Walter Hill – Part 1
Walter Hill (born January 10, 1942) is an American film director, Producer and screenwriter. Hill was born in Long Beach, California. Growing up in southern California, Hill was asthmatic as a child and, as a result, missed several years of school. He spent much of his time daydreaming, reading comic books, and listening to radio serials. Hill worked in the oil fields as a roustabout on Signal Hill near Los Angeles during summers of the latter part of his high school years and several more years while in college.
Hill is known for male-dominated action films and revival of the Western. He said in an interview, “Every film I’ve done has been a Western,” and elaborated in another, “The Western is ultimately a stripped down moral universe that is, whatever the dramatic problems are, beyond the normal avenues of social control and social alleviation of the problem, and I like to do that even within contemporary stories.”
Hill began his career in the training program of the Directors Guild of America, graduating to work as second assistant director on Steve McQueen hit ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ in 1968. He went on to work as the uncredited second assistant director on ‘Bullitt’ in the same year. In 1969, he was the second assistant director on a Woody Allen film, ‘Take the Money and Run’, but says he remembers doing very little except passing out the call sheets and filling out time cards.
Hill’s first screenplay, a Western called Lloyd Williams and His Brother, was optioned in 1969 by Joe Wizan, but it was never made. At one point, Sam Peckinpah expressed interest in filming it after ‘The Getaway’ (1972) which became the first of Hill’s screenplays to be produced as a film. Peckinpah ended up doing ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’ instead.
Peter Bogdanovich’s ex-wife Polly Platt, a film editor, had read Hill’s script for ‘Hickey & Boggs’ and recommended him to co-write ‘The Getaway’ with Bogdanovich. They worked on the script together in San Francisco while Bogdanovich was directing ‘What’s Up Doc?’ They had completed 25 pages when they went back to L.A., whereupon Steve McQueen fired Bogdanovich without reading any of their work. Hill started from scratch and wrote his own script in six weeks.
Hill went on to write a pair of Paul Newman films, ‘The Mackintosh Man’ which by Hill’s own admission, “wasn’t much”; and ‘The Drowning Pool’. He and director John Huston disagreed on how closely to stick to the book on which it was based. Producers Larry Turman and David Foster asked Hill to adapt the novel The Drowning Pool for Richard Mulligan to direct as a sequel to a previous Newman film, ‘Harper’. The producers did not like the direction Hill took with his script, so he left the project to write ‘Hard Times’ for Larry Gordon at Columbia Pictures.
Certain Producers, Directors and Writers are lauded as auteurs, their names often appear above the title, some have even become household names well known to more than the casual film magazine reader. Consider then a Producer, Director and Writer responsible in various guises for cult classics and box office hits such as ‘The Driver’; ‘Alien’ and ‘Aliens’; ‘The Warriors’; ’48 HRS’ and its sequel as well as having a huge influence on the resurgence of the western with his work on ‘Deadwood’.