‘Waldo Pepper' co-star to appear at Kennett Flash

Staff photo by Wm, Shawn Weigel: Hockessin resident Fred McCarthy sits with his neighbor and friend, Bo Brundin. Brundin, who co-starred in “The Great Waldo Pepper” with Robert Redford, will discuss his memories of the film after a special showing at the Kennett Flash on April 11.

Next month, enjoy a classic 1970s-era film at the Kennett Flash and hear firsthand tales of the production with one of its stars.

On Thursday, April 11, the Flash will sponsor a viewing of the 1975 classic, “The Great Waldo Pepper,” followed by a Q&A with co-star Bo Brundel, who plays German Fokker pilot Ernst Kessler opposite Robert Redford as the titular Waldo Pepper.

Directed by George Roy Hill, the film follows the exploits of the eponymous character, a World War I pilot who missed his big chance at heroism during the war, and his last grasp at glory fighting against his nemesis.

“Pepper” starred a virtual “who’s who” of 70s-era talent, and launched a career in American show business for Brundin that left him with a lifetime of stories.

Born in Sweden, Brundin later studied at the Actors Studio in New York, learning The Method under its founder Elia Kazan and its longtime director, Lee Strasberg. In fact, it was Strasberg who gave the then-struggling Brundin a scholarship to keep him in class another three months.

After leaving the studio in 1958 (in the class following film greats Marlon Brando and James Dean) Brundin worked on the stage and in Sweden for a number of years before answering an ad for the Poor Man’s Theater in New York City.

Years later, he called a contact from the theater days who had just been sitting with director Hill, discussing his upcoming production – which happened to be “Waldo Pepper.”

With a character based on an actual WWI-era Luftwaffe pilot, Brundin said that the director had a certain type in mind to play the world’s greatest pilot opposite screen star Redford.

“George was a stickler for detail, so he wanted someone who really looked like him,” Brundin said. “And I called, and my friend said to him, ‘you wouldn’t believe this – Bo Brundin is perfect for this.’”

He cut off his beard and long hair, and off he went – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Brundin went on to appear in a number of films and television shows throughout the 70s and 80s, including “Meteor,” where Brundin works with veteran actor Sean Connery to prevent a worldwide disaster.

“I saved the world, but I drowned in mud,” Brundin said of his character’s fate.

He also recalls his time on the set of “Pepper” fondly, calling it a great introduction to Hollywood and some of its biggest names.

“George Roy Hill was a wonderful director,” he said. “He was so trusting – we were on set and about to shoot the first scene, and I said, ‘George, do you want to hear my German accent now?’ He said, ‘Yeah, if you want to.’”

Film series director Brett Irwin said that he was pleased to make the connection with Brundin through Fred McCarthy, Brundin’s neighbor in Hockessin and the Flash’s 100th fan on Facebook.

That connection, Irwin said, enabled them to invite Brundin in for a first at the Flash – and something he would love to do again.

“Our focus is obviously on independent films, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up,” Irwin said. “Bo is just great, and he has some of the best stories, so I hope this goes well.”

The film and Brundin’s subsequent talk are scheduled for Thursday, April 11. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30. Tickets are $5, for more information visit www.kennettflash.org.

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