'An Actor and A Gentleman' by Louis Gossett Jr.

Our fight scene was a well-orchestrated dance, in which we never intended to hurt each other. The martial arts expert coach Jason Randall, who was brought in to work with us, got the two of us worked up for the fight. "Richard says he's gonna beat your ass," he told me. "Lou says he's gonna beat you up good," he warned Richard. In one take, after five or six kicks, my leg got tired, and I struck Richard on the shoulder, and he went down. I felt terrible, but he got right up and said, "Let's get going." I ended up with a hairline fracture on my chest when Richard pulled me in and kicked me at the same time, and I got off balance. And then I ended up doing the same thing to him. We were both worried about hurting each other, but it was no big deal. After we completed that unforgettable scene in three days, we got a big applause from the crew. Richard and I shook hands and hugged each other and then hugged Taylor, aware that we had created some magic. Although we rehearsed that scene for weeks, it was the last one we filmed, just in case someone got hurt. The graduation scene, that memorable part when Richard says, "I will never forget you," and I say, "Get the hell out of here," was filmed just before the fight scene.

That whole time, despite the magic I felt when I became Emil Foley, I was struggling against an edginess that clawed away at me. I tried to use this role to get all of my devils out, because I'd been struggling to keep those demons at bay. Things were made worse when someone I thought I loved came up to Port Townsend, Washington, where we were filming, to cook for me and to bring me drugs so that I could be comfortable on the set. Although my actor's discipline began to slide away with each passing day, it was with reluctance that I sent her home. The rumor is that she might have been involved with other members of the company as well, but I never knew that for sure. All that I could think about was the work, but every night after the day's work ended, unable to hang around with the rest of the cast and the crew, I was very lonely.

After the movie came out, I had to remember that it took place in 1982, with the country still struggling over the issue of race. Unlike in "Roots," when Kunta Kinte had been whipped, in "Officer" I had beaten a white man, a popular movie star, fair and square. Since that movie door was opened, even today I have had to be extra careful to stay away from bars. I'm aware that there can always be one hotshot anxious to take me on and prove that what happened in "Officer" was pure Hollywood. Although the acceptance for that role was overwhelmingly positive, there were still times when friends who were with me insisted I go out a back door rather than stick around certain crowds where they sensed a hostile person. It might be my imagination, but there are times when someone will come up to shake my hand and hold on to it for a few seconds too long, or the pat on my back is harder than it should be. At those times, I am grateful not only because I know martial arts, but because of my faithful friend and frequent bodyguard Otis Harper, who traveled with me often during those years. Sometimes the studio paid for my security, but whenever it didn't, I wouldn't hesitate to pay for it myself. One positive outcome, however, was that I made some wonderful martial arts friends who respected me for my performance in the fight scene.

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