Richard Farnsworth

The Straight Story

Interviewed by Film 2000 with Jonathan Ross

Richard Farnsworth died in October 2000. Earlier this year, he spoke to Jonathan Ross about his long and varied career.

How are people reacting to the movie and you now?

Well a lot of friends have called me to say they really like it, they like the fact that they can take their grandkids, it's strictly family. I'm just glad I got to be a part of it. I almost didn't as I had a hip problem, but finally I decided we would make it. David Lynch was very good, very patient with us, and the reaction in the United States seems pretty good.

Did you audition for David Lynch or did he know of your work already?

No I didn't audition, I didn't even know David Lynch till the week before I started the film. My agent called me saying David Lynch wanted to talk about a project and I said, "Who's David Lynch?" and he said he did "The Elephant Man", which I enjoyed. I told David about my cane, he said, "I think we can fix you up." I said, "that's great, let's go", so that was it.

I believe the beginning of the film was shot where Alvin Straight lived?

We started it at Alvin's house where I get on my tractor and head down the highway. We followed the road just like he did, all the way across Iowa to Meltson, Wisconsin. On the way people heard about the film, and would come out, and some would say they had met him, tried to help him, and sometimes he'd let them help him, most times he was pretty independent he just wanted to be on his own. They all thought I fit the character pretty good. His family felt I fit the character very well.

Having made the journey would you recommend that mode of transport to anyone else?

I don't know how he made it, my God, five miles an hour and he had bad hips, 25 miles a day! Those big trucks come awful close to blowing you off the road, boy they'd come close. I couldn't have done it, he just had all the guts to do it. The first time my outfit broke down I'd have said "that's it" - it's a miracle he made it. No I wouldn't advise anybody to do that. I'd rather take a horse and buggy at five miles an hour across country.

Richard Farnsworth discusses some of the directors he has worked with.