Condolences to family, fans, friends and colleagues of Scott Wilson, who passed Saturday (10.6) at age 76. As far as I know Wilson was admired as a good fellow and a dependable second-tier thesp over the last five decades, but it was during a special three-year period (’67 to ’69) that he became an extra-hot actor who seemed to be channeling something above and beyond.

During this charmed period Wilson costarred in three nervy films — Richard BrooksIn Cold Blood (in which Wilson played Clutter family killer Dick Hickock), Sydney Pollack‘s Castle Keep (a surreal WWII movie in which Wilson was “Corporal Clearboy”, one of many characters who seemed to be tripping on mescaline) and John Frankenheimer‘s The Gypsy Moths (in which Wilson played skydiver Malcolm Webson).

And that was it — Wilson’s hot streak ended and he became a more-or-less steadily employed character actor for the next half-century, give or take. And good for him.

Posted on 12.22.11: In the summer of ’81 I had a special Scott Wilson moment. It happened (or more precisely didn’t happen) in a West Hollywood bar on Santa Monica Blvd. I was with a lady, and the first thing I noticed after entering the main room and ordering a drink was Wilson sitting at a table with a friend.

Wilson had played murderer Dick Hickock in the 1967 film version of In Cold Blood, and this was foremost on my mind. After mulling it over I told my girlfriend that I wanted to go over and get Wilson’s autograph and (this was crucial) ask him to write “hair on the walls” below his name.

The phrase came from Truman Capote‘s nonfiction novel and the film version of same. Prior to their late-night visit to the home of Kansas farmer Herb Clutter, Hickock promised his psychopathic accomplice Perry Smith (Robert Blake) that no matter what happens “we’re gonna blast hair all over them walls.” I thought it might be ironically cool to persuade Wilson to offer a little riff on that.

But I wimped out, thinking he’d probably be offended. That was probably the right thing to do, but I’ve felt badly for years about this. The things that won’t leave you alone later in life are the ones you chickened out on.

I’m re-posting because I’ve captured the pertinent clip from Richard Brooks ‘ film, and I’ve found the pertinent passage from a Tom Wolfe essay called “Pornoviolence,” one of the chapters in “Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Cutter and Vine.”


Scott Wilson in In Cold Blood.