In this episode of “Don’t Kill the Messenger,” host Kevin Goetz has a lively and enlightening conversation with legendary Hollywood producer Hawk Koch. With over 50 years in the movie business, Koch has countless stories to share from his prolific career working on classic films like Chinatown, Marathon Man, Heaven Can Wait, and Wayne’s World. He offers a rare insider’s perspective on working with icons like Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, and Barbra Streisand. Koch has worked on countless classic films and with many iconic talents. He gave host Kevin Goetz a rare insider’s perspective, sharing entertaining stories and hard-earned wisdom. Here are some highlights from their conversation:
What’s in a Name?
Koch talks about changing his name at age 50 when he was bar mitzvahed, taking on the nickname “Hawk” to establish his own identity apart from his famous father, producer Howard W. Koch.
“I just realized for 49 years I’ve had my father’s name. I want my own name. And then he said to me, the words that changed my life, this amazing rabbi said to me, you can have your own name.”
Riding Horses with Clark Gable
Koch reminisces fondly about getting his first horseback ride as a 4-year-old from Clark Gable on a movie set. He describes feeling Gable’s warmth and humanity even in that brief 30-second interaction, as the iconic actor picked him up and put Koch in front of him on the saddle.
Working with Legends
Koch shares his experience early in his career working with and being in the presence of classic actors like Jimmy Stewart on the set of Fool’s Parade. He was awe-struck, barely able to speak in Stewart’s presence and realizing he was working with a legend. Koch also describes a similar feeling when seeing Ingrid Bergman for the first time during wardrobe tests for Cactus Flower.
Icon Lightning Round
When asked for rapid impressions, Koch gives funny and candid takes on industry figures he’s worked with like calling Roman Polanski the best technical director he’s worked with, Warren Beatty a procrastinator and perfectionist, and noting Faye Dunaway was the toughest actress he ever had to work with.
Getting His Start in the Music Business
Hawk discusses his start working in music thanks to a chance dinner meeting. This led to him touring with The Dave Clark Five in 1964 and getting to watch recording sessions with legends like Frank Sinatra, describing the awe he felt seeing Sinatra perform live.
Taking Care of “Family”
Koch talks sincerely about his dedication to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, an organization that provides assistance and care for people who have worked in entertainment. He shares why supporting this charity is so important to him – they take care of “their people,” the crew members who become like family during productions.
“It’s the only charity I know of that is specifically to our industry…we take care of our own.”
Taming Faye Dunaway’s Hair
Koch tells a funny anecdote about shooting Chinatown, where director Roman Polanski pulled Faye Dunaway’s hair out in frustration when it kept sticking up despite efforts to fix it. This led to a blow-up argument between the director and actress.
Best Advice Ever Received
Hawk stresses the vital lesson he learned over his many years in the business – the importance of telling the truth and not trying to mislead people. He says any deception gets found out quickly on a movie set, so clear communication is everything.
“If you try to get around something on a movie set or with an actor or with anybody, you get in trouble because they can smell it…I found that communication on a movie, whether it’s in prep or in shooting or in post, communication’s everything. And as the leader, as a producer, if you’re not telling the truth to everybody, it gets found out.”
The full interview features many more colorful stories and insights. Hawk Koch proves to be a captivating storyteller who provides a rare look inside Hollywood over five incredible decades. To hear the full discussion, check out the Hawk Koch episode of “Don’t Kill the Messenger.” It’s an entertaining and enlightening listen for any fan of great moviemaking tales.
Don’t Kill the Messenger, hosted by movie and entertainment research expert Kevin Goetz, brings his book Audienceology to life. This bi-monthly podcast takes a peek behind the filmmaking curtain as Kevin talks with famous filmmakers, studio executives, stars, and other creatives about movies, filmmaking, audience test screenings, and much more.