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Actor Rick Hurst Speaks w/411 About His New Film Return of the Killer Shrews

October 17, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Return of the Killer Shrews

The 411 Interview: Rick Hurst

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Rick Hurst is a well-known character actor who has been working in Hollywood since the early 1970’s. He has worked extensively in both movies and television, appearing in such movies as Going Ape!, Jackals, The Karate Kid Part III, and Venomous, among others, and such TV shows as The Doris Day Show, Little House on the Prairie, M*A*S*H, and Murder, She Wrote, among so many others. Hurst is probably best known, though, as Cletus on the classic 1980’s series The Dukes of Hazzard. Currently, Hurst co-stars with fellow Dukes of Hazzard actor James Best in the low budget horror comedy Return of the Killer Shrews, directed by Steve Latshaw (check out my review of the movie here). In this interview, Hurst talks with this writer about Return of the Killer Shrews, his career, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved with Return of the Killer Shrews?

Rick Hurst: I lost a bet. Just kidding! Jimmie asked if I would like to play Harold Rook, and I naturally jumped at the chance.

BK: How did you approach your character Harold Rook?

RH: From the left…the far left. I figured Thorne and Harold must be liberals or they wouldn’t be broke, right? Actually, I saw Rook as a longtime friend of Sherman. Figured they both had military service in common, Sherman from WWII, Rook from Viet Nam. I also thought Rook would feel somewhat protective of Sherman now since he is getting older.

BK: Were you a fan of the original The Killer Shrews before you got involved with the sequel?

RH: Yes. I distinctly remember seeing the original at the Tower Theater in Houston, TX. Probably watched it a second time since you could do that in those days because they ran the shows back-to-back.

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BK: What was it like reuniting with your Dukes of Hazzard co-stars James Best and John Schneider?

RH: It was great…like having our own mini repertory theater or summer stock company where you do a different play each week with the same actors. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

BK: What was it like working with director Steve Latshaw?

RH: Working with Steve was wonderful. I have the utmost respect and admiration for this man, without whom this film could never have been made. Return of the Killer Shrews is the direct result of not only Steve’s long lasting passion, his constant discussions with Jimmie and wife Dorothy (who was the producer on the film), his many, many drafts of the script, the casting, shooting and editing, but also his exceptional talent and expertise when dealing with sparse finances and a ten day shooting schedule such as ours. Moreover, Steve is among the finest directors I’ve ever worked with in creating an atmosphere of trust and confidence with actors.

BK: You’ve been working in Hollywood since the early 1970’s. How has Hollywood and the acting game changed since you started?

RH: I would say the acting “game” today has more players and less rules. By that I mean with the advent of platforms such as HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon, etc. accompanied by their wide variety of viewing options, the demand for product/programs has never been greater.
In some ways this is good; more opportunities for writers, producers, crew members and, of course, actors. In some ways, not so much. The pool of available actors at any given time is larger now, making competition greater, salaries smaller.

The world of TV commercials right now is an example of changing “rules”. Thirty percent or more of commercials made today are non-union, performed by actors not in Sag-Aftra and not protected by union contracts with signatory employers. Such actors receive no residuals, no contributions to pension & health plans, no limit on hours worked (no overtime), no limit on length of use, no safety regulations, etc. They only receive a relatively small, one time, flat fee buyout.
Other “rule” changes however are welcome and, in some cases, long overdue. Ethnic diversity in casting, equality for women working in front and behind the camera, protection against abuse of power to name a few.

I have two sons who are actors. Ryan, who people might know from Remember the Titans or Sons of Anarchy and Collin who appears in this movie as Bobby, with the much desired, very sought after distinction of being the film’s first victim. Their “game” will certainly be different than mine.

BK: You’ve worked in both movies and television in your career. Did you ever have a preference for one over the other? It seems as though you’ve done more TV work than anything else.

RH: ). I got my start in TV courtesy of literally hundreds of commercials, then branched out to TV guest star, series regular and film roles. I have no real preference between film and TV, although in TV you could usually stay closer to home.

BK: You’ve also worked in multiple genres, from comedy and drama to science fiction and action to horror. Was it always your goal, as an actor and performer, to essentially do as much as possible in as many different genres as possible, or was a project more dependent on what you were offered/what was available?

RH: As a character actor, I was happy to work in as many genres as possible, the more the better. Jack Lemmon once said he would chose roles in which the character went through a change of some sort. Not having the luxury of choice to the extent Jack had, my criteria was slightly different. I always chose jobs for which I would get paid.

BK: What was it like make Going Ape!?

RH: Going Ape, originally titled Love Max, a phrase Danny DeVito’s character repeats throughout the movie, was a very ambitious undertaking. Working with animals, no matter how well trained, is always unpredictable. I think Jeremy Joe Kronsberg (a fantastic guy by the way) did an amazing job working with Bobby Berosini’s orangutans, although not without incident.
During a day of shooting on a sound stage, one of the orangutans decided he would like to see what was up in the rafters. Way up in the rafters, much to the chagrin of the gaffers up there, not to mention all of us below. Long story short, it took all day to retrieve our simian co-star. I must say some of the stunt work I did during the scaffolding scenes got a little hairy, prompting one of the producers to offer to pay for my wife’s and my dinner at a fine restaurant. Danza, DeVito, Art Metrano and I were good friends, so, overall, doing this film was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

RH: Yes…
*Will be at Cooter’s Place in Gatlinburg, TN. December 26 – January 1.
*Writing a little book of poems, anecdotes and short stories.
*Remodeling my front bathroom.

BK: How has your association with The Dukes of Hazzard effected your career?

RH: Tremendously. Probably almost as much as going to the moon effected Neil Armstrong’s career. The cast is like family, we stay in touch and see each other at personal appearances around the country. I think we all are grateful and humbled we had such good fortune to be part of the Dukes of Hazzard.

BK: After making Return of the Killer Shrews and seeing how travelling to a deserted island worked out for the characters in the movie, would you ever, in real life, travel to a deserted island for any reason, or is that something you’d just rather not do? I mean, how do you know there aren’t killer shrews out there?

RH: I would love to go a deserted island sometime! Any critters out there wouldn’t deter me. After all, we live with killer shrews every day in Hollywood. They’re called agents.

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A very special thanks to Rick Hurst for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

Return of the Killer Shrews is set to arrive for the first time ever on Video on Demand on iTunes on October 26th, and will then hit Amazon and Google on November 9th.

Check out the Return of the Killer Shrews official website here, where you can still buy the movie on DVD.

Check out the Return of the Killer Shrews Facebook page here.

Check out Rick Hurst’s Facebook page here

All images courtesy of Steve Latshaw.

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