• Joe O'Connell

Recreating the way people spoke in 'Rondo and Bob'


When I chose to create Rondo and Bob as a mix of traditional documentary and recreated scenes from the past, I knew I was asking for trouble.


My inspiration was Becoming Bond, a film about the life and career of George Lazenby, who became James Bond. The film was a mix of Lazenby sitting in the front of a pretty backdrop talking and recreations of scenes of his youth using an actor who really didn't look that much like the star. I took a similar path using actors chosen for their abilities, not just their looks.


Becoming Bond has received flack for not following a more traditional documentary format. We will, too. But that's okay. We took a risk, and I think it works.


We went further with recreation, though, and I'm writing this post to clear this up. I don't normally respond to reviews--everyone's entitled to an opinion--but apparently what we did in the film isn't clear to everyone. Our recreations very often used the EXACT WORDS written/spoken by journalists or our subjects.


I just came across a reviewer who criticized Rondo and Bob's writing as if it were imitating old '40s gangster movies. The reviewer was likely referring to the actual words from a March 1938 interview with Rondo Hatton in the Tampa Tribune. We recreated that interview (which included dialogue from both reporter Bill Abbott and Hatton) using actor/voice artist Lee Smith. We did the same with the last interview Hatton did before his death with Erma Taylor for Pageant magazine. Veteran actress Margaret Hoard portrayed Taylor.




It was a major treat to have actor Sonny Carl Davis (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bernie) act out the words of journalist Mark Pace--who actually knew Hatton.





Robert A. Burns was interviewed for the documentary Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth. Its director David Gregory was kind enough to share some raw footage from that interview with us. We chose to recreate it using Burns' exact words. We also recreated sections of letters Mae Hatton sent Burns about her husband.



Yes, some of the film dialogue was written completely by me, but always with the goal of recreating the past truthfully via thorough research. As is much of the writing work I do of late, it's about zeroing in on the human truth while hewing as close as possible to the "literal" truth.


Some may want more of Hatton's story. Others may want more of Burns' or perhaps that more traditional documentary film. We did it our way, and we couldn't be more pleased.

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