Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

From Hunter S. Thompson to Quentin Tarantino, Don Johnson’s got some stories

Seth Meyers, Don Johnson
Seth Meyers, Don Johnson
Screenshot: Late Night With Seth Meyers

Don Johnson’s career hasn’t always been A-List, but the guy’s seen some stuff. On Tuesday’s Late Night With Seth Meyers, the 71-year-old former Miami Vice and current Kenan star happily regaled co-star Kenan Thompson’s pal Meyers with all the inside dope on just being Don Johnson. Hey, speaking of dope, Johnson admitted (or boasted, as the case may be) that his long-running cop show Nash Bridges was the result of a late-night brainstorming session with none other than Johnson’s friend, neighbor, and occasional animal-sitter, Hunter S. Thompson. “We did come up with something. It was terrible—but he was in the room,” laughed Johnson of the initial pitch for what would eventually become Nash Bridges, noting that the whole series can be attributed to Thompson’s need for some sweet CBS development deal cash.

Those sorts of stories are what you get when you talk to a guy who’s been in the spotlight since he was a teenager. Not that his movie star daughter needed any such advice when she reached her own ingénue stage, as Johnson admitted proudly that Dakota (daughter of Don and Melanie Griffith) hand-waved dad’s warning about being cut from the family “payroll” if she didn’t go to college. (She went and did The Social Network instead.)

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Johnson shared all the behind-the-scenes planning that went into his iconic and trend-setting Miami Vice look (it was really hot in Miami, you guys), how he gave his future boss and Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof one of his first jobs (in the Nash Bridges writers room), and how he got the perhaps unlikely job as goofy old white guy sitcom sidekick alongside Thompson (that’s Kenan, not Hunter), as it turns out that he’s also pals with Saturday Night Live maven Lorne Michaels. Because of course he is.

Johnson, whose—let’s call it—eventful life has been marked by everything from superstardom, to very public (occasionally unsavory) romantic entanglements, and the odd cult classic here and there, confessed to Meyers that even he has trouble keeping it all straight. (Again, the guy was neighbors with Hunter S. Thompson.) For evidence, Johnson told of the time when, before being cast in the director’s Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino came up to Johnson at a party and enthusiastically praised Johnson’s work in a long-ago movie—that Johnson was absolutely certain he was not in. Tarantino being the walking Psychotronic Encyclopedia Of Film that he is, wasn’t having it, rattling off everyone involved in the film’s production until Johnson remembered that, oh yeah, he was in that movie. Johnson didn’t mention what film it was, but, considering the circumstances, one can only guess it was 1971's Lollipops, Roses and Talangka starring the young (and dubbed) Johnson alongside former Monkee Davy Jones and Philippines superstar Nora Aunor. It’s been that sort of career.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.