* * *
Dylan did his only scene of the day almost before anyone realized he was there. Scene 483, Take 4, found him seated on a stone wall, watching Kristofferson blasting away at cans and bottles. Dylan, responding to Peckinpah's cue, applauded by beating on a can with a stick.
The cast broke for lunch in a nearby tree-shaded courtyard of the fort, built for the Mexican army in the last century.
Dylan had taken a few bites of his steak when two young American hitchhikers, who had talked their way onto the set in hopes of getting work, sat down a table away and tried to cadge food from the cast. They began talking loudly: "What's happenin' with this movie, man? Is Dylan gonna sing or what, man? What's the story? Where is he, man?" Dylan bolted up and hurried to his camper. The two youths were banned from the set and publicist Larry Kaplan said it wasn't the first time such an incident had occurred.
"It's a complex situation," he said. "At first, you say 'Bob Dylan, the fucking legend.' And it takes a couple of weeks to get past that to the man underneath. He's really shy and withdrawn, and it's genuine. Reporters here have really spooked him. They follow him around and of course he won't talk to them, so they end up interviewing everyone else about him. It gets bad when you have reporters asking Mexican extras about Bob's kids."
After lunch, Kristofferson invited the writer to sit and sip cognac with actors Emelio Fernandez and Jorge Russek.
Kris, who had pleasantly surprised the cast with his portrayal of Billy, looked very close to what the script called for: youthful, but hard, highly charged with "erotic energy," with "very blue eyes" and "sensual lips." Russek offered him a slug of cognac, "for your throat, man."
"Thanks, you silver-tongued devil." Smacking his lips, Kristofferson turned to the writer. "Dylan was interested," he said, "interested in making movies and in Sam's stuff. I called him up and he said, um, there's a lot of heavies down there. I said, shit, you can get paid for learnin'. So he went and saw a couple of Sam's films and got really enthusiastic and decided to come down here, and he brought Sarah and the kids. He had already written the title song but he was still a little reluctant about acting. I said, hell, the only reason I got in was to learn about acting. He said, but then they got you on film. I said, shit, they got you on record anyway. Come on, we'll have a ball. I still feel guilty about sayin' that."
He laughed, shifted his weight in his canvas chair, and flipped a cigarette butt at a mud-encrusted pig that was rooting underfoot. "The first day we shot was also Bob's first day on camera. We had to be ridin' horses after these turkeys and he ropes 'em. Well, Bob hadn't ridden much and it was hairy riding, down in gullies and off through a river.
"And then we had to rope these damn turkeys. I couldn't do it but Bob did it all. I couldn't believe it. I've seen prints and he's got a presence on him like Charlie Chaplin. He's like a wild card that none of 'em knew they had. I think they just hired him for the name and all of a sudden you see him on screen and all eyes are on him. There's something about him that's magnetic. He doesn't even have to move. He's a natural"
What about his role as Alias?
Kristofferson lowered his voice as Peckinpah called for silence for rehearsal. "Well, me and Rudy just got through writing a new scene for Bob. The sense is supposed to be that times are changin' and there's a push for me to get goin'. The way the scene was, the lines were embarrassin', like 'Hey, dude, hand me that apple,' but I was past complainin'. Rudy, who had to write it, hated it, and Dylan, man, it just blew his funk. So we changed it and now we gotta show it to Sam.
"The trouble is, man, Dylan ain't had a chance to talk. His speakin' lines have been a buncha stutterin' that really pissed me off. He's called Alias, and in every fuckin' scene the sonuvabitch is put in different wardrobe and he looks entirely different and that could be why he's called Alias. And that damn stutter thing – that could be as big a defense as his change of clothing. Who knows? I thought it was supposed to be like the fool in Lear. He sees it all, he knows the whole legend and can see where it's all going. But we never relate as characters. We're always chasin' turkeys or some damn thing and don't even look at each other. But – the fucker's fantastic on film."
Assistant director Newt Arnold bellowed Kris' name for rehearsal and he stomped off, two-inch silver spurs jingling.
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