Sam Peckinpah

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Peckinpah on location for The Wild Bunch, 1968

David Samuel Peckinpah (February 21, 1925 – December 28, 1984) was an American film director and screenwriter who achieved prominence following the release of the Western epic The Wild Bunch (1969). He was known for the visually innovative and explicit depiction of action and violence as well as his revisionist approach to the Western genre.


  • We've all grown up with the idea that gunning a man down is just fun and games. All of us, as kids, played cops and robbers, with toy pistols or pointing a finger at somebody and saying, "Bang, Bang. You're dead!" Both the movies and television have perpetuated the idea that shooting a man is clean and quick and simple, and when he falls down there is only a small hole, or a blood-stain, to show how he died. Well, killing a man isn't clean and quick and simple. It's bloody and awful. And maybe if enough people come to realize that shooting somebody isn't just fun and games maybe we'll get somewhere about violence on the screen in the first place. [...] No, I don't like violence. In fact, when I look at the film myself, I find it unbearable. I don't think I'll be able to see it again for five years.
  • The whole underside of our society has always been violence and still is. Churches, laws--everybody seems to think that man is a noble savage. But he's only an animal. A meat-eating, talking animal. Recognize it. He also has grace and love and beauty. But don't say to me we're not violent.
    • Playboy, August 1972
  • I did this one script for Gunsmoke that Charles Marquis Warren turned down--said it was a piece of shit! I knew it was one of the best things I'd written, so I took it back and reworked it and Dick Powell at Four Star bought it as a pilot for The Rifleman. Dick Powell was really a fine gentleman and the eagle behind Four Star's success; he helped me a great deal. I didn't direct the first Rifleman; Arnold Laven did that. I just wrote it. I did direct four of them before I left, however. The first one I directed I also wrote, called "The Marshal." It was the episode that brought in Paul Fix as the reformed drunk who became the marshal--a part he played for five years.
    • As quoted in "Sam Peckinpah's Television Work" by Garner Simmons, Film Heritage (Winter 1974/ 1975), pp. 2, 3
  • I walked from the series because Jules Levy and that group had taken over my initial concept and perverted it into pap. They wouldn't let Johnny grow up; they refused to let it be the story of a boy who grows to manhood learning what it's all about.
    • Ibid., 4
  • The Losers was a funny show. We had Keenan Wynn and Lee Marvin locked up for a series with it until Tom McDermott wouldn't pay Lee's price. Well, after the show continued to draw a large segment of the audience around the sixth time out, McDermott called Lee and raised the ante to something like a million dollars and Lee told him to go stick it up his ass! I've always liked Lee for that--it cost me a lot of money at the time but I would've done the same thing in Lee's place.
    • Ibid., 11

Quotes about

  • Sam and I work well together. I would go to and from work with him, so we would have that extra time to talk with each other—that kind of thing is very unusual, but I think something comes of that proximity.
  • Sam's like a fight trainer. He shapes you up, he psyches you, he draws everything out of you. He's subtle, though, yet baroque, and I want to get into that baroqueness. Like the other day, during a scene in which I was supposed to be answering the door and registering surprise. Well, it was the end of the day and I wasn't acting very surprised, so he smashes a beer bottle behind me, right out of camera range. I mean, Christ, I nearly jumped out of my skin. But he got what he wanted.
    • Dustin Hoffman, on Straw Dogs; in "Sam Peckinpah Breaks a Bottle" by Chris Hodenfield, Rolling Stone (May 13, 1971), p. 18.
  • I said to him, "Well, I'm just trying to find out who Hildy is, and it was out in the open, in the western street, and he yelled at me, "She's you!" You know? Like, in such a way as to say, "You're the whore," you know? He was not very nice. And he did that to men to rile them, too. There have been many men who have done things to get even with Sam, because he had no tact.
  • It would've been nicer if he didn't pose as he did, and sit behind sunglasses that have mirrors on them so that no one could see his eyes. Because he was such a liar, he was afraid to get caught, because if you look in someone's eyes deeply enough, you can tell they're lying. So he was afraid of that; he wouldn't let anyone see his eyes.
    • Stevens, op. cit.
  • His hatred, his loneliness, whatever that he had, his angst, he could not let it go. He had to try to drown it in alcohol. But that's like pouring gasoline on a fire. But he just would not stop. And it was common sense that he should do that, so I'm not sure that he had common sense. He would make people mad and cause fights, and then run, hide; he wouldn't be there. He would, you know, take a punch here or there, but he was not a fighter. He was a little, bitty guy. You could deck him with one punch. I probably could have, you know?
    • Stevens, op. cit.
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