|Birth Day:||January 10, 1942|
|Birth Place:||Long Beach, United States|
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He was an asthmatic child who missed several years of school because of his illness.
He then transferred and majored in history at Michigan State University. He said that, during this period, he was a particular fan of Ernest Hemingway's writing and came to believe that "the hardest thing to do is write clearly and simply, and make your point in an elegant way". Upon graduation, Hill was called up for the United States Army in 1964, but childhood asthma saw him ruled ineligible. This forced him to think about what he wanted to do for a career. "When you are that age, you think you are going to be in the army two years, it's a huge amount of time. You don't bother worrying about what you are doing. Suddenly, this whole thing was upon me."
Hill wound up as second assistant director on The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968. He then went on to work as the uncredited second assistant director on Bullitt—"It was my job to set background and also to set it up with the police. We had to organise every shot so people wouldn't wander out into the middle of the street and be hit... Every time we did a shot I was scared to death."
In 1969, he was the second assistant director on a Woody Allen film, Take the Money and Run, but said he remembers doing very little except passing out the call sheets and filling out time cards. He also worked as a first assistant director on some television advertisement. "I didn't have a shred of desire in those areas," says Hill of assistant directing. "I wanted to work and be around films. I certainly took my duties fairly seriously and all that. I didn't see it as a long term kind of commitment."
Hill ended the 1980s with Johnny Handsome (1989) starring Mickey Rourke. It was based on a 1972 novel by Morton Freedgood, about a criminal who has plastic surgery and seeks revenge on his colleagues who betrayed him. The project had been developed for a number of years—Hill says he turned down the job four times before deciding to do it when Harold Becker dropped out as director. The film was a flop at the box office.
Hill met producer Lawrence Gordon in 1973. He agreed to let Hill direct a film if he wrote a screenplay for him. Hill made a deal to write and direct for scale and in turn got a shot at directing. The result was Hill's 1975 breakthrough film, Hard Times, made on location in New Orleans for just $2.7 million in 38 days. James Coburn played a fast-talking promoter of illegal street fights in 1930s New Orleans and Charles Bronson played the boxer protagonist.
Hill's next film was going to be adaptations of The Last Good Kiss (by James Crumley) and then Red Harvest (by Dashiel Hammett). However neither were made. Instead Hill did Southern Comfort, originally written in 1976. It was an intense Deliverance-style thriller about a group of U.S. Army National Guardsmen (including Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe and Fred Ward) on weekend maneuvers in the Louisiana bayou who find themselves fighting for survival in the swamps after offending some local Cajuns. The film was seen by many as an allegory for America's involvement in the Vietnam War, although Hill denies this is the case.
He created the TV series Dog and Cat which premiered in 1977 starring a young Kim Basinger as a police officer. It was not a ratings success and was soon cancelled. However Hill's pilot script later influenced Shane Black's original script for Lethal Weapon.
Hill married Hildy Gottlieb, a talent agent at International Creative Management, in New York City at Tavern on the Green on September 7, 1986. They have two daughters, Joanna and Miranda.
In 1987, he returned to hard-edged action with Extreme Prejudice, a contemporary Western for Carolco Pictures about the War on Drugs based on a story by John Milius and Fred Rexer, which had been originally written in the mid-1970s. It reunited Hill with Nick Nolte. The film was a financial failure. Hill said he "tipped my hat to Sam [Peckinpah] a couple of times" in the film and "I don't think it was understood how much genre parodying was involved in that picture. It rather mystified a lot of American critics but it has its defenders."
Hill had a number of projects in the late 1980s that were never made. These included American Iron (1989/1990), a film set in the world of bikers written by Hill, Mark Brunet, Daniel Pyne, and John Mankiewicz. He also did a draft (with David Giler) of an adaptation of the Jim Harrison novella, Revenge—this was not used when turned into a film in 1990.
In 1991 he came close to directing a big screen version of the television series The Fugitive (1963-1967) with Alec Baldwin, but Baldwin was not considered a big enough star. The film The Fugitive (1993) was released two years later, starring Harrison Ford and without Hill's involvement. The director's credit went instead to Andrew Davis.
In 1992, Hill directed a film originally called Looters about two firemen who cross paths with criminals while searching for stolen loot in an abandoned East St. Louis, Illinois tenement building. However, the 1992 Los Angeles riots broke out shortly before the film's release and the studio delayed its opening, eventually changing the title to Trespass.
In 1994, Hill and his wife, agent Hildy Gottlieb, signed a two-year non-exclusive deal with Paramount. They developed a film, Sudden Country, an action adventure in the vein of Treasure Island set in late-19th century Texas to star Elijah Wood, based on a novel by Loren Estleman.
His 1996 effort Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis, a Prohibition-era Western update of Yojimbo (and thus reminiscent of that film's inspiration, Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, and its western incarnation, A Fistful of Dollars) saw him return to his earlier style to some extent: a gruff antihero and a heavy focus on stylized action.
In 2002, Hill directed the prison boxing film Undisputed starring Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames and Peter Falk.
In 2002 he said he wanted to make Vengeance is Mine, an original contemporary thriller set in Las Vegas, which he had written with Giler. It was not made. "We almost had together a couple of times and financing always slipped away at the last second," said Hill.
In 2003, Quentin Tarantino said Hill was still worthy of admiration." I think in the last 10 years he's had a big resurgence in creativity. I think he lost his way for a while in the '80s. Johnny Handsome I thought was a return to form . . . But I thought with Geronimo he went to a really fantastic place. Everybody talked about how boring it was. But I didn't. I thought he made a really great classic Western and America just wasn't worthy of the privilege."
Hill served as a director and consulting producer for the pilot episode of the HBO Western drama television series Deadwood in 2004. The series was created by David Milch and focused on a growing town in the Western United States. Hill's work on Deadwood has seen him return to favour in critical circles to some extent, earning him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series in 2004 and a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series in 2004. However Hill had a falling out with Milch during the editing of the pilot and did not work on any other episodes of the show.
In 2006 he reflected on his career saying "Those who have been doing for this for 40 years would like to think that it's a kind of Darwinian survival of the talented. But I think that's half the picture. It has as much as to do with the survival of temperament. There are few people still working now that started when I did. Not many people have the temperament to deal with that."
In 2016 he said in an interview "You are very privileged to be a director. There is a great quote I'll get wrong of Samuel Johnson, the English poet and essayist, that: 'We come to the arena uncalled, to seek our fortune and hazard disgrace. That's the game, those are the rules.' So I say to you as an audience, if you wanna feel sorry, feel sorry for the people in Syria, but don't feel sorry for film directors."
In 2019 Hill made his recording debut at age 77 with The Cowboy Iliad: A Legend Told In The Spoken Word. Written and performed by Hill, the spoken word record tells the story of a deadly shootout that occurred in Newton, Kansas in 1871 and its legendary aftermath of violence and controversy. The record was produced by Bobby Woods and featured music by Les Deux Love Orchestra.
Currently, Walter Hill is 80 years, 10 months and 25 days old. Walter Hill will celebrate 81st birthday on a Tuesday 10th of January 2023.
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