'Big' thesps reunite for screening of Fuller war pic
“I see these guys more than I see my own brothers,” says Robert Carradine with a sweep of a hand that points to Mark Hamill, Kelly Ward, Perry Lang and Bobby Di Cicco — the fraternity of thesps who appeared in Sam Fuller’s “The Big Red One.”
All five were in D.C. last week as part of a benefit screening of the 1980 pic for fallen U.S. Marines and federal officers. It’s not unusual for casts to plug or hype their latest effort, but a 25-year-old film?
“Anything for Sam or Lee,” Hamill says, referring to the pic’s director as well as its late star, Lee Marvin, who as a young Marine in World War II was wounded on Saipan.
“Lee was like a father-figure to all of us,” Di Cicco says.
Fuller’s epic was based on his own combat experiences in the Army during the war, experiences he inevitably conveyed in his directing. Marvin, too, shared his memories, even hanging around the set on his days off to offer advice on how people fall when they get shot. The result was a lasting friendship seared in simulating the horrors of war.
And like veterans everywhere, the cast still amuse each other with old stories. “We found out you could kill a fly with a blank if you shot it less than 10 feet away,” says Carradine.
“Then Lee showed us how to catch flies with your hand,” says Hamill. “He’d come up on it so slowly, taking maybe 18 minutes to get into position, and then catch it! When he did that, he beamed brighter than at the Academy Awards.”