Harris: Welcome back to our guest line now Chuck Norris, the star of TV’s Walker, Texas Ranger Saturday nights on CBS TV. Welcome back. Chuck.
Norris: Thanks, Paul…it’s good to see you.
Harris: Great to have you back on here.
Norris: Thank you.
Harris: Congratulations on going into your fourth year now of Walker, Texas Ranger. I guess that means you make it through this year, and then it’s the big syndication dollars, right?
Norris: Well, actually we’re already syndicated…amazingly they’ve syndicated early and we syndicated Walker for the largest amount in the history of hour drama TV.
Harris: Is that right?
Norris: It surprised everybody because ya’know, hour dramas have been very weak for the last ten years as far as syndication goes, and so this is kind of a break through for hour dramas.
Harris: And you’ll probably get some good international syndication out of that, too, ’cause you’ve always been popular overseas as well.
Norris: Oh, yeah, we’re in about eighty-five countries now. In fact I just got back from Greece off of a, you know, kind of a honeymoon. Even though I didn’t have the wedding I had a honeymoon.
Harris: Nice way to go.
Norris: Yeah, so I was in Greece and Walker airs TWO nights a week over there.
Norris: So it’s pretty popular all over the world. Now since we postponed the wedding we’re going to just have the immediate family.
Harris: And then have another quick honeymoon.
Norris: Yeah…and have another quick one.
Harris: Good move.
Harris: Listen, one of our listeners called a little while ago, his name’s Tim Coppersmith and he knows a guy by the mane of Stan Wietz. Does that name ring a bell to you?
Norris: Yeah, sure, I know Stan.
Harris: According to Tim, Stan was a buddy of yours in the Navy when you two were stationed down in Beauford, South Carolina, right?
Norris: No, Stan was actually one of my students.
Harris: Oh, really.
Norris: Uh-huh…and he trained with me back years ago.
Harris: Oh. Because the story that Tim told us that he heard from Stan is that you two were in the Navy together and used to start bar fights.
Norris: (laughs) Naw…first of all I wasn’t in the Navy, I was in the Air Force.
Harris: Oh, okay.
Norris: And I didn’t start bar fights…(laughs).
Norris: …in those days I wouldn’t be able to finish them (laughs).
Norris: When I was in the Air Force if I had started a fight I wouldn’t have finished it.
Harris: Do you, get that a lot though?
Norris: Well actually I don’t. Amazingly, I’ve travelled all over the world, I don’t have a bodyguard or anything and, I guess it’s the image I project. I’ve always tried to project an image in movies and on television, not of a guy who’s an antagonist, who’s looking for trouble, but a guy that can deal with it if he has to and, I think that particular image doesn’t antagonize guys or intimidate guys.
Norris: Anyway, I found it to be that way.
Harris: That’s great. And I know in addition to being the movie and TV star and, what was it fifteen years you were the world champion in karate?
Norris: Well, I taught for fifteen years. I fought for fifteen years, I was the world champion from sixty-eight to seventy-four.
Harris: Well you mentioned teaching and I know one of the people you taught was Steve McQueen.
Norris: Mmm hmm.
Harris: …and just this past week I had seen The Great Escape, one of my all time favorite movies…
Norris: Oh mine, too.
Harris: …on TV and I loved it so much I actually went out and got the video tape and watched it all the way through again, because I thought that was just a terrific performance of his. What was McQueen like to work with? Was he easy, was he into the karate?
Norris: Oh yeah. You know, anything Steve gets into he goes 1,000%. The only problem I had with Steve was slowing him down because generally you don’t start really sparring for four, five, six months, until you get the techniques down. About two months into training Steve said, “I wanna fight,” you know, he said, “I wanna spar.” I said, “Steve you don’t have the techniques down well enough yet.” He said, “I don’t care. I wanna spar!” So I beat on him and beat on him (laughs). But he was tough, the guy was.
Harris: You mean you’re doing live action, you’re actually kicking him and he’s going down?
Norris: Oh, I was knocking him all over the mat, yeah. I’d knock him down, he’d get back up. And he just loved it. He was a real fighter but…he was a real athletic guy anyway.
Harris: And was he giving you Hollywood advice in return?
Norris: No. He was the one who encouraged me to pursue an acting career. He just thought when I retired as world champion, he said, “You ought to pursue an acting career. I think you’d be good at it.”
Norris: And I said, “Well I don’t have any…I wouldn’t know the first thing about acting.” He said “Well, acting’s more than going to class. You either have a presence or you don’t have a presence and only the camera can determine that.” So anyway, I finally decided to go for it and I’m glad I did.
Harris: Sure paid off for you in the long run, didn’t it?
Harris: You taught a lot of stars over the years — was there anybody that you taught where after a while you just said, “Look, this isn’t really gonna work…karate’s not for you.”
Norris: No, no. Actually, you know Bob Barker’s one of my students.
Harris: Bob Barker?!
Norris: Right. Well, I didn’t see the movie, but I ran into Bob back in L.A. a few weeks ago and he said, “Did you see my movie, Happy Gilmore? And I said, “No, I didn’t see it, Bob.” And he says, “I’m doing…all these years you taught me…I used some of those techniques on the film.” And I said, “No kidding.” I’ll tell you the guy’s real good. I taught him for eight years and he got very good at it.
Harris: In addition to the show, are you going to do any movies any time soon?
Norris: I don’t have the time, guys, you know I shoot Walker ten months of the year. I do twenty-six episodes. Walker is kind of a mini-feature so we spend a lot of time trying to make it look like a feature film and so we spend ten months of the year filming. I take August off and January off so, I only have four weeks off at a crack so, I don’t have time to do a film.
Harris: All right, Chuck, then I’m going to cross you off the possible cast list for “Birdcage 2”!
Norris: I know, doggonnit, I was looking forward to that, too (laughs).
Harris: (laughs) Listen, congratulations on all the success. It’s always great to have you on the show.
Norris: You bet, Paul. Nice talking to you!
Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Rhyan Jones.