Radio interview for The Todd N Tyler Show - August 20, 2007 (NEW!)
Broadcast on Z92, Omaha, Nebraska, T95 Wichita, Kansas and Z106.7 Springfield, Missouri
Audio clip courtesy of Philip Shoffner.

 

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Barry Corbin: Live From Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House.
Cowboys and Indians, June 2002. Volume 10, Number 3.

C&I: Where did you learn to cowboy?
Barry: I don't know. When I was a kid, Granddad, he was a cowboy and a farmer, he threw me up on a horse when I was maybe one or two. I was so young I don't remember him doing it or if I ever even learned how to ride.
C&I: Did you rodeo at all?
Barry: Very little. I'd do a little cowboying stuff. I did a little rodeoing. I did a little saddle bronc. I rode a bull one time.
C&I: How did it go?
Barry: I didn't actually ride him. I jumped off when they opened the gate. He took two jumps and I started to unwrap him, and I was off both sets before he could turn around.
C&I: Discretion is the better part of valor.
Barry: Well, I got to thinking, what am I going to do with him when I break him? (Laughs)
C&I: As far as the West goes, you've pretty much done it all -
Dallas, Urban Cowboy, Lonesome Dove, Northern Exposure. Do you have any advice for prospective actors?
Barry: Don't.
C&I: Sir?
Barry: Most people can't stand the rejection. No matter how much you tell yourself that it's really just a matter of what type they're after and they're not rejecting you, well, they are rejecting you because all you've got to sell is you. If they're not hiring you, they're rejecting you. It drives most folks nuts.
C&I: Pretty tough racket.
Barry: You're got to be humble enough to learn from observing everybody, but you've got to be so mammothly egotistical to think you're the only person who can say what you've got to say the way you say it.
C&I: Example?
Barry: Ben Johnson described it one time. He said "I ain't the best actor in the world, but I am the best Ben Johnson." And he was. Nobody's better at being what he was than him. And that's what any actor's got to believe or he'll go crazy.
C&I: What's your latest project?
Barry: I just came back from the Autry Museum of Western Heritage.
C&I: What were you doing in L.A.?
Barry: I performed a one-man play called Charlie Goodnight's Last Night as the Wells Fargo Theatre there at the Autry.
C&I: He died at ninety-something, didn't he?
Barry: He was born on the eve of the fall of the Alamo and died 93 years later in Phoenix. My friend Andy Wilkinson wrote the play, and it takes place the night old Charlie passes.
C&I: Is it my imagination or do your characters have a pronounced tendency to end up dead or dying?
Barry: You're absolutely right. I've probably died more than anybody that's still living.
C&I: Was it always just deserts?
Barry: Some of them I deserved to get killed off. There was one called The People Across The Lake where I murdered half the country, and they finally killed me off. And there was another one, Man Against the Mob, where they killed me and let George Peppard live to get revenge.
C&I: There were others, weren't there?
Barry: Well, there was Uncle Bob.
C&I: That was in
Urban Cowboy.
Barry: And Roscoe had to die because we had to show what a bad feller Blue Duck was.
C&I: That was in
Lonesome Dove.
Barry: But there are actually a few folks who are considerate enough not to go killing my characters off.
C&I: Like who?
Barry: Like Sam (Elliott) and Katharine (Ross) in Conagher. They spared me.
C&I: The mark of true friends.
Barry: And Tom Selleck, too. He let my sheriff skedaddle in TNT's Louis L'Amour's Crossfire Trail.
C&I: Helluva guy.
Barry: That turned out to be the most popular made-for-cable movie in television history.
C&I: Probably cause you made it out of that one alive!


THE TAB:

SETTING: Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House. Fort Worth Texas (817) 877-3999.
DAMAGE: $138.25.
DRINK OF CHOICE: Shiner Bock.
OBSCURE CULTURAL REFERENCE: Texas State Senate.
SOAPBOX TOPIC: A well-broke horse.
TOPIC AVOIDED: Where's the moose?
STAFF REVIEW: Not often you meet a man who makes a good living at dying.

Interview by Taylor Fogarty, owner of American Western Magazine, (January 2001).
Click here to visit site her website: www.readthewest.com.

Like a true rancher, his favorite time of day is early morning. Like a true son of Texas, he is an affable gentleman in the purest sense, a man who loves good cigars, red beans and rodeo, someone who enjoys spending his free time on horseback, cutting cattle. As a child he studied ballet. As a young man he became a Marine. Whenever he appears on-screen he can walk tough, talk tough, and look every bit the part. Then too, he can melt your heart like warm butter on hot Texas toast by simply applying that innocent, little boy expression of his... you know, the one from Conagher, with the sweetly irresistible but curiously sad puppy-dog eyes?

A classically trained actor, whose film career spans twenty years and is still going strong, Barry Corbin comes armed with an impressive filmography that is longer than a hard winter in the high country. A rather remarkable achievement for someone who describes himself as shy.

Sixty-year-old Corbin has a good-natured spirit and a dry sense of humor. Unpretentious and generous of heart, he is actively involved with fund-raisers, appearing at many charity events around the country. He possesses a genuine dedication and love for the western way of life, especially when it comes to addressing the perceptions of what the West is really all about. "We still need to feed the public," Corbin told me recently, "both physically and intellectually."

In talking about his craft, Corbin has joked that he has made an art out of giving up the ghost on screen, "dying about every third character or so." But make no mistake—if ever it were to come down to the act of simply giving up... well, that is something that is clearly not an option in anything that Barry Corbin does. He loves challenge as much as he loves having fun. For him, those two things just naturally go hand-in-hand. Within the movie industry many refer to Corbin as "the busiest character actor in Hollywood" —and that's not said as bluster. His extensive career includes credits on stage, film, television, radio—and then some. It seems no matter the vehicle or the medium—from films to audio books, from video games to music CDs—if it has a soundtrack to it, then you can bet Barry Corbin is open to lending his talents to it. His distinctive voice with its cozy Texas drawl makes him a natural choice for such projects. Almost effortlessly, he breathes life into his characters. But hiring a talent as fine as this doesn't come cheap. And for good reason. Since his 1980 motion picture debut as Uncle Bob in "Urban Cowboy," Corbin has appeared in such notable westerns as "Conagher," playing the lovable Charlie McCloud, a part for which Corbin received the Western Heritage Award in 1992 from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Three years later, in 1995, he earned an Emmy nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role as retired astronaut Maurice Minnifield in the offbeat TV series "Northern Exposure", which has become a cult classic that continues to rope in new fans through its weekday re-runs on cable television. But perhaps his western fans know him best for his performance as Roscoe Brown, the unlikely deputy in the Emmy Award-winning television miniseries "Lonesome Dove."

A durable actor, Corbin's character range extends well beyond the roles that he portrays in westerns. Corbin was a cast member in the 1980s television series "Dallas", and has appeared in countless guest roles in such series as "The Magnificent Seven", "Spin City", "The Drew Carey Show", "Murder She Wrote", "Matlock", and "Walker, Texas Ranger" to name but a few. His recent feature film releases include the comedies "Held Up" and "Fumbleheads", as well as the drama "War Games." Just as a rolling stone gathers no moss, neither does Corbin. At the time of this writing, he has two new films now in production, another in post-production, plus two television docu-series that he is scheduled to host in the near future for the History Channel. Also, he has just completed an episode for the series "Mysterious Ways" on Pax TV, and finally, not to escape mention, is the work he did on the newly released computer video game, "Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2."

His dislikes seem fairly limited, yet surprisingly at the same time, rather wide-ranging in scope. How so? Well, Corbin claims to have a bit of an aversion to the hi-tech gadgetry of the computer age and all that goes with it—including calculators. Although Corbin admits he's "not too good at the e-mail," he doesn't entirely forsake it. Despite any uneasiness he might feel when making the transition from being up on the silver screen to sitting down in front of the computer screen, his attitude towards it is pure cowboy, through and through. Palming a mouse may feel awkward to him, compared to throwing a rope, but he puts forth the effort. When it comes to handling the more technical aspects of running his official website at www.barrycorbin.net, he teamed up with a capable webmaster who now rides herd over Corbin's spread on the Internet range. (Check it out. The site is an honest-to-God, first-class rarity on web these days. One that actually is informative, well-designed, regularly updated, and visually appealing.)

In spite of his busy schedule, I had a chance to talk to Barry at home on his small ranch in Texas, where he lives with his daughter and three of his four grandchildren. We discussed westerns, the business of movie-making and the upcoming TNT western adventure "Crossfire Trail," which stars Tom Selleck. The cast includes Virginia Madsen, Mark Harmon, Wilford Brimley, David O'Hara, Christian Kane, Brad Johnson, and of course, Barry Corbin.

A Conversation with Barry Corbin by Taylor Fogarty.

Taylor Fogarty [TF]: I recently had an opportunity to preview " Crossfire Trail," which is based on the Louis L'Amour novel. Your part in this film is the role of Sheriff Walter Moncrieff. I found that interesting because wasn’t there a time when you would turn down sheriff roles?
Barry Corbin [BC]: Yes... well, I still do unless there’s something a little different about them.
TF: Tell us a little bit about how this part came to you, and why you took the role of
Sheriff Walter Moncrieff.
BC: Well, Tom Selleck is a friend of mine, and so are several others in the film... Wilford Brimley, Brad Johnson - we’re all friends - so this picture sounded like a lot of fun. But also this guy’s just not just the sheriff, he’s also the Justice of the Peace. He’s got a little problem with the bottle and several other faults to him. It just looked like a fun part to play.
TF: You did a great job with the role. For as likable as you are personally, the character you played certainly had flaws—which surfaced during the wedding scene in the saloon. Of course, when you've got someone as formidable as Brad Johnson playing the villain, looming larger than life in the background of that scene....
BC: (chuckles) Yeah. Well, you know, them old boys that survived that long out there, they either had to be fast with the gun or they had to have kind of iffy principles, I think.
TF: Let’s talk a little bit about Simon Wincer, the director of
"Crossfire Trail." You worked with Simon on the miniseries "Lonesome Dove." How was it teaming up with him again?
BC: Oh, I love working with Simon! He’s got a good eye. And he knows what he’s looking for in an individual performance within a scene. You know, a lot of times a director has an overall view of the project and kind of lets the individual things slide. But Simon’s right on top of all of it.
TF: You worked with Tom Selleck in this picture. In the past, you’ve also worked with Sam Elliott in
"Conagher." What’s it like working on westerns with those two?
BC: They are both very good at what they do, but they’re different personalities. Sam’s a little quieter... well, not that Tom’s loud and robust and rambunctious. (chuckles) ...I enjoy working with them and am very fond of both of them personally.
TF: It seems as if they both care enough to go the extra mile, in terms of bringing a certain measure of authenticity and an integrity to the westerns they produce...
BC: Yes. They both have a particular love for westerns. Of course no one can make a living doing westerns anymore, so we all have to do other things.
TF: What’s your take on the public’s appetite for the western, and how does that match up with Hollywood’s assessment of that appetite?
BC: Well, I think for the last fifteen, twenty years or so Hollywood has underestimated the appeal of the western. I think there is still a huge market. "Conagher" was a hit for TNT and it still plays and it’s still selling in video. They probably sell as many tapes of "Lonesome Dove" as they do of any other movie. And I think probably that "Crossfire Trail" will be in that category too.
TF: And it shouldn't go overlooked that Tom Selleck’s 1997 western, "Last Stand At Saber River" was the most-watched film in cable history when it premiered.
BC: Yes. ...But the producers underestimate the popularity. Like when " Lonesome Dove" came out and did so well, they thought it was just an anomaly. They couldn’t believe that people wanted to see westerns. But if they do them right, then people do want to see them.
TF: Do you think the popularity of
"Lonesome Dove" had an effect on the western, good or bad?
BC: Well... they did "Lonesome Dove." Then they did the sequel. Then they did that TV series up in Canada. I think they kind of run that one story into the ground. It didn’t really do a whole lot as far as other westerns go. It became kind of a mini-franchise for " Lonesome Dove." ...I hope Larry McMurtry got rich off it. I don’t know that he did — he ought to have. (chuckles) ...I don’t know that they’re ever going to make "Comanche Moon." I was talking to Larry McMurtry about a year ago and he said he didn’t think they were going to make it. He said he thinks they’ve worn out the franchise.
TF: Still, I think there are quite a few other Western stories that would lend themselves to the big screen.
BC: Oh, there’s so many! And there are some that are not strictly westerns.
TF: You mean... in terms of being outside of what is considered the traditional period and setting?
BC: Right. There’s one in particular I’ve been wanting to get done for years, and that’s Elmer Kelton’s "The Time It Never Rained." I talk it up every chance I get. And there’s another one that ought to be made into a mini-series, it’d be every bit as good as " Lonesome Dove." It’s "The Cowboy and The Cossack" by Clair Huffaker. [NY, Trident Press; 1973] It’s about a cattle drive through Siberia, with a bunch of Montana cowboys and some Cossacks in the 1890s in Russia. It’s a remarkable book. I don’t know that it’s in print still, but it’s a great story.
TF: You’ve often said that westerns are your first love. Why are you so drawn to them?
BC: Well, it’s probably because of my childhood. When I was a kid that’s what we went to see. We went to see Bill Elliott and all those guys. We didn’t care anything about Buck Rogers. I’m still that same person. I still ride horses. But I know from talking to people, not only in here in Texas but when I go anywhere, they say: "When are you going to make another western?"
TF: Luckily, you don’t tire easily of that question. But no denying the hunger is there. Folks have a special kinship to the genre. I think proof of that is evident through the number of signatures we’ve already collected onsite through our "America Wants More Westerns" campaign. From that I gather people would really like to see more quality western stories on film, as well as return of the western and its values.
BC: Yes. And you know when you add to that the number of people that don’t get online, it’s a huge audience. ....Oh, they’ll keep making them! And hopefully they’ll make a few good ones that catch their attention. The only way to catch the attention of the producers out there is for the bottom line to show such a big profit that they can’t turn it down.
TF: To any degree, does there exist a "been there, done that" attitude which adds to the resistance?
BC: Well, that’s part of it. There’s also the political correctness issue. Also, there’s the issue of... well, many times they want to do a western, but they want to put it in space. Or they want to do a western, but they want to put it in the battlefields of Scotland. Or they want to do a western, but they want to make it during the times of the Romans or some such thing... which is not doing anything but removing the immediacy of what you’re watching—it removes it from the immediacy of The West that existed a century and a half ago, or a century ago, and places it in a time period that is altogether different.
TF: By that you mean recent movies such as "Space Cowboys", "Braveheart", and "Gladiator" are stories that basically carry the same elements of a western.
BC: Exactly.
TF: Since we’re on the subject of movies in general, have you had a chance to see [Billy Bob] Thornton’s film treatment of "All the Pretty Horses"?
BC: I haven’t seen it yet. ...Have you seen it?
TF: Truthfully? Well... no, I haven’t. I hate to admit it, but I... well, when I heard who was handling the project, it didn't feel right to me... seemed like a bad match. Possibly at several levels. (chuckles) It is, of course, a fine Cormac McCarthy novel. But once things like that are headed for film, and especially when it comes to westerns, I personally tend to pre-judge things based on those who are involved with the project, their experience with the subject matter and commitment to it. That’s not a very fair thing to do, I know, but that’s just my gut-feeling in action and my gut is about 98 percent right on the money, most times... (chuckles) And with that said, those are comments I might end up eating later. The good news is, that's one of the reasons why I’m talking with you right now and not talking Pretty Horses with Billy Bob. Gut-feeling.
BC: Well, the only thing I know about it is from the reviews I’ve read, and the reviewers by and large like it pretty well. But I haven’t seen it. I probably will see it in the next few weeks.
TF: The thing is from my end, being some ninety-two miles from a movie theater, we tend to be awful particular about making the trip count.
BC: And it would probably be kind of difficult to get anywhere right now.
TF: The snow isn’t too bad up here yet. It's having to drive that distance that makes any movie’s entertainment factor the real issue. It not only has to be worth the ticket price, it’s got to be worth the gas. But if the reviews you read were good...
BC: The only thing is... well, I saw one of the still shots. There were three of them riding horses in the still shot that I saw, and they were all holding the reins with their right hand. Unless they’re all left-handed, I don’t know of anybody who’d ride with the reins in the right hand.... (chuckles) Of course, they might all be left-handed for all I know.
TF: At least that's not as bad as a one-handed death grip on the [saddle] horn. (chuckles) All that aside, let’s get back to you. What kind of character roles appeal to you the most?
BC: It’s the process of doing it that interests me. When I read something, if there’s a quirk to the character, some inconsistency to the person, then I’m attracted to it. That’s what I meant when I was talking earlier about turning down roles where the character’s first name is Sheriff, because most the time they’re either a buffoon or a hard by-the-book type of guy, but there’s no personal life to the character. I’m looking for someone with a personal life to him, with an inner life to him. If that’s not there then somebody else better play it because they don’t need to pay me the kind of money they have to pay me to do it. ...And sometimes... (chuckles) ...sometimes you get the part and you figure you’re stealing money from them because there’s just not much of anything you need to do.
TF: (laughs) Okay, tell me something... you filmed
"Crossfire Trail" in Canada, right?
BC: Uh-huh. I was up there for about a month.
TF: Maybe this is a stupid question but, why are so many films about the American West shot in Canada?
BC: A small part of it is economics. The dollar exchange is very favorable to the American dollar... and the Canadian acting unions don’t have the same kind of requirements that the Screen Actors Guild has, as far as residuals, that kind of thing... so that’s one reason why many producers favor Canada. ...As a matter of fact, there’s a thing that Sam Elliott did not too long ago. It was supposed to take place in Oklahoma, and he wanted to shoot it in Oklahoma...
TF: That would be the TNT movie "You Know My Name," based on Matt Braun’s novel.
BC: Yes, that’s the one. The producers told Sam they were going to shoot it in Canada or they weren’t going to do it.
TF: So much for realism. Though I suppose an argument could be made that after all was said and done, You Know My Name turned out to be a very fine film. So perhaps all was not lost. Judging from that, does this mean all westerns will be headed north?
BC: No, not necessarily. I did one just about a year ago called "The Journeyman," filmed in Big Bend country in Texas, right on the border down by Mexico. It has a different kind of look, a different kind of feel. It’s an independent picture. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, if they are even going to find a release for it.
TF: This is the one you did with Willie Nelson?
BC: Yes. I haven’t seen the finished product by any means, just the raw form—an uncolor-corrected print of it with a temporary soundtrack. I think it’s got some possibilities. Now, the problem is whether or not they can get the money together to get the color-correction and get it scored. The temporary score they have is okay but it doesn’t add anything to the picture, and you’ve got to have all the elements in there in order to sell it. So what these young folks are going to have to do—and they haven’t asked me for advice, so I haven’t given it to them (chuckles) —they’re going to have to finish the picture before they can sell it.
TF: Who made it?
BC: It was done by a group of young filmmakers in Austin. The young fella that directed it is very talented, he also wrote the screenplay. His name is James Crowley. The producer is Brunson Green—he’s quite a go-getter. But the problem is when you do something like this, you’ve got to make every dollar count. You’ve got to make sure those dollars go to screen and not somewhere else. It’s very difficult for an independent to find a release.
TF: Might this be something headed for the Sundance Film Festival?
BC: I think that’s their hope. I haven’t heard anything more about it, though.
TF: We certainly wish them the best with it. Now, as far as your other projects go, you stay pretty busy. You’ve also done some audio books by Max Brand. How did you like doing that?
BC: Oh, I enjoyed it.
TF: Plan on doing any more audio books in the future?
BC: Well, if somebody wants to hire me, I am! (chuckles)
TF: If by the mere mention of it here helps any... let's hope the news will spread and the word gets out that you are, indeed, available for hire.
BC: I sure am!
TF: Barry, thanks a lot for your time. I sure do appreciate it.
BC: I enjoyed talking to you, Taylor. And congratulations on your magazine.
TF: Thanks, and congratulations on
"Crossfire Trail." A thoroughly enjoyable movie, one that folks should look forward to watching.


 


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