PW: Who the Hell's in It feels somewhat like a memoir.

I decided to make it very personal when I thought about including a chapter on Dorothy [Stratten]. I thought better of it, because I felt it would be too distracting. But the idea of making the book more personal stuck. Actors are personal, acting is personal to me.

Have you contemplated writing a straight memoir?

I may at some point, but not right now. I've thought about doing another book about actors that would focus on my contemporaries: a chapter on Streisand, Cher, Burt Reynolds, Ryan O'Neal, other people that I've worked with. But that would be even more of a memoir, and so many of them are still alive, I don't know exactly if I want to tell the truth.

The generosity and support you received from other actors, even early in your career, is impressive.

Even when I met them as a journalist, I had already acted and directed theater, so I was never strictly a journalist, and maybe it was easier to get to a certain level of trust. They knew I was in the business as opposed to just writing about it. I think they also were flattered that I knew a lot about their work.

Even legendary figures come across in an intimate way.

I was very fortunate that I met these people when I was young and had an affinity for older people, probably because my father was much older than my mother. But now it's like a whole world of mine has gone, because so many of them have died. It's a weird feeling to be talking about people who have died all the time; it's not that usual for somebody my age, so it feels awkward and strange at times, like I'm not completely part of the present. I do impressions on the set, and they get a laugh, but I'm also doing them as a way of channeling those old friends, keeping them alive for me.

Some of the best stories are about the films that never got made, like your original plan with Larry McMurtry to make Lonesome Dove in the 1970s [before it appeared as a book in the 1980s].

I remember acting it out with John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda; the stuff was so funny, the dialogue was so brilliant. It was so sad that that didn't work out. The truth is that John Ford sensed that it was going to be too good, and he talked Duke out of it. Once Duke was out, that was it. But ideas like that, or the picture I planned with Frank Sinatra, I couldn't have told you then what I was doing, but I was doing what Hollywood had always done during its most successful period—building vehicles around particular personalities.

You write that younger film actors often don't know much about their predecessors.

It's shocking. It's as if you were a theater person and you had movies of Sarah Bernhardt or Henry Irving and you just ignored them. When I did any research in the 1960s and '70s, all I had was what I could catch on TV or at a revival house. It's scandalous to me that all these films are available now and nobody seems to give a shit. Well, that's not entirely true; DVD sales are huge. But they do have trouble moving the older titles.