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The Online Blade Runner Fan Club    
Joe Turkel Interview
  Interview Conducted by Kara Stafford
  Edited by Gerry Kissell
This interview has been published exclusively by with the expressed consent of Joseph Turkel on 11/17/99.
Living and enjoying his life in southern California, the Blade Runner co-star, known to millions as the enigmatic Doctor Eldon Tyrell, re-surfaces for his fans. Kara, with some prepared questions by Gerry Kissell in hand, sat down for one of her many chats with the still youthful and energetic actor. But, sometimes, even with preperation, a chat can take on a life of its own. And what follows is a very intriguing conversation that breathes deeply with life... Just like the delightful actor at the center of this interview.
Kara: Future Noir, perhaps the most definitive book on Blade Runner repeated a rumor that you had passed away in 1995. Were you aware of this?
Joe: I was aware of that but that was shoddy reporting by the fellow that wrote it. All he had to do was call the Screen Actor's Guild and find out WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and HOW. And he would have found out that I am alive and kicking.
K: How did it make you feel?
J: I felt sad. Sad for him. I mean he's not doing his job properly. If he had done his job as I said he would have done the research. Just to report a fact on hearsay? I don't know where he even got it. But that's not very professional. Consequently I rather ignored it and again felt sorry for him.
K: Did you read all of that book?
J: No.
K: Do read much?
J: Oh God. I read every morning. I get up at 6 o'clock. I get the newspaper. And I spend the next two hours in bed. Reading! And it's a delight. I used to read, I mean I used to go on reading binges. 10, 12 hours. I'd go to a bookstore and not come out for three days. You know? I'm exaggerating for emphasis of course but you get my drift.
K: What kind of books do you like?
J: Oh all kinds of books. History. I am very enamored of history. I adore it. The flow, ebbs, and the currents of history. Don't forget I lived through the Hitler period. I helped defeat the Nazi swine. I saw things at 16 when I was in the service. 16 mind you, I saw things no kids should see. At 16 years of age in those days young boys and young girls were just thinking about things like going on dates and that sort ya know? Going to the movies on a Saturday afternoon. It's a little different today. (laughs) But in those days to be thrust into a war I saw things that made me grow up rather quickly.
K: Have you ever thought about writing a book?
J: I write screenplays now which is what I do primarily.
K: Oh you do?
J: Yes I do! It took me 3 years to write this last one. The first one I wrote I was optioned immediately. And the poor fellow went broke. He had optioned three pictures. He did the first one, mine was supposed to be second, and he went broke on the first one so the option came back to me. So I continued writing. But this last one took me three years. It's a love story. Love with action.
K: Love with action?
J: Yes. It's about a Southern boy who had to go to New York. Never been out of the state of Louisiana. And he goes to New York and he's a violinist. A fiddle player. And he meets a girl in New York who is a flutist. Some people in polite circles say FLOUTIST, but it's a flute!! It's a flute and it's a flutist! And they fall in love and there's excitement and adventure and it's, oh my goodness, it's unique. The main thing is when you're writing you have to try to be, to a degree, unique. You can't do things that have been done before. You can't say things that have been said before. Of course you can, but to do them and say them in a different way that puts a different slant on the scene. It's called character analysis. It's quite good. If I had it to do over again, I would put writing first, tap dancing second, and acting third.
K: Really, I didn't know you tap danced?
J: I don't, but I love it, and I do. I bought a pair of tap dancing shoes. Never took a lesson. That's it lady I tap dance around the house! (laughs)
K: I took dance classes in New York for 6 years and studied tap.
J: Really? Oh God. My favorites were the Nicholas Brothers. I know them. Do you know the Nicholas Brothers?
K: I don't actually.
J: You don't?
K: No. I don't unfortunately.
J: Oh my.
K: I studied dance in New Yor...
J: And you don't know the Nicholas Brothers!?
K: No I don't. I....
J: (pause) I never liked you Kara! I want my ring back! It's over! You don't know the Nicholas Brothers?!
K: I don't but I would love to know more about them.
J: Okay, well I tell you what to do. Tonight, if you want to see the Nicholas Brothers, you go rent a film called Stormy Weather. It was made in 1939. And you will see the greatest tap dancing exhibition you have ever seen in your life.
K: Going back the beginning of your film career, you first film, 1949's Sword of the Desert...
J: No it's not. My first film was City Across the River. Done in 1948. October 20th. First day on a set.
K: Well then the Inernet Movie Database is wrong.
J: That's right. They have me born in 1914! Oh my goodness!
K: So when were you born then?
J: Uhhh, I am not going to tell you.
K: Okay, bad question.
J: I look 40. I act 30. And I'm way past 60. (laughs) My life is just beggining darling.
The Sand Pebbles
With Candice Bergin and Gavin McLoud in "The Sand Pebbles".
K: You certainly did your share of film in the 50s, 60s, and the 70s. And the caliber of the films too. The Sand Pebbles, The Shining, The Killing, Blade Runner... but in this last decade, your only contribution to film was 1990's Dark Side of the Moon.
J: The worst!
K: Did you deliberately stopdoing film?
J: When do you have it being made?
K: 1990.
J: It was made in 1988. Wrong again the Internet! Most probably released in 1990. And after that I all of a sudden went to Warner Brothers for an interview. And I was there with all the actors I had worked with all through the years. It's been 51 years. Oh my.
K: Your other contribution in the 90s of course was the very popular Blade Runner cd rom game. How did that come to pass?
J: They asked me if I would mind reprising the role I did. And we did it. Funny thing about it that was it was one of the best and biggest sellers that year. And they're getting ready to do another one, and they've called me and I don't know when that is going to be done. Maybe early or middle next year. It was the number one game that year that was not returned three days later.
K: Probably wanted to keep it.
J: They did. And the Chinese adored it. They seem to love my voice.
K: So you were happy to reprise that role then?
J; Well I'll tell you I hadn't acted in a long time but I fell into it right way. We went into the sound stage and boom off we went. And I gave them what they wanted and it was a success. And now they want me back.
K: The fans have enjoyed Blade Runner over the course of several different versions of the film, various books, websites like BladeZone, and of course the CD ROM game. What is your take on the film's continued success?
J: Conceptualization. That's it.
K: Were there any scenes in Blade Runner you were in that ended up on the cutting room floor?
J: Uhm, not to my knowledge. There were other angles of myself that I would have rather have had them use but....I don't know. Ridley is quite a guy. And he had the final cut. I'm sure he did. And it was done rather well. And you see the reason for its popularity is was innovative. God, you see things you never saw before. Oh God, flying cars, women doing crazy summersaults, weird...the man who manufactures eyes, and the sets were super. Oh were they splendid! The sets were super. Oh the creativity that went into that. The set designers, the set constructors, and the wonderful dresses on the sets. Oh my goodness, it was just majestic. It was a feast for the eyes!

With Rutger and the heavy robe.
K: Was your wonderful white robe comfortable?
J: No. It weighed a ton and a half. I put that damned thing on and that just goes to show you the kind of money that was spent. They could have given me some ornate robe. No, they give me this huge, heavy, obus, monstrosity. And it was heavy. It was difficult. But ya know I did it. I utilized it and it was done.
K: How about the trademark glasses? Did they hurt your eyes?
J: No, because the glasses were made to my prescription.
K: Fair enough. Getting back to Future Noir, it was reported that this particular set was very tense and frustrating to work on. Did any of you find windows to lighten the mood by pulling any practical jokes on each other?
J: Okay. The word you're looking for is intimidating. You walk on a set that took up the whole soundstage. I'm telling you it was magnificent. My office and then my bedroom. It was magnificent. Intimidating to say the least. And they had 95 cameras going from different angles. It was just majestic. Was I intimidated? Of course I was. I said the exact same thing to Stanley (Kubrick) when I went onto the set of The Shining. The sets, oh my goodness. The ballroom sequence in The Shining was a soundstage. It was a set. The hotel lobby was a set. The kitchen was a set. Nobody knows it. They think it's a hotel.
K: They fooled the audience.
J: That's right. But it was a set. All put together in England. But with Blade Runner, was there anything to lighten it (the mood)? Uhh, there was some interesting warfare going on. Some people weren't happy. There were alot of people fired. I'm not going to get into that. For the simple reason that's it was negative. I don't like to dwell on the negative.
K: I don't blame you.
J: It was pretty hairy. There wasn't much humor. A ton of humor on The Shining though.
K: So the mood on the set of The Shining was quite different than that of Blade Runner.

As lloyd, in "The Shining".
J: A ton of humor on the set of The Shining. Because I had a rapport with Stanley (Kubrick). We're both the same age. I'm a year older. Stanley came from the Bronx. I'm from the Bronx. I'm from Brooklyn. And when there was nobody around we carried on. Oh we carried on like kids talking about Joe DeMaggio and Joe Lewis. Those were our heroes.
K: Did any of you play jokes on each other?
With Jack Nicholson on the set of "The Shining".
J: Oh Jack Nicholson and I. We did it all the time. Jack is a madman. And I'll explain about Ridley Scott absolutely adoring Stanley (Kubrick). Adoring him! Never having met him. And he (Ridley) was getting close to me because he knew I had done three pictures for him (Kubrick). You know the expression all roads lead to Rome? My dear lady, all roads lead to Stanley Kubrick. A force of nature. Absolutely a force of nature. And Mr. Ridley Scott with his conceptualization can be likewise if he does a number of things.
K: Is there a cast member you were closest to when you were filming Blade Runner?
J: No.
K: Do you stay in contact with anyone?
J: No. Didn't stay in contact with anyone. We all went our separate ways. But that's a strangely good question. In Sand Pebbles we were together for a year. I got close to Gavin McCloud, Joe DeRita, Richard Crenna. I see them occasionally and its very nice. But nobody from Blade Runner. Although I do see Mr. Olmos. Eddie Olmos is what I call him. But no lasting friendships. Didn't have the time. I only worked a very short time on the film. I had about four of five different scenes and those were done within about a week and a half.
K: Okay, one last question. If you could back to the beginning of your professional career and could give the young bright eyed Joe Turkel one bit of advice what would it be?
J: Well I will tell you the same thing my acting teacher told be back in 1946. Don't ever buy anything you cannot "hock." And that was sage advice because, remember this, an actor's entire life is spent looking for a job. He gets a job whether it be one day, one week, three weeks, 20 weeks. He's finished. He gets in a play. It may last a week. It may close over night. It may be the turkey of the world. It may last two or three years. But at the end of that time he is looking for a job. The actor's entire adult life is spent looking for a job. Whereas as an engineer goes to work for a corporation. He knows he can work there for 30 years, retire, get a watch, get a pension, a golden parachute or something like that. But an actor never has the pleasure of knowing that his work is ensured. Mind you I've done some great films. I know other actors that have done brilliant films. They STILL have to go out and audition and meet the producer, director, and please these people no matter what they've done. Of course the great big stars don't do that. But there are great quality actors that do that and they find it demeaning. Which is one of the reasons I left the industry as a performer. However, something comes along I leave the door open. 1948 to 1988. And I've been writing since then and enjoying every minute of it. But I've had a hell of a career.

And so our interview ends. Mister Turkel has shared with us some words of wisdom and, of course, some memories.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It should be mentioned that Joe Turkel is the only actor to have appeared as a credited character in three Stanley Kubrick films. That is no small feat.
  • The Killing (1956)...... as Tiny

  • Paths of Glory (1957)... as Private Arnaud

  • The Shining (1980)...... as Lloyd

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