INT: Bill Duke

Bill Duke is a versatile actor and director who has done much throughout his career. And right now you can revisit the “cult classic” Schwarzenegger flick COMMANDO. The Directors Cut has a few extra minutes of mayhem and a ton of special features for all you action loving dudes and dudettes. Not only did Mr. Duke fight against Arnold, but he also fought alongside him in the original PREDATOR. But Bill has had his fair share of other characters all the way back to shows like “Charlie’s Angels” [not the movies] and has recently been seen on “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica”.

Yet he seems to really enjoy his role as director where he can tackle issues that are important to him. When I recently got the chance to talk with him, he spoke about his commitment to making people aware of the AIDS epidemic and how much it has hurt poor, urban communities. Which he has been able to address in film. He is an intelligent man who is also a terrific role model for young African Americans looking to go into acting and/or directing. He is a very sincere and kind person who is truly aware of what he has been given. So much so that he tries to give back as much as he can.

Bill Duke

Why do you think there is still interest in COMMANDO after all these years?

You know, that’s a good question. I think [it’s] part of Arnold’s [Schwarzenegger] legacy. I think it’s part of what he brought to this industry and what he stood for. In terms of entertainment and not taking himself too seriously, tongue in cheek stuff. All of that stuff, I think has kind of lasted. And now he has become, of course, the Governor [of California]. He’s still in our lives. And people remember his legacy in terms of some of the films that he made.

I think that also, COMMANDO is kind of like one of those films that has a lot of things in it, action, humor you know, kind of tongue in cheek kind of humor. And it’s got a great ensemble. A lot of those people from that movie went on to do some pretty good things, as you know.

Yes. Absolutely.

Alyssa Milano and a lot of others… I think that people who are fans of the movie are also fans of the people that were in the movie, you know what I’m saying.

Are you surprised that those kind of “hard-R” action films seemed to disappear after that period?

I guess that… I mean, I’m not so sure why that is. Of course Bruce Willis kind of moved into the old mode [DIE HARD series and such] but for the most part I guess things are changing and also I think the expense of it maybe. I’m not quite sure of all the reasons but I miss a lot of those films. I also… they’re talking now about, you know, with the internet that there may not be a need for the big action films and that people are going to stop going to theatres because of the expense and the rest of it. I’m going to miss that experience. I like going to a large [theatre] and having the common experience with the loud sound and the big screen. I hope those things never go away, you know what I’m saying.

Yeah, there is something about seeing a movie like that with a crowd on opening night. There is something really visceral and exciting about that.

Me too man, and a lot of people aren’t going to the theatre the way they used to.

Now looking back at your career, I was familiar with much of your work but I did not realize how versatile of a director you are.

Thank you.

What is it about directing, I mean, you started off doing television and then you moved into features, which do you prefer to do, being in front of the camera or behind?

You know, to be honest with you, I love them both but directing gives the opportunity to really speak about things that you choose to speak about. And as an actor, you know, it’s a different experience for me. I mean, I just made two films, one a documentary on AIDS in the urban community. This is a mission for me, I made a feature revolving around the AIDS topic called COVER… you have the ability through directing to choose scripts and to work with writers that you wanna work with, that kind of thing, which is very helpful.

I was also looking at your website, you are very political and seem to be involved with a lot of social issues. Where did that come from, how was it instilled in you?

Well, I think it’s two things. One is my parents. My father, he didn’t say it quite this way, but he believed in something called generational responsibility. My father worked three jobs, he had a second-grade education. Worked three jobs, not for himself, but for me and my sisters. He felt that his generation had a responsibility to leave a better world, to create something better for his kids and the kids after his kids. And I kind of inherited that kind of thinking that it’s okay for me to get mine but when you see such devastation, form homelessness to AIDS to a lot of things that are going around the world, you know, all kinds of bad, bad things that are happening to people that aren’t as fortunate as you are you have one or two choices… ignore it or the other one is, I’m not a politician or an activist but whatever you can do. You can do something, if that means two people, then so what? If a million of us help two people, that’s two million people.

Can you talk about your role as mentor for young actors and directors?

Well, what I do is… it’s happening late October this year, is the American Black Film Festival which is going to be here in Los Angeles. I’ve been with them for the last eleven [or] twelve years. And we hold boot camp called the Actors Boot Camp, it’s called the business of the business. We try to give young people an understanding that this is a business. A lot of young ladies because they have nice bodies and pretty faces and have talent think that that’s what this business is about. No, this is a business and you have to understand how to survive in it IF you’re going to survive in it. We try and give them information and get writers, producers, directors and union heads and etc. to talk to them, to give them an understanding of what they are getting into. And it’s been working so…

My way of giving back is through that and through educating young minds which we take attention deficit disorder [ADD] kids, we take homeless kids from shelters, and we put them in an after school program. And the teaching ratio, instead of 1 to 35 is 1 to 7 or 8. One teacher for seven or eight children. As a result of that attention, they are graduating with honors at colleges, etc. and so we are really proud of that. We are just trying our best to do the best we can. I’m not saying we’re going to save the world but we’re doing the best we can.

That’s fantastic, my hat’s off to you for that.

Thank you.

Now let me get back to a little something called “Lost” . Can you tell me about working on that series and of course “Battlestar Galactica”?

“Lost” was an amazing experience. You know, we actually shot those scenes in a real prison. Going into that prison and seeing the prisoners and seeing… we saw a cell, and when I say a cell I’m talking about fifteen [or] twenty feet by fifteen to twenty feet, I guess, and there was a cot with an upper bunk and a lower bunk. There were people in that cell. And I looked around and I said, ‘Thank God…’ I mean, can you imagine in a prison packed, I’m talking about overflowing with prisoners. So that was one thing but working with that cast, great people, great director and producers, it was just a great experience.

“Battlestar Galactica” was like… it’s one of my favorite shows so it was like, you know, playing that character was fun. And that show is like, you know, I just hope that I can keep getting copies of that in my residuals, let’s put it that way.

It’s amazing to see genre shows like that and shows like “Stargate” are truly some of the best shows on television. And they are not typical “network” television.

They are well written, well produced and also interesting you know, it’s entertainment but they talk about things that are interesting.

It is kind of amazing looking back on your career that you started off directing “Cagney and Lacey” or “Hill Street Blues”, you were on “Charlie’s Angels”.

Oh God. Yes I was. What was his name, I forgot who the other actor’s name was. He’s a very famous actor. Anyways, he and I were the ones that kidnapped one of Charlie’s angels. [In the episode “Angels on the Run”]

Oh, that’s awesome!

Craig T. Nelson. When he first came here, he and I were bad guys on “Charlie’s Angels”.

That’s excellent. That was a great show too.

Yeah, we enjoyed it.

So what’s next for you Bill? I know you have a lot on your plate right now but what can we look forward to next?

Well, mostly directing. I’ve done three films in the last two years. One is called THE FACES OF HIV which tracks and gives stats about the AIDS epidemic in the urban community. The second is called COVER, which is a feature film that deals with the same subject matter. And last but not least, I’m editing now over at Sony Screen Gems called NOT EASILY BROKEN based the novel by T.D. Jakes. And we put the screenplay together and were going to be putting that out the first quarter of 2008 so I’ve been busy, thank God, working and it’s been a great year.

Well thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Thank you man, I really appreciate it.

Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to [email protected]

Source: JoBlo.com/AITH

Latest Movie News Headlines