Loading...

The Voice of the Beast 

Remembering Eddie Bunker

Thursday, Aug 4 2005
Photo by Sophie BassoulsEdward Bunker, actor and author of five books and three films, died in Burbank on July 19 at the age of 71, a free man. Most knew Bunker simply as the character Mr. Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 fame-making debut, Reservoir Dogs, and though he appeared in more than 20 films, including this summer’s remake of The Longest Yard, he was first and foremost a writer. As is the case with many gifted American authors, the vast majority of his countrymen have yet to read Bunker’s literary works. That’s too bad, not merely because Bunker’s personally inspired stories of the criminal underclass are so intensely descriptive and gripping, but because, as much as perhaps any other contemporary author, he has so much to say regarding the circumstances of life and how we evolve into who we are. Bunker grew up in Hollywood, the son of a stagehand and a Busby Berkeley chorus girl. A troubled child with a reportedly genius IQ of 152, he was soon propelled by the early divorce of his parents into a series of increasingly abusive foster homes, military schools and juvenile facilities. Bunker would eventually spend more than 18 years incarcerated in the California prison system for robbery, forgery and other crimes. At the tender age of 17, he achieved the dubious honor of being then the youngest inmate sentenced to San Quentin.As Bunker related in his 2000 book, Education of a Felon, his love of reading came during a reform-school boot camp when he was 15 and had the profound realization that “novels could be more than stories that entertained and excited. They could also carry wisdom and look into the darkest recesses of human behavior.” It was a prescient realization for a man who would later use his brutal past to so acutely address issues of human nature at its best and worst.As a teenager, Bunker was befriended by Louise Wallis, a onetime silent-screen actress and the wife of successful movie mogul Hal Wallis. The woman who was posthumously dubbed the “Angel of Hollywood” showed Bunker the kindness he’d never known until then, introducing him to famous friends as her “weekday son.” When he eventually returned to prison, it was Wallis who sent him a typewriter. It took Bunker 17 years, six novels and more than a hundred short stories before he published his first book. When asked in an interview by the Richmond Review how he persevered, Bunker replied with typical convict stoicism: “It’s my nature to persevere. There was nothing else I could do.” Bunker’s first novel, No Beast So Fierce, would eventually be made into the film Straight Time, starring Dustin Hoffman, but it was another film that would change his life. Bunker was brought in to rewrite the script for an action film called Runaway Train that would star Jon Voight and Eric Roberts. Legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa had originally developed the project, and while the end result would be a collaborative effort between writers, it is Bunker’s distinct voice in the initial prison sequence that gives the two escaping convicts an undeniable authenticity and humanity. In the film’s dramatic end sequence, which transcends the action genre to become a powerful piece of symbolism, Voight’s character, Manny, stands above a train as it hurtles through an icy landscape toward certain annihilation. As death approaches, the film suddenly cuts to a close-up of Bunker himself, smiling sadly in a prison cell. Bunker received an Oscar nomination for the film’s screenplay. He was the real deal, and though he will be missed, his voice will continue to be heard for years to come.

Related Stories

  • Warning, Warning

    The U.S. Geological Survey has an amazing earthquake-warning system, and it works. The problem is, the system is still a prototype, and only a precious few people and institutions are privy to the warnings. The issue is cash. Experts say it will take a $38 million upfront investment and $16...
  • Cali Lives Strong

    Californians spend more in federal taxes than they receive back in services. And the same can be said for healthcare. According to an analysis by personal finance site WalletHub, California barely makes the top 20 (number 19) among states when it comes to "return on investment" (ROI) for healthcare costs...
  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • Porn Flight 15

    California porn studio Kink.com, which last year came under scrutiny for a condom-free production in which a woman who afterward turned up HIV-positive had performed, said this week that it's opening facilities in Las Vegas. The company, which was investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) following...
  • Laker Girls Auditions: 10 Dancers Explain Why It's Their Dream Job

    Most of the hundreds of young women who showed up at the Laker Girl tryouts on Saturday had been dancing their entire lives. Some went to Juilliard. Some danced with world-class ballet companies. Some were professional cheerleaders with NFL teams. Since dance is not a fairly compensated field even at...
  • Remembering Eddie Bunker

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • Karaoke Pole Dancing @ The Viper Room
    Sam's Hofbrau presented "Sam Tripoli's Rock N Pole Championship" this week at The Viper Room. Paired up karaoke singers and pole dancers competed for a nice cash prize and Hollywood Hustler gift bags. Entertainment included a special appearance by porn star Tera Patrick, serving as judge, and performing a burlesque number. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • The Best L.A. Costumes of 2014 (So Far)
    It's no secret that SoCal knows what it's doing when it comes to make-up and costume design, (hello, Hollywood!) so it makes sense that we would also have the world's best cosplay. Here are our picks for the best of 2014 (so far).
  • Lina in L.A. -- The Dog & Pony Show
    Comedian, burlesque diva and L.A.'s most fabulous little person, Selene Luna, hosts a wild variety show (no pups or ponies, just great performers) Mondays at Akbar. Recently, the fun featured strip tease from Audrey DeLuxe, standup from Michael Patrick Duggan, Paul Jacek and Mary Kennedy and the smokin' musical stylings of Crissy Guerrero and Kristian Hoffman.