Stuntman Dick Durock performed in hundreds of television shows and movies, but he’s best-known for his role as the hulking monster Swamp Thing, which he portrayed in two movies and a television series. The television series “Swamp Thing,” based on the DC Comics character, arrived on DVD this week, with the first 22 episodes.
Originally, Durock wasn’t even supposed to play the Swamp Thing. In the initial film, producers planned to use Durock’s 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame for long shots, and have actor Ray Wise for closeups.
“They wanted a guy who could move, carrying that load of a costume,” Durock said in a phone interview.
Wise played Alec Holland, who was turned into the Swamp Thing.
Wes Craven (“Nightmare on Elm Street”) was the director on “Swamp Thing,” and he met with Durock.
In discussing the film with Craven, Durock indicated he didn’t think changing actors for the different shots would look good in the finished film.
“(Wes) said, Dick, just be prepared to do the whole thing. So that’s what occurred,” Durock said. “I think Wes had a good feeling for it, to bring out sympathy for the guy and his own failings and weaknesses and so on.”
Durock wasn’t known for his weaknesses as a stuntman, however, after landing his first job on “Lost in Space” in 1967. He’s been very busy in the science fiction genre, with spots on “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” In fact, while Durock wasn’t going to be the first “Swamp Thing,” he was in some ways the “first” Hulk.
“I was ‘Hulk the First,’” Durock said, referring to the two-part episode called “The First” from 1981.
“He was called Frye’s creature. And he was totally different than Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk. He was a big, skinny berserk … he was kind of a takeoff on Frankenstein’s creature.”
Frye, played by Harry Townes, was a scientist who wanted to discover the secret of life. But the monster he turns into is uncontrollable.
“He thought he could develop this guy and find out the secret of life, ergo Frankenstein. But Frye’s creature was a totally berserk nutcase,” Durock said. “Years later, in the modern Hulk’s time, he says ‘Maybe now I can correct my mistakes.’
“So he resurrects this guy, and he’s worse than it was before. It was a two-parter, and from what I understand, it was the most popular Hulk episode of all of them.”
Outside the genre, Durock appeared on shows including “B.J. and the Bear,” “Mike Hammer,” and “Starsky and Hutch,” in addition to dozens of motion pictures.
“A lot of people are just amazed about how many … things I’ve been involved in. There’s been over 700 of them in 40 years. And they say, how is that possible? You know, I think I did seven “Fall Guy” and four “Magnum,” five “A-Team” and seven “Rockford Files.” There were times when I was really working hot at Universal, I’d do two shows in one day … Credits add up in a hurry.”
Durock’s versatility and look made him even more valuable.
“I was a pretty good-size guy, made a good heavy,” Durock said. “Eventually, guys would say, why don’t we get Dick to play this thug. He only has one or two lines … and we’ll still throw him out the window or down the stairs or hit him with a car, and we don’t have to double him.”
Durock, 70, is now retired, but frequently attends conventions, where he answers questions about his career and his “Swamp Thing” experience. One he won’t answer, however, refers to the leading ladies of the “Swamp Thing” movies.
“I think most people ask me, referring to Swampy – how did you like Adrienne Barbeau compared to Heather Locklear? But you can’t answer questions like that without sticking your foot in your mouth,” Durock said.
– Matt Price