Hustle - The Con Is On
In Hustle, Richard plays James Whittaker Wright III, the grandson of a notorious con-artist who was taken to the cleaners by a bunch of greedy bankers. James comes to the U.K. to track down the infamous Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn) and his team of expert con-artists in a bid to exact revenge on the bank that brought down his grandfather.
As the dashing Dr Kildare, Richard was one of the first on-screen medics to make surgery sexy in the Sixties; and he went on to play another heart-throb, the unattainable priest Father Ralph de Bricassart, in the 1983 TV mini-series The Thorn Birds.
During his impressive career, Richard has worked on numerous classics such as Shogun, The Four Musketeers, The Count Of Monte Cristo and, of course, The Towering Inferno with Hustle co-star Robert.
"Robert Vaughn and I first met on the MGM lot when he was doing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I was playing Dr. Kildare," explains the 71-year-old actor, "but we were both too busy with our shows to become well acquainted."
"Later, we appeared in The Towering Inferno with a dazzling cast including both Paul Newman and Steve McQueen."
"In the film, my character fell 50 storeys to a well-deserved splatter but I don't actually remember if Robert survived the blaze!"
"Our paths didn't cross again for decades until recently when we filmed Hustle, where, at long last, we had time in between scenes to sit down and get to know each other."
In Hustle, James Whittaker Wright III is also a con-artist, following in his grandfather's footsteps. James Whittaker Wright I was a grifter who made a fortune flogging fake gold mines on the stock market by using Cornfoots' Merchant Bank.
However, when James Whittaker Wright I's fortune became too much for the bank, they turned on him and left him to die penniless. Now his grandson has come to avenge his grandfather's death with a little help from Albert and the gang.
"James Whittaker Wright III is a gnarly old gent from the American West. A wily scam artist of the first order," laughs Richard. "He's charming and ruthless and an ardent devotee of the long con." James Whittaker Wright III and Albert pose as rich, but gullible, businessmen who are persuaded to invest in dubious stocks and shares on the advice of Cornfoots' scheming and greedy owners, Charles and Quenton Cornfoot (played by Terence Harvey and Stephan Campbell-Moore).
However, Albert and the team need to have their wits about them as James Whittaker Wright III is more than likely to con his accomplices, as well as the Cornfoots, in order to keep the cash for himself. After all, the greatest of all is to con a fellow grifter.
Filming Hustle was a hugely enjoyable experience for Richard. He was finally able to work closely with his fellow Hollywood legend, Robert Vaughn, and also made friends with its rising stars.
"Robert was a joy to work with," he declares. "Along with being uncommonly intelligent, well-read, slyly humorous, and full of fascinating showbiz stories, Robert is a supremely professional actor. He plays complex Albert with astonishingly effortless charm and accuracy. I've always admired Robert's acting. Now it is a welcome bonus to count him as a friend."
He adds: "In between scenes. Marc Warren (Danny) did some astonishing magic tricks that I am still trying to figure out. He's a very talented young man and wonderful to work with."
"Joining Hustle's magnificent cast of grifters and our director, Colin McCarthy, was sheer bliss."
And he confesses: "And don't tell the wife, but I'm abjectly in love with exquisite Jaime Murray (Stacie)!"