Steve starred in my first feature film, Mr. Id. The film is not very good, but Steve’s performance is outstanding. It’s the only reason to watch the damn movie. Before we shot the movie, I told Steve to watch every Bogart movie he could find. He did. And he channeled Bogart like he was the man’s ghost. There’s a particular scene where he’s confronting a woman who owes him money and refuses to pay with cash. If you close your eyes when you watch that scene, it’s hard to believe it’s not Bogey and Bacall going at it. I guess Steve was a bit of a method actor because he really took to the Bukowski lifestyle (the character he played, Jack Maggot, was based on Bukowski) during the shoot—drinking a lot and trying to score with every woman on the set. He didn’t act quite so wild in his normal life (though there were nights in Los Angeles I had to wrestle his car keys from him and insist on driving, something he absolutely hated).
I walked off the set of Mr. Id halfway through the shoot. It was the nastiest crew ever assembled for a movie and the producer made it clear that I didn’t have his support. Steve was the only person who tried to keep me from leaving. He said I’d regret it and, ultimately, he was right. My “career” as a movie director never quite recovered.
For reasons Steve would never make clear, his career never went to the places it should have either. He starred in Amongst Friends, an independent film about Jewish kids getting into crime, directed by Rob Weiss, who was one of the creators of Entourage. For a few moments in 1993, it looked like Steve would become a big name in Hollywood—this was the final, glorious year of Sundance, when independent films actually were independent—but something happened. Steve refused to star in big budget movies, and I think that hurt him. His only other major film was Bandwagon, which a lot of people like. He made other movies (including Mr. Id), but he never achieved the success I think his talent deserved.
When I lived in L.A., things were often difficult and I had few places to go where I could commiserate with other people who were struggling to pay their bills and find a way into the movie business. Steve was the only reliable friend I had there. He was a typical actor with typical actor foibles, but I could see that, underneath the shields he put up to maintain the attitude required to survive in Hollywood, he was a very good person. It’s very sad to know his kindness is no longer a part of this world.