REVISITING LATITUDE ZERO! Actress Linda Haynes Recounts Her Toho Experience!

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Richard Jaeckel, Linda Haynes, Akira Takarada, Joseph Cotten, and Kin Omae prepare for battle in Latitude Zero (1969). Latitude Zero © 1969, Toho Co., Ltd.

Linda Haynes was born in Miami, FL. Her parents were both from Sweden, and Swedish is actually her first language. Ms. Haynes went to school in Miami and then in Caracas, Venezuela. Her father was a sea captain, so she got to travel when she was little. Ms. Haynes was a child model until the age of 6 or 7. She also has two sisters, who modeled, too, and did the cover of Sports Illustrated circa 1973. Ms. Haynes went to high school in Caracas and in Miami. She eloped at 16 years old with a man eight years her senior. Together, they moved to Los Angeles.

During their stay in L.A., Ms. Haynes and her husband were walking their dog on Rodeo Drive, when a man pulled up in a Cadillac and said, “I’m Ben Bard, and I have an acting class, and I wondered if you would be interested in attending.” (He was a silent movie actor.) Having nothing else to do, Ms. Haynes attended. She got a screen test at 20th Century Fox as a result, and got her first agent from that, as well. This occurred during the contract days, and since the studio didn’t like the result, no contract came about. She went on to do a small, non-speaking part in the film In Like Flint. Her second movie was Latitude Zero.

Ms. Haynes lived in California for about 15 years, and she is a Life Member of the Actors Studio, which she joined on her first audition for Lee Strasberg. Ms. Haynes also did a play in San Diego, The Lenny Bruce Story, and she did a few commercials and TV shows: Room 222, My Three Sons, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Paper Moon, This Is the Life, and one of the Judgment series with Stanley Kramer directing – Court Martial of Lieutenant William Calley. Her other films include: The Nickel Ride with Robert Mulligan directing, Brubaker with Robert Redford, The Drowning Pool with Paul Newman, and Rolling Thunder with William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones. Ms. Haynes had the lead role in Human Experiments which brought her a Best Actress award at the Sitges Catalonian Film Festival in 1981 and a Golden Scroll Award of Merit for Outstanding Achievement from Dr. Donald Reed of the Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films, as well as an award from the Le Festival International de Paris du Film Fantastique et de Science Fiction in November of 1979. She went on to do the four-hour docu-drama The Guyana Tragedy with Powers Boothe in 1980, released for television.

After that, Ms. Haynes decided to change her life completely, left L.A., and bought a farm in Vermont, where she stayed briefly, and then moved back to Florida where her family still lives and where she raised her son. In a 2007 telephone interview, Ms. Haynes shared her memories of playing Dr. Anne Barton in Latitude Zero with Brett Homenick.           

Brett Homenick: How’d you get involved with Latitude Zero?

Linda Haynes: I’m sure I interviewed with Don Sharp and Warren Lewis, the American side of the production. The director, Ishiro Honda was not there, and usually the director is there when casting a film. But I interviewed, and they apparently liked what they saw, so they hired me. I can’t really remember much about it. Off I went to Tokyo. It was my first film where I would spend quite a bit of time away from home (two months), and I knew nothing of the culture, the work I would be doing, and I was uncomfortable because everything was foreign. Now, of course, I’ve read about Japan, and I’ve been back to Tokyo on vacation, and I’m much more comfortable. But that’s how I got the part; essentially I just interviewed, and I can’t remember if I read for it or not. I’m sure I must have because in those days I had to read for everything.

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Dr. Anne Barton at work in Latitude Zero. Latitude Zero © 1969, Toho Co., Ltd.

BH: In Japan, what were your living arrangements?

LH: First we stayed at the – I think it was Tokyo Tower Hotel. It was built like a tower, and then for some reason they moved us, and we ended up in the Tokyo Palace Hotel. It was right across from the Imperial Gardens. The hotel was very comfortable and first-class.

BH: Do you have any memories of any of the preproduction meetings?

LH: We went to the set, out to the studio, and we were assigned our dressing rooms. My dressing room was comfortable, not plush but comfortable, and afforded me a haven for a few minutes of privacy now and then between scenes. I remember being surprised at the toilets as they were something you straddled and squatted over in those days. They worked, though! One of the first things we did were makeup tests. Patricia Medina and I were made up in a different fashion than what we were used to because the makeup artists were used to making up Japanese actors or actresses, and the shapes of their eyes were different. We ended up with long tails of eyeliner. We didn’t think we looked the way were supposed to – we looked so strange when we looked in the mirror! I guess we were allowed to do our own eye makeup because (that’s) what ultimately appeared in the film. The makeup artists did our foundation, and the hair stylists did our hair – and in those days, I wore a fall; it was the sixties, and that was fashionable. My hair looked bigger and thicker.

We went to the cafeteria at Toho Studios and had lunch one day, and I remember we were going to have squid. I was appalled because this didn’t sound appetizing, and I was afraid it would be raw; I had never eaten squid before. It turned out to be excellent, French-fried white meat and delicious. We had a long ride from Toho Studios to the hotel, and the drivers were really good at getting us where we needed to go through gridlock traffic. I don’t remember riding on freeways like Tokyo has today, so it would be a matter of winding through streets with lots of traffic. They were great, speedy drivers!

BH: (laughs) What do you remember about Ishiro Honda?

LH: I remember that he couldn’t speak English, but he would speak to me in Japanese, and he would look me in the eyes. We would look each other in the eye, and he would use a certain amount of hand gestures, and we communicated; there was an understanding somehow that went beyond words. We had two interpreters Henry Okawa, Henry-san, was one of the interpreters, and the other was a lady who was very smart and most helpful.  They were excellent. But I got a sense of what Honda-san wanted just by looking at him. It was just a connection which happens with a good director. He was very quiet, very gentle, and I enjoyed working with him.

I had my 21st birthday there, and they had a cake for me, and they had, like, a board room with a big, big table, and everyone was there. The table was filled with people, you know, producer, director, etc., and Joseph Cotten, Patricia Medina, Richard Jaeckel. I remember that because the whole thing centered around me I was a little embarrassed  because they were making such a big deal. It was very special.  Toho Studios put on extravagant dinners for us, where we each had a geisha serving us. The geisha kept pouring sake with lots of courses of interesting food, and we all sat in a U-shaped manner, on cushions at the low Japanese tradition table which surrounded a stage. The “stage” area was an area where geishas entertained us, or we were invited to get up and play games (I didn’t want to get up – too shy). Then they had a Christmas dinner especially for us which was festive and elegant, and at that dinner we dined at regular tables. We were treated very well.

I know that we didn’t get paid our salary for awhile which was a problem that came from the American side of the production. I can’t remember a whole lot about it, but I know we received our per diem because I was out spending money! (laughs) When I wasn’t working, I would walk around the Ginza, and I bought  pearl rings and pearls for my mom, and all kinds of stuff, and a Nikon camera. But anyway, as to our paychecks, I guess there was a problem with that, and Joseph Cotten and his agent took charge of all that because I really wasn’t sure what the problem was. I believe he threatened to go back to the States, and that must have solved whatever problem there was. I didn’t know exactly what happened or don’t remember, but eventually it straightened out. There may have been ramifications when it came to releasing the movie as to where it could be released. I’m not sure exactly. National General released it, and it’s been on TV in the U.S., so I don’t know the particulars. The movie opened in a small theater in Santa Monica. I went and saw it, and there were a lot of kids in the theater. They laughed and howled and thought it was great fun with the monsters. It used to come on once in a while on The Late Late Show, so I managed to tape it along with ten million commercials interrupting.

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BH: Okay, well, my next question is, and you talked about this a little bit, but could you describe Ishiro Honda’s directing style more in detail, or is that everything you remember about it?

LH: Well, I just remember pretty much how he dealt with me because that was, you know, probably what made the most impression on me, and it’s always that way when you work with a good director. I’ve worked with Stanley Kramer, Robert Mulligan, and others who were on the quiet side, kind of quiet and personal, and they were able to connect with the actor and kind of draw out of the actor what they wanted.

For years, I thought I did a really bad job in Latitude Zero because I was so uncomfortable, and I guess I was stiff. I played a doctor, so maybe the “stiffness” could have worked for the role in retrospect. When I look at the movie now, it wasn’t that bad. I was fairly natural, the way I did it. I’m probably a lot less critical today. For years, after I left Hollywood,  I wouldn’t even talk about or watch any movies that I had made for a long time. I’ve had to watch a few lately because I had to refresh my memory before giving interviews for DVDs.

I remember Patricia Medina was great fun, and I really liked her. At one time, the chauffeur picked us up to take us to the studio or take us somewhere – it probably was the studio – and I asked a question, I said something like, “Well, I wonder if the actresses are going have to be somewhere,” or whatever the question was. She turned to me, and she said, “Well,” in her British accent, “as far as I’m concerned, I’m the only actress in this production.” I felt two inches tall because I wasn’t really confident in the first place. But I didn’t say anything. Patricia was so darn nice, you know, and she was full of fun. I just figured, “Well, okay, she’s entitled to her opinion, and maybe she’s right.” (laughs)  But anyway, she was really nice, and both she and Joseph Cotten had a great sense of humor. As to Cesar Romero, “Butch” as he was called by Patricia Medina, I met him, but I didn’t really have a lot of contact with him because he and Pat Medina worked together mostly. I’m sure they had a ball working together, lots of humor going on.

BH: Well, that does dovetail into what I was going to ask next. I was just going to ask what your memories of some of the actors were, and the first one I wanted to ask about was Richard Jaeckel.

LH: Well, I couldn’t believe how young he looked  because he told me on the plane that he already had a grown son, and he looked so young, He just had that kind of face. But he was very professional and helpful. Of course, he had done lots of movies, and he was absolutely at home in Japan, and he had friends there that he went and visited when he wasn’t working. He was so easy and to work with.

As to the Japanese actors – Masumi Okada, he showed me a wonderful time. He took me all around Tokyo, and he was a super person, very handsome and spoke fluent English and French. Akira Takarada couldn’t speak much English, so I didn’t really communicate with him, and he had to be coached on how to say the words in English. But he managed to do it and did a wonderful job. I didn’t really get to know him very well because of the language barrier. But Masumi Okada spoke perfect English, and he showed me lots of Tokyo, and I had a really good time.

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Linda Haynes and Masumi Okada on the set of Latitude Zero. Latitude Zero © 1969, Toho Co., Ltd.

BH: I know you mentioned that you didn’t work with him much, but do you have any other memories of Cesar Romero?

LH: Just that he was bigger than life – he really made an impression. He was very glamorous with lots of laughter. I didn’t actually see him work because we had no scenes together, but he had quite a presence.

BH: Wow! Okay, well, I’m very curious about this next question, do you know exactly who wrote your dialogue, and in any case, did you have any freedom to sort of rewrite any of your lines?

LH:  Ted Sherdeman wrote the script, and he and his wife were both there with us in Tokyo. Wonderful people. I don’t remember changing anything because in those days I would not have had the guts to say, “This doesn’t sound right. Let me say it such-and-such a way. Or how about this?” That may have happened later to a small degree, although I didn’t do much of that. I didn’t try to rewrite scripts or be bossy. My job was to get on the set and pretty much deliver what’s written in the script. Later on, after having attended acting workshops, Eric Morris’ class in Los Angeles and the Actors Studio in L.A., I learned that you can really read the phone book, and if you have something real going on inside. That’s what is interesting and compelling to watch; it’s not so much the words. I did insist on one change when they wanted me to be nude in a scene where I get out of a pool, and I did not want to do that.

BH: They wanted you to be nude?!

LH: They wanted me to be nude when getting out of a bath scene with Okada, Jaeckel, and Takarada. I was told, “Well, in Japan, that’s no big deal.” Not totally nude but topless. I guess they didn’t think that that would’ve been any big deal. But I refused to do that, and they even put some kind of skin-colored foam rubber over my breasts to get me to do the scene – must have been a long shot. (laughs) I ended up just getting out of the pool and just wrapping the towel around me without having to show anything. They were good sports about it.  Later on came the middle ’70s, and I did other movies where I did appear nude, and it didn’t thrill me, but I did it. I realize today that it must have been an important element for the box office, but it’s not really necessarily pertinent to the movie. I did it later on, as almost every script had a nude scene, and if it didn’t, they wrote one in to spice it up. Many stars/actresses in the 1970s did because it was a sign of the times, the days of hippies, free love, sexual revolution and all that stuff, so we kind of lost our inhibitions over time.

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Getting to know the locals in Japan. Photo courtesy of Linda Haynes.

BH: Do you have any memories of the producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka?

LH: Yes, I do. I remember what he looked like. I remember he was very nice. He was really a big producer, and I felt he was someone to be reckoned with. I don’t remember talking with him a lot. I remember he was at my birthday party, but I don’t remember that he patrolled the set, keeping tabs on what was going on because I guess he had other things to do. I could be mistaken about that, but I don’t remember him doing that. I didn’t really talk to him because of the language barrier, outside of “hellos” and “goodbyes” and those kinds of things. But I do remember what he looked like, and I remember his demeanor.

BH: Do you have any memories of any of the locations, where the scenes were shot? Were they all on Toho Studios, or were any of them filmed on location anywhere?

LH: We went to two locations that I can recall. One was in a Japanese garden that was absolutely gorgeous. I’d never seen anything like it. And that, I think, comes at the end of the movie. We also went to the harbor in Yokohama for an outside scene which was a treat. Today I would have wanted to explore the whole area. I got to travel on the bullet train, which was an experience. I went to Nagoya to see Masumi Okada play Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. He was doing a play on some nights during the filming of Latitude Zero. He would work during the day on the movie, then he did the play at night. I can’t imagine having that much energy. But he did. He let me borrow his glasses to see the play. This was the first time I realized that I needed glasses because when I saw plays, I could never see what was going on very well. So he said, “Well, try my glasses.”  I couldn’t believe the difference; I could actually see the actors onstage! (laughs) So needless to say, when I came back to the States, I got glasses.

I went to nightclubs, and we went to non-Japanese and Japanese eateries. I had food that was not necessarily Japanese. I saw quite a bit of Tokyo. Got to eat Kobe beef with Joseph Cotten, Pat Medina and Dick Jaeckel. It was great, but I had to have mine well done as always. I went to a festival at night that was beautiful; the air was filled with incense, and there were lots of lavish decorations and food stands. A shopping expedition at Takashimaya Department Store was interesting, as it was a huge store that had everything under the sun. So exotic in some sections. I saw a Noh play, and I saw Linda Purl in The King and I. It was great.

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Make a wish! Linda Haynes celebrated her birthday during filming of Latitude Zero. Latitude Zero © 1969, Toho Co., Ltd.

BH: Now did you have any interaction with the crew members?

LH: There was a lady who spoke English, and she was also an interpreter, and I feel bad because I can’t remember her name. I know I would recognize it in the credits, but the credits are limited in the tape I have of the movie. But she was really nice. She and I went out to dinner. It was really the language barrier that prohibited getting more friendly with the people. But she was very nice and smart. I’m sure that she got a credit as an interpreter because she was there, and she did work on the set, along with Henry Okawa.

BH: Do you have any other interesting stories from the set of the film?

LH: Let’s see. Well, I think I mentioned how we got the flu. We all got the Asian flu, and we were sick, and certainly Joseph Cotten mentions that when he talks about Latitude Zero in his autobiographical book. It was November and December, and it was cold in Tokyo. I had on this transparent vinyl jacket trimmed in gold, and we would go into the set (warm) and then outside (cold), and the whole jacket would fog up, so you couldn’t see through it. It was a little uncomfortable, the costume, because of how cold it was and because for a while we were pretty sick and worked anyway. The costume designers were so creative.

I didn’t get to see a lot of the special effects, but I did watch the battleship, and they had built a very large water pool on the set, and they had a miniature battleship, and it wasn’t so miniature because it was probably four or five feet long, and they were filming that. So it was kind of interesting to see how they did it. Everything was new to me about making movies. I didn’t get to see the monsters because it wasn’t as though I could just drop in on the set and watch, as Toho Studios was quite a distance from the hotel. I didn’t really work with any of the monsters that Pat Medina and Cesar Romero worked with.

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That’s a wrap! The cast and crew of Latitude Zero pose for a group photo. Latitude Zero © 1969, Toho Co., Ltd.

BH: My last question is, what did you think of the film when you saw it?

LH: The first time I saw it, I thought it was really ludicrous. I was not a fan of science fiction, and I thought it was hokey. In the theater in Santa Monica, the kids in the audience were laughing.  The tone was one of , “Oh, this is just ridiculous. Let‘s throw tomatoes at the screen.” That was how the kids were responding, lots of noise and kid stuff going on in the theater, and then I’m sure I was watching myself to see what kind of job I did, and no doubt (was) critical of myself. It certainly didn’t open at Grauman’s Chinese! (laughs) But it was fun. I liked what Richard Jaeckel said toward the end of the movie about being more concerned with outer space than the resources in our seas here on Earth. That was pretty profound!

I was really lucky to have been a part of this movie, and as time passes, I appreciate it more and more. Thanks for interviewing me, Brett, and thank you to the people who are interested enough to have read this interview.

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