Don Johnson (born December 15, 1949) made his screen debut in the 1970 film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, but it wouldn't be until 1984 that Johnson would land his defining role. He played the lead role of Sonny Crockett in the 1980s TV cop series, Miami Vice, which led him to huge success and fame. He also played the lead role in the 1990s cop series, Nash Bridges. Johnson is a Golden Globe winning actor for his role in Miami Vice, a winner of the APBA Offshore World Cup, and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to being an actor, he is also a singer, songwriter, producer, and director.
ohnson was born in Flat Creek, Missouri, in 1949. His father was a farmer and his mother was a beautician. He is of English origin. At the age of 6, he moved from Missouri to Wichita, Kansas. A 1967 graduate of South High School in Wichita, he was involved in the high school theatre program. As a senior, he played the lead role of Tony in "West Side Story". His bio noted that he had previously appeared in "Burnt Cork and Melody" and "The Hullabaloo." He also attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.
In the late 1960s, Johnson was in a psychedelic rock band called Horses. Also in the band were future members of the band Kingfish, which featured Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. The band put out one self-titled record on the White Whale label in 1969, later re-issued on the Gear Fab label in 2004 and then on the Rev-Ola label in 2005.
Johnson, as several noteworthy news sources have mentioned over the years, was kept out of the military due to a high lottery number. He never had to serve, and in fact in a 1970 newspaprer artcile, claimed he would not have done so even if called due to his beliefs at the time.
Johnson is quoted in a 1970 newspaper article, mentioning his draft-exempt status and his dislike for war.
Johnson studied drama at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. His first major role was in the 1969 Los Angeles stage production of Fortune and Men's Eyes in which he played Smitty, the lead role. This exposure led to the quickly forgotten film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970). He continued to work on stage, film and television without breaking out into stardom. His notable films from this period were Zachariah (1971), The Harrad Experiment (1973), Lollipop and Roses (1974), and A Boy and His Dog (1975).
After years of struggling to establish himself as a TV actor (in such fare as Revenge of the Stepford Wives) and a string of failed pilots which were never followed by an actual TV series, in September 1984, Johnson's fortunes changed when he landed a starring role as Sonny Crockett in the cop series, Miami Vice. In this role, Johnson played an undercover police detective. He typically wore thousand dollar Versace and Hugo Boss suits over pastel cotton t-shirts, drove a Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona (really a replica kit on a 1981 Corvette chassis), followed by a Ferrari Testarossa and lived on a 42-foot (13 m) yacht with his pet alligator "Elvis". Miami Vice was noted for its revolutionary use of music, cinematography, and imagery as well as a more glitzy take on the police drama genre.
In between seasons, Don Johnson gained further renown through several TV miniseries, such as the 1985 TV remake of The Long, Hot Summer.
Johnson later starred in the 1996-2001 drama Nash Bridges with Cheech Marin, Jaime P. Gomez and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe. Johnson played the title role of Nash Bridges, a detective for the San Francisco Police Department. In Nash Bridges Johnson was again paired with a flashy convertible car, this time an electric yellow 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.
In the fall of 2005, he briefly starred in The WB courtroom television drama show Just Legal as a jaded lawyer with a very young and idealistic protegé/partner (Jay Baruchel); the show was canceled in October 2005 after just three episodes aired. In January 2007, Johnson began a run in the London West End production of Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit.
Don Johnson also has a role in the Norwegian comedy Lange Flate Ballær 2 ("Long Flat Balls II"), directed by Johnson's friend Harald Zwart. Johnson did the movie as a favour to Zwart. The movie was launched March 14, 2008 in Norway, with Johnson making an appearance at the premiere. He next appeared in A Good Old Fashioned Orgy with Jon Heder, When in Rome with Danny De Vito, Anjelica Huston and Kirsten Bell, and Machete with Robert De Niro and Steven Seagal.
Johnson & Jon Heder co-hosted WWE's Monday Night RAW on January 18, 2010.
Johnson released two albums of pop music in the 1980s, one in 1986 and the other in 1989. His single "Heartbeat", the title track from his first album, reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Johnson is also a good friend of Willie Nelson. Previously, Johnson worked with Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers, co-writing the songs "Blind Love" and "Can't Take It with You" with Dickie Betts, which appeared on their 1979 album, Enlightened Rogues.
Johnson has had four different wives in five marriages, three of which were short. Johnson had a major supporting role in The Harrad Experiment (released 1973), whose female lead was Tippi Hedren. He met Hedren's daughter, Melanie Griffith around the first half of 1972; she was an uncredited extra. He was aged 22 and she 14 when they began what became a four-year affair, that included marrying, in 1976, for less than a year. Melanie and Don reconciled and conceived a child close to the start of 1989, announced wedding plans in mid-February, and were married a second time, from that year until 1996. They had a daughter, Dakota Mayi Johnson (born October 4, 1989).
He lived with Patti D'Arbanville from 1981 to 1985. The couple had a son, Jesse Wayne Johnson (born on December 7, 1982).
He had a relationship with Barbra Streisand, lasting into at least September 1988. Streisand and Johnson were supposedly secretly engaged at one point.He created a single with her called "Till I Loved You", released that year. Johnson had a relationship with Jeanne Anderson in 1996.
On April 29, 1999, he married San Francisco socialite and former preschool teacher Kelley Phleger. He and Phleger had a daughter, Atherton Grace Johnson (born on December 28, 1999), and two sons, Jasper Breckinridge Johnson (born on June 6, 2002) and Deacon Johnson (born on April 29, 2006)
In 2001, a 36-year-old woman accused an intoxicated Johnson of squeezing and bruising her wrist and lewdly propositioning her outside a restroom at San Francisco restaurant Mas Sake, and claimed while still firmly squeezing her wrist he began drunkenly singing "Heartbeat". The woman's friends made their way across the restaurant to confront Johnson as he continued to sing but said when he saw them he let go of her and quickly fled out the back door. Johnson said he was considering buying an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle to state his side of the story, but later decided to post the notices on his website. Due to insufficient evidence, no charges were filed.
In November 2002, German customs officers at the Swiss-German border performed a routine search of Johnson's car. Bank statements evidencing US$8 billion in transactions were found in the trunk of his car. He was accompanied in his black Mercedes-Benz by three men: an investment adviser, a personal assistant, and a third of unknown identity. Initially it was thought Johnson was involved in money-laundering, but he was cleared of wrongdoing. Upon receiving word of the incident, German tabloids began exploiting and perpetuating the story, at times pointing at the irony (as perceived by them) that Don Johnson has frequently portrayed police officers in his acting works. Johnson explained the incident by saying "I was meeting with some American businessmen in Zurich for financing, for a film fund that I was putting together for my company. They gave me some bank statements and some resumes and some other documents, some things to prove that they could perform as investors." The police found and copied these documents, and the money laundering story grew somehow out of this.
In May 2008, Johnson came within hours of losing his Woody Creek, Colorado home to foreclosure; he paid off his $14.5 million dollar debts less than 24 hours before a scheduled auction of the property.
HT: You’re from Flat Creek, Missouri?
HT: Were you pretty much a bad ass kind of kid?
DJ: No, actually --
HT: Because that’s always the impression. I haven’t heard that much about it, but --
DJ: No, that isn’t accurate. I was just a normal good old red-blooded American boy with an imagination. Y’know, I did normal mischievous things that boys do. I wasn’t anywhere near what one would call a bad ass.
HT: Right, but you were involved in a lot of sports and theater and music --
DJ: Oh yeah.
HT: So that kept you busy pretty?
DJ: Oh yeah, a lot of sports.
HT: People get the impression that you had some delinquent pasts in your youth.
DJ: Oh no, those are just little bits and pieces that don’t really… those don’t really… those have been written about to ad nauseum. You don’t want to bother with that.
HT: You were a contract player when you came out here?
DJ: No, I was never a contract player. I’ve always been freelance. I’ve never been under contract anywhere.
HT: So you weren’t like a Tom Selleck, who was one of the last of the studio contract players?
DJ: No, I worked a lot at Universal but I wasn’t a contract player.
HT: Being from the south were you inspired by Elvis and James Dean?
DJ: All of those: Elvis, James Dean --
HT: Montgomery Clift --
DJ: Monty Clift… Marlon Brando of course. I was a movie buff. I watched… I used to stay up late at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, getting ready for school, and watch old movies. So I had pretty much seen everything ever made by the time I was about sixteen.
HT: What brought you out to California? (and not New York?)
DJ: Actually, I was in University at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas and I was hired by the American Conservatory Theater to join the company right out of college. I was there doing plays and repertory for a year and then I came to LA and did a play and then from that play I got cast in my first movie and then the rest is film history.
HT: How about Broadway?
DJ: I’ve never done Broadway, no. I’ve done Broadway shows that were on tour and stuff, but I’ve never actually done Broadway, no.
HT: Where did you work with Sal Mineo?
DJ: In a play here.
HT: That must have been a trip. Because he was a guy that was right there with James Dean and Dennis Hopper.
DJ: Yeah, yeah.
HT: Well, early Dennis Hopper at least.
DJ: He was very talented, a very talented actor and director. I didn’t work with… I didn’t… there wasn’t a lot of work in theater at that time down here. Once I started making movies, I knew that was my calling.
HT: Right. Can you talk a little more about your acting background? Obviously you were in the American Conservatory Theater Company --
DJ: That’s a conservatory where you study eight hours a day and then you do plays at night – plays and musical theater. I’d studied for about a year and a half at the University of Kansas and then another year at the American Conservatory Theater and that’s pretty intense training. It was eight hours a day of voice and mime and movement and dance.
HT: So you actually received a lot of training and experience during that period. Some people get the impression that because you started working fairly young that you might have gotten most of your experience on the job.
DJ: No, I actually put my time in as a journeyman actor, y’know.
HT: Mmhmm, right. I’m just going to move right into “Miami Vice.” It’s the 20th anniversary, is it?
DJ: Coming up this year, yeah.
HT: How do you feel about that?
DJ: I feel like it’s a great honor that it’s still playing and I was fortunate to get the part and it pretty much launched my career worldwide and was a great, great experience for me.
HT: Is it true that there was another actor that was first choice?
DJ: No, there was actually probably several hundred or thousand that were actually… I met on “Miami Vice” in September of ’83 and they continued to see actors all over the world… in England and Canada and New York and everywhere else until February or March of ’84 and then that’s when I got cast.
HT: Because I remember reading years ago that Gary Cole and even another actor were the first choice?
DJ: He wasn’t ever offered the role. No one was ever offered the role but me.
It never happened that way.
HT: That’s why we’re here, to set the record straight.
DJ: (laughs) Oh, I had no idea that the record was unstraight!
HT: You’ll be surprised, that stuff comes up in different places quite a bit. As long as that stuff is out there, there’s bad research material and fictional information out there. Anyhow, that was obviously a groundbreaking show in television history. The timing with the launching of MTV and just the way Michael Mann put it together. When did you realize that it was a cultural and generational phenomenon? I mean it was an event!
DJ: We knew that it was a big hit by the end of the first season. By the second season, it had, after the summer reruns… and the rest of the people that didn’t catch it in the regular season, by the beginning of the second season, it had become phenomenally successful. But I didn’t really pay much attention to it. I just sort of kept my head down and kept working. I was the last one to know it was a hit.
HT: Really? So you didn’t realize after the buzz from just a couple of episodes that this was like --
DJ: Well, no, I knew we were onto something, but like I say, it was 16, 18 hour days. I was more of the mind of just staying focused and getting the work done.
HT: Should most of the credit go to Michael Mann, as far as the whole look of the thing – the fashion and the car and the hair?
DJ: I don’t think that, y’know… Michael made a great contribution to the show in terms of he brought a feature film look to the film. But in terms of the wardrobe and the… those are character choices that --
HT: And the five o’clock shadow?
DJ: -- that I made and that were out of the covenants of the character. He was an undercover cop who had been up for two or three days and I figured he would have a two or three day growth. And it was hot in Miami, so the clothes and all that stuff --
HT: Pastels and whites --
DJ: -- just came out of the fact that it’s really hot and I rolled up my sleeves because it was hot and I wore no socks because it was hot and I stayed with t-shirts.
HT: Tank tops.
DJ: Well, not tank tops so much, but --
HT: Sleeveless tees --
HT: But that started a whole fashion craze. The power of movies and television is amazing, but that whole image had a significant impact in the 80’s fashion. The funny thing is I was watching the making of “Scarface” and that was just before Miami started getting some attention, but you guys took all of that to a whole another level.
HT: Because even the disco music in “Scarface”… DePalma was saying the eighties’ disco music was the ‘cocaine sound.’ But you guys made it so much more stylistic with the MTV style vignettes.
DJ: Perhaps. I didn’t really pay much attention to that. I’m a big fan of Brian DePalma. What we were doing was… we didn’t really revolutionize television, we just contemporized it.
HT: I read somewhere that you said that TV actors are as big as movie stars now. Did you actually say that at one point?
DJ: No, I don’t think I said that. I said I think what happens is that because television actors are seen more they are more recognizable than movie stars.
HT: And TV is a big movie star maker.
HT: Were you one of these guys that said ‘ I’d rather be a movie star, and I don’t forever want to be known as a TV guy?’… did that ever enter your mind?
DJ: No, that’s never been an issue. I’ve made feature films all throughout my television career and I’m getting ready to make another one in the next few months. It was never ‘either or’, it was always ‘and.’
HT: I just wanted to mention that when I interviewed Kevin Costner last week, I made a comment to Kevin that your movie work was underrated. But Kevin said, “No, he’s not underrated, because people in the industry know that he’s always been a great actor, but people should “appreciate” him more.”
DJ: Well, that’s very nice of him to say. He’s a very generous man. I appreciate that. “Thank you Kevin.”
HT: Are you still good friends with Philip Michael Thomas?
DJ: Yeah, we speak by phone quite a bit. Of course, he’s on the east coast and I’m on the west, so we don’t get to see each other as much, but I’ve got a couple of calls in to him now. We’ve been trying to hook up recently. But Philip is one of the great guys of all time.
HT: Well when you guys have been a part of something like “Vice” you’ll always have something special between you guys.
DJ: Yeah, that’s true.
HT: Same with Edward James Olmos too, isn’t it?
DJ: Yeah, I see Eddie upon occasion.
HT: Because I remember back in the eighties, there were rumors that Edward and you didn’t get along and that he made a character choice of never looking at you because he hated you or something. It seems like you guys are pals in events and stuff though.
DJ: Those things are… people like to talk and they make up things just to I guess make themselves sound important or something.
HT: Do you think…. because people thought at one point he made some cocky comments like yeah I’m going to be the biggest star, I sing better than Michael, I dance better than… I forgot who it was, Prince or whatever --
DJ: Who said this?
HT: Philip Michael. Because he was coming out with his record and he said I’m going to be the biggest star and I’m an unbelievable actor. His career never took off after “Vice”?
DJ: I don’t know that Philip said those things. I didn’t hear him say those things. I’m suspect of things that people attribute to friends of mine that they’ve said if I haven’t heard them say it.
HT: Because people like to… whenever I read anything about him, he was really cocky in that period, so his career never took off and people never wanted to work with him again and stuff.
DJ: I don’t know that that’s true. He’s worked. An actor’s life goes through all kinds of ups and downs and changes. When you choose the life of an artist, you choose those parameters.
HT: So the important thing is when it’s good is to not get too carried away and just go along with the ride?
DJ: Exactly, I don’t tell anybody what to do. I just do my work and try to stay focused within myself and be grateful and humble and I move on.
HT: When one plays a big TV icon like a Magnum, a Captain Kirk, or even a Tony Soprano, you’re sometimes forever associated with that character. Have you ever resented being seen as the actor that played Sonny Crockett or Nash Bridges?
DJ: I’m not so sure that that’s accurate in my case. I think that people have… I think very early on in “Miami Vice”, people knew the difference between… that Don Johnson was a --
HT: Well you were already a star.
DJ: -- yeah, was more recognizable than Sonny Crockett. When I went into the streets, people didn’t call me Sonny, they called me Don Johnson. And the same with Nash Bridges. And I think it’s a credit to the intelligence of the people. They know when someone is an actor and is doing a job or when someone is just a personality.
HT: Good answer. Does series work, whether it’s “Nash” or “Miami Vice”, get boring after four or five seasons?
DJ: No, it doesn’t get boring, because it’s always…
HT: Does it lose some of the juice?
DJ: I don’t think it loses the juice. I think sometimes it’s… in both, I was asked to continue in both series and in my opinion, at certain times when you have told all of the stories that those characters and those relationships have to offer, then if I feel like I’m starting to repeat those stories, then I realize and make up my mind that it’s time to move on. So in both cases, I have chosen to end the series and move on to other things rather than just keep rehashing the same stories.
HT: “The Sopranos” is an unbelievable show, but could a show like that slow down eventually too? So far it’s been like gangbusters every year.
DJ: It’s inevitable that shows come to an end. They always do. Even “Gunsmoke”, which was 23 years, came to an end eventually. But “Sopranos” is a good show and it’s a soap opera type setting, format I should say. As long as the ability of the producers and the actors to keep the storylines fresh and interesting, then it will continue.
HT: TV is hard, isn’t it. Even something like “Twin Peaks” was great the first season, but it just lost so much in the second.
DJ: That’s one of the… having done two television series and having them been successful, the hardest job is to keep them fresh and to keep them on the air and almost anybody can get a show on the air, but it takes real focus and dedication and an incredible amount of hard work to keep it on the air.
HT: I want to talk a little bit about your maturity… I think you did say on television that you’re better with age. I’m sure you meant that both in acting and life?
DJ: I think everyone gets that way. Generally everyone, you get a level of maturity and patience that helps you to be a better person, a better professional, a better father, a better friend, a better everything.
HT: That’s all from experiences, ups and downs –
DJ: Of course, just life lessons, y’know.
HT: Did your Midwest values and your work ethic --
DJ: Those have always been great staples for me. I’ve always been able to rely on my work ethic and my values that I grew up with.
HT: As far as when the media takes that he’s abusing prescription or alcohol, I mean everybody parties or whatever, but this is partially because of work ethic that --
DJ: I think that most of the --
HT: I have never heard that you are unreliable or that you didn’t show up or you were sick --
DJ: Exactly --
HT: Because you always work. It’s just when you party --
DJ: I’m not so sure that that’s accurate reportage anyway. Sometimes some, some newspapers… not all of them, some newspapers and magazines are in the entertainment business. And it’s in their best interest --
HT: Sell papers --
DJ: -- to sell papers. So they make up stories that may or may not be true in order to sell papers. So I would say that 90% of the things that have been written about me concerning almost anything in my life, were written to sell newspapers and have very little to do with the truth.
HT: Yeah, because I heard about the German Customs stopping you for carrying $8 billion worth of papers.
DJ: It was a non-story. (laughs) Didn’t exist.
HT: Weren’t they just photocopies of?
DJ: Actually, I did not have them. They were property of a gentleman that was in my car. And the entire thing was misrecorded.
HT: Is it important to strike back at the tabloids and clear your name? I know that it can get costly.
DJ: Oh no, I don’t pay any attention to them.
HT: But isn’t it damaging though?
DJ: I don’t know that it’s that damaging. I’ve been dealing with this for the 35 years that I’ve been in the business and I don’t think that… I think that people professionally and publicly, I think that they see those stories for exactly what they are, that they’re methods of selling newspapers. In fact, there was a recent poll in the NY Times that in all newspapers that less than 21% of the people believe what they’ve read in any newspaper and less than 5% believe what they saw on television. So the credibility of newspapers has been damaged by their own greed and lack of ethical behavior. So I don’t even respond to stories that are written…. I wouldn’t bother suing a tabloid or anybody like that. It would dignify what they write about. I don’t feel that… Everybody already knows by statistics that nobody believes it.
HT: And that whole bankruptcy story --
DJ: Again, this is another one of those stories that has no merit. These are times when interest rates are low and I chose to refinance my ranch and change a couple of trusts and I knew the only way I could do it was to bankrupt the trusts. Don Johnson isn’t bankrupt, it’s just the trust, but they take one word out of one thing and one thing out of another, put them together and create a story that doesn’t exist.
HT: How about the recent thing about --
DJ: Are we going to go through note by note of all these silly stories --
HT: No, no, no, see, I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to some of these --
DJ: Yeah, I know, but I don’t particularly want to spend the rest of this… we got another 15 or 20 minutes before I have to go and I don’t want to go through and answer each and every one of these silly reportages out of tabloids.
HT: So the bottom line is 99% of that stuff is bullshit?
DJ: That’s the bottom line!
HT: You are obviously very hands on with your producing and you always have a lot of things in the works.
DJ: As a matter of fact, I’ve brought a little brochure. This is something I’m announcing at Cannes Tuesday night.
HT: Oh really… wow.
DJ: Yeah, this is a company that we have… studios we’ve put together in Belgium and it kind of gives you an idea of who we are. You can flip through that, it will take you just a second.
HT: Okay. Eurowood Studios? So that’s why you’ve been spending so much time in Europe recently?
DJ: I’ve been spending a long time in Europe for that reason and others. I have some other businesses that I do there and some charity stuff.
HT: And this is including television work?
DJ: This is mostly for feature films, but there is also some television series included that would be shot exclusively in Europe but for U.S. market, for worldwide market.
HT: Wow. So you’ll be spending a lot of time there?
DJ: A little bit. I’m going to try not to spend (excuse me, I have a limited number of these)… I’m going to hire… I like creating the opportunity for filmmakers to make films that are not necessarily marketed and programmed. That’s what’s happening a lot with filmmaking these days in the U.S. A lot of it is marketed and the demographics guys and the marketing promotion people are making the decisions on what movies get made and what movies don’t get made and in Europe it’s exactly the opposite. It’s a more content driven style of filmmaking over there. So what Eurowood Studios’ mandate is and what its goal is is to take, combine European content and American commercialism and see if out of that we can create something that has real substance and yet be globally consumable.
HT: Including foreign films then.
HT: So it doesn’t have to be in English.
DJ: It could be in English, it could be in French, it could be in German, it could be in any number of ways. Obviously what we want to do is we want to create a cross-cultural film studio centered for film production in Europe. And that will compete with Hollywood in terms of the commercial marketplace.
HT: That’s a great way to use your international appeal, as the head of this, because there are tons of great young European directors and filmmakers that make great films for a fraction of the Hollywood budgets. And there are tons of great European actors and actresses that are already coming here anyway.
DJ: That’s true. And what we’re trying to do is utilize both American, make some films with an American actress, a French actor, an Italian actress or say, me and Gerard Depardieu or Vincent Cassell and Monica Bellucci on something that is consumable on both sides of the world.
HT: Harvey Keitel’s doing a lot of that. He works with a lot of great people in Europe.
HT: Are you very active with pilots and stuff every season too, right?
DJ: I used to be. I’m not so much anymore. I’ve really been focusing on the work in Europe.
HT: Would this be considered a small studio?
DJ: It’s actually a studio. We actually have studio space and we would co-produce. We have financing up to 50% of the total of any budget. And we actually have more financing than that in the company. Depending on a project by project basis.
HT: What about as far as directing… I heard that there were rumors that you were interested in directing the “Miami Vice” movie.
DJ: Actually, no. Michael Mann owns the rights for the movie version of “Miami Vice”. If I direct I really have to be in love with the project. Not that I wouldn’t be in love with “Miami Vice”. And I think it could make a great movie. For me, directing is something that I have to really really really be in love with the material. And in order to devote that much time to it… I’m more into financing and producing films these days. And giving filmmakers, who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with anything more than a two to five million dollar budget, to step up and maybe work with a $15 or $20 million budget.
HT: That’s great. Because European filmmakers make great movies for very smaller budgets.
DJ: And American filmmakers too. They don’t have a lot of opportunity because it’s so tight at the top.
HT: Even from your… when you do “Word of Honor” or something, obviously you know, when you’re producing and acting, your taste is still very Nelson DeMille and so forth, so I’m sure there is plenty of stuff that if you, stuff that you want to direct, it really has to be very good quality and something that you really are passionate about. Is it a time consuming issue also?
DJ: Very. Very time consuming.
HT: So that’s why it’s better to spread yourself out and produce?
DJ: Yeah, I’m just more into the financing and production part of it right now. And still acting. I’m still going to do some things as an actor and some feature films and stuff like that. I’m going to do a couple of things for maybe a limited series or something for TNT, y’know a few two hour movies or something like that. But other than that, I’m really just into the financing of producers and writers and directors who have films that they can’t get made on the studio level.
HT: So would you consider the launching of Eurowood to be a whole new chapter in your career?
DJ: I would say that this is… well, we don’t know. Let’s see how successful it is and then (laughs) we’ll have an idea.
HT: So less acting if necessary?
DJ: Well, I’ll get this on its feet, but I don’t intend to run it. I intend to hire people who are far better at running studios and managing those kinds of things than I am. And have the time and ability to do it.
HT: Just to finish off on the acting part… are you the kind of person, I mean obviously you are very open-minded and you’re not stubborn, y’know even with that whole media stuff, I mean you just let it go and hey, the right people know what’s right, so you got that kind of an attitude and that’s great. But as far as your work is concerned, your craft, are you the kind of person that has been completely satisfied… or have you been in a situation where you said I played that role as good as I possibly could? Have you been in that kind of position?
DJ: I never look at it that way. Working as an actor is designing a character based on the material and the information that you can glean about the character and what you can understand about them. And then after that, it’s showing up, being in the moment and capturing that moment. And I don’t ever judge the work, whether it’s the best I could do. I’m always doing my best, I always do 100%. I never show up unless I’m going to give 100%. Frankly, I don’t really ever look at the films very much. When I finish ‘em, I’m onto the next. I don’t really watch my films. I’ll bet you I haven’t seen a full episode of “Miami Vice” in… since I stopped making them.
HT: What about something like “Word of Honor”?
DJ: I saw “Word of Honor.” Yeah. I’m very proud of that. I saw it because I was involved in the producing process. I saw it about, I don’t know, three or four times.
HT: It was one of the highest rated cable shows of the year, wasn’t it?
DJ: I believe it was the highest rated.
HT: That’s good. TNT is good to work with, aren’t they?
DJ: They’re great.
HT: Because Tom Selleck is a good friend of mine and he’s done a lot of stuff with them.
DJ: I’ve really really enjoyed working with them. They’re terrific.
HT: Because it seems like every year they have the highest rated show which is pretty astonishing considering HBO keep making incredible stuff too.
DJ: They’re just terrific people to work with. Very professional. And I enjoyed the experience.
HT: TNT do a great thing working with you and Tom Berenger and Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.
DJ: Right. Yeah, it’s a nice opportunity that they give us.
HT: You’ve won a Golden Globe before. Would getting an Oscar Nomination or winning one and getting that type of validation important to you?
DJ: Umm, I think it would be flattering, but it’s not my main goal in my life. I’ve been nominated for an Emmy and I suppose that if I were nominated for an Oscar and… and actually won it… that would be a great thrill. But it’s not what I do the work for.
HT: Right. Because a lot of that stuff is a popularity contest you know?
DJ: I have no idea how it’s done. It’s a mystery. (laughs)
HT: Yeah, but at this point, you’ve got such a body of work, you’ve achieved so much already so. I guess the thing is to keep trying to do good stuff. What’s the best work you’ve done?
DJ: Mmm…that’s hard to say. I’m, I have a lot of films that I like.
HT: Well, you worked with Sidney Lumet!
DJ: That was a very good, that was a very nice film. I enjoyed playing the bad guy in that and I enjoyed “Goodbye Lover” with Roland Joffe and “The Hot Spot” with Dennis Hopper. And of course “Word of Honor” was good.
HT: I’ve interviewed Dennis a couple of times. He’s very very nice.
DJ: He’s a terrific fellow.
HT: I can’t believe he hasn’t directed more.
DJ: Well, actually, we’re talking about doing something together where he would direct.
HT: Oh yeah?
DJ: Yeah. We haven’t gotten there yet.
HT: In your career, you’ve seen early Joel Schumacher and seen what he has turned out to be, you’ve seen early David Anspaugh. And obviously “Miami Vice” has seen Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson, when they were hardly working.
DJ: We gave them their first jobs.
HT: Viggo Mortensen, you name it. But my point is that since you’ve seen so many incredibly talented artists in their early stages that that should help your judgement of future talents?
DJ: Oh, yeah, I would think so.
HT: Like you said without the opportunity, we may never even see them.
DJ: Exactly, exactly.
HT: Parenting… what kind of dad are you?
DJ: That’s a question that is a --
HT: I understand you really love it.
DJ: I do. But it’s one of those things that my oldest son graduates from college tomorrow and I’m very very proud of that, but y’know parenting is one of those things that you have to wait and see after your youngest one is 20 or 25 or 30 years old to see how you’ve done. (laughs) But I really enjoy it. I love my kids and they’re the most important part of what I do in my life, I think.
HT: And fairly newly married life is working out good too?
HT: Like you said earlier, you just want to do better in everything, right?
DJ: That’s it. That’s it.
HT: What kind of impact did your parents have on you?
DJ: Yeah, I think that my parents were very loving and had a very difficult life together. They came from very poor families and both of them had to struggle and work very hard for four kids and y’know, your parents, they do the best they can. And under the circumstances, I think mine managed to do a pretty good job.
HT: One last thing, because I forgot. The music that you’ve made. You’re recently a composer also, right?
DJ: I have composed several tunes, yeah. For the Allman Brothers band and for my own records, yeah.
HT: So you’re quite an accomplished musician really. Well versed, not just singing and pop.
DJ: I can play and write and sing a little bit. I wouldn’t say that it’s something that I can really focus on right now. That’s a full time job.
HT: You didn’t even want to sing on “Nash Bridges”?
DJ: No, it was just too, it’s just a lot of work. That’s a whole other career. And these days it’s a very tight marketplace, very difficult for these artists out there today. A lot of times they’re throw away artists that come along. They make two records and then people forget about them. And that’s unfortunate. I feel for them.
HT: So as far as when you made “Heartbeat” --
DJ: Those were fun records to do, I always wanted to do it, I had an opportunity to…
HT: So you just wanted to see what it’s like?
DJ: Yeah, and I made a couple of records. They performed very well, they were very successful --
HT: Absolutely. As far as timing is concerned, at that period, that sound and the success of it… you put out something that was, let’s face it, no matter what anyone says, as far as eighties songs goes “Heartbeat” was a kick ass song!
DJ: Thank you.
HT: And I really enjoyed your HBO video movie of the album
DJ: Thank you. Yeah, that was the first one of its kind. (laughs)
HT: Well, Don, you have always been a groundbreaking artist, and you continue to break new ground. I’ve really enjoyed the time.
DJ: Thanks very much..
HT: Anything you want to say as far as, like uh --
DJ: No. Just thanks very much, it’s been a pleasure.