Brian Dennehy: 'It's a Refreshing Change for Somebody in Work on a Movie That Is About Virtue'

By Mark Judge | January 3, 2017 | 9:29am EST
Brian Dennehy in "The Ultimate Legacy." (Screen Capture)

“I’ve had more people come up to me in at airports and at functions and talk about this movie than any other movie I’ve made,” says actor Brian Dennehy. 

Dennehy is referring to “The Ultimate Legacy,” a faith-based film that came out in December 2015 and is being released on home video on January 3. 

Dennehy, 78, has been in over 50 films, including “First Blood,” “F/X,”  “Presumed Innocent” and “Knight of Cups.” He’s won a Golden Globe, two Tony Awards, and been nominated six times for a Primetime Emmy Award. 

Yet out of all those projects, Dennehy says “The Ultimate Legacy” is the one people on the street praise him for the most.

“To have had the effect it’s had has been very interesting,” Dennehy tells “It’s not a movie that pounds on the desk about religion, it’s not really about that at all.  It’s really about goodness and virtue. And it’s a refreshing change for somebody in Hollywood, especially given the movies that I’ve been in, to have an opportunity to work on a movie that is about virtue and about living well and about learning to live well.”

The film tells the story of Joey Anderson (Myko Olivier), the grandson of a wealthy woman named Sally May Anderson (Raquel Welch). Facing death, Sally May prepares a will that involves several “steps” or “gifts” for Joey to complete in order for him to gain her estate, named Anderson House.

Joey is an impatient and rebellious young man, deeply resentful about his father, who died by suicide. Joey finds a friend and mentor in Gus, played by Dennehy. Gus is a handyman at Anderson House and encourages Joey to “face your demons” and become a virtuous man. Joey becomes more selfless when he meets and helps a veteran named Michael (Kurt Yaeger), who lost a leg in combat.

“More people seem to have been affected in a positive way by my participation in this movie than any other movie I’ve ever done,” Dennehy adds. “At the end of the day that’s probably a good thing.” 

Dennehy was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on July 9, 1938, but grew up on Long Island, New York. The actor - who calls himself “an Irish-Catholic kid from Long Island” - received a football scholarship to Columbia University, where he earned his B.A. He then entered a graduate program in dramatic arts at Yale. After Dennehy graduated from Yale, he joined the Marines. Of his years of service, he told the New York Times, “I owe a lot to the Marine Corps. A sense of knowing how bad things can get… I learned how to be strong.”

Dennehy also thinks that there is a demand for films like “The Ultimate Legacy” that have an uplifting moral message.

“I think that there’s certainly the market for it. We’ve all have had kids and we have grandchildren. You like to think that there’s some opportunities out there for them to sit down and watch and listen to a group of actors working with a script, watching them tell a story, or build a case, for decent behavior, for morality, for goodness, for Christianity. It’s very very rare these days.”

He adds, “The fact is, these pictures are being made, not many of them, and some them are not very good - this one happens to be very good - and the effect of them has been felt. It’s an opportunity for people who really want their children to learn proper behavior and the whole possibility of goodness and morality to take their kids to the movies and hopefully change the way they think.”

Asked about actors who give their political opinions, Dennehy says this: “Actors are like anybody else, they have a right to their opinion. They do have, usually, a loud microphone in which to speak so they probably should know more of what they’re talking about before they start shooting off their mouths. And in many cases they don’t. But that’s all right. They have the same rights as anybody else.”

He adds, “It would probably be more effective if a lot of them do more reading and thinking before they said anything.”

Dennehy is also currently appearing in “Endgame,” a play by Samuel Beckett.

“Theater is where I live primarily…I’m older, and I wanna do what I wanna do. I love Beckett, as a dark Irish writer. It’s a wonderful play.”

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