Robert Hays overcomes fear of watching ‘Airplane!'
BY GENE TRIPLETT
Ted Striker managed to “win one for the Zipper” in the final, funny-bone-shattering moments of “Airplane!”, but like a guy with a fear of flying, Robert Hays couldn’t stand to watch
Named one of the American Film Institute’s “top 10 funniest movies ever made,” this outrageous 1980 spoof of air disaster flicks from writers-directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker starred Hays as a former fighter pilot traumatized by a very bad war experience who is forced to take over the controls of an airliner when the regular pilots (played by Peter Graves and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) succumb to food poisoning along with half of the passengers on board.
“I get to the point now where I really enjoy watching it,” Hays said in a phone interview from his Southern California home. “Before, I loved watching everything, but when I came up I was so critical, because I’ve always been the most critical of my own work. But
So now Hays can view the new Blu-ray edition of “Airplane!” — available exclusively at Best Buy stores — without breaking into a blinding sweat the way he did as Ted Striker trying to land that looney bin of an airliner.
“If you ever know people who are very critical of their own work, they’re quick to praise other people’s work, but when it comes to their own, it’s like, ‘Oh boy, I could’ve done that one a lot better. Oh shoot, why did I do that? Egh. God, why did I do that?’ Now that’s kind of gone,” Hays said. “Now I just realize that it worked out pretty good, and people seem to like it.”
Years of laughs
Indeed, 31 years after its initial release, the film’s string of zany gags still holds up, and people still walk up to Hays and quote its most memorable lines to him, such as the one from Graves as square-jawed Capt. Oveur, when he asks a little boy, “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”
Hays says it’s hard for him to pick a favorite bit of dialogue.
“There’s so many, I don’t know. I mean, when Lloyd Bridges says to Steve (Stucker), ‘Hey Johnny, how ’bout some coffee?’ And Johnny says, ‘No thanks.’ You know, he wanted Johnny to bring him some coffee. That one always gets me.”
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