you mentioned it earlier that you'd been at the premier with Ridley. Could you expand a bit on yours and his reaction as you saw it?
MP: Well, I met him in the lobby of the Academy Theater , and he'd seen it already.
He came up to me, and he looked… ghostly and he just shook his head and said, "Morgan that's not what I wanted…"
But the general audience reaction was good, it just wasn't the movie he wanted. But the director's cut was slightly
an improvement, but it was studio hype, which I can say because I am essentially retired.
For its time, Blade Runner was a very expensive movie, the expenses kept growing. More and more studios
kept getting their hands into it, the Ladd Company and Warner as well as others… Ridley was convinced, as were
many of us at the end of it, that no one (backing the film) had really read the script either in the first place,
carefully or understood it. So, consequently, that is why in the end the cut Ridley had you had various gaping studio
mouths saying, "What is this about? What is this thing?" And its not uncommon sometimes. To approve a concept, sort
of peruse the script liking the concept, and then suddenly be surprised when they see what was actually intended, shot
on film. Thus came all this late criticism and re-cutting of what Ridley, who is the only one who fully understood it,
because we had all read it and were a little confused, but he had the vision. Then they started mucking around with it
and its not an uncommon thing. I remember Ridley said, "I'll never shoot again more than I want to use, because they're
likely to pick the wrong stuff to use." They'd experiment, he'd end up giving them more by shooting so many times the
same shots. So, they'd say, "I like that, that's pretty, let's stick that in somewhere." Of course that could have gone
on for hours using all the extra footage Ridley had shot to experiment with. He was never shooting it as an "and/or" option.
He was shooting it because one might be better than the other. But what they did was came in for more of the stuff they'd
paid a lot for. I think there are three shots of that blimp going over where there needed to be only one. But, they'd paid
so much for it that they wanted to see more of it. So, if he hadn't given them so much footage, as he was saying, they
wouldn't have been able to do that and they been able to keep some of the scenes in, like mine.
GW: In Future Noir, it discusses a lot of mistakes in the film, and fans would like to see those mistakes, especially the gaping mistakes, gotten rid of and the film Ridley wanted finally released. Have you heard anything about the re-cutting that Ridley is doing now?
MP: No I haven't.
GW: What were some of your best, or favorite memories of being on the set?
MP: Well, actually getting to work with Harry in that difficult hospital scene
was great. Not that working with him was difficult, it was the bubble that was uncomfortable. Really just watching
Ridley, and I'm not just blowing steam, but his vision, his way of seeing things through is just amazing.
His understanding of a scene that we might not understand. Many directors don't get that. They say, "Well,
what do you make out of it?" or "Do something." You know? Seriously! Some really good directors. But Ridley
knew what he wanted to do.
He didn't mind climbing up to adjust a light. He didn't mind doing stuff you normally don't see directors
doing adjusting chairs. He was on top of every single detail.
GW: Perhaps that's why his films live on the way they do.
MP: Yes. His attention to detail, the look and composition, he's combination story teller,
filmmaker and painter. He's got all the conceptual ability.
GW: As some of the other cast or crew have brought up, as you'll see in the book, do you have any negative memories that you
can recall from the film?
MP: No. Not really.
GW: For years there have been rumors of a sequel, as Gerry says its sort of an urban myth in Hollywood now.
Have you heard
anything or been contacted a sequel to reprise Dave Holden?
MP: No. Though I have heard rumors of a sequel for forever, none from any source
would turn it legitimate. I mean turned into a near reality.
The only thing I was contacted for was a CD-ROM game.
GW: The Westwood Blade Runner game.
MP: Yes. But we couldn't come to terms on it. I was willing to do it under what we call
in the business "Favored Nations", meaning whoever's in gets paid the same. For some reason that didn't come together.
That's all I can say about.
GW: Some people feel that Blade Runner is more than film,
but is a work of art. How do feel about Blade runner now nearly twenty years later, do you think it has become antiquated?
MP: I think that is relevant,
like so many period films that I have worked on before. So many things in
Blade Runner are now coming true. It's futuristic, though part of that
future has already been realized. It's in no way an antique.
In a way, 2001 is more antique than Blade Runner is yet.
I do think that a completely untouched Ridley version would be a real turn on, with digital sound.
GW: Are there any other Paull's getting into the business now? I heard something about your daughter recently.
MP: Yes. She has just finished a GAP ad and is now playing a role on a web based action series called the ERUPTOR GIRLS.
GW: Will she be with you at the Millennium Expo in March?
MP: Yes. She will be going with me. You know, if she'd been around during the Blade Runner time, I certainly would have gotten her tested for the Daryl Hannah role.
GW: I know all of us at BladeZone look forward to seeing you and your daughter in Washington. Thanks again for allowing us into your home Morgan.
MP: Once again, my pleasure Gary.
After two hours of conversation
( I could have listened to his stories into the evening) I stopped the recorder and we chatted
a bit more before I took my leave. I could not have asked for a more delightful time, I'm sure he knew
I was nervous, and did not talk to me as a fan but more like a friend. Since then we have talked on the
telephone often. And recently he told me of his adventures on his boat sailing towards South America.
But that's another story, and another interview.
Interview transcribed by Gerry Kissell
Edited by Shirley LeVasseur
Read Interview Part II: Adventures on the High Sea!
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