Interview with Gary Conway

Gary Conway in Steve Burton costume
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
     "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."

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