CS Interview: Talia Shire Talks Cult Classic Rad
Rad remains one of the great guilty pleasures of the 1980s — a rockin’ youth versus the man story that features glorious stunts and one of the most insane dance sequences of all time. The cult classic finally landed on Blu-ray and 4K in May, and to commemorate the event, ComingSoon.net sat down and spoke with living legend and two-time Oscar nominee Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II), who starred in the film as Mrs. Jones. The new Rad Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome is currently sold out, but is available on Altavod now with exclusive Q&A and will be available On Demand on July 24!
Rad was written by Sam Bernard and Geoffrey Edwards and directed by Hal Needham. It also stars Bill Allen and Lori Loughlin. Parts of this movie were filmed in Cochrane in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada, Colonel Macleod Jr. High School, and at Bowness Park, both in Calgary, Alberta.
ComingSoon.net: So your husband Jack Schwartzman produced this movie. How did both of you get involved with the film?
Talia Shire: Jack and I were making this company and we had three movies we were involved in. Lion Heart, Hyper Sapien, and Rad. And Rad was, I think something Jack had found and was very excited about. And all of those three movies were really about young people and empowerment. So this was something Jack was very interested in. How do you inspire young people so that they have a feeling that they could do something in their world? Rad is pretty much about a kid who can do something, you know?
CS: Were you familiar with the BMX bike sensation of the time?
Shire: You’re talking to somebody who, believe me, I’m so embarrassed with my lack of athletic skills, but yes. But you know, BMX at that time, that was brand new. That was a brand new sport. And Jack was fascinated with it, as was I. And when we got to Canada, where we shot it in Calgary, I mean, you could see all our actors on the streets doing dance with their bikes. And you know, I love the ballet. So it was a brand new sport. And today, it’s an Olympic sport, not back then.
CS: So would you say you guys were the first to usher in that era of interest for BMX bicycling?
Shire: Jack did. And I did whatever Jack wanted to do, yes. And it was the very first, the very first BMX ever.
CS: So what was the production like, compared to say something like maybe The Godfather or Rocky IV, which you had just done?
Shire: Wowee. Well, we certainly, we had more money for Rad than we had in Rocky I. Godfather was, of course, very complex and had different conflicts. You know, every movie, whether it’s a big budget or a very low budget, it’s very hard to put movies together. They are complex, you know? But I have to say, I was enchanted when I got to Calgary. I adored Hal Needham. Hal Needham was our director, very well-known stunt — remember Hal Needham’s work before? He did a million Smokey and the Bandit, did I get that right? Did I say that right, Smokey and the Bandit?
CS: Yeah, yeah.
Shire: All right, so Hal was the perfect person to do this movie. So I mean, he was a marvel to work with, I have to tell you. But you know, every movie is difficult.
CS: Okay, so this is one of those movies that ultimately didn’t score well with critics, but it was a huge hit with audiences. What do you think is the ultimate appeal for fans of the movie?
Shire: Well, isn’t that an interesting thing? Why is it some movies have a heartbeat, some movies are big and terrific, but they seem to be embalmed? Rad was alive. It was this incredibly sweet and at its core, a very moral piece about young people. And it refused to die. It just stayed alive. And people are finding it at this moment.
CS: Are you surprised by its longevity?
Shire: Yes and no. But I think the gods have been kind because I have to tell you. When you put everything you have into a movie, right, and it opens and it closes, your heart is broken. Jack and I moped around this house. I have to tell you, we were heartbroken because we really thought maybe this could be just a terrific young people’s movie. And so, to have it discovered again is very satisfying, at least for me, and certainly for my children, who were tiny then, way back then. And now it’s exciting to see they’re discovering it.
CS: Speaking of your kids — you recorded the commentary for the 4K Blu-ray release with your son Robert. What was that experience like?
Shire: Well, let’s see. So Robert doesn’t remember, but he and Jason and Matthew were up in Calgary. Robert was like, three years old, but he was there. He was with the writers. And then, time goes by. And then losses happen. So for Robert to rediscover it and want to be involved in it, it was very important for me because we lost Jack some years ago. So for Robert to make this part of his, I guess part of his mission, you have to understand makes me feel that Jack is with us again. But Robert absolutely, you know, he’s given the most extraordinary restoration. He’s so proud of it. It sounds better. I thought recently sounds better than it ever did. It looks better than it ever did. It is a thrill to see Rad. It is alive. And I have to thank Robert. Robert, if you’re going to listen to this, thank you, Robert. Thank you.
CS: You’ve worked with a lot of family members on different movies. What is that like?
Shire: It’s a very important question. Some years ago, I saw a documentary on the Wallenda family. That is a famous circus family that has these great — it also had a great tragedy many years ago. But the Wallendas, you know, are back. They’re climbing on buildings and doing all these various things. And I called my sister-in-law, Ellie Coppola. And I said, “Gee, Ellie, I think the Coppolas are a great circus family.” And she totally understood, because we love craft, we love to dare the other person to do their best. And sometimes, you know, we have conflicts, but we’ll never drop the other family member. That means we are absolutely totally professional on the set.
CS: I think that’s great. I’ve noticed that you’re a very strong advocate of smaller films, like, say, Working Man. Do you gravitate towards the smaller films more?
Shire: You know, blockbusters, you need to know, blockbusters are very, very difficult as well. The reason I enjoyed what we’ll say the low budget, the lower budget movie is I obviously attract a lot of talent that comes to work on those movies, maybe for a little less money, right? And Rocky was a low budget movie, you need to know that. But I feel on a low budget movie, that I have the opportunity to teach, because making movies and acting, that is a doing thing. So I have a chance to say, and I did this on Working Man. I said to somebody, “So let me tell you about Barbara Stanwyck.” They didn’t know what I was talking about. So I needed to explain about Barbara Stanwyck. So I do enjoy the opportunity to maybe be that older professional person who can pass on some wisdom.
CS: Do you carry a sense of nostalgia for that old school style of filmmaking from the 70’s era?Movies like Rocky which required a bit more creativity and imagination, and aren’t so reliant upon computers and digital practices and such?
Shire: My God, you know, I’m on a cell phone talking to you. I don’t even know how I’m working this cell phone. I have to tell you, I’m not from this time. I mean, I’m strictly analog. But anyway, I have a great — first of all, you know who Roger Corman is, right?
CS: Oh yeah!
Shire: And if anybody doesn’t know who he is, he’s that guy that gave everybody their first job. And he would basically say, here’s not a lot of money and here are three things, three props, go make a story out of it. But he really did give people those opportunities. And so, I had those experiences way back then. In terms of this new world and this new technology, I look to my children to educate me. But you know what? You still have to hit your mark. You still have to hit your marks.
CS: It’s very true. And so, you’ve been in so many classic films over the years. So what would you say is the secret to sustained success in Hollywood?
Shire: Golly. Wow. That’s a tough question. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Hustler, that wonderful movie, Jackie Gleason, you know and Paul Newman? Did you ever see that?
CS: Oh yeah.
Shire: He’s like this great young — Paul Newman — great pool player, right, but at the end of that movie, I think what the lesson is is that to be a winner, you need style and endurance, right? Those two things, style and endurance. So I think part of, for me, it’s endurance, you know, God knows I’m enduring. And I’m keeping Rad alive with Robert. But it is style and endurance. And I think at the least, that what we do is meaningful.
CS: Do you think a movie like Rad could be made today?
Shire: Yes, and maybe, maybe a sequel will be made today. I mean, but it speaks of skill and talent. And it might have a new one or a sequel might actually be fascinating. But what’s interesting about this first Rad, and I’ve seen it now several times, I don’t know about you, but it’s very pure. It’s very wonderful and alive and incredibly sweet and important for today.
CS: So are you giving us an exclusive? Are you saying that there’s a Rad sequel secretly in the making and you’re going to be behind it all the way?
Shire: [Laughs] Golly, am I doing that? Can I do that? Oh boy oh boy. I don’t know. I’m feeling wild today. Do I have to check in with my children? I don’t know. But I know that’s what Josh wanted to do. I know my experience way back then with those very gifted writers, those talented writers, and the fact that it is an Olympic sport today. Who knows, you know? Who knows? I think this movie really belongs to the children now. I mean, it would be taken on by Jack’s family, by his children. And if you’re saying would I act in it? Sure, if they give me one song. If somebody will just let me sing in one movie? How about that?