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Starsky & Hutch - What it does accomplish is that it tips its hat to what we accomplished in the series

Feature by: Jack Foley

FOR many people, Starsky and Hutch epitomised everything that was cool about the Seventies, so it is little wonder to find much being written about the pros and cons of the big screen makeover.

For some, the decision to cast Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as the eponymous heroes, in order to play up the comedy, has been described as a bad one, which has failed to do justice to the show’s early episodes, which brought a gritty toughness to the cop show genre.

While, for others, it has come as a welcome reminder of a glorious era, and programme, which acts as a near-perfect homage to the endeavours of the original partners in crime.

Paul Michael Glaser, who played the original Starsky, in the series, falls into the former category, praising the film for giving people a nice time, while tipping its hat to what the series accomplished.

"You have to understand that it's 2004, not the Seventies. The Seventies had a totally different set of sensibilities - not only in America, but in the whole world - and that sensibility allowed us to break ground as a cop show, and show cops in a more sensitive, and more multi-dimensional light," he explained at a London press conference, held hours before its UK premiere.

"It allowed us to play on the elements of tragedy, drama, comedy, farce, and it allowed us to explore many, many levels. This particular film plays to the strengths of these great comedic actors, who have a great chemistry and a great past together.

"I think they do a really good job, and I don't think that doing a movie today, and trying to capture all the things we got in the Seventies, would be possible. It would be kind of like trying to ask yourself to recreate the Seventies, in terms of the audience's sensibilities, and that's impossible.

"I think we all have a tendency to look at it with a little bit of nostalgia, and a little bit of judgement, and say wasn't that great, but if only they had, or if only, if only…, but what it does accomplish is that it tips its hat to what we accomplished in the series, but it does it with a 2004 sensibility, and people have a nice time."

It is little wonder, then, to find that the star is equally a fan of Ben Stiller’s portrayal of his character, complete with outrageous perm and over-sized cardigan.

When asked what he liked most about the performance, he replied, his ‘energy, and the fact that he's a very good mime’.

"He really captured an awful lot of the mannerisms. When I talk about my acting, I tend to refer to it as the dance, and I thought he got the dance," he added.


For Stiller, the chance of appearing as Starsky marked the realisation of a childhood ambition, and he would spend hours and hours in his trailer, watching episode after episode, in a bid to recapture Glaser’s style.

"I realised quickly, however, that I couldn't do what he was doing, so I just sort of tried to run like him, and then Owen and I tried to develop whatever our relationship was, that would work," he explained, candidly.

"I think that's why the show worked so well, because these two guys were just so great together. When you watch the episodes, you see that a lot of it is really just about them, and they're attraction."

Needless to say, meeting Glaser was a particularly memorable part of the filming process, even though the day he appeared onset, to cameo in the movie, proved a little intimidating. But Stiller is full of praise for Glaser, and sought to ensure that both he and David Soul would be a part of the movie from an early stage.

"I always wanted them to be a part of it," he said. "I just felt it was really important to give a nod to them, because that's the reason the show was successful, and the reason we were making the movie.

"I got to meet Paul before we started shooting the movie and it was just so exciting, because he is Starsky, he really is that naturally cool guy. When we had lunch together, that's the way he was with the waitress - cool and flirtatious. It was sort of not forced.

"And he was very supportive and kind, sort of like saying 'hey go ahead, go out there and do your thing and have fun'. I think he knew we'd have to live up to something."
Having impressed in his portrayal of Starsky, however, the role also allowed Stiller to fulfil another of those boyhood fantasies - namely getting behind the wheel of the show’s other big attraction, the Ford Gran Torino.

He observes: "I loved driving the car, it was really fun. The car is so cool, but I had to learn to drive a little bit, as I'm not an expert driver. The stunt drivers took me out into the parking lot and taught me how to do a couple of things, and I got to do some of the stuff in the movie - the simple things, but it was fun, really fun."

Yet as cool as the car still appears, it may come as a surprise to find that its original owner is not one of its biggest fans. In fact, Glaser confessed to hating it at the press conference.

"I never liked it," he admitted. "I submitted to its seemingly inescapable popularity. But what can I say? The first time I saw it, I thought it was ugly; I thought it was ridiculous that undercover police officers would be driving around in what I called a striped tomato."

In its heyday, Starsky and Hutch ran for 88 episodes, from 1975 to 1979, and is credited with breaking new ground as a cop show, eventually being axed because of falling ratings.

But its legacy is an enduring one and the movie, directed by Todd Phillips (of Old School fame), and co-starring Snoop Dogg, as Huggy Bear, should ensure that its appeal is guaranteed for at least another couple of generations.

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