Newsletters - 1999 - Volume 5 - Issue 2

Classic Physique - July - December 1999

HERCULES UNCHAINED

After Steve finished Hercules, he spent a few days in Mannheim Germany visiting Helga Botter, a young lady he had met while filming Hercules in Italy.

After Germany he traveled to the beautiful Greek Island of Myorka. Steve treated himself to some much needed rest and soaked up the warm Mediterranean Sun while riding around the coastline on a rented Vesta motor scooter.

A NEW PAIR OF BOOTS

For a long time Steve had dreams of having a ranch with horses. He had been receiving the Western Horseman Magazine while in Rome and decided he would start fulfilling his dreams.

While resting in Myorka, Steve decided to start with a new pair of cowboy boots. He left Myorka and returned to Rome where he took a plane to New York. After landing, he headed to his old stomping grounds, Manhattan.

He had the cab driver take him to a store which carried western wear. After a few minutes the door swung open and out walked Steve in his brand new boots. What a sight to see Hercules walking down the streets of Manhattan in a pair of cowboy boots! He made his way to the Morgan Horse Club in the city and asked them for a list of breeders in the west. From the list he found several ranches in the Salt Lake City area which looked like good prospects.

Steve called a bodybuilder friend of his, Mike Sill, who was Mr. Utah and lived in Salt Lake City. He asked him if he would mind taking him around the area to look at a few horse ranches. Mike was happy to do this, so he and Steve set a time and place to meet.

The next day Steve left New York and flew to Denver. He rented a car and drove to a town near Denver called Longmont to a shop with a reputation for producing high quality saddles. Steve finally decided on the one he wanted and ordered it to be delivered to Oakland. He returned to Denver and went into another saddlery where he purchased a pair of spurs and a very nice silver mounted horse bit.

The next day Steve flew to Salt Lake City and Mike was there to pick him up. They visited several quarter horse ranches looking for a horse to purchase. After much searching Steve finally found the horse he wanted. A great Palomino stallion called by the name of "Dickies Pride". The stallion had been used to run down wild mustangs on the desert range.

DICKIE'S PRIDE

Steve flew from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles and found a place to stay for a few days. Steve thought he would have to find work now that the movie was finished, not knowing that Hercules Unchained was in the works.

After settling in, Steve went down to talk with his former employer Ray Wilson, owner of American Health Studios. Steve asked him if he could do some public relations work for him again. Ray told Steve that he was still very upset with him because he said he was out of the movie business and then took the movie job in Rome. He told Steve he would have to get back to him later and to call him after the first of the year.

Steve decided to go back to Oakland for a few months to visit his mother. He spent the first few days visiting old friends and catching up on the latest news events and waiting for his horse and saddle to arrive. Three days before Thanksgiving Steve's new saddle arrived. Steve thought, great, I have a saddle and no horse to try it out on. To his surprise Dickie's Pride arrived in Oakland the very next day, delivered to the nearby Skyline Stables. Steve went over to see his new horse at the stables and went for a ride. Now, new horse, tack, rider, boots and spurs finally came together for a ride in the Oakland Hills. This is where he'd spent his early teen years wanting these things while helping out at the stables in Oak Noles.

THE PERFECT LOCATION

In mid-January 1958 Steve gave Ray Wilson a call and Ray told Steve he had something for him down in Los Angeles. He said that it wasn't the same job as before but it would make good money for him. Steve's previous job was public relations and he performed ribbon-cutting ceremonies at new club openings.

This time Ray wanted Steve to go to San Diego to do pre-sales for a new club that wasn't going to open for six months in downtown San Diego. Steve drove down to San Diego and found a small house to rent within walking distance of the health club. Steve was really disappointed with the job. It was not what he was expecting and had a very small office where he was an assistant salesperson in the club. Steve made the best of it and worked hard selling new memberships. This was about the same time as Hercules was being released in Europe.

During his time off, Steve had spent some time researching places to live. One area that caught his eye was the small ranching community of Valley Center, located about 45 minutes north of San Diego. At 2300 feet in elevation, the area was reputed to have some of the best weather conditions in Southern California.

Amongst the properties given to him to look over was a 14-acre spread with a small house, garage and stable on a small hill just outside the township. The owner was anxious to sell so he agreed to lease the property to Steve with the option to buy at a great price. The papers were signed and Steve made the arrangements to move his horse down to his new little ranch.

HOW ABOUT HERCULES UNCHAINED?

Three months later, Steve was commuting to San Diego from Valley Center every day and was starting to tire of his job.

Then, a call came through from Steve's agent, Mitchell Gertz with the offer for the movie Hercules Unchained. The deal was $10 thousand dollars and shooting was scheduled to start in a few months in June of 1958. Unhappy with his job, Steve readily accepted the offer.

Unknown to Steve, Gertz and the Italian agent Philippo Fortuno had worked out a deal with the film studio in Rome back in 1957 for Steve to make "Hercules Unchained." Gertz didn't discuss this with Steve, nor did he make Steve aware of the fact that the movie "Hercules" was becoming a mega hit in Europe and that producer Joseph Levine was looking to bring it to the States.

The studios contacted Gertz and said that they wanted Steve for the sequel, Hercules Unchained. They said that they couldn't pay any more than $10,000 dollars for him. Gertz didn't care about Steve but only what he was going to get out of it. Gertz told them, "The $10,000.00 will be fine as long as you give me a first class plane ticket around the world, If you do that, I will get Reeves for you at that price." Gertz sold Steve down the river for the 10 grand when he could have had many times that amount.

The studio sent Steve the movie script in early May for he was to start shooting in the middle of June. As with Hercules, Pietro Francisci wrote the story although he would not direct this time. It was to be directed by Bruno Vailati and produced by Francisci. Steve read through the script and was impressed with the Hercules sequel.

He was looking forward to seeing the people he had worked with before. Steve made arrangements to board his horse white he was in Europe with a friend who lived about 50 miles north of the Mexican border in a town called Campole. He also made arrangements to rent out the Valley Center property while he was gone. Now Steve was set to go to Europe again. Only one more thing to do. Steve went into the American Health Studio club and resigned from his job.

NEXT STOP ROME

After arriving in Rome, Steve made his way to the American Palace Hotel where he had stayed during the production of "Hercules". The living quarters were set-up with the bedroom and bath upstairs and the living room and kitchen down stairs. It was located just across the Street from the Resonance Palace. This was a nicer hotel where most of the higher paid actors would stay. These were the two hotels that most traveling actors and actresses stayed in while filming in Rome.

At the entrance to Steve's hotel was a restaurant /café where you could get a good meal just about anytime. After returning from the day's shoot, Steve could be found dining somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m. This was the normal dining time in Italy. Few would dine earlier. There were times that Steve would have dinner elsewhere on special occasions, but for the most part he would be going over his lines and preparing for the next days filming.

Each morning Steve would be picked up at hotel very early and taken to the studio or location to do the filming that day. The first week Steve spent time in wardrobe being fitted for the new costumes. Now, the real work began and Steve was in his role again as Hercules. He knew his character, and the transition was seamless from Hercules to Hercules Unchained. It was as though someone have just put on another reel of film at the end of Hercules.

WHITE WARRIOR AND ALINE

Well into the shooting of the film, Gertz (Steve's agent) got word that another studio wanted Steve for "The White Devil" (aka The White Warrior). Gertz sent Philippo Fortuni, his representative in Rome, to talk to Steve about the script. Steve was seeing Aline Czartjarwicz at the time, a lovely blue-eyed beauty whom he'd met at a dinner during the making of "Hercules."

Aline was working with the Italian studios and was able to help Steve review the contract for the White Warrior. After reviewing it through Aline's translation from Italian to English, Steve wanted some changes. She gave him the name of lawyer and Steve presented the revised contract to the studio and to Fortuni. All parties were in agreement and Steve signed the contract agreement.

"The White Warrior" was scheduled to start shooting a month after "Hercules Unchained" was finished. Aline was a very good businesswomen and handled business in just about any language. She spoke six languages fluently and was a quick study with others when needed. She developed many important working relationships with the studios in Rome. Her background afforded her the opportunity to learn many languages. Aline's father was a Polish Prince and as a child she had an English governess, a French maid and they lived very close to the Russian border in Poland. She attended school in Switzerland and had friends who lived in Spain and Italy. She picked up some Italian and Spanish from them. Early in her adult life she went to Italy on vacation and found a job there. Within three months she could speak Italian fluently. Steve and Aline started dating on a regular basis towards the end of the filming of Hercules Unchained. Their common directions would not only create a successful business relationship for them but also began a deep love for each other.

Steve wasn't all that happy with the amount of compensation he was going to be receiving under the contract, but it was the best he could do under Gertz. He learned of the trip around the world that Gertz got for signing him to Hercules Unchained and wanted to end their business relationship. This was about two weeks before Hercules Unchained was schedule to finish.

At the same time Francisci heard a rumor that Steve had closed the deal to do "The White Devil" with a competitor of his by the name of Recardo (Richard) Freda. When Francisci asked Steve, if it was true that he signed to do " The White Warrior", Steve said, " Yes, I signed to do the film." Pietro told Steve "Don't do the film! You're Hercules!, and besides, without Francisci, you are nothing!" Steve was polite and didn't reply to the attack on him, but was thinking to himself, "We'll see."

THE TAIL OF TWO TIGERS

The shooting continued and the film Hercules Unchained had some interesting times before it was complete. One of the great scenes in the movie was with the late Sylvia Lopez with Steve laying on the chaise lounge by the waterfall eating fruit and enjoying his surroundings. Sylvia Lopez walked over to him kneeled down beside him and started kissing him. She didn't take it as a screen kiss. Sylvia laid a kiss on Steve that he still remembers today.

During the take the director Vailati yelled, out when he thought it went on long enough, "Cut! Cut!, - Stop! Stop! Halt! Stop! Stop!" Finally the two ended their kiss. After the filming that day Steve returned to his hotel and got the make-up off and took a shower before going downstairs to get something to eat at the café. After dinner, he returned to his room to go over the lines for the next days shoot.

A few minutes after he started rehearsing his lines the hotel manager call Steve's room. He said, "Mr. Reeves, the actress Sylvia Lopez is down here to see you." Steve thought to that kiss must have been pretty good! He told the manager. "Please send Miss Lopez up". Steve and Sylvia practiced their lines for the following days shoot. Steve said, "Where did we leave off?" Sylvia replied, 'The kiss."

The film was now just about finished and they had to film the most dangerous parts. One day, the script called for a shot where Steve had to fight a tiger. It was being filmed on location in northern Italy in a town called Turin just west of Milan. The town had the circus playing there and the circus had the tigers they were going to use in the scene.

Steve flew up to Milan and was driven over to Turin. There he was put in costume and taken over to the set. The circus veterinarian gave the tiger a tranquilizer to quiet him down a lot but the tiger, tranquilized or not, was still a very impressive animal. When he was in the tiger's grips and with the tiger's mouth wide open, Steve looked over at those huge fangs, felt the hot breath on his face and thought, "I hope he was fed recently."

That scene safely shot - Steve was ready for some time off.

CHATEAU REEVES

Steve made a trip with Aline to Switzerland to work on getting a residence there. He found the countryside just what he wanted. A place to unwind and rest between films. Aline had a friend who was a very prominent newspaper journalist in Lucerne. The friend got in touch with contacts within the Canpon, which is like a County or State here in the U.S. and vouched for Steve, to assist with his residency application. That's where we will leave it this time, with Steve in beautiful Switzerland.

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