- SINCE THE WINDS OF WAR PICKED UP HIS
CAREER, BEN MURPHY HAS A NEW OUTLOOK AND AN ABC SERIES
by William Plummer
- People Weekly, May 30, 1983
Dan Curtis was trying to tell Ben Murphy that he'd just won the
part of Robert Mitchum's older son, the one who didn't make time
with Ali MacGraw, in The Winds of War. But Murphy didn't
understand him. Still reeling from the audition, Ben tumbled
out of the casting room, crashed into the secretary's in-and-out
box, and sent a pile of Paramount memoranda into the air. What
a great shtick! thought Curtis.
But Ben wasn't doing a shtick. He had been terrified of auditioning.
"It was having to prove myself," he recalls. "I
was afraid because inside me I thought there was an ugly human
being and somebody would find it out and not like me. I wanted
somebody to say, 'It'll be okay. You're okay.'"
Two years later, ensconced in a Malibu condo littered with New
Age propaganda (Feelings, Passages, etc.), Murphy, 41,
is still "trying to understand who I am and be happy in
my skin." The success of The Winds of War has helped.
It led to a starring role opposite Lauren Hutton in The Cradle
Will Fall, a made-for-TV mystery with mad-scientist overtones
that airs May 24 on CBS. Next fall Ben will dispense money and
dreams as the Irish Sweepstakes' man in America on Lottery,
a new ABC series that recalls the late-50s show The Millionaire.
Yet most helpful of all have been his weekly therapy sessions.
For instance, when he lost the role of Face in The A-Team
to Dirk Benedict, Murphy cried over a part for the first time.
He realizes now what went wrong: "I didn't share myself
in the reading."
Photos Caption: Ben works out regularly on the second
floor of his Malibu condo. "I'm proud of being 41 and being
in this condition," he says. Of Lauren Hutton in The
Cradle Will Fall, Ben observes, "She's intuitive and
yet somewhat distant. I know her pattern well because she's me."
talks in California mellow speak, but he grew up in towns throughout
the Midwest. As the son of a Chicago potato broker and a secretary--both
workaholics--Ben based his own self-esteem on work. He caddied,
loaded and drove trucks, and all the while shrank from contact
with kids his own age. Always handsome, he created a facade of
effortless self-sufficiency. "Even today," he says,
"I run into old schoolmates who say, 'Gee, you were kind
of nice. But nobody knew you.' I was a classic withdrawer."
To express what slender sense of self he had, Ben took up acting
at the University of Illinois. In 1967 he signed an 11-year contract
with Universal City Studios. That was a mistake, he says, because
he felt indentured. "I resented it and withdrew still further."
The Universal deal did get him four TV series, including Alias
Smith and Jones, which brought fame and some fortune. But
in 1973 the series ended after co-star Peter Duel's suicide.
Murphy did not react to Duel's death until 1980 when he saw Ordinary
People. The scene in which Timothy Hutton rages against the
death of his brother sent Murphy into belated paroxysms of grief.
"I could barely get out of the theater," he remembers.
"I took my date and hid behind a car and cried."
Five years ago Murphy dropped out of acting altogether and devoted
all his energies to tennis. Ben had never played sports in his
youth because it would have meant joining a team. In 1980, during
the actors' strike, he put in 40 hours a week on the court and
was ranked No. 21 in the Southern California Tennis Association's
35-and-over division. Keeping count in a ledger of every set
he played, he was still finding his self-esteem in work and the
illusion of perfectability.
During this period he married Pan Am stewardess Jeannie Davis,
which reduced his compulsive womanizing. Although divorced in
1981, Ben and Jeannie remain friendly. Murphy now dates sporadically.
He confesses to a couple of months of celibacy but also admits,
"I had a different girl every night for a few weeks in there."
Ben has sampled several of the estlike programs that seems
to abound on the West Coast. Most recently, he has been immersed
in Insight Transformational Seminars, a Santa Monica group interaction
program which, ironically, is run by a man named J-R. Because
of that experience, Ben is no longer withdrawing, he says. "I've
given up trying to be that perfect, cool-with-the-girls guy that
In spite of his inauspicious audition, The Winds of War has
proven Ben's most satisfying film work to date. "It was
my first post-therapy job," he says. "It used to be
that I resented being forced into close contact with people.
Now one of the reasons I work is to have a family. It's fun."
It also didn't hurt that at one point during the filming, Dan
Curtis grabbed him and gruffly forecast, "You're going to
be a big bleeping star."
- Photo Caption:
Until The Winds of War, says Ben (with Robert Mitchum
and Deborah Winters), "I'd never been praised as an actor."
Caption: "I've been not quite satisfied with acting
but I'm making my peace with it," says Ben (with secretary
- Back to Articles List