Red West, a stuntman, actor, songwriter and former member of Elvis Presley's original Memphis Mafia, doesn't worry about finding film roles.They find him."When one job ends, another always seems to come along because I've done enough so that I can get work," says West, who co-stars in "Goodbye Solo," an award-winning independent film.The 74-year-old West, in "Goodbye Solo," plays a depressed, tight-lipped loner who appears headed toward suicide when an immigrant cab driver from Senegal (Souleymane Sy Savane) takes an interest in him.This bittersweet character and culture study was filmed in Winston-Salem, N.C., by rising star director Ramin Bahrani.
It airs as part of the "Independent Lens" series on PBS."The story leaves a lot for the audience to figure out," says West who has a deep Southern drawl, a rugged face and red hair with streaks of white.He says his character is willing to pay the cabbie $1,000 for a one-way ride to Blowing Rock, home of the nearly 6,000 foot high Grandfather mountain. "Is he going to jump and why?" West asks.West filmed "Goodbye Solo" two years ago.
Since then, he has worked on Kevin Spacey's independent comedy "The Father of Invention," filmed in New Orleans.Spacey plays an eccentric inventor who goes to jail when one of his creations maims thousands."I am his engineer," West says. "He brings me the ideas and I make the prototypes.
"Also in the cast are John Stamos, Heather Graham, Virginia Madsen and Johnny Knoxville."It was supposed to be released in February but I don't when it will come out," he says.His next role is playing a villain who was a former Elvis bodyguard in "Black Dove," a film about a guitar that reportedly once belonged to Presley. "It turns out to be fake and it's part of switch and swindle scheme," he says."I guess I've come full circle with the role because I was his bodyguard," he says.West is somewhat reluctant to rehash his days with Elvis because he has been asked about it so often. He and his brother, Sonny West, (also an Elvis crony) co-authored "Elvis: What Happened?" It was published in 1977, the year Elvis died.
He was born Robert Gene West, and met Elvis in junior high school. West played for the Memphis Tigers high school football team, boxed in the Golden Gloves and helped Elvis fend off some high school bullies. "He had a lot of black hair combed back in a ducktail and these other guys had crew cuts. They wanted to give him a haircut," West said.This forged a friendship that lasted 20 years.When Elvis began his rise to fame, West became his personal driver. He says he traveled with Elvis when he played the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory in Tampa in 1955 and 1956.
"He wasn't the main act when that tour started but he was before it ended," West says.West appeared in small roles in 16 Elvis movies. He also wrote songs that were recorded by Elvis ("Separate Ways" and "If Everyday Was Like Christmas")."I had songs recorded by Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson and Johnny Rivers," he says. "I studied music in high school before I got to playing football. And when Elvis hit it big, I thought, 'Why heck, I can write a song.'"Pat Boone recorded my first song, 'A Thousand Years' on the flip side of 'Moody River,' which was a million-seller and that gave me a million-seller, too. I had a few good songs.
"West befriended actor Robert Conrad and worked on three of Conrad's TV series: "The Wild Wild West" (1965), "Black Sheep Squadron" (1976) and "The Duke" (1979)."I owe a lot to Bob Conrad because he really got my acting career going," West says.Conrad helped him get work after he, Sonny, and another bodyguard, Dave Hebler, were fired from Elvis' entourage in 1976 by Presley's father, Vernon.West went on to work in films such as "Road House" with Patrick Swayze and more than 50 TV series, including "Hunter," "Magnum, P.I.," "The Fall Guy," "The A-Team" and recent offbeat series "The Riches."
Source: dailyme.com / EpGold