There have been a lot of Hustons in the Hollywood game over the years. Walter was Oscar-nominated four times and won Supporting Actor gold for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” His son John, who did plenty of acting, but was better known as a director and writer, was awarded two Oscars -- for directing and writing -- on the same film. John’s daughter Anjelica got the statuette for her Supporting Actress role in “Prizzi’s Honor.” John’s son Danny hasn’t had the honor yet, but he’s been one busy guy since switching from director to actor a couple of decades ago. Notable films he’s been in include “The Aviator,” “The Proposition,” “Children of Men,” and “Robin Hood.” He veered into horror as a vampire in “30 Days of Night,” and entered the Marvel comic book-movie universe as the malevolent Stryker in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Now he’s crossed into the D.C. universe in “Wonder Woman,” playing an exaggerated version of the real-life German villain General Erich Ludendorff.
Huston, 55, eloquently spoke about his family, his career, and “Wonder Woman” in Los Angeles.
Q: You grew up in an interesting family. Was it all movies all the time for you?
A: We would project my father’s films on the wall at home, but it was a big palaver about getting the projector out and whether it would work or not. But I met my grandfather that way. He died before I was born, so I thought he was a gold prospector in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” In a sense that’s my favorite film because both my grandfather and my father (in a small role) are in it, so it’s sort of a glorified family album. But mainly we had wonderful guests coming over, these fantastic characters I would meet, from Robert Mitchum to Buckminster Fuller. I met Ava Gardner when I was a child and I immediately had a mad crush on her. I confessed that to my mother, who clipped me on the head and said, “Of course you’re in love; it’s Ava Gardner, for Christ’s sake!”
Q: Did you know early on that you wanted to be in the business?
A: I did. But when I was in my teens, I sometimes saw my father suffer because of the money, the productions, the whole circus act. I loved to paint and draw, and doing that I realized I didn’t need anybody to fulfill my work, and maybe that’s a better way for me to be independent and creative.
Q: So, how did you get into directing?
A: I went to art school, and went to these art gallery openings, and realized there was just as much bull in the art world as there was in show business. So finally, I went to film school in London and I started working. I directed the title sequence for my father in “Under the Volcano” and then slowly but surely, I succumbed to directing.
Q: But acting somehow called out to you?
A: No, what happened was I was living in Los Angeles, and not months, but years were going by (between directing jobs). I was having meetings and waiting for my films to get green lit, and fellow directors, really out of the kindness of their hearts, would sometimes say, “I have a small part here,” and I did a book on tape, and some other things. Then I did a film with my director friend Bernard Rose called “Ivansxtc” (pronounced Ivan’s ecstasy), which I had the lead in.
Q: You certainly made quite a few films after that. How did “Wonder Woman” come your way?
A: I was in London directing a film called “The Last Photograph,” and (“Wonder Woman” director) Patty Jenkins was there. She gave me a phone call through my agent, we had dinner, she told me the story, and then showed me photographs of the real Ludendorff, and we discussed the concept of war. The moment I spoke with Patty, I was smitten by her and her enthusiasm, and I saw the joy of working on something with such a grand palette.
Q: I was amazed to find out that Ludendorff was a real person.
A: He was a general in the First World War. He was a pragmatist, he was stubborn, patriotic, he believed in his country, and felt deeply humiliated by the potential loss, and WAS humiliated by the loss of the First World War. Now, moving from the historic to where we are in “Wonder Woman,” he has a wonderful arrogance about him. He’s sort of a spoiled child who’s torn up inside, but committed to this thing that he believes is a greater good. He’s a learned man who understands and enjoys Greek mythology, and I relished the idea that he would meet somebody like Wonder Woman. He’s mildly amused by her, maybe even attracted, but he doesn’t have time to waste because he’s busy and has a greater cause.
Q: You have an amazing, very physical fight with Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) in the film. How did you prepare for it?
A: Wonderful stunt guys, great choreography, a certain amount of training for the sword fighting, a little boxing. Hopefully it looks somewhat brutal. But it was fun to do, there was a lot of laughter and giggles.
“Wonder Woman” opens on June 2.
-- Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now.