Not his type: Robinson fought maniac image
As the "Scorpio" killer in Dirty Harry (1970), actor Andy Robinson set a new standard for cinematic psychopaths. His Scorpio is a gleeful sniper/kidnapper/extortionist, whose every new atrocity tops his last.
In reality, Robinson was a pacifist and vegetarian. That's why it's called "acting."
Recently, Robinson, 63, spoke with the Hook about his multifarious career, and his most (in)famous role.
With his predominately theatrical background, Robinson admits that he was "very naïve" when he was cast as Scorpio, his first major film role. Fortunately, he fell under the wing of Harry's seasoned director, Don Siegel.
Their "fabulous" relationship, Robinson relates, "kind of spoiled me for the rest of my career."
By Robinson's estimation, Siegel was "the best film director I've ever worked with," and theirs was "the richest collaboration" he has experienced in films.
The autocratic filmmaker graciously welcomed the nascent actor's input, but also sternly demanded that his suggestions be something that Siegel "could fit into his storytelling," Robinson says.
One outstanding instance of Siegel's uncommon largesse occurred when they prepared the film's final shootout, set in a quarry. Siegel generously allowed the actor to choreograph much of his own action in the scene, like hopping onto a conveyor belt and sliding down a banister, as Scorpio flees "Dirty" Harry (Clint Eastwood).
"And I thought that was what filmmaking was all about," Robinson says.
Despite their onscreen antagonism, Clint Eastwood was "very kind," and even "self-effacing" to his green co-star, Robinson. They shared an extremely "respectful collaboration." Robinson praises Eastwood as a "consummate professional– no temper, no ego."
The first time he saw Harry outside a screening room was in a rowdy Times Square theater with his son, Steve (who cameos in the film). Robinson was flabbergasted by the cathartic impact of the film's final duel.
"The audience went crazy," Robinson recalls.
Smelling trouble, Robinson says, "Steve and I kinda had to sneak out, fast."
Despite Hollywood's attempts to "type" Robinson as a maniac in the years since, Robinson has maintained an astonishing level of versatility, having played JFK, Jesus, an extraterrestrial, and Liberace.
In retrospect, he attributes Harry's lasting appeal to Siegel's exceptional "sense of action– not just of cars banging around, but of interior action."
Today, Robinson primarily directs theater, for which he has received two L.A. Drama Critics' Circle Awards. Next fall, he begins running an MFA acting program at USC.
Andy Robinson had to fight being typecast as a psychopath after Dirty Harry .