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Rio Grande: John Ford brought John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara together for the first time in this final film in his ‘Cavalry’ trilogy

Rio Grande (1950), the third and final film in John Ford’s ‘Cavalry’ trilogy, brought John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara together for the first time on the big screen.

John Ford’s filmography is a perfect example of how branding and artist as a right winger or left winger or liberal or conservative is such a foolhardy exercise. Ford has made films that would fit into several political ideologies, sometimes a single film features conflicting political point of views, but it’s widely accepted that after returning from World War II, Ford made mostly ‘liberal’ movies that took a humane approach towards the depiction of Native Americans and minorities as well as subtly critiquing the racism, class consciousness and imperialist tendencies in post-war American society. It doesn’t mean that he was becoming a left-winger, but may have been merely endorsing values like fairness and decency, which he considered basic to the American system. Though never consciously intended to be a trilogy, the three Cavalry’ westerns that Ford made back to back from 1948 to 1950- Fort Apache, She wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande– are connected by a uniform theme: the travails of the American cavalry involved in wars with the “Indian Nations” in the aftermath of civil war and through United States’ westward expansion; and also by the presence of John Wayne, who played the lead role in all these three films. While, the first two are considered two of Ford’s undisputed classics, the history and legacy of the third is more complicated. Ford never intended to be a third film in the trilogy; Ford’s intend was to make another film, his dream project called The Quiet Man which he wanted to ѕһoot in color, and on location in Ireland, which would prove expensive. And despite the fact that he had already lined up John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara to play the lead roles, he couldn’t get financial backing for the project. That’s when his protégée and frequent collaborator, John Wayne, came to his rescue. Wayne went to Herbert Yates- the head of his home studio, Republic Pictures- and persuaded him that allowing the great John Ford to make The Quiet Man at Republic would add much prestige to the studio. Yates agreed on the condition that Ford first make a film along the lines of his successful “Cavalry” Westerns. So Ford came up with Rio Grande, a relative quickie; to be shot in black and white and in just 32 days in Moab, Utah. The film was treated as an exercise by John Ford- one of his “vacation pictures”. The budget was half of the production costs for Fort Apache (1948), hence he couldn’t afford to ѕһoot in his favorite “Monument Valley”, and no one, Ford included, seemed to take the project very seriously.

Like Fort ApacheRio Grande was also based on a Saturday Evening Post story by James Warner Bellah. Bellah was a known right-winger who was famous for his extreme views of the Native Americans as well as the communists; he equated the two “reds scares” in his stories which were published at the time when America was gripped with “red phobia” and the film industry was under attack from HUAC. While Fort Apache was retooled by eminent screenwriter and frequent Ford collaborator, Frank S. Nugent, by cutting down Bellah’s racist views against the Apaches, in the case of Rio Grande- not scripted by Nugent- Ford let much of Bellah’s views intact. Some argue that this was because Ford was becoming more conservative ԁսrıոɡ the time due to the activities of HUAC and the ongoing Korean war; Star John Wayne who plays Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Yorke in the film always claimed that Ford intended this to be an allegory for the Korean conflict: In the film, the Apaches come across the border to make their attacks, and then go back over the border where the cavalry weren’t supposed to go. In Korea the Communists were making their raids into South Korea and then going back to the North. Wayne felt that the American forces should have gone after them, and that’s what Yorke did in Rio Grande—and it was the right thing to do. Another point of view is that since Ford didn’t care much about the film, he didn’t take any extra efforts to polish the script. and just got the film done as quickly as possible so that he could tackle his dream project, The Quiet Man. Whatever the reasons, Rio Grande has the most unsympathetic portrayal of the Native Americans in a post-WWII Ford Western. But it also must be said that this whole Cavalry Vs Indians element is the not the most important theme of the film; it’s more like an add-on to please the studio and give the film some thrills and action, and the look and feel of a conventional Western. The real story that the film tells is that of an ageing soldier looking back at the successes and failures of is life; the sacrifices he had to make in his personal life to build up a sterling career as a professional soldier; and what happens when he gets an opportunity to rectify some of the mistakes he committed in his life when his wife and son (whom he thought he had lost forever) comes back into his life. John Wayne gives one of his most brilliantly gentle, romantic and vulnerable performances as the aging Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Yorke (with an extra ‘e’ to separate him from the Kirby York who served under the arrogant, Col. Thursday in Fort Apache(1949)), who tries to reconnect with his wife and son (whom he hasn’t seen for almost 15 years) even as he’s engaged in a war with some renegade Apaches who are mounting guerilla attacks on his fort from across the border in Mexico. The film also has a coming of age tale involving Kirby’s young son, Trooper Jefferson “Jeff” Yorke (Claude Jarman Jr.), who is one of 18 recruits sent to the regiment under Kirby’s command. Jeff had flunked out of West Point, but immediately enlisted as a private in the Army. Jeff is befriended by a pair of older recruits, Travis Tyree (who is on the run from the law) and Daniel “Sandy” Boone, played respectively by members of “Ford stock company” Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr., who take him under their wings and teaches him the ways of the army. There’s also Victor McLaglen playing Sergeant Major Quincannon- a character he played in all three “Cavalry” films- who becomes the protector of the young Jeff.

John_Wayne – rio grande – & Maureen O'Hara – Once upon a screen…

But the real heart and soul of the film is the love story between Kirby and his estranged wife Kathleen, played by John Wayne’s favorite leading lady: the feisty, luscious “redhead” Maureen O’Hara. This was the first time Wayne and O’Hara were paired, and they would go on to make 4 more; their next film, The Quiet Man, being the best of their pairings. Wayne loved working with O’Hara. and he and O’Hara enjoyed a mutual respect and fondness for each other. O’Hara was making her first picture for John Ford since How Green Was My Valley. Wayne and O’Hara had met at Ford’s house in May 1941, and found that their friendship carried over into their working process, although O’Hara was appalled at Ford’s cruelty toward Wayne, which she termed “vicious . . . extremely severe.” Wayne and O’Hara play estranged couples, who were driven apart by the American civil war; Kirby, who was a union soldier at the time, was forced to torch Kathleen’s plantation home- “Bridesdale”-  in Shenandoah valley as part of the Yankees’ scorched earth policy. This incident drove them apart, and they haven’t seen each other for 15 years, that’s until Kathleen arrives at Kirby’s fort to take their underage son Jeff home by buying him out of his enlistment. Right from the moment Kathleen and Kirby sets eyes upon each other (again), sparks fly, it’s like those 15 years of absence never existed between them; outwardly, they try to project a sense of antagonism, but their deep love for each other is very palpable. Kirby has her escorted to his quarters, but he denies her request to take Jeff out of enlistment. Jeff too refuses to abide by Kathleen’s wishes, thus forcing her to remain in the fort. But Kathleen is determined, and even as she continues to live on the fort like an army bride, she continues to clash with Kirby over his servitude to the army, which she believes destroyed her family, and she does not want their son to suffer the same fate as theirs. There are several moments in the film where we find Kathleen and Kirby attempting to rekindle their romance, or rather, trying to externalize their love that’s buried deep within them, but their inherent stubbornness stops them from consummating it. By the way, it was Sergeant Quincannon who put the torch to Bridesdale, and he is still with Yorke and is a constant reminder to Kathleen of the episode. Kathleen never loses an opportunity to belittle Quincannon in public by calling him an “arsonist”. Thus, in its central situation of an estranged husband and wife whose essential passion for each other is never compromised, the film is a dry run for the central narrative of The Quiet Man, except, there it will be about a newly married couple trying to start a new life, but pulled apart by tribal\family issues, here it’s an older married couple pulled apart by war and duty towards the country.

Unfortunately, the film shifts gears in the last act, from this very engaging and endearing family\love story into a predictable Cavalry vs Indians Western, as Kirby is assigned by his superiors to carry out a raid on the Apaches hiding out in Mexico; Apaches attacked a convoy of women and children being headed for Fort Bliss; they killed a lot of the women, and stole the children, whom they have taken to their hideout in Mexico. It’s a court-martial offence to cross the border into Mexico on an unofficial military mission, but Kirby is assured by his superior that if his mission becomes public, he will be dealt with leniency. Kirby and his regiment – which includes his son Jeff and the runaway outlaw Tyree- crosses Rio Grande and ambushes the church in which Apaches are holding the children. After a lengthy ɡսո battle, Kirby is successful in his mission, but he is severely wounded by an arrow, which Jeff pulls out from Kirby’s chest, thus solidifying the “blood bond” between father and son. Ford shows good taste in toning down this section from the source story; in Bellah’s story, both father and son are wounded by a single bullet. But the action scenes in the film just doesn’t have the verve and bravura of the usual Ford movies. The action is constantly speeded up by under-cranking the camera; also, a lot of the plot points like the stealing of the children and the defeat of the Apaches in the climax are glossed over; there’s a lack of clarity regarding these events as they are never made clear visually. There are two scenes in the film which Ford would recycle far more effectively in his masterpiece, The Searchers(1956); first, where a soldier finds the brutalized remains of his wife, whom he had said goodbye just a few moments ago; and second, in the climax where Kirby and his soldiers wait out with their horses as Tyree and Jeff sneak into the church to rescue the children, and the soldiers come charging in after a kid starts sounding the church-bell. Ford did design one exciting action set piece for the film: Roman riding- soldiers riding two horses while standing up, one foot on each horse, for which Harry Carey Jr. and Claude Jarman mastered the difficult and dangerous stunt and did it without doubles, though Ford doesn’t do full justice to their efforts by ѕһooting them in long shots. All this to say Ford doesn’t look much interested in lot many aspects of this film. And although “Rio Grande” does not lack strong themes: a son trying to earn the love of a forbidding father, a particularly mature portrait of a relationship between a married couple who love each other but can’t live together; it lacks the depth of feeling, the mood, and atmosphere that Ford infused into the other two cavalry pictures, possibly because, neither Ford or Wayne really wanted to make it, and it was a job done without much passion.

Actress Maureen O'Hara dead at 95 - World Socialist Web Site

But Ford on auto-pilot is still much better than other directors in their peak form, so the film still pack enough moments to merit its status as a classic today. Like the way Ford uses the “Sons of the Pioneers”, who were foisted on an appalled Ford by the studio for purely commercial reasons. Ford uses them as a sort of musical Greek chorus, cavalry style. There’s an unspoken passion and devotion between Kirby and Kathleen that’s captured in the contemplative expressions on their faces as they listen to a serenade of “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.” ; they signify the lost promises that Kirby made to Kathleen at their wedding, and it appears that he has got a second chance to take Kathleen back again to her home, which he had once bunt down. “My gal is purple” is set against one of the most beautiful moments in the film, where we find Kirby reminiscing about Kathleen while walking on the shores of Rio Grande. The superb photography and John Wayne’s magnificent performance in the scene transforms the moment into pure cinematic poetry and makes it one of the all-time greatest scenes in Ford’s oeuvre. This is topped by the scene that immediately follows the above scene, in which Kirby returns to camp and finds Kathleen there; she emerges out of the darkness in the candle-light as if she has emerged from Kirby’s dreams. Kirby cannot hold himself back and he takes her into his arms and kisses her passionately; again a prelude to the epic kiss that Wayne and O’Hara shares in The Quiet Man. The film also begins and ends with typical Ford sequences: in the beginning, we find the exhausted cavalry, led by Kirby, coming back from a mission; the captured Apache prisoners are on horseback, the wounded soldiers are on travois; they are met by the women of the fort, who gather to see if their men have survived. At the end, we get the same image, and in the group of women waiting for their men is Kathleen, who has by now capitulated to her husband’s way of life, and this time an injured Kirby is on a travois. She holds Kirby’s hand as she joins her son in walking back to the fort; the reunion of the husband and wife also signifies the reunion between the North and South and the birth of a united American nation, a common theme in all John Ford films.

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: Guest Review: John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy –  Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950)

When the film was released, it proved profitable, thus enabling Ford to make The Quiet Man that way he intended. It’s another matter that The Quiet Man became a much bigger success than Rio Grande and netted Ford his fourth Oscar as Director. Also, Wayne’s rapport with O’Hara in Rio Grande and two later films for Ford make the most satisfying male-female relationship in the director’s entire body of work. As for Ford’s politics, as i mentioned at the beginning, it remains ambivalent. He was a militarist, opposed to Communist aggression, but he was not above critiquing the army for its failures and the toll it took on personal relationships. One feel a strong autobiographical connection in the character of Kirby Yorke for Ford; a failed family man who’s more interested in his profession, but has an intense yearning for his family. As for John Wayne, the film only proved beneficial; it further solidified his box office appeal as well as the “John Wayne persona” that Charlton Heston spoke about in a 1979 interview and is quoted at the beginning of this piece. It was a persona that Marion ‘Duke’ Morrison invented and aspired to become all throughout his life. “Rio Grande” came ԁսrıոɡ a golden period in Wayne’s career, when he had revitalized his career with a series of successful films where he played mature characters that showcased his acting talent, like Red River, Fort Apache, She wore a Yellow Ribbon, Sands of Iwo Jima etc. In 1950, Wayne topped the list of the top ten box-office stars of that year. He would stay in the top ten for the next twenty years.

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Steve McQueen: We didn’t get along,Brynner came up to me in front of a lot of people and grabbed me by the shoulder

YUL BRYNNER famously feuded with everyone from Steve McQueen to Ingrid Bergman, with an ego to match The King of Siam. His temper was legendary, his affairs were numerous – with men and women – and he famously flaunted his body in nude pictures. Even the reason behind his famous bald head was part of the man and the myth.

Whether thundering across the screen in The Magnificent Seven or scowling at the world in the King and I, Brynner was a unique screen presence. The self-proclaimed “Mongolian” star fought his way up from being an immigrant circus performer and loved to elevate himself to epic levels. When asked about his various conflicting dates of birth, he grandly replied, “Ordinary mortals need but one birthday.” He liked it to be known that he prepared breakfast in a silk kimono, other stars commented how he was “never far from a mirror” and his on-set demands and dramas were legendary. But then, his whole life had been extraordinary, from nearly dying in a youthful trapeze accident to numerous bisexual affairs along the way to becoming more famous than the Siamese king he played so many times on stage and screen.

Brynner’s iconic look was even a calculated ploy. He did not lose his hair but kept his head shaved because he enjoyed the attention he got for it when he debuted The King and I on Broadway in 1951. After that, he also demanded that he was never photographed with another bald man so that he always stood out in pictures.

The musical made his name but he chafed at taking second billing behind Gertrude Lawrence. When she died in 1952, he notoriously wept – but with joy because it meant his name would, at last, be top of the bill.
It was somehow fitting that he died just on October 10, 1985, just a few months after performing The King and I on Broadway – his 4,625th time taking the stage in his regal, spotlight role. For an actor who was obsessed his whole life with having top billing, he would have been far less pleased to know that he passed away on the same day as Orson Welles, and so was overshadowed in his final hour.
Brynner had grafted hard for his success and fought even harder to keep it. Raised in Beijing and abandoned by his father, his mother fled with her children to Paris in 1932, where talented acrobat Yul became a trapeze artist with the Cirque d’Hiver.
A horrifying fall in 1937 broke many bones in his body and left him unable to walk for eight months. He turned his attention to the stage and set sail for America in 1940.
During that first Hollywood decade of bit parts and odds jobs, he had an affair with handsome heartthrob Hurd Hatfield, who starred in 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as 1961’s El Cid opposite Charlton Heston.
Married four times, he also had affairs with men and women alike, from Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford and Judy Garland to artist Jean Cocteau.
Brynner’s enormous success on Broadway brought him back to Hollywood as a star and he was determined to impress in every way. His obsession with his own appearance meant that he increased his work-out regime when he learned he was playing Pharaoh Ramses II opposite Heston’s Moses in 1956’s The Ten Commandments, so as not to be overshadowed by the strapping actor.
This meant he was in phenomenal shape when he starred as King Mongkut of Siam in the film version of The King and I that same year, going on to win the Best Actor Oscar.
His impressive physique was also bared for all to see when pictures surfaced of a naked shoot he had down with gay photographer George Platt Lynes.
In turn, Brynner was an accomplished photographer himself, taking noted snaps of famous friends like Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Quinn, Sophia Loren, Mia Farrow and Audrey Hepburn.
From the mid-1950s he instantly became established as a major Hollywood star, with roles, salary and ego to match. Unfortunately, he did not have the corresponding physical height, which lead to two of his most infamous showdowns with fellow Tinseltown legends.
Bergman was over an inch taller in flat feet than his own 5ft 6½in. When the Swedish actress politely asked him if he would like to use any props to stand on, Brynner hissed back: “I am not going to play this on a box, I’m going to show the world what a big horse you are.” Horselike or otherwise, the actress went on to win her own Oscar for that role, her second of three in total.
Brynner’s behaviour hit new “heights” on the 1960s sets for The Magnificent Seven, particularly centering on a running battle with co-star Steve McQueen, who wasn’t particularly tall himself at 5ft 8in.
Whenever they were shooting outside, Brynner would scuff the earth and dirt into low mounds for him to stand on. McQueen, in return, would causally flatten them as he walked past.
Increasingly amused and irritated by Brynner’s behaviour, McQueen would also play with his hat or belt whenever his co-star was talking in a scene to subtly pull focus. All those iconic shots of the square-jawed
star taking off his hat to shade his face or using it to scoop up water from river were mainly shameless scene-stealing tactics.
He later said: “We didn’t get along. Brynner came up to me in front of a lot of people and grabbed me by the shoulder. He was mad about something. He doesn’t ride well and knows nothing about guns, so maybe he thought I represented a threat. I was in my element. He wasn’t. When you work in a scene with Yul, you’re supposed to stand perfectly still, 10 feet away. Well, I don’t wBrynner even hired an assistant with the sole job of monitoring McQueen’s misdemeanours and counting how many times he fidgeted during scenes, playing his hat, belt or gun. The antics increasingly infuriated the rest of the cast, leading to considerable friction on set. Decades later, dying of cancer, McQueen called to apologise. Brynner forgave him but Charles Bronson never did.
That said, Brynner’s own notorious behaviour never changed. In his early days of stardom, he insisted a special lift was installed at the Broadway theatre where The King and I was playing. Not just for him, but big enough for his white limousine – so he could drive in and out without being bothered by fans.
In 1965, he starred with Marlon Brando in the World War II ocean-bound action thriller Morituri and managed to eclipse his co-star by demanding a landing pad be built onboard the ship where they were filming, so his private helicopter could fly him back at the end of each day while his castmates were left, literally, all at sea..

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Donald Sutherland : I was lying on my back on the bed when Jane came out of the bathroom

Donald Sutherland still remembers an intimate moment they shared fifty years ago . He said she “seduced” him but he was left “eviscerated” when their passionate two-year affair suddenly ended.

While filming Klute in 1970, Sutherland fell in love with fellow star and activist Jane Fonda, even though both were married at the time. In the 1960s and 70s he was at the heart of Hollywood activism, alongside an on-screen career that included provocative and seminal films like Don’t Look Now and The Invasion of The Body Snatchers. They were matched body, mind and soul. For the next two years, they were together at the forefront of Hollywood support for the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. The pair were just as passionate in private and Sutherland still dwells (often in no holds barred detail) on their intimate moments together.

Klute started filming in 1970. Fonda had been together with husband Roger Vadim, who directed her in 1968’s Barbarella, since 1963. When rumours started spreading in 1970 that they had separated, her official spokesman quickly denied it.

However, Sutherland later described how it was his beautiful co-star who made all the moves on him: “We’d already been cast but had not started shooting, and one day, she made it very clear, via a somewhat provocative suggestion, that I should come home with her. And I just said… Ok.’”
It would mark the end of the actor’s own second marriage to Shirley Douglas, which had produced twins Kiefer and Rachel
Kiefer revealed in 2014 that they had never discussed the affair but he imagined his father would say: “‘I fell in love.’ I understand that. People do. And when they’re falling in love, they believe in everything so strongly and passionately, this kind of heightened experience, that it’s very hard to judge somebody for it.”
His father frequently and famously has talked about the love and the lust, famously declaring: “She had, at the time, the most beautiful breasts in the world.”
Apparently, he followed that description with an anecdote so explicit it was not suitable for print. He did, however, wax lyrical in another interview about a naked moment that still has the power to stop his breath decades later.
Sutherland told GQ: “I was with Jane Fonda at the /Chelsea Hotel in 1970, maybe ’71. It was a room with a big bed and, to the right, four or five stairs to a landing that led to the bathroom. There was a little oval window on the landing and there was a street light shining through that window though it seemed more like moonlight, so maybe it was the moon, I like to think it was the moon.
“I was lying on my back on the bed when Jane came out of the bathroom. She, too, was naked, and when the moonlight caught her perfect breasts I stopped breathing. Everything stopped. And then it started again. Now, when I see it in my memory, I stop breathing again.”
It’s easy to believe. The actress has maintained her extraordinary figure through the decades, although this year she finally allowed her natural grey hair to shine.
The affair was passionate and intense, although Fonda has been less vividly ‘descriptive’ over the years.
She said in her autobiography that he had, “Something of the old-world gentleman about him.” The actress added that she found his “rangy, hangdog quality and droopy, pale blue eyes especially appealing.”
Alongside both their successful Hollywood careers, the pair performed together at benefits for soldiers who opposed the Vietnam War and found themselves on CIA watchlists.
Although they seemed perfectly matched, the affair would suddenly burn out as abruptly as it started – leaving Sutherland devastated.
He said: “We got together shortly before we made Klute and then we were together until the relationship exploded and fell apart in Tokyo. And it broke my heart.
“I was eviscerated. I was so sad. It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together.”
However, in 1972, Sutherland married French Canadian actress Francine Racette, after meeting her on the set of the Canadian pioneer drama Alien Thunder. It remains one of the longest and most stable marriages in Hollywood, and has produced three sons – Rossif Sutherland, Angus Redford Sutherland, and Roeg Sutherland.
After three high profile marriages to Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden and media tycoon Ted Turner, Fonda dated music producer Richard Perry until 2017 and has said she is now happily single.
The actress has also battled cancer three times. Last week she announced that, after undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy to treat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, her cancer is now in remission.

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Gene Hackman gave his first interview in a decade, telling The Post about his “checkered career of hits and misses

Hollywood legend Gene Hackman proved he’s still in tip-top shape as he performed yard work at his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Sunday.

The “Unforgiven” actor — who celebrated his 93rd birthday in January — looked fit and healthy as he brandished a shovel at his private estate.

Earlier in the day, the two-time Oscar winner was spotted fueling up for physical labor at a local Wendy’s, where he ordered a meal at the drive-thru.

Hungry Hackman chowed down on his chicken sandwich in the fast food franchise’s parking lot before pumping gas at a nearby station.
It was a rare sighting of the reclusive and retired star, who was last seen on-screen in the 2004 comedy “Welcome to Mooseport.”
Despite being one of Tinseltown’s powerhouse performers — appearing in classics such as “The French Connection,” “The Conversation,” “Superman,” “Hoosiers” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” — Hackman has long shunned the bright lights of Hollywood.
The father of three, who has lived in New Mexico with his pianist wife, Betsy Arakawa, for decades, also abstains from giving interviews — except to The Post.
In late 2021, Hackman gave his first interview in a decade, telling The Post about his “checkered career of hits and misses.”
Speaking on the 50th anniversary of “The French Connection” — the hit film for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar, in 1972 — the star stated: “The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that.”
The down-to-earth actor added that he wasn’t a fan of rewatching his own flicks and hadn’t seen the classic crime caper since 1971.
“[I] haven’t seen the film since the first screening in a dark, tiny viewing room in a post-production company’s facility 50 years ago,” he told The Post.
Hackman — who previously resided in ritzy Montecito, California — has lived in Santa Fe since the 1980s.
The actor is also an architect and designer who has helped create more than 10 homes — including a New Mexico manse that was featured in Architectural Digest.
Since his retirement from Hollywood, the star also busied himself writing novels, including the 2013 police thriller “Pursuit.”
In 2012, the actor was struck by a pickup truck while riding his bike in Florida. He was airlifted to the hospital and made a full recovery.

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