Who cares about Easter tomorrow? It's all about today. Today, Sterling Hayden, one of the greatest actors and screen presences in the history of cinema, would have turned 100-years old. Not surprisingly, I've compared Hayden to Jesus Christ.
"Hayden is so Hayden you feel like you’re watching, not just an icon, but some kind of loser Jesus Christ. As if Kubrick’s idol Weegee were God and Hayden were his son -- J.C. as a deep-voiced, lumbering ex-con with too-short a tie and a pouty lower lip."
That's from my 2015 piece for Sight & Sound about one of his greatest roles with one of the most powerful endings in cinema and one of the great last lines, uttered by Hayden, as Johnny Clay in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. More on Jesus:
"Hayden and Grey are still on the go, lamely attempting a taxi outside the airport while the police inch through the double glass doors. So what’s Hayden’s famed response to this spectacular ruin? It’s the resigned, quiet and tough, “Eh, what’s the difference?” That last line is so many things at once – deeply sad, it’s an embracing of nihilism and, yet, weirdly Zen. You’ll never escape Kubrick’s fateful frames, no matter how much Hayden’s big-boned body shoves through doors. Hayden’s trapped but his acceptance is so cool, so calm, so perfect, he almost busts through Kubrick’s maddening maze via pure acknowledgement. If doom could be motivating, Hayden is downright inspirational. Maybe he is Jesus Christ."
Read my entire piece here.
But also, take in Elliott Gould's take on Hayden. From my extensive 3-part interview with Gould, George Segal and Joseph Walsh about Robert Altman’s California Split (and a lot more). They loved Sterling Hayden:
Kim Morgan: So you, George, and Elliott were both in movies with Sterling Hayden [Loving and The Long Goodbye].
Joseph Walsh: I loved Sterling in the movies, but I never met him personally. [To Segal and Gould] Did you love Sterling?
Elliott Gould: I loved him. Dan Blocker was supposed to play the part. He was a very good friend of Altman’s. Dan Blocker died and the picture almost went south. And so then we were talking about John Huston, who I loved. Bob cast Sterling Hayden. So Sterling had been in Ireland doing something with R. D. Laing, the poet and philosopher who wrote a book called Knots. And so I asked to spend a little time, a moment alone with Sterling in the house where we shot, where Kathryn and Bob lived, down in Malibu. So we spent that moment alone. And so I knew that Sterling knew that I knew that Sterling knew that I knew that Sterling knew that I understood him. So I just loved him.
KM: Did you ever read his book Wanderer?
EG: Yes. When he kidnapped his kids, right?
JW: I liked the way he wanted to live his life, Sterling Hayden.
EG: I visited him on his péniche, which is like a barge. He had it in France on the Seine and I saw him there. And then he had it sent to Northern California and I visited him there too. He was a great guy. I think he worked in the Yugoslavian Underground during World War II.
JW: Did he really? Wow. Okay
Read the entire discussion here.