It’s odd when you suddenly tune into an actor who’s been working all along but hasn’t been “in the conversation” for decades, but who was definitely happening when young. And you say to yourself, “Okay, he looks good and appears to have been taken care of himself, but what’s he been doing for the last 40 or 45 years?”
This happened a couple of hours ago when I watched a trailer for an apparently flawed film called Welcome To The Men’s Group (5.18), and I noticed that the lead, at least according to the publicity notes, is Timothy Bottoms. It’s always pleasing to notice that an older guy has come through rough times with his health and a sense of humor and a semblance of solvency, but I was taken back.
Now 66, married and living in Santa Barbara, Bottoms was really hot in his early 20s. His biggest role, of course, was Sonny Crawford in Peter Bogdanovich‘s The Last Picture Show (’71); he also starred that year in Johnny Got His Gun, in James Bridges‘ The Paper Chase (’73) and Phillip Kaufman‘s The White Dawn (’74).
And then he seemed to succumb to that early ’70s mindset and begin to behave in a kind of mystical, druggy, hippie-dippy way, and after a while became the guy who kind of flaked out and followed the path of Dennis Hopper and George Lazenby and other ’60s actors who said “whatever, man” to the idea of careerism and acting being about hard work, hunger, devotion and discipline.
There was a moment on a Merv Griffin Show appearance when Bottoms, wearing a kind of Indian sarong, led the audience in a sing-along of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Gently Down The Stream,” etc. It was the kind of thing that people did back then. People who had left the planet, I mean.
“In the late ’70s, Bottoms’s career came apart. By then, increasingly reclusive on a 340-acre Big Sur ranch he bought in 1974, he was hooked on a variety of drugs — ‘whatever anybody else was doing,’ he says.
“In 1979 a Jesuit friend took Bottoms under his wing and steered him away from the drugs. But his attempted 1981 comeback in Broadway’s The Fifth of July was disastrous. In the midst of a custody fight with Cory, ‘mentally I just wasn’t able to handle it,’ he says. Quitting the show in rehearsal, ‘I took a train home and called Marcia.’ “Marcia Morehart, a rancher’s daughter, had dated Bottoms on and off for years. As she helped him through his meltdown, ‘I fell in love with her more,’ he says. They wed in 1984 and had three children in six years. With acting jobs scarce, ‘it was tough times,’ admits Marcia. ‘But I wasn’t going to be the person who left.’ Marcia, Bottoms says, is a daily reminder of his true priorities. ‘His values,’ she jokes, ‘are to fix the barn roof and get the horses inoculated. And we need a new septic tank.'”