Veteran actor Richard Tyson has been lighting up the screen in Hollywood for over 3 decades. He left an undeniable mark on audiences in his silver screen debut as the ultimate bully, Buddy Revell, in Phil Joanou’s 1987 classic, “3 O’clock High.” His passion for the craft of acting, coupled with his unrelenting drive, has allowed him to amass one of the most diverse resumes in the entertainment industry. He’s a man who has truly done it all. Through the years, he’s played everything from the suave leading man in “Two Moon Junction” to a formidable foe for Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Kindergarten Cop” to knockout comedic performances in three different Farrelly Brothers pictures — “Kingpin,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself, and Irene.” It’s important to note that his work isn’t limited to film and television, as he’s also received rave reviews for his extensive work in theater. As an actor, Tyson continually challenges himself with the material he explores and elevates the quality of every project he takes on. Through it all he has remained humble. Most importantly, has never forgotten his humble beginnings as a kid from Mobile, Alabama who dreamed of making his way to Hollywood and becoming a star. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Richard Tyson to discuss his unique career path, the challenges he’s faced along the way, and what the future might hold for him!
Hello, Richard! I know you have plenty going on, so it’s great to connect with you! Where are you at the moment?
We’re on Sunset Boulevard right now, driving down through Hollywood. There’s the Viper Room! Wow! Look at that! That’s were River Phoenix died. Anyway, we are on Sunset Boulevard and it might be the perfect time to talk!
You’ve become such a familiar face through the years with your roles in film and television. How did the journey begin for you?
Ya know what? I was lucky. I grew up in Alabama and I came out to Hollywood on a Greyhound bus with a hundred dollars in my pocket to come be in the movies. My father was my biggest fan, but he wanted me to be a senator. When I came out here, I went to my friend’s girlfriends house, but she had moved already. I ended up at the Hollywood YMCA! [laughs] It all started with me being in front of 1500 first graders and I changed their faces through acting. That’s why my production company is called Change The Face today. They were just not happy but I made them happy, ya know. I made the switch from becoming a lawyer to an actor because I thought I could help kids smile. That’s all!
Rolling the dice and coming to Hollywood is a big step to take for a young man. Did you have any reservations?
I had no reservations!
When did things begin to break for you as a professional actor?
I’m one of eight kids and I have four brothers. The first movie I ever did was “3 O’clock High.” They saw it and said, “You’ll never make a better movie.” I was like, “Thanks. That is my first one! Assholes!” [laughs] It’s funny, a couple years ago, a guy came up to me in a restaurant. As you know, Buddy Revell in “3 O’clock High,” if you touch him he will knock your block off! This guy comes up to me, he didn’t touch me, but he says, “Buddy Revell.” I turned around slowly and low and behold it’s Sean Penn! He didn’t know me, but he knew Buddy Revell! So, long story short, when they finally put me in the ground, they will say, “Buddy Revell.” [laughs] Honestly, I love it when people know something about my work and they feel something about it. I love that!
Who had the biggest impact on you as an actor?
Ivan Reitman! He told me, “You can go into the room and you can get the job! 98% of actors cannot do it, but you can!” Ivan Reitman was one of my biggest supporters, along with Dr. Cook at the beginning. Ya know, I accidentally got into theater. I was kicked off the baseball team and I was walking across the campus. I saw a girl and I followed her into the building. I talked to her and she said she was auditioning. I ended up getting the lead in the play and I got on that bus after that!
It’s funny you mentioned baseball. I know you have a true love for the game.
Yeah! It has. You know more ridiculous information about me than anyone! [laughs] I was in “The Babe.” There is a line where Rizzo says, “This is for everyone who ever wore the jersey…” It was like I was right back there in 1933 as a Chicago Cub. I felt it. I mean, I’m pitching at Wrigley Field and it was one of the best moments of my life! I have loved baseball all of my life. I was actually up for the Charlie Sheen movie, “Major League.” I told my agent, “I’ve played baseball all of my life. I play 3rd, base, right field, I’ve pitched and everything!” They said, “We only have one option. You’re playing lefty.” I said, “Lefty! Are you kidding me?” Ya know what? I went to the basketball court with my friend Malcom and I told him, “I can’t pitch left handed. I have to work on it!” I did! I worked on it for two weeks and then I said, “Okay, I can go in.” I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t. That was the only thing I couldn’t do on a baseball field! [laughs] So, I ended up doing it and they said, “You’re too young.” That was the last time they said that! [laughs] I’m not too young anymore!
What lessons did you learn early on in your career that impacted you moving forward?
Good question. The answer is do it yourself. The first day I was in LA, I snuck into MGM. I asked an old man at the 3-dollar steak counter, “What are you doing?” He said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m out here to be in the movies.” He goes, “Look, everybody has their idea of how to be in the movies. Let ’em talk. Then ask them why they aren’t in the movies because they’re not! The one thing you need is patience.” Then I said to him, “Why aren’t you in the movies?” [laughs] He goes, “I think ya got it kid! I think ya got it!” [laughs]
What do you consider the keys to longevity in Hollywood?
You know what? You’ve got to go train! Go train! Go back! I went back for 5 years and I got my master’s from Cornell University. I stood out on the parking lot to meet Jane Feinberg, who was one of the biggest casting directors ever. She said, “Go away!” I said, “Wait a minute! I’m trying to get in the movies. I’m here at Fox Studios. She said, “Go away, train and then come back.” So, that’s exactly what I did. When I came back, I found her. She said, “Where’s the accent?” [laughs] I said, “I can bring it back, ma’am. However, I don’t think Shakespeare would appreciate it! [laughs] I’ve been working steadily ever since she got back to me. She was the one who put me on “Moonlighting” and I have been working ever since but that is definitely all thanks to my training.
What is your process for bringing a new character to life?
You see something in the script that talks to you, it’s called the anchor. I knew I was always going to play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” because I’m from Alabama. I never watched Brando’s movie, even though I always wanted to. Being from Alabama, I knew I could bring something that he wouldn’t bring. When I finally did “A Streetcar Named Desire” on stage in Topanga Canyon, I brought something that he couldn’t have. You have to find something in the material that you connect with on some level. That is the key.
One of your most recent projects is “Death Kiss.” This is truly unique flick and brings the spirit of the Charles Bronson “Death Wish” films back to the screen. While we haven’t gotten word of a potential sequel just yet, I think their is amazing potential!
Honestly, I love it! My friends and I have been making independent movies for the past 5 years or so. I don’t know if I should tell ya this, but we were making independent movies and I was going to be Charles Bronson because I can wear a little mustache and I have slanty eyes. But then, my friend saw this little guy in Spain and called me up. He said, “I’ll send you the picture.” I’ve done 5 movies with my friend and he’s a very good filmmaker but when I saw that picture I said, “Okay, alright!” I think I could have really done something, man. I hope for the best for this film. I hope they do a full series on it and I would love it. They say success breeds success and I am all for it! I haven’t seen the finished film yet, but I think I end up tied to a tree.
Yeah, ya do. You even have a little BBQ sauce on you. [laughs]
[laughs] BBQ Sauce! Yeah, it’s not funny. [laughs] Yeah, it is!
You definitely have a lot happening behind-the-scenes and it looks like you’re going to be stepping behind the camera again in the near future.
Yes, I am. We’re doing “Bama P.I.” You know, “Magnum P.I.,” of course. Well, we’re doing “Bama P.I.” It’s almost more like “Entourage,” meaning we don’t have to catch the bad guy every episode. We are doing it from New Orleans to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, which means were going to include Mobile, Alabama and all the casinos. Did you know that they have 35 casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi? No one knows that! It’s fantastic! What we want to do is introduce the Southern part of United States back into conversation, since we have been trampled on for years and years. This will allow people to come home and see us. I feel like every time I have an audition and I’m getting close, they say, “Oh, and where are ya from?” I say, “I’m from Mobile, Alabama.” I feel like people look down upon that. I mean, it took George W. Bush, when he was President, it took two weeks to get down to us after the hurricane problem. But anyway, I’m really looking forward to doing this. You know what they say, “You want to do a movie to get famous. You want to do a play to get better and you want to do TV to get rich!” And ya know what? I think my family could use some money and I want to do it for them, not for me. I realized I couldn’t do this in Alabama in July, August or September because it’s too hot. It’s brutal. You see, I had this Civil War story I wanted to do. Comcast loved it and said they had just done “Birth of A Nation,” so they needed to relax on the Civil War thing. That’s what lead to “Bama P.I.” and I think it will take off and introduce the Southeastern States into the world again in a positive way. I hope so!
How do you feel you’ve most evolved as an actor through the years?
Ya know what, I think I’m better than I’ve ever been. I can get there in a second. Ya know, my father passed away about two years ago and I’m better because he said he’d see me soon. I’m better because of him.
What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
GO FOR IT! Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Like I said, I got on the bus with only a hundred dollars to go be in the movies. No one talked me out of that. I don’t know why they didn’t! [laughs] I’m sorry, I’m a little emotional talking about my dad. Just do what you want. I got on the bus to show my nieces and nephews how to go for it. Ya know what? They don’t live in Mobile anymore! Don’t let anyone talk you out of it!
I want to thank you again for your time today, Richard. Congratulations on all you’ve achieved. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in the years to come!
Man, I hope I talk to you again soon and meet you in person. I love ya, man!
Uncork’d Entertainment will unleash the action-vigilante feature ‘Death Kiss’ on digital/VOD on October 2nd. Check out action-packed the trailer below!
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