Interview with Roddy Pipper

Roddy Piper aka “Hot Rod” started a pro wrestling career at the age of 15.  He would go on to become one of the biggest wrestling figures of the eighties and early nineties. During this time Roddy also began appearing in movies. Roddy’s role in John Carpenter’s “They Live” ushered in a new era of bubble gum chewing and ass kicking. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Roddy about his film and wrestling career as well as his up and coming one man stand up show.

Click here to purchase “They Live” DVD

Adam Lawton: What made you decide to bridge into acting from wrestling?
Roddy Piper: John Carpenter had expressed an interest in working with me as he was a big wrestling fan. John actually used to write for wrestling magazines. John had asked if he could have dinner with me prior to Wrestle Mania 3. I had no idea who he was and I was kind of busy with the 93,000 people who were waiting to see me fight, so I really wasn’t interested. We did however end up having dinner and even though the conversation was more “can you pass the butter” John asked me to star in his next film and I said sure. Can you pass some more roll’s (Laughs). Acting came the same way wrestling had. I didn’t know what wrestling was until I was in my first match. Once I got into the creative process of acting I really loved it.

AL: How was it working with John Carpenter on set?
RP: The shoot its self was extremely difficult. At that time, I was the first professional wrestler to star in a major motion picture. I seemed to get a lot of jealously from the movie industry and I think John got torn in the middle of all that. I still don’t really understand it to this day. I think they thought I was just another jock trying to make a movie. I was very sincere about what I was doing. I had taken some acting classes and I took my work very serious and with a lot of respect. I think in the long run that paid off. The one thing that sticks out is that John had wanted the longest fight scene in cinema history. He matches me up with Keith David who is a wonderful man but he’s like a 220lbs. dancer who hits like Larry Holmes and doesn’t even know it. We worked for about three weeks prior to that scene being shot and we didn’t use any stuntmen, so it was much more demanding. That scene which, I think is still the longest in cinema history.  It was voted one of the top film fights in history. The fight is between two friends and it really revolutionized the idea of the fight.  In order to fit the film, there were a couple points in the fight which showed that it was actually a fight between two friends making it different.

AL: How did you get involved with “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”?
RP: (Laughs) They are great people. I received a call by one of the people involved with the show.   They wanted to know if I would be interested in being on the show and playing a wrestling character. I think they had said that Kevin Nash had also been contacted about the role, so I went down and met with the casting people. I saw the script and ended up taking the role. It was really fun and they allowed me to improvise a couple of my lines which was great. They are really great people!

AL: How was it working with Danny De Vito?
RP: I actually had met Danny at Wrestle Mania 1 and you can see this meeting on YouTube. (Laughs) I didn’t even remember this at first but I went back and looked at me bursting into this interview Danny was having. This was the first thing he reminded me of when I met him on set. He did it though in the most kind way. He is a wonderful guy.

AL: If you had to pick one of your film roles as a favorite what would it be?
RP: I haven’t done it yet. I really don’t think that I have done a role in the movie industry that I have liked yet. I am very tough to please. I would love to remake something along the lines of “Boy’s Town” or “Of Mice and Men.” I always am cast in the “meat head” type of role or action hero. That’s ok and I am very grateful but it doesn’t allow me to show the depth of what I can do. When I was doing “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” during one of the scenes I asked to add a line.  I threw in something about my characters family that was very simple but after they yelled cut everyone got real quiet and they noticed a real dark moment for my character. There are a lot of things that haven’t been tapped for the artist Roddy Piper. I want to be able to do the art. Recently I have been doing stand-up at a few clubs in Los Angeles. It’s actually more story telling that comedy however it’s a different form of art for me as is wrestling and acting. I just really want to do something opposite of the tough guy.

AL: How did the idea for “Piper’s Pit” come about?
RP: I was in a bar in St. Louis with Vince McMahon and during that time the wrestling talent was so great.  There was so much of it that everyone was competing against each other to show off. They did this by usually wrestling some guy named Pete the Flower Guy or something like that (Laughs) who was a part time wrestler and they would just destroy the guy. We were watching this on TV at this bar and I told Vince to give me a bow tie, a microphone and five weeks and if at the end of the five weeks the idea didn’t work I would leave. I didn’t even have a concept or anything just the bow tie and a microphone. So the next TV event, I showed up for they had the “Piper’s Pit” set all ready to go. No one told me it was going to be there. I didn’t even know what guests were going to be on until the last minute. My first guest was a guy by the name of Frankie Williams. Frankie was one of the guys that was always getting beat and also was the only Puerto Rican guy I knew who had freckles (Laughs). I still at this point had no idea what to do but I knew I had to do something. I decided to ask Frankie where he was from. He says in the thickest Puerto Rican accent that he’s from Columbus, Ohio. We were off and running after that. That is also when the phrase “Just when you think you have got all the answers…I change the questions” started also.  Everything was completely unscripted and we just went with it.

AL: Any great story from when you were on the road with wrestling?
RP: (Laughs) Good Lord! I used to hang around a lot with Rick Flair to my detriment (Laughs). I love that guy but he always seemed to have a tough time keeping his clothes on. I don’t know why but every time we got on an airplane we would no sooner take off and Rick would go to the bathroom and come out wearing only his nature boy robe! The next thing you know he is serving drinks to the other passengers and dancing while certain things were showing! One time the plane made an emergency landing because of this and I was the one who ended up getting arrested! He did this on every plane and always asked me what I thought. I said “I don’t care Rick! I am just trying to stay out of jail.”

AL: Do you have any upcoming projects we can be watching for?
RP: I was approached recently to do a reality show. I am not sure right now if I want to do television or cinema. I have also been working the past six months or so on doing a Broadway show. It’s going to be a one man show. There has been a lot of interest in it. I would also like to take it on the road and tour around the world.

Click here to purchase “They Live” DVD

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