The Perfect Vision: What brought you to Italy for the Hercules films?
Steve Reeves: Pietro Francisci, the director of Hercules. He wrote the script also, and he had I been looking for Hercules for about five years. Around' Italy, he'd find somebody who was good looking and tall, but had no body. Or someone who was good looking but short, and had a great body. He just couldn't find the right combination.
One day his daughter, who was 13, went to the theater and saw Athena [MGM, 1954, starring Jane Powell, in which Reeves appeared], which had gotten to Italy by then. And she ran home and said, 'Daddy, I think I have your Hercules.' He went to the theater the next day, pictured me with a goatee and moustache, and felt I would be his man. At the time I was working for American Health Studios in public relations. I'd go to Riverside and open up a fitness studio with the mayor and Miss Riverside, then wait another two weeks or so and open another one someplace else. I had a good job with them, it didn't use too much of my time, and the owner made me promise I'd forget about show business if I worked with him. So when the Hercules offer came, I just ignored it. Then Francisci wrote me another letter and said 'Look, this is serious. Here's an airplane ticket.' There was also an advance of $5000, which in those days was quite an advance. I realized the guy was serious. I started growing a moustache and goatee on my job. This way I didn't have to have something glued on, which is terrible. My boss asked me what I was doing it for, and I said I wanted to look more distinguished.
I was only paid $10,000 for Hercules and I had no percentage. The film cost a half million to make, and it earned $40 million in the United States alone. It was the box office champion of 1959. I outgrossed John Wayne, Rock Hudson, and Doris Day, who were the big money makers at the time. And I was the biggest box office star, not only in the United States, but around the world.