An interview with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson The film Starsky & Hutch has an Indiana connection. Playing superior officer Capt. Doby is Gary’s own Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. After making several films where he played the renegade cop, Williamson’s now on the other end of the desk chewing out the super cops, played by Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. “I was the guy they needed for this character. The roles that were allocated to blacks for some time now are police chiefs and detectives. It’s always a shouting, yelling and screaming, fat, overweight, heavy police chief. You need to bring some strength to the character without having to yell and scream. That’s why The Hammer’s in the house,” he said. Hammer in the house. Fred Williamson is Capt. Doby in the new release ‘Starsky & Hutch.’ As an actor, there was one challenge for Williamson — acting with Stiller and Wilson. “They were so funny all the time. On my close-ups, they were mimicking. I’m trying to keep a straight face. I’m not supposed to be funny and they were making faces. It was cool, but it was difficult,” he joked. Born and raised in Gary, Williamson attended Northwestern University as an architect major and a star on the gridiron. After a career in the NFL, he went to Hollywood to make a commodity out of himself. His first acting job was as Dianne Carroll’s regular boyfriend in the TV series Julia. (“I was named Steve Bruce and it took me a long time to live that down.”) Director Robert Altman approached him to play Spearchucker Jones in M.A.S.H. “Altman told me, ‘I’m doing a movie with a football team in it and I don’t know nothing about football. I’ll put you in the movie and you can help me direct the football scenes.’ I got real football players like Buck Buchanan, Super Nat and Timmy Brown. It was my first directing job and I wanted it to look good,” Williamson said. After appearing in the Liza Minnelli weepfest Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon, Williamson hammered out his image as an action star in films like Hammer, Black Eye, That Man Bolt, Three The Hard Way, Bucktown and the gangster epics Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem. Some call these films Blaxploitation; Williamson doesn’t. “I never really understood who was getting exploited. I was getting a big check and I was very happy. There were lines across the block. People were excited about seeing a black hero at a time when we needed heroes. Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood were making the same kind of action movies I was. Nobody called their movies Whitesploitation.” Williamson turned to producing and directing his own films by the mid ’70s. Films like Death Journey, No Way Back, Adios Amigo (a Western co-starring Richard Pryor), Joshua and Mean Johnny Barrows had low budgets, did well in the States and even better in Europe. His films always follow his three rules. “You can’t kill me and let Schwarzenegger avenge my death. Kill Schwarzenegger and let me avenge his death. I win all my fights and I get the girl at the end of the movie if I wanted her.” The ’80s saw Williamson making films like Delta Force Commando, the Black Cobra series and a series of Italian futuristic action films (The New Gladiators, released on DVD by Troma). By the ’90s, the next generation was showing props to The Hammer. He appeared in a Snoop Dogg video, appeared in From Dusk Til Dawn and Carmen (a hip-hop version of the opera starring Beyonce). He reunited with peers Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and the recently departed Ron O’Neal in Original Gangstas in 1996. Williamson said a sequel is in the works called Old School Gangstas with Bernie Casey taking O’Neal’s place. Matthew Socey is co-host of Saturday Matinee on 1430 AM WXNT and The Art Of The Matter on 90.1 WFYI.

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