What can we possibly say about Larry Hagman that hasn't already been said a thousand times? The 73-year-old Texas native isn't just an actor; thanks to Dallas and his wonderfully wicked portrayal of good ol' bad boy J.R. Ewing, he's an icon. Not only that, but his life and career have been documented and dissected as thoroughly as any president's. So we refuse to trot out the same tired superlatives to describe his achievements (or the same winking acknowledgments of his mischief-making and glass-raising). Instead, as we look forward to Sunday's Dallas Reunion: The Return to Southfork (9 pm/ET on CBS), we're just going to let him speak for himself. Herewith, highlights of his interview with TV Guide Online:
TV Guide Online: Rumor has it you're pulling out your old home-away-from home movies for this special. Catch any hanky-panky on tape?
Of course, but I'd sell that for a much higher price! (Chuckles) No, I didn't [shoot] that kind of stuff. I'm so square, for gosh sakes.
TVGO: Your wife, Maj, read the pilot script before you. What was her reaction?
She yelled from the other room, "Larry, you're going to love this. There's not one redeemingly good person in the whole show!" I said, "Oh, come on." Then I read about 10 pages and said, "OK, you're right. That's it." I called my agent and said, "Take it."
TVGO: When did you realize what a great villain J.R. was?
When I got rid of my secretary, Tina Louise. That's when I knew. She fell off a building.
TVGO: Were you shocked over the "Who shot J.R.?" hoopla?
That sure kicked it off to No. 1. When I saw the reaction, that's what caused me to hold out for more money. [The producers] could have killed me off and got a new character, but I knew they wouldn't — it was too big. So I didn't show up for 10 days after J.R. got shot. They told me Bob Culp was going to replace me.
TVGO: Obviously, that never happened. Why did you come back?
Money. But Patrick [Duffy] coming back [as J.R.'s brother Bobby] was really important to me. The year that he left was also the year that [longtime executive producer] Leonard Katzman was gone. It was a disaster. It was the worst year of my professional life. They were trying to make us into a glitzy Dynasty. Dallas was a lot more raw than that.
TVGO: Too bad everybody hated the scene in which Bobby stepped out of the shower, erasing the season before.
I didn't hate it. It was corny, but it got Patrick back on the show. We lost a lot of fans, but we stayed on the air for four years after that. And those were my big earning years. I was making $6 or $7 million, which was big in those days.
TVGO: You were the show's big star; you should've been making big money!
I was second banana to start with. It was all Patrick and Victoria [Principal]. Then, after about six or seven shows, it trickled down to me being the bad guy. Bad guys have more fun.
TVGO: And certainly more sex. How many mistresses did J.R. have?
Thirty or 40, or more than that.
TVGO: Did you have a favorite?
Yeah, I did. Holly Harwood, played by that beautiful Texas girl Lois Chiles. She was so sexy.
TVGO: Did you ever ask your mother — Broadway's beloved Peter Pan, Mary Martin — to do Dallas?
Yes, I did, but she said, "No, that's your show. You do your show." Somebody wrote that I was lobbying for her to come on and play my mother when Barbara Bel Geddes left. But I never did that. You know how they make up stuff.
TVGO: Oh, them! How did you feel about Donna Reed replacing Barbara as Miss Ellie?
She was wonderful. I got a lot of flack from people saying I didn't like her, but that's untrue. And the way she found out she was fired was awful. She got off a plane in France, and a reporter ran up to her and asked her for a comment about her firing. That's show business, baby.
TVGO: Your old colleagues all seem to adore you. This shocks me, considering the fact that you waved a fan in their faces whenever they lit a cigarette!
I also made them open the studio door every hour for 10 minutes, which stopped shooting. When they said, "We can't afford it," I said, "Well, just stop the smoking!" And they finally did.
TVGO: It's interesting that you hated smoking so much, yet you sure loved the bubbly.
I drank a lot of champagne. I save myself around $60,000 a year now that I gave it up.
Well, you drink five bottles of champagne at 30 bucks a bottle every day... I had help, of course.
TVGO: Gracious! And your drinking never interfered with your work?
It didn't seem to. I never got really loaded. I just got that click that Tennessee Williams talks about in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I never missed my lines, and I was always on time.
TVGO: Are you working these days? Do you want to?
I'm not retired. I'm simply out of work. I've done some voice-overs, [including] a documentary called Fat City, about Houston, the fattest city in the United States.
TVGO: But would you like a nice, meaty role to sink your teeth into?
Oh, yeah. I'd like to play God.
TVGO: I think Ellen DeGeneres beat you to the punch there. (The talk-show host is headlining an Oh, God remake.)
Well, she'll be great for it. She's a funny girl.
TVGO: You must hear all the same rumors that I do about a Dallas feature. If they finally manage to do it, who could possibly fill your Stetson?
I don't see anybody who could play my part except Bruce Willis. He'd make a great J.R.
For more dishy Dallas reminiscence, read today's Insider interview with Linda Gray, who played J.R.'s boozy wife, Sue Ellen!