actor John Friedrich in The Thorn Birds (left), filmmaker Marc Moody on set (right)

When I wrote about the career of 70’s and 80’s film actor John Friedrich in my “Actors Who Have Fallen Off the Face of the Earth” series last November, I was pretty sure that my fandom was probably in vain. I know these actors haven’t really fallen off the face of the earth, but are just obscured by time and events – victims of the “if it’s not on the internet, it doesn’t exist” syndrome. However, it turned out that John Friedrich has even more fans than I imagined, ones that could were willing to dig deeper. In April, I received an email from the other side of the globe. Accomplished filmmaker (Almost Normal) and professor (University of Hawaii at Manoa) Marc Moody had been on a lengthy quest of his own to track down Friedrich. Through a series of events that he calls “connecting the dots,” Moody eventually found Friedrich, and sent him a letter asking him to come speak at his university. And he said yes! Marc answered a few questions for me:

Me: Why John Friedrich?

Marc: Good question. Still asking that myself. John was someone who I remembered, yet had no memory of his name or his films. I just knew that there was this actor I remembered who appeared in a lot of films I saw as I was was growing up, and his performances were riveting. I remember thinking a few times; “I’m never going to be able to know who this guy was. There is just not enough information for me to look anything up on him. That all changed when I caught Thank God It’s Friday airing on television. There, walking into frame, was the guy I’d always remembered.

What is your favorite film of his?

His most solid performance – acting, story, film budget – is The Wanderers. His most endearing performance is The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. If that story were to be done today, the story would (or should) be about Roy Slater and Todd Lubitch. An example of where he could have been groomed as a diversified Sean Penn-type dramatic actor is the character Squeeze, in Fastwalking. An example of where he could have been groomed as a leading boy-next-door star is Thank God It’s Friday. If you’re talking about John Friedrich, it’s not about his films, but his roles and what he delivered in these films.

Please tell me the story of how you tracked him down.

Doing research. Connecting the dots.

Being a fan… detective work… research… stalking. Where do you draw the dividing lines between each?

When I thought I might have found John, I specifically approached him in a straight forward, business manner – with a letter. I first let him know I was a filmmaker. All he had to do was Google me and he could find my films, and articles on me and stuff. The same goes with my other line of work as a professor. I also told him exactly how I came about looking for him.

Why did you arrange to have him come speak at your university?

Because I strongly felt that if I was going to contact him, I had better have some type of professional offer. I don’t believe, nor do I recommend, anyone trying to contact someone for purposes that cannot be explained or beneficial to the other party. If it’s only for the sole purpose of tracking them down to become their friend or meet them, whatever, don’t do it. It’s not worth your time or theirs.

What if one of his fans couldn’t hi-jack a plane and make it all the way to Hawaii? Will the event be documented?

The event was filmed. Having it distributed is probably not an option, but it will be running on the Olelo channels here in Hawaii!

So *gasp!* tell us, where is John Friedrich now and what in the world is he up to?

John lives in New Mexico. He has a beautiful family. He is happy, devoting his energies and time invested in many things (acting is one of them). The best thing I can say about him after we’ve spent time together… is that we’ve laughed a lot!!

Lots more information can be found in two nice articles (and interviews with John) written by the Hawaii Star Bulletin‘s Katherine Nichols before the event, and then one reporting on it. In subsequent correspondence with Marc, it seems that there may be some other things in development in John’s career. I’ll keep you posted. Here are the posters (1, 2) from the event at UofH, which apparently was heavily attended. Here’s an excellent eight minute collection of clips of John’s work, that was put together by Marc for the event. Here is John Friedrich’s ongoing imdb listing.

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