Pete Duel: On Acting, Career, Dreams
This collection of Pete’s words are also found in the “Complicated, Simple Me” book, available in the PDMS Store, pulled from various newspaper and magazine articles which quoted him as saying such.
On Hannibal Heyes
This whole thing happened so fast I don’t know him very well yet. We have to kind of find him as we go along.
He is hunted by every posse, yet he is still able to laugh. It’s something I love him for. I try to be like that, but with so many problems besetting the world, from war to pollution and injustice, I find it difficult to keep smiling.
I knew who Hannibal Heyes was when we did the pilot, but it took me a while to find my way of playing him. I certainly can’t blame the writers; they often have the hardest jobs of all. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to find the right dialogue to fit the wise-cracking, safe-cracking, sweet-talking, and card-playing outlaw, Hannibal Heyes. I sometimes end up just having fun with these situations, and it ends up just fine.
On Playing Hannibal Heyes
I enjoy playing adventure with a touch of humor and that’s what I can do with Smith, a top outlaw-turned-law-abiding citizen. And after the roles I’ve had in recent years — ranging from drug addicts to draft dodgers — I welcome a role with humor. For openers, it gives me the opportunity to keep my comedy timing honed. I’m not complaining about the other roles I’ve played. They were all very contemporary, relevant characters which were extremely stimulating from an actor’s point of view. But as the outlaw with a generous dash of good in him, Heyes, alias Smith, is a period western chracter and there’s a great deal of variety I can give him. That’s where the fun comes in.
Working is a relief to me. I can forget the troubles of the world and create something else — right now with Alias, it’s a light-hearted, fun sort of world.
On His Fans
I guess that’s why I enjoy reading fan mail so much. The people who write to me are very honest and very sincere — and most of the time they’re absolutely right in what they have to say. I get letters from people who are, of course, complete strangers to me. But they know me. It makes me feel good, because I try hard to bring a lot of myself into the role of David Willis.
On Reaching Goals
I don’t believe in wasting breath on alibis! Nor in impulsively depending on dumb luck. To be daring is to admit how you actually feel. You must have the courage to choose goals you can reach if you demonstrate what’s really required. It takes preparation and persistence, but the pay-off is your share of happiness.
My reaction to a challenge is: ‘Don’t dare me — I may do it!’ What’s yours? Stop stalling!
If I don’t make it as Walter, the angry idealist who says what he thinks and lets the chips fall where they may, then I’ll never make it. Where The Graduate made an important actor of Dusty Hoffman, I naturally hope the same can happen for me in this movie.
On Changing the Spelling of His Name
It all came to a head about a year and a half ago. A lot of things entered into it. I’m not conventional in my habits. I had personal problems that made me feel it was time to try something new. Then there was the matter of simplicity. People were always saying ‘Peter who?’ or ‘Peter O’Toole?’ There were too many questions. I first took the ‘e’ out of Deuel, and then said to myself, ‘Why not take the ‘r’ out of Peter and make that a four-letter word, too, to balance the other?
On Love On A Rooftop
Someone else wanted that time slot and had enough muscle to get it, which left us out in the cold. The show was well liked and the ratings were good enough to go on for another year. But it didn’t have a chance.
On His Move to Hollywood
I didn’t come to Hollywood on a jet plane. I drove across the country. I didn’t stop in motels. I had a simple pup tent and put it up whenever I felt tired. I had allowed myself plenty of time to get into the Rockies. When I reached the mountains, it was raining. I set up the tent, dug trenches around it in the approved fashion and decided to wait it out. After 10 days, with everything I owned soggy, I decided to hell with it, and started on to California. I didn’t even see the Rockies, it was so overcast.
On Comparisons Between Alias Smith & Jones and Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
I frankly resented the constant needling by the press every time I did an interview. It was always the first question asked, and in my opinion, a moot point. I don’t object to anything resembling anything. Sure it could have been absurd if it was another movie. But considering it was a TV series, well, big deal. So what else can we talk about was my attitude every time the question came up.
On Doing Interviews
This is a part of the business I find amusing and also frightening. There’s a kind of reality to all this press-personality myth, but fame in show business is not in proportion to actual achievement. What happens so often is that things get out of sync.
On Becoming a Better Actor
I realized I knew nothing about acting. But all of a sudden I committed myself and recognized that this is an art and it isn’t easy. That’s when the work began, the pain, the self-searching, the asking ‘What do I do? What is acting?’ It’s only in the last two years that I’ve started to get some answers.
On Burdens He Felt
I don’t usually like to watch gooey sentimentality myself, but sometimes it’s a release. It allows you to sit and cry, and you may be crying for a lot of other things. Many people go through a period when all they want is reality, the blacker the better. But oh, that’s a heavy burden to carry.
On Playing Casey Poe (The Psychiatrist)
I wanted to show that addicts are not that different. They are people who are addicted and they’re not from another planet. I wanted to show that Casey was a human being who didn’t like being hooked and was terrified that he was not going to be able to kick the habit.
There have been two roles that have been close to portions of my personality. Never the whole guy. But you zero in on those facets you recognize. On The Psychiatrist, I played an ex-junkie named Casey Poe, who was very clear to me. He was a loner. There was much about life he didn’t understand. He had a lot of hostility, felt himself misunderstood, the victim of circumstances. I could identify with that, with Casey’s fears — the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of other human beings we all have to a greater or lesser degree. He was my age and spoke the way I’d speak, and I was able to get right into it. I wore my own beard and my own clothes, no makeup, nothing to distract me. I would just drive to work, get out of my car, walk onto the stage and start shooting. Another thing that helped was that I had read Louis Lablanky’s book, Synanon, The Tunnel Back, and for the first time really understood that junkies were human beings. I hadn’t been prejudiced, but that book made me understand that all human beings are basically alike, have similar problems and simply take different ways out. When it came time to play Casey Poe, it was a snap.
On the Reasons ABC Picked Up Alias Smith & Jones for a Second Season
When you throw somebody to the wolves, and they don’t get devoured, you keep them on. After all, it’s cheaper. You save money by not trying with a new baby.
On The Writing on Alias Smith & Jones
I still haven’t found my way in playing Hannibal Heyes. I know what Heyes should be, at least I did in the pilot. He favors sweet talking, card playing and safe cracking and needs situations to display those attributes. But when you put a series together in a hurry, it’s hard to get scrappy dialogue for such occasions. That’s difficult to do even with plenty of time. I make it a point never to criticize writers — they have the hardest job going — so I often work around the situation and dialogue, trying to have fun.
On Playing Dramatic Roles
It’s easier with my personality to perform the heavy, intense role. I can feel it working up in my stomach and then I just open the door. Comedy takes more effort to get the juices going.
On the Differences Between Pete Duel and Hannibal Heyes
There is nothing funny about being a fugitive. I find it very hard to smile about. In many ways, well, I force myself to be Hannibal. You figure this man has to be the greatest in the world, hunted by every posse and still able to joke and laugh. I love that about him. He’s happy all the time, or at least most of the time. The more I get to be like Hannibal, the happier I will be. I’m not just doing a role. This is a crash course in psychiatry! I am, frankly, more melancholy than merry. There may be comedy in me in the future, but not now. Someday perhaps I will walk around with a smile from ear to ear clicking my heels, but right now there is not this comedy within me. There are too many things that bother me too much, from war and pollution to the matter of prejudices — all kinds of prejudices, racial and also within white society, the injustices…
On Acting in Hollywood
Acting is a pretty lonely business, a lonely art form, especially in films. I don’t imagine it’s so bad if you’re an English actor, in repertory, but in films, especially out here, it’s just you against the camera. Especially when you’re starting out. You work with people you’ve never seen before and a week later, they’re gone — boom — and you’re facing a new group of strangers. It’s getting better now. I am working with people I’ve worked with before, but even so, very often it’s so long between meetings you have to get to know them all over again.
It takes much more than a handsome face to make it big in films and television today. You just have to look at people like Dustin Hoffman, Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland to realize that is true. I don’t mean that it is the Age of the Ugly, but audiences have come to expect many dimensions in an actor, rather than a singular ability. The reality achieved from an ordinary, not-so-handsome actor who has substantial talent and who can play both heavy drama and light comedy is what audiences appreciate today.
On His Relationship With Geoff and Being Actors
Geoff and I find ourselves judging, comparing, but we handle it well with each other. We have always talked about it. He is my best friend, my brother.