Few actors can claim to have driven a chariot for Cecil B.
DeMille and to have supported Kirk Douglas in Spartacus.
Richard Farnsworth can do both and to that he can now add
a career best with his truly sublime performance in The
Straight Story. I think that John Deere lawnmower is going to
take him and David Lynch a lot further yet.
I was amazed to hear that this was a true story. You've now ridden the
John Deere farm equipment, that must have been some
accompaniment for the real Alvin Straight?
Well, it was. I had a great big trailer ride there with my stuff and I don't know
how that little thing pulled it. Four miles an hour. I guess I'd do 25 mile a day
maybe, and you get a lot of time to think. That country's going by pretty slow.
When a man has time to think he gets to know himself. You've worked
with a lot of directors over the years, what was the experience like
working with David?
It was just great. In all fairness to some of the other directors, he never raised
his voice. You relax with him. Some directors seem to like to get people up
and on. They think they get a better performance out of them. John Ford used
to holler. But with David I felt at home. Of course I'd never worked with him. I'd
seen The Elephant Man, but when my agent told me that David Lynch was
going to direct it, boy, that's good. I've made the circuit.
Were you surprised to get such a substantial role so late in your
No, that really didn't surprise me because I did The Grey Fox in '83 and I was
62 years old then. I'm almost 80 now, and the older I get, the easier it is for
me. I don't have anything to lose. If it's bad I'm out of it, if it's good I'm still
there, but I wasn't a bit surprised. I don't think your age means a darn thing,
especially in that kind of a tale, the rural film. I'm not a real manic lead, I'm just
an old farmer trying to get across the country. The fact that he would want me
surprised me, but after we worked, we realised I fit the part.
You're almost 80.
I'll be 80 next month.
We have a phrase in Britain when someone has still got all their
faculties, we say you've still got all your marbles. What is the secret of
your continued success?
I'm not out of the movie business, but I ranch in New Mexico,
I raise long horn cattle, and I'm busy. When I get my hip
replaced I'll be a lot more active. Well look at little Freddy
Francis. He's 80 and a photographer. He's a live wire that
little devil and that's great. And it's how you take care of
yourself. I know people who are old at 60 - look older than I do. Look over 90.
I've had a hard life, I was a stunt for 30 years. I hit the ground pretty damn
hard. I've been an outdoor person all my life.
Well having seen your movies and met you in the flesh, I think you
could give Sean Connery a run for him money.
Oh my gosh. He's great. I always wanted to do a film with him. Harrison Ford
did. His son remember? Sean to me is really something. I don't know how old
a man he is, but he's in awful good shape.
What's your future plans, do you have another movie lined up?
I have a film I might do in July with Dan Paulson, he's a producer. He produced
Comes the Horseman. Jane Fonda, Jimmy Caan and I did that 23 years ago.
He has a film for an old gentleman and a young boy who take a bunch of loose
horses across country and if we do it, we'll do it in July. I'll have my surgery
over by then. I'm about out of it. I don't think there's much more.
It's a terrific film to bow out on.
Well, that's very nice. But just a miracle that I did it. I wasn't feeling Well and I
was on a cane,. My agent said they've got this great script from David Lynch
and I said well I ain't getting around too good. She said you won't believe it,
this man's got two canes! I thought wow. If he's on two canes I ought to be
able to handle that. So that's how they it happened. It could very well by my
last film. If I don't do work again, I'll go on the ranch and I have my little
What do you make of the Cannes Film Festival?
I was here in 1983 with The Grey Fox. Canadians brought me down here. It's a
lot bigger now than it was then. I think it's great. I never thought I'd be here
again, but it's the ultimate if you're in this business, to be here, walk up those
red steps. Thank God somebody's taken the time and the trouble to keep this