JOSH THE BECKER - WHO IS THIS GUY AND WHY HAS HE BEEN TORMENTING ME FOR SO LONG?
I've been asking myself these questions since I first met the poor sap back around 1971. He made a film version (Super 8mm, that is) of "Oedipus Rex" and for some inexplicable reason I wound up playing King Creon (sp?) - wearing a toga made from a sheet and tennis shoes in place of sandals. It was a class production, let me tell you. Why was I in this film? Were we in the same English class? Help me
here, Josh. Anyhoo, it was a hundred years ago but I remember thinking, "Man, this guy takes filmmaking pretty seriously." Little did I know...
During that same year, Josh and I crossed paths in study hall from time to time, then found ourselves in the 8th Grade school play, "The Lottery." Josh had a leg up on the other actors when it came to portraying an adult - he already had a beard! Josh was, and still is, just slightly ahead of his time.
Perhaps a year later, at a rather large assembly, Josh showed another flick of his - something about a super-student. I remember two things about it:
1. That the rat bastard made kind of a real film.
2. Why didn't he put me in it? Had I failed him as King Creon?
Once high school rolled around, Josh became an infrequent blip on my radar screen. See, in those days, Josh wasn't nearly as square as he is now. Let me tell you, he was one Hip Cat - chicks were flyin' out of his ears in every direction. Yep, ol' Josh-a-roo hung with a pretty fast crowd. Because I hung with a slowwww, square crowd, I didn't see him much - not really until after high school. I'm sure my chronology is all wrong (and Josh will happily correct me), but I think the next time he began to torment me again was 1977.
A year before that, in 1976, Josh had flown the mid-west coop and gotten his sorry butt to Hollywood - eons before any of us. This all stems from the fact that he graduated early from High School - through some phony GED tests, or something. See, while most of us were content thumbing through the Playboys dad stashed in his closet, Josh was reading "The Godfather." In case I haven't made it clear, Josh is a bit of a brainiac. You know the type, we've all seen them. Josh positively devours books and why not? There are plenty to go around.
Anyhoo, Josh had his own unique experiences in the big H for about a year (I'll let him tell you) then came back to Michigan to actually get some films done. That's kind of how it works. The further you get AWAY from Hollywood, the more stuff gets done and the better the end result. Silly us, we thought it was the other way around. (These days, Josh and I both work on that darned "Xena" show - about 5,000 miles from LA - just far enough.)
So, Josh hunted me down like a dog and spewed all kinds of ideas for films he wanted to make. I think he was looking for some kind of input, but I wasn't that kind of guy at the time. I remember a meeting at the local Howard Johnson's, and all I kept saying was something along the lines of "Okay, sounds fine. Let's make it," each time he tossed out an idea. I had been making a lot of Super-8mm films with some other guys (Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel among them) and I was game to do any type of film. By that time, we had costumes (consisting mainly of cool, old Salvation Army suits) and a veritable stable of actors and actresses to choose from.
Thus spawned a slew of films Josh and I did together. Josh would, for the most part, write and direct. I would produce and take a cheezy role or two. We did a boxing flick ("The Final Round"), a goofy suspense thriller ("Holding It") and a "What's the meaning of life?" film called "Acting and Reacting." But that didn't stop us. Teaming up with Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel, we did more sappy comedies ("The Blind Waiter" and "Cleveland Smith - Bounty Hunter") and even a "pilot" for Josh's first feature called "Stryker's War." Josh would later make the full-length version called, "Thou Shall Not Kill...Except." Better buy that re-release or I'll come lookin' for ya...
Josh was also one of the "lifers" on the first "Evil Dead." He suffered the tortures of the damned as a crew member with Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and myself that fateful fall of 1979.
After we each made our first feature film, Josh and I stayed in touch, worked together here and there on various things, but life went on. I got married, had kids (well, my wife did), moved to LA, blah, blah, blah. Next thing you know, it's 1989. Hey, where did those six or seven years go? The next time Josh and I officially reunited was for the film "Lunatics: a Love Story," which we shot back in good ol' Michigan. I produced the film and Josh wrote and directed. Next-generation Raimi, Ted, starred in the flick. The money was raised privately, so there was no "studio" intervention and it was us against the world. Creatively, aside from horrible money restrictions, it was a glorious return to the old days.
Josh and I then found ourselves out west. For Josh, it was his 2nd or 3rd time in LA-LA land and he was the cagey veteran. By that point, he was busily writing scripts, selling some, optioning
others and directing for "Herc" and "Xena." I was cutting my teeth in that darn genre world - it was more like grinding them, but hey, earn while you learn I always say.
The most recent thing we collaborated on was "Running Time." This was a real good experience for me. The film was extremely ambitious and unique from an actor's perspective, since it all kind of played out in real time. The film was shot in sequence (almost unheard of) so each day, we could experience the unfolding drama. Sorry, I don't when you can see the darn thing, but it'll be well worth the wait.
Since then, Josh and I continue to noodle about the wacky world of independent films. We both share a conviction that the only way to really make cool flicks is to do them away from the "system." We're planning a western together next, so better stay tuned, pardner.
Eat your Wheaties and clean your room,