American Record Guide
|Knutzen, Eirik: "Dashing Duncan." The Toronto
Star 27 January 1990, second ed., Starweek sec.: S13.
by Eirik Knutzen
Classically tall (6-foot-4), dark and handsome, Duncan Regehr learned a thing or two about swordplay 15 years ago from the venerable Patrick Crean at Ontario's Stratford Festival.
When the Canadian arrived in Hollywood in 1981, producers were all too happy to put everything from broadswords to epees in his hand. Steadily employed over the past decade, he has paid the price with buckets of blood in such diverse television projects as Wizards And Warriors, The Last Days Of Pompeii, The Blue and The Grey and even as the swashbuckling Errol Flynn in My Wicked, Wicked Ways.
And now Regehr has another sharp weapon in his hand in the title role of Zorro (and his alter ego Don Diego), the first straight weekly half-hour TV series on the comic book hero since the late Guy Williams carved "Z"s on his evil-doing enemies' underwear from 1957 to 1959.
Regehr is ably assisted by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as his father, Don Alejandro; Patrice Camhi as Victoria Escalante, Zorro's love interest; James Victor as Sgt. Mendoza and Michael Tylo as the tyrannical Alcalde. Filmed in Spain and set in the pueblo of Los Angeles in the 1820s, the storylines deal with evils such as earthquakes, drought and municipal corruption.
Regehr took a remedial course in swordplay from Zorro stunt co-ordinator/fencing master Peter Diamond before reporting to the location set on the outskirts of Madrid.
"I had to do something because an old friend of mine, British actor Stephen Greif, was going to do a guest shot on the show," he explains. "We played gladiators in a miniseries, The Last Days Of Pompeii, a few years ago and Stephen accidentally turned me into hamburger during our gladiatorial fight scenes. Now the middle finger on my right hand doesn't bend anymore and a slash near my wrist hurts like hell whenever the weather turns cold."
Regehr is happy to have survived the first 25 episodes Of Zorro with his limbs intact and is looking forward to doing more, for a fat fee, if the French/American co-production is picked up after the initial run. It simply was fun to portray the character created by Johnston McCulley in 1919 for the pulp magazine All Story under the title of The Curse Of Capistrano.
Since Douglas Fairbanks Sr. put the masked crusader on the screen in 1920 in The Mark Of Zorro, 12 actors have played the part, including Bob Livingston, Reed Hadley, Tyrone Power, Clayton Moore (before The Lone Ranger), Alain Delon and George Hamilton. Henry Darrow became the first Hispanic to play the character in the short-lived comedy series Zorro And Son (1983).
"I've never seen anybody else's interpretation of Zorro/Don Diego, but I certainly hope mine is different," says the late-thirtysomething Regehr. "I'm trying to make Zorro larger-than-life, elegant and heavily romantic. In the past, Don Diego has been portrayed pretty much as a fop or dandy. My way is to make him a Renaissance man, a cultured person interested in science, music and politics."
Born in Lethbridge, Alta., and raised in Victoria, B.C., Regehr (of English/Russian ancestry) entered showbiz at the age of 10 as a figure skater with local and regional ice shows, then became the host of a television show on CATV in Creston, B.C., four years later called The Strawberry Lane Interview Hour.
After high school, Regehr spent two years studying voice, acting, movement and fencing at the Bastion Theatre School, then spent five years in regional theatre before settling in Toronto in 1974.
Between stage productions, he appeared in a handful of films including The War Is Over, One-Night Stand and My Granddad Died. Shortly before moving to California, he completed a successful run as Kit, the fearless frontiersman, in the CBC series Matt And Jenny.
With recent work assignments on three continents, the likeable, self-deprecating actor saw his hillside home in the San Fernando Valley only once during the 1989 calendar year. "But I phone the housekeeper frequently and she keeps assuring me that the house is still standing and my cat is still alive," says Regehr.
"Luckily, my wife (Katherine) loves to travel and goes on the road with me. And there are no children to worry about. We talked ourselves out of that 12 years ago."
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