Here, in the second installment of his exclusive interview with Eastside Boxing, actor/boxer/writer Jack O’Halloran delves into his movie career. And speaks more about his ring career.
Q: For you, Jack, what is the greatest boxing film ever?
Jack O’Halloran: “Oh, there’s only one! The great film Bobby De Niro did, of course (for all those of you who don’t know, Jack is of course referring to ‘Raging Bull.’). But it’s a funny story about the boxing movies as far as my career goes. First of all, the ‘Rocky’ story was all me. I was the Philadelphia gangster fighter. I had made my first picture, ‘Farewell My Lovely,’ with the great Robert Mitchum (in 1975), and Sylvester Stallone had a small role in the film. He picked my brain every day! He was talking about writing a boxing script, but he’d never even been to Philadelphia; he didn’t know shit about Philly. But anyway, Stallone knew I’d tried to fight Ali.”
Q: You are so well known for your performances in ‘Superman’ and ‘Superman II.’
J.O: “We had a ball making those movies, we really did. I had just finished a picture called ‘March Or Die,’ with Gene Hackman and we were invited to London to meet director Richard Donner, a really great guy by the way. He showed us the script for ‘Superman’ and ‘Superman II.’ He asked me how I felt about playing the part [of ‘Non’] mute? I said I’m inspired by the film Jackie Gleason made, where he played a deaf and dumb person and he won an Oscar. I knew it was a great opportunity, because you had the vicious general [‘Zod’], and you had the maneater [‘Ursa’]. I said someone has to relate to the kids. So I said I’m gonna take this huge guy and play him like a child.
“It worked out really well. I remember the first comi-con I did after ‘Superman,’ and so many people said to me, ‘wow, you can talk!’ I thought, well, I must have done a pretty good job playing a mute if you all think I really can’t talk (laughs).”
Q: You were there with those greats, like Marlon Brando and Hackman. It must have been something!
J.O: “There were some great British actors in that move; Trevor Howard. We had a lot of fun. I knew London pretty well; I had boxed over there. Also, I knew all the gangsters there – I knew the Krays well, I knew the Richardsons. England was a lot of fun. England was a whole different place in those days. Terry Downes, the first world middleweight champion from London, he was a real character, I tell you. He was in my corner that night I fought Bugner and he was so mad! He was ready to throw the bucket into the ring, at Bugner. He was livid. He knew we’d won the fight but it was also cut from ten rounds to eight, Mickey Duff did that. Bugner couldn’t stand up.”
Q: I guess a win over Bugner would have been big for you at that time?
J.O: “Oh yeah. They were really building Bugner up at the time. He got two shots at Ali; I was supposed to fight Ali in Australia.”
Q: What’s the film you made you are most proud of?
J.O: “’Farewell My Lovely.’ Robert Mitchum was brilliant. He really walked me right through the industry. He was my mentor, really like a father-figure. I had only met him once before – he was a big boxing fan – and when I went out to do the screen test for the film, he told them I was perfect for the role I wound up getting. He actually said, ‘put this kid in or I don’t do the movie.’ So I blame it all on him (laughs).”
Q: The famous story of you ‘beating up Christopher Reeve on set’ is of course interesting?
J.O: “Oh, that story has been built up and built up, really taken out of context. Christopher was a nice kid. But he was very young and he just talked too much! There was a restaurant in London, where everybody came and I myself tried to get everybody to go while we were working in London. Anyway, a good friend of mine called me, asking me how well I knew this Reeve guy, that he was talking about me and my father. The next day, I grabbed Christopher on set and took him into a room and asked him all about it. We worked it out and I thought that was the end of it. But we came out of the room, to where there were a lot of people around, and he turned into Superman! He started yelling, saying I couldn’t talk to him like that.
“I threw him against a wall and I was just about to smack him, and Donner jumped in and told me, ‘not in the face!’ I told him [Reeve] that he didn’t know how much of a pass he’d just got! But it’s hard not to become friendly with people you work with for three years. That was the first big picture he ever did. He was around 172 pounds when he walked on set and they had the guy who played ‘Darth Vader’ build him up. I told him, you don’t want to pump him up, you want to have him cut, defined, like George Reeves, have him put on about 20 pounds. I knew the kid had an ego. But Christopher played it exceedingly well. There will never be a greater ‘Superman.’”
Q: The one bad thing about your career is there is hardly any footage of your fights out there, on YouTube and places…
J.O: “They are around but you really have to dig around. The Norton fight’s around. The Norton fight’s a helluva fight. And the Blue Lewis fight, that was around for a while but then someone took that away. I really did give him a terrible beating. But you have to have some credence in boxing to be in The Hall of Fames I’m in. I guess I could fight a little bit.”
Q: If you were around today, do you think you’d be champ?
J.O: “Oh yeah, these guys are chumps! There were so many good fighters out there when I was doing it. Cleveland Williams was a heck of a fighter, as was Henry Clark, who I fought twice. He could really fight. I fought some pretty good fighters, I really did. And like you say, I used to fight every month. You’ll never see that today.”