Interview with Gary Conway
Gary Conway meets Giants Log 1990
"I heard about 'Land of the Giants' through my agent. He got in touch with me and said that they were very interested in me doing the series and that Irwin Allen was pretty much legendary, even then. I remember going in to talk to him about it (see GIANTS LOG #14), but first they had me see this little presentation they had made with Don Matheson. I remember being very impressed with it and I was interested in it because as a kid, and I think I've said this before, there was nothing more fascinating to me than Gulliver's Travels. The early Fleischer cartoon of Gulliver's Travels had made such an impression on me. That is why I understand why people get carried away on 'Land of the Giants' because if Gulliver's Travels had been a series when I was a kid, I probably would never have got over it. Particularly at that age, a certain amount of imagination captivated me and I was very intrigued by it." "I think we did a pilot and then for some reason the pilot didn't air until the following season, so there was a period of 6 months where we didn't continue production. I remember that I did a couple of other things for Fox because they had me under contract. I remember doing 'Daniel Boone' and I think some of the others did similarly." "The first set I walked on to had the Spindrift - the interior - and I remember that vividly, and it was so exciting to see and the next thing I remember, very vividly, was walking on to the big soundstage and they had done a jungle set. They had made all the big trees and they had the full Spindrift lodged into where it crash landed. It was a huge set and it was a very dramatic set because it was so big. You'd come in and it was like walking into part of a forest with boulders and things. You were caught up in the fantasy of it and when people visited the set, they were always so impressed. If you had come and visited at that time you would have loved it. Inside the Spindrift there was like a cockpit and the interior, and that set was always alive. They never took that down because there were always times when we would be in there. So, that was a permanent set and so certainly the exterior was permanent because we were always coming back to it. They never tore it down. I think it was pretty much a full piece. You could go around the other side. I don't think it was finished, but I don't think they short-changed the set. They pretty well kept it true from the outside, because the outside would reflect the inside anyway." "It was a physical show and you could not really employ doubles very well, especially when they came in close. You were running, almost never still. It was great though because that physical challenge kept you in shape, trim, and I would actually lose weight. You had to pace yourself, know how to eat correctly and not abuse yourself because if you had a big lunch you'd be tired after that, but if you ate correctly and you kept physically fit, you could withstand it. I did find the rope climbing easy to some extent. I think how tough it would be if I were to try to do it now. We did a lot of climbing on that show, especially in the pilot I remember. The rope was always attached to something of course, but you really had to get up there and do it. You always worry if it was secure enough - whether the grips had done their job. You didn't want to go climbing up there and come tumbling down again. They always had to rely on somebody else's expertise. It would occur to you now and then when you were about half way up thinking, 'Wait a minute, have they really secured this thing or not, or am I going to take a header on this one.' You always wanted to look as if you could handle yourself as heroic, so you could never do this without a certain amount of athletic prowess. So you always had to climb a little faster that you would ordinarily, or jump a little higher. I think we had a little contest going on between Marshall, myself and Don Matheson of who could climb quicker, faster, and who could look better at it. We had to keep that mirage going!" "The unfortunate thing is, I wish I had been a little more involved with it because Cruickshank and Abbott were historically an important part of, if not the inventors of, special effects like that. I think I would have got a lot more out of it. I think we basically didn't really have the time and we were just snowed under getting our lines and learning what we had to do, rather than worrying about the technical part of it. We observed, but we never really went the next step to understand it." "The blue screen effects - that was the hard part because so much of what you had to do had technical boundaries and technical considerations became the most important part of the scene. You could have a brilliant scene, but if it was technically off, then they'd can it. Then, maybe you'd have something you didn't do so well that was technically fine, and they'd say, 'Print!' Everybody's concentration at that point was on the technical aspects - the blue screen part. The other thing was that you really had to do the show twice because for the blue screen you had to redo the scene again because you had to go to a separate soundstage. This is where Abbott and Cruickshank came in and you had to re-perform this thing for them. You had to be on a certain spot, you had boundaries that were sometimes quite annoying." "Bruce Fowler was a typical production manager type. He was efficient, always worried about the clock, about going over budget and they all played their roles. They had responsibility - a big budget, they had to get things done on time, and I remember them always being very professional." "Harry Harris and Sobey Martin were unusual guys. They were very different. Sobey Martin was from Germany and he was an older guy at the time we were doing the show. He has died since. He was a gentle man, almost like a non-director. He almost didn't seem to be there. He was one of these people that almost seemed as if he was incompetent, but he really wasn't. I guess it was just that he had done so many of these that he could almost phone the directing in. He was just a quiet, gentle soul and in his own way a kind of an endearing old man." "Harry Harris was much more of a tiger. He was a little more nerve-racked. He could always feel when the pressure was building. The directors always took on the pressure of the production. Harry Harris would display that more whereas Sobey never did. Harry was always like he was a little under-the-gun getting things done. And, for what we had to do, he did his job well. Don Matheson and he became friends." "Kurt was the senior member and had a very good reputation as an actor and as a person. Well deserved, because all the rest of us were all around the same age except of course for Stefan who was a little kid at the time. All the rest of us were within a few years of each other and we all felt we were more or less from the same generation. Kurt was older and maybe wiser and it was interesting because he came from a different background - Europe, and the theatres of Europe. He brought a lot of depth to the show. He had a wonderful personality, and once and awhile he would be a little stirrer here and there when things got out of hand, but it was never mean spirited. He was a delight to be with all the time. He was extremely professional. He was as professional as you're ever going to be. I had seen him in some films and I thought he was an excellent actor." "During filming, Don Marshall became close to Diahann Carroll and several times he would bring Diahann Carroll over to my house. I was living in Westwood Village during this time, and we'd have dinner. We saw each other socially on occasions like that, and we'd always kid around a lot. We related to each other very well. We got on exceptionally well. He had his quirks like all of us, especially when you're working together 8, 9 or 10 hours - a lot of idiosyncrasies, but generally he was also very professional and he tried to do his best." "Don Marshall, Don Matheson and I still talk to this day and I've actually liked them today more than ever and they've always been very nice people to be with. I think once and a while we'd maybe have a short word between us, but I hardly remember ever really having any conflict with anybody really as opposed to doing 'Burkes Law' where constantly I had huge problems with Gene Barry. I mean, this was just unbelievable. This cast was terrific. Everybody felt there was a lot of humour. I just felt it was a natural part of life. You tend to fall into humour, especially when we were in a situation that would lend itself to self mockery and carrying on. There were a lot of things to have fun with, and make fun with, and when you're together so much in the same situation, things can begin to take on an aspect of being ridiculous." "I provided a lot of this weird off-beat humour - that wasn't really the time I was taking myself a lot more seriously. I think we were forever doing little things. We were just slashing through the day, carrying on whenever we could. I had to be a little careful because you could have so much humour going that you got out of the spirit of the piece. You had to be careful that you didn't make everything so ridiculous that you made the show ridiculous for yourself because you had to keep the reality going. So, we had to cut off humour when we got into dealing with a scene. That's a hard thing for people to go back and forth. You want to keep things light and enjoy yourself and at the same time you didn't want to make this thing tongue-in-cheek. I don't think today, if we had done that, it would have be enjoyable, because people would think we were not doing a good job as actors and we were not believing in what we were doing." "In between takes, if it was just a matter of minutes, we'd hang about on the set sitting in our chairs, getting ourselves ready to go on again. If we had a little more time, we'd go to our dressing rooms and rest sometimes. Sometimes we would be able to take off a little bit. I started building a house up a street called Stradella near Fox and I was in a sense sneaking off the set and trying to be real careful that they didn't realise that I was really taking off a lot, because they didn't like to have you leave the set. I didn't blame them, because if you got a flat tyre or something, or had an accident, you would hold up filming and it could cost a fortune. So, they wanted you to hang around, and of course, I kept leaving! I thought that Irwin Allen would never notice and actually, at one point, Irwin Allen reprimanded me, 'It's sometimes hard locating you' and I said, 'I'm around' and he says, 'I heard that maybe you leave the lot' and I said 'No, no' and I thought Irwin Allen will never catch me. Irwin Allen had this Rolls Royce. After a while, as I was going up to my lot, which I thought was in amongst the highest hills in Los Angeles, I kept going by this house that was near my lot and I kept noticing this Rolls Royce, and I thought it was exactly like the Rolls Royce Irwin Allen had. It was about half way through completing the house that I realised that it was his house. It was every single day that I had to go by his house." Did Irwin ever catch Gary? "No, because he WAS at the studio!" "Heather's pregnancy during the second season gave us a great opportunity to tease her and we would, and Don Marshall particularly would, tease her on that. She was always in good spirits, in good humour. I don't think we went over the edge on the humour department, but we would kid her a lot. She was a Mormon and Mormons are known to be very strict as far as their upbringing is concerned, so we would always kid her about that - about the kid being out of wedlock, and who was really the husband, and we'd always pin Don Marshall as being the real husband. The thing about a set like that was you couldn't really run anywhere because you had to be back in a scene so you really had to be able to take all the kidding that the rest of the cast would give you. And, if you couldn't take it they would really pile it up - a little bit like army life." "I think the film has the potential of being the most unique film of a genre ever and I love the idea that it is a homage. It's almost a film version of a fanzine. The whole story, the script, could exist in your fanzine. The story explores the idea of a world of Gulliver but we don't pretend that time hasn't passed. We acknowledge that time has passed and we use the passage of time as both humour and commentary." "We'll slip into the characters, but obviously we will have the same relationships. I think what will be interesting about it is that it will be our character plus it will be our life up to that point. We're going to be bringing a lot of baggage into the deal. The rapport will be interesting, because it will be a double rapport - the rapport that we had on the set as opposed to the rapport that we had in the series. Actually, it's a blend of both because for instance, we in the series theoretically, Don Matheson and myself would be at odds once and a while. That wasn't true on the set. It was very different than that and in a strange way life followed art because if you recall, during the filming there was this Valerie relationship with Mark and then they went out and got married - so you see in some ways, you forget there's a blend because you're around 8 hours playing your character and sometimes you do forget who the real character is and who you are playing. That's why in this film version, we will be playing on that very aspect. The character and the person almost begin to meld and become one because they used to look to me more like I was the Captain. If there was a leader in the deal, it was me, but I think I was the leader mainly because I was the leader character. If we had to complain to Irwin Allen, I would be appointed. If I was the second character then maybe if Matheson was playing the Captain, he would have taken this role. In the script, it certainly implies that Mark (Don Matheson) and Valerie (Deanna Lund) would have had a relationship if anybody did. We didn't know when the script began and ended in a sense because when you're together 10 hours, you begin to assume those roles. It's really very interesting when you think about it."