Back in January, I had a very nice interview – a Random Roles interview, to be specific – with Alfred Molina in conjunction with his about-to-premiere TNT series, Monday Mornings. Our time was limited because of the number of people who wanted to chat with him, however, so he and I shook hands and talked of getting back on the phone to finish the conversation before the show was scheduled to make its debut. Unfortunately, despite multiple attempts to make it happen, this follow-up interview never came to pass, and with the news that TNT has decided to get out of the Monday Mornings business, there seems little chance that it ever will. I’m still going to hold onto the majority of it, though, just in case I manage to get him on the phone for something else, but while we wait for that to happen, here’s a taste of what came from that initial chat…
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)—“Satipo”
Alfred Molina: Yeah! That was my first real movie. Hardly been in front of a camera of any kind before that. I was so green, the carpenters were giving me notes. [Laughs.] But what an experience. Spielberg was already a star director, Harrison (Ford) was already a star actor, the project was…we shot most of it in England, and they cast me in England. It was like a weird dream, in a way, because up until then I’d just been working in the theater. I wasn’t a star in any way. I was a busy actor. I was a jobbing actor, busy working, doing plays in small little theaters or maybe the occasional little bit of television. One TV job I think I’d done before that. But the theater was essentially my employer…and then this job came along.
I went and met with Steven, and…he didn’t even ask me to audition. I was expecting to have to audition, like you did in the theater. I had my Shakespeare piece ready and I had my modern piece ready. [Laughs.] But we just talked. We just sat across a table, and we just talked. He said, “This is what the movie’s about, blah blah blah, there’s a character here you might be interested in,” making it sound as if it was completely up to me. I had no idea of the protocols. I didn’t realize the protocols were so polite and pleasant! And then he offered me the job, and…I can remember the offer was a thousand pounds a week, and it was for three weeks’ work. At the time, at the theater where I was working, the top rate was…I think it was two hundred pounds a week. Or at least that’s what I was earning. And I kind of went, “What? Yeah!” And my agent said, “We’ll try to get it up more,” but I said, “No, no, that’s okay, I’ll take it!” Because my daughter was about to be born, and when that job came around…well, when we finished filming, my ex-wife was in her seventh month of the pregnancy, and I’ll tell you, that money came in real handy. I mean, we bought a cot, we bought a push chair, we bought a stroller, I got the little room that was going to be her bedroom decorated… I was broke when that movie came around, and I’ve thanked Steven publicly many a time. And I’ll do it again. [Laughs.] Thank you, Steven. You saved my bacon in more ways than one.
Me: How many times have people come up to you and said, “You know, you really should’ve thrown him the idol”?
AM: [Laughs.] It’s amazing. I think the reason why it got such a high profile wasn’t because of the size of the role. I think it was that if…well, you might be a bit too young, or you might remember, but at the time the movie was released, all the trailers featured me very prominently, because my little chunk of the movie had nothing to do with the rest of the film. It was just, like, a little introduction to Indy, so it didn’t give away any of the plot, so they used that little 10-minute sequence at the beginning, because it introduced Paul Freeman’s character (Belloq), it introduced Indy…
Me: It introduced the boulder.
AM: Exactly! All of that. So they used it really heavily. So in the trailer, it looked as though I had a huge part. It looked as if it was like me and Harrison. So I was getting phone calls from people saying, “Oh, my God, I’ve just seen the trailer!” I’m, like, “Yeah, relax. I get popped off in, like, 10 minutes. I barely make it past the credits.” [Laughs.] But everybody saw it! So that image, that was in the trailer, so generation upon generation are still coming up to me saying [As Satipo.] “Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip.” And it’s like…that’s great. I don’t care. I’m delighted. I’ve got a little corner of movie history that’s mine. So I’m fine with it.