Reza Badiyi the Last TV Tycoon
ŠOCPCMagazine & Darius Kadivar & Parisa Defaie
To have an opportunity to interview one of the most respected and prolific directors in American Television was a Dream Come True for me and my colleague and friend Parisa Defaie. He is one of the Last TV Tycoons who certainly shaped the medium as no other before him. I am nearly certain that many of you ( young or old) have spent many memorable Friday afternoon's watching his films on Persian TV before the Revolution. You may have even noticed his Persian name appear as a cathode like signature in front of your favorite TV show's cast & crew list wondering who he was and what he looked like ?. Some like me and Parisa may even recall the days you were day dreaming on your way to school with your favorite American tin lunch box featuring one of your super heroes like Bionic Astronaut Steve Austin, the Charlie's Angels or Inspector Columbo and wishing to meet them in real life. Well I suppose that unlike Parisa, Charlie's Angels were not really my cup of tea before puberty but I sure did have a crush on Farrah Fawcett wondering where her name Farrah came from ?... ;0).
Born April 17th 1930 in
Parisa and I had this privilege to
interview him, me from Paris and Parisa (Lucky Girl) on Location in LA. Behind
the warm and confident smile, we discovered, a great professional, whose
creative power, has been one of the most influential in the American Television
Industry. We also learned that his rise to fame and success was not without its
share of difficulties, sometimes bitter experiences but always great challenges
which far from discouraging him, only strengthened his love for his profession
as well as his ties with his home country,
Below is the Exact Transcript (*) of our Audio Interview with Monsieur Badiyi. We hope you enjoy it:
Parisa DeFaie (PD): How did you decide pursuing a career in Directing? Did you have any experience before your departure to the U.S?
Reza Badiyi (RB): My family were mostly in the field
of Medicine, and they were hoping that I would do the same and were worried when
I decided to continue my education in Drama school, in which I became the first
student. But Prior to my move to the U.S I was working at the Audio Visual
(PD): What was your first project as a Director?
(RB): I made my first movie " The Flood
of Khoozestan". I went there with a wonderful man who was my assistant at
the time, Mr. Kafafi, who is now an education minister in
(PD):What was it Like when you first arrived in U.S? What were some of the challenges you faced as a young director?
I came to
Darius KADIVAR (DK): Sadly Robert Altman, recently passed away, could you share with us some of your collaborations with him?
Robert Altman was my mentor , my teacher. And the beauty of working with Robert was that no matter what position you hold among the crew, you could talk to him and give him suggestions. I would ask his opinion about my ideas and he would just say: "Go for it!". The one advice he always gave me, was " Never listen to anybody's advice". But what he was actually trying to tell me was not to limit myself, do what comes to your mind. I always tried the crazy things with his visuals, because I had the approval ticket in my hand. When I went to Mission Impossible, I sat next to the executive producer, and creator of the show. I asked him if there was any limitation on what I would be doing, and if I could do the crazy visual effects, and his answer was " there is no limit Reza, Go for it" and that was my password to success. I give him all the credit to the way he taught me, which was always supportive. God Bless his soul!..
Badiyi's old time friend and mentor Robert Altman Šimdb.com
(PD):You are the only Director in
the history of
(RB): I believe that motion picture is
like a game that everyone involved has to play, as the leader of the game I have
to make sure everyone takes their part in it. I cannot do it alone. It is a team
effort. In all my accomplishments , I realized that everything I learned were
also gathered from my younger years in
Reza Badiyi's prolific filmography counts many cult series Šimdb.com
(DK) Iranian Television before the
revolution was becoming very competitive and professional with channels like
NIRT and also co-productions with American film companies. Some of the
stars of your films like Peter Graves also worked with Iranian directors like Tony Zarindast and came to
(RB) Prior to Revolution I had no idea
of what television in
(PD) Why are The European film festivals so fond of Iranian movies, which are mostly about misfortunes even poverty?... Is it true that such movies may have a negative connotation of how our nation is displayed?
(RB) There was a beautiful love affair
between International Film Festivals and Iranian films that ended about two
years ago. There was something unique about the Iranian films. Unlike the
American or British films, where they cast actors and there is a script, and
together between the actor and director they try to make the story believable.
The Iranian Film makers would take a man from the street, with absolutely no
acting experience, and they ask him to be himself... once they put everything
together you'll see the innocence of the character and his/her dilemma in what
to do and where to go. And as audience you get engaged and follow the journey,
much like the realities of life... that was the beauty of their work. Now, many
Iranians who live outside of
(PD) Today's Television Programs tend to Emphasize on the darker side of the story or characters, we rarely see up-lifting or life fulfilling stories, why is there such fascination with such genres?
(RB) You are right!! It's what the
people like. Today's stories are about crimes, or suicide, homicide... etc, the
shows like CSI, LAW&ORDER, is an
"analyzation" of the crime, how or why did it happen?... Most of the time they are
digging inside the mind of a criminal, the only positive thing you can see from
it is that there is nothing they can not find!! they can dig in everything, so
people like to hang to that more than hearing how US is doing badly in
(PD) Technology has made movie making business a much faster industry. Particularly Editing and post production. Is the expectation of meeting the release date still a pressure for the directors?
This new Technology is so expensive.
If you have an army of 100 people, you could multiply it to have 1000 or more...
but the nature of it is expensive. The CGI, is 12 yrs old but it keeps going
further and further, and now you can do phenomenal things with it. The movie 300 ( Zach
Snyder / Frank Miller) made so many of their scenes in front of the blue screen,
and they created the background, and so on. When the studios give you a budget
of let's say 30 $ million, they know what they will get with that budget. 3
years ago I did a picture, in
(DK) What was the toughest shooting Experience you had in your career? Who did you like to work with most?
The hardest shoot was when I was a
camera man working with Robert Altman. We were in
Often we would talk amongst directors about who was the difficult actor to work with, and I heard there were some ..I worked with most difficult actors that everyone was talking about, Jack Lord, who fired people left and right... Jack and I never had any problem. Robert Blake was another difficult one whom I directed and produced his show...never had any problem. How did this happen? I did my homework by studying the person...what buttons should or should not be pushed? I observe them, then I wanted to get the thing I wanted from this person, and that is his performance. The rest of that person's attitude is not my problem to deal with or correct. My job as a director was to have the actor say his words and take him from point A to point B.
Alfred Hitchcock believed that actors are like furniture. You just move them around. An actress once asked Hitch " sir, what is my motivation for this scene?" and hitch said " your paycheck, Love!". (Laughs)
(PD)Working on so many Television Shows and directing so many movies, I can't even imagine how many actors you've directed... how do you work with actors like myself? How do you define the relationship between the actor and the director?
I always believed that I take a
journey with the actor. We both read the script and I like to see what you as an
actor would brings to the table,
and I re-touch it. Never tell you
what to do, but I will let you know if I like it or not and why, But I
will never tell you how to act. With all my experience working with actors, I
learnt to love them Because when I direct I become a father figure, I become a
priest, a confidant and a shoulder. Then I have to allow you to do that. When a
series is finished or a movie is done, it is very hard for actors to say good
bye. Because they felt like I look after them. The wonderful Sharon Gless once said" I do not
know who I am anymore, I wake up in the morning, get in a limo, then I am taken
to place where they make me up, feed me and put me in front of a camera, , tell
me the words to say and smile... then at the end of the day, I go home, into my
bed...who am I??"... when I was doing Cagney & Lacey, they
sent the script a week ahead of time for the actors to read. So, then the
writers and the actors would meet for lunch and read the entire script together.
They make all they make all the necessary changes. Once we start the shooting, I
had this habit of going to the make-up room and shake the actor's hand, and ask
them if there is anything they need to ask or talk about. Some actors knew what
to do, but
(DK) What is your opinion about the
new generation of Iranian director and screenwriter like Farhad Safinia, Cyrus Nowrasteh, or Kayvan Mashayekh? What
advise would give to aspiring directors to make it in
I know Cyrus very well, also
Mashayekh...both of whom are two different directors. Cyrus is a very creative
writer, and director. He has created La Femme Nikita ( Based on
Luc Besson's movie) which he
did the pilot for the American Audience, and got accepted. He has worked with
the team of 24, he is very talented...and he is in a different plateau
than the other two. Mashayekh is full of energy, a wonderful kid... but I have
to say this... what makes him successful, is his ability in Marketing... he
knows how to market and where to push it. He can sell his projects. He has the
pulse of industry in his hand. Right now he is working on a script and he is
mainly working in
I have been in this business for 5 decades, and honestly after the 90's everything changed. I truly don't know what is going on. I know they are doing good things on Television, like the Sopranos, 24, or Six Feet Under... my advice to the new directors is that you have to breakthrough, you have to work as anything, to be collected and then grow in it.. Be more creative.
Many days ago it was hard to even make a short film.. but now a days you can even take your own camera and put together a project. You must have the ability to tell a story with your images. And if you can do that, great!
In the 60's I made a feature with a
help of another gentleman, we had 15,000$. We shot in
(PD) With so many talented Iranians in the Entertainment industry, like directors, producers and screenwriter, why is it that we have not yet seen a movie that truly portray the Iranian culture or people?
Unfortunately, as you remember, the latter part of the 70's, the hostage crisis took place. And we became the enemy. At the time I was working in the industry, and I was told by my agent, and Lawyer to change my name, and never say I was Iranian. And I said to them, No I was not going to do that. Needless to say I really got hurt. The way I was standing on that plateau before the hostage crisis, and after ,were miles and miles different. I was one of the few directors in this town to be able to CHOOSE what I wanted to do. But, I am Iranian and I always remain Iranian. Recently because of other issues, like the nuclear Weapons, and the anti-Jew comments... the industry thinks: "who are these people?" And consequently we are suffering because of all this. So politely they are telling us you can not do that!...if you want to make that kind of movie, go ahead and make it in your own country!...So, it's like having this land and wanting to build on it. You have a beautiful blue print or map of how to do it... but your are not granted the permit to build.
My hope is that all Iranians who are in this Industry get together and have a syndicate. So everyone can help each other. Recently, as you know, this has been talked about and I am really glad to be a part of it. We should support each other.
VIVE LA TELE & MONSIEUR REZA BADIYI !
(*) We decided to print the original conversation with Mr. Reza Badiyi and his answers to our questions as conducted during the interview.
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About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant.
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