Pop-rock star Rick Springfield has amassed an impressive body of acting work over the decades, coming a long way from his 1973 Saturday morning cartoon series Mission: Magic! or his star turn as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. He has earned critical acclaim playing against-type, creepy villain roles on Californication, True Detective, and American Horror Story, and he has even shared the big screen with three-time Oscar-winner Meryl Streep. But suffice to say, the ‘80s flick that was intended to be his cinematic breakout was never nominated for any Oscars.
Springfield’s musical rom-com Hard to Hold did spawn a hit soundtrack, which celebrates its anniversary this week. But as Springfield tells Yahoo Entertainment with a rueful chuckle, “It was a horrible script. It was something I wish I hadn’t done, in retrospect. I got a good song out of it, ‘Love Somebody,’ but that’s about it.”
Hard to Hold came out only three years after “Jessie’s Girl” had turned Springfield into an MTV heartthrob, and it was quite scandalous at the time that the movie featured shots of his bare butt — considering that his core audience consisted of mostly young girls who wouldn’t be able to buy a ticket for an R-rated film. (“I know someone accused me of having a body double, but that was me,” Springfield quips.) The Motion Picture Association of America eventually gave Hard to Hold a preteen-friendly PG rating, but Springfield shockingly reveals that at one time the film “was going to be X-rated, because seriously, the sex scenes were so full-on.”
The singer clarifies that “there was no actual, you know — I don’t know how to say this on TV — no actual insertion of anything. But it was pretty intense. So they cut [the sex scenes] way, way, way, way, way back.”
At the time, the film’s female lead, Janet Eilber, told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I thought it would be rated PG. After all, the majority of Springfield’s fans are teenage girls. But the script plainly called for a nude love scene. I convinced myself it would be a matter of doing the scene under a sheet or something. But two or three days after we shot the scene I realized there was no sheet and there would be no PG.” (As one user has observed in a review on IMDB.com: “This movie came out before the PG-13 rating came along, so the editing is extremely choppy in places since the producers were trying to avoid an R rating.”)
Springfield admits that actually filming the steamy boudoir moments between his character, womanizing rocker Jaime Roberts, and his nemesis-turned-love interest, uptight psychologist Diana Lawson (Eilber), wasn’t such a sexy experience — despite the fact that their convincing onscreen chemistry was, aside from the music, the movie’s only saving grace.
“It was very, very awkward. First of all, there’s probably 30 or 40 men and women standing around. And I just walked in, completely naked,” Springfield laughs, recalling the robe-robbing on-set moment. “You have to break the ice at first, because everybody’s uncomfortable. … There’s no other way around it other than to walk in and go, ‘Here it is! This is all I got!’”
Adding to the on-set awkwardness elsewhere was the fact that supermodel Patti Hansen, who was dating her future husband Keith Richards at the time, played Jaime Roberts’s crazy ex-girlfriend and bandmate, Nicky Nides. Springfield was apparently such a hot property in the early ‘80s that even the iconic Rolling Stones guitarist felt compelled to visit during production, just to make sure that nothing was going on between Springfield and Hansen.
“Actually, Keith came down to the set, because Patti and I got along really well. She’s a fabulous girl. And I heard that Keith was, you know, ‘What’s going on with you and the Springfield guy?’ So he came down to the set to check me out — I think that’s what the story is,” says Springfield. “It was great to meet him, of course. I had always been a big fan.” (Hansen and Richards married in December 1983, shortly after shooting for Hard to Hold wrapped, and they’re still going strong.)
Hard to Hold was a bomb, debuting in seventh place in its opening weekend and receiving mostly terrible reviews. But it has become a bit of a cult classic, and its soundtrack went to No. 16 on the Billboard album chart and yielded three Top 40 singles, including the top five smash “Love Somebody.” And while Hard to Hold didn’t quite kick Springfield’s movie career into high gear as planned, he’s still a steadily working — and respected — actor today.
And these days, instead of trying to be a matinee idol, the 70-year-old show business veteran prefers to go for the “weird” acting jobs, like the “murderous priest” on AHS or the “freaky” Dr. Irving Pitlor on True Detective — a different sort of doctor from the dreamier and prettier Noah Drake. In fact, Springfield did such a great job in the Pitlor role, which involved wearing layers of scary prosthetic makeup, that “people didn’t even know it was me,” he recalls. “I actually read a review that said… ‘Wow, whoever played Dr. Pitlor has a serious acting career ahead of him.’”
Check out Rick Springfield’s extended Yahoo Entertainment interview, in which he discusses his charity single “The Wall Will Fall,” his memoir, his famous dog Ron, mental health, and much, much more:
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