Last week the show “Hollywood Weapons” premiered on the Outdoor Channel. Along with former Green Beret and cohost Terry Schappert, Larry Zanoff gives viewers an inside look at the Independent Studio Services (ISS) weapons department. In each episode, the duo tests popular action scenes and Zanoff’s expertise and knowledge is key.
When not working at the largest rental armory in the film and television industry, Zanoff provides weapons training to law enforcement, military and other government agencies.
Phil Schreier, senior curator of the NRA’s National Firearms Museum, said, “For most of us, film & television were our first introduction to firearms. Most of us have had a love affair with them since we first saw Disney's Davy Crockett & Daniel Boone and that continues to this day. Larry and the crew offer us a unique opportunity to ‘look behind the curtain’ to see how movie magic is made.”
Don’t miss tonight’s episode that tests whether Clint Eastwood’s “Blondie” could really hit the hangman’s noose and save a man from death in the “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.”
The De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures, free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their pop culture obsessions.
1. How did you become an armorer in the entertainment industry?
Well, my standard answer is "by being in the wrong place at the wrong time". But seriously, I have been around firearms my entire life. I can remember being a six year old, sitting with my dad at the kitchen table and helping him clean his guns. My father was a competitive shooter, and an engineer who always worked for defense contracting companies, So we always had guns around the house. When I was about five, my dad moved our family to Israel when he was offered a job by the Israeli ministry of defense. I grew up there, served in the IDF (mostly in Lebanon during the 1980s in what is now referred to as the first Lebanon war).
Upon discharge at the rank of Master Sgt., I came back to the U.S. to "unwind" and decided to go to school here. A degree in law enforcement and the administration of justice, as well as a degree in gun-smithing and firearms technology, led to employment in law enforcement, privet security, and ultimately the firearms manufacturing industry. In the late 1990s, a business in the TV and film industry had a need for a competent gunsmith who also had knowledge and experience with military grade weaponry. Shortly thereafter I got a phone call enquiring if I would be interested in taking on that position. I accepted, and this has led to custom weapon manufacturing, on set work, actor firearms training, and, of course, "Hollywood weapons".
2. It's estimated that ISS provides about 70 percent of all weapons seen in TV and movies. Do you have a favorite item in the armory?
Well, I deal in firearms every day, and as much as I enjoy doing so, it is work, so in my spare time (if I ever get any) I relax by dabbling in some martial arts (mainly Iaido which is a Japanese sword art, as well as kyudo, and aikido. All Japanese arts). Because of this, i think my favorite piece is a Japanese matchlock rifle that represents an early ancestor of our modern firearms.
3. As a kid, what action stars did you enjoy watching?
I don't know if they were called action stars back then, but I always liked the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes. He was a great actor, but an even better fencer, and did all his own sword fighting scenes. Robert Conrad of "Wild Wild West" fame, Fess Parker as Daniel Boone, and Leslie Nielson as the "Swamp Fox" come to mind as well.
4. Tell me about one of your favorite experiences while working on a movie set.
I think my favorite part of working on set is the incredibly talented people I get to meet and work with. Frequently, one short job leads to long-term work relationships, as well as lifelong friendships. I would have to say that working with Ang Lee, in the deserts of Morocco on one of his recent projects was very rewarding, as well as working with Quentin Tarantino, who is an incredibly talented film maker.
5. What action movie could you watch over and over?
In my opinion, “Lawrence of Arabia” is the best film ever made. The action sequences are extremely well done from an historical aspect, the subject matter is fascinating, especially because it is fact, not fiction, and the visuals are breathtaking, and, of course, I love watching all the historical weaponry in action. Brilliant film making aside, the fact that I lived in the Middle East, and have walked some of the same locals as Lawrence did, and of course the fact that my name is Lawrence, might be another reason I am so drawn to that particular film.
6. What was the best decade for action movies/TV shows and why?
I think the 1960s and 1970s are the foundation for today's action films. That's when they really started pushing the envelope of stunts, action sequences, and use of new technology in the TV and film business. Ground breaking examples like "Fantastic Voyage", and "2001: A Space Odyssey" in film, as well as "Mission Impossible,” "Star Trek," and "Space 1999" on TV come to mind. These are the benchmarks today's shows are measured against.
7. What's the last good action movie you saw in the theaters?
I would have to say all the superhero films from Marvel studios. They have captured the essence of our childhood comic book action heroes, made them come alive and step right off the page onto the screen. They have action, stunts, entertaining story lines, and are just a thrill ride from start to finish.
8. Some of the best movies have been adapted from books. What are some recent books you'd like to see made into movies?
I would like to see a big budget Hollywood film made based on Barry Eisler's John Rain books. His stories are interesting, his knowledge of weaponry and martial arts is well grounded, and his characters actions ring true to me.
9. What movie or TV action scene drives you crazy because it's so improbable?
As a professional "gun guy,” it drives me crazy when I see things like six shooters that fire eight or nine times before they need to be reloaded, or the magical never ending ammunition magazine, but we need to remember that it's a film, it's entertainment--not real life.
10. If budget wasn't an issue, what's an action scene you'd like to test?
I would love to re-create the "clapping" scene from the original Magnificent Seven. I think recreating a D-Day style beach landing, like in "The Longest Day", or "Saving Private Ryan," and having to hit a target after slugging your way through the surf, and sand, and then seeing how good you did would be challenging; or the "floor jumping" scene from "Enemy at the Gates" could be interesting as well.
11. Last week your "Hollywood Weapons" cohost Terry Schappert did the Dozen interview. After working with him, tell us something about the Costello to your Abbott that might surprise people.
Well, the Lou Costello that people see on television... sorry, I mean the Terry Schappert people see on television, is a gung-ho, boisterous kind of action star, but there is also a bit of the "warrior poet" in him that most people don't have the privilege of seeing. He has a good grasp of world events, is very well read, and is comfortable in any environment. I think that The "Ballad of the Green Berets" said it best: "Silver wings upon their breast, these are men, America’s best.” Terry is one of those guys, one of America’s best.
12. Cam Edwards of NRA News called you the "Willy Wonka of Weapons." Which four people would you give a Golden Ticket to tour the armory? (I would take the fifth ticket)
#1 Of course, I would love to have Cam Edwards come out and tour the armory.
#2 I also have great admiration for Gary Sinise due to all the effort he and Joe Mantegna put in on behalf of our veterans (Joe is already a good friend of our company and has a lifetime "golden pass" to the armory, otherwise I would have listed him as well).
#3 I would love to have Tom Selleck stop by (his performance as a sharp shooter in "Quigley Down Under" is one of my all-time favorites).
#4 Lastly, I would love to have Dr. William Atwater, former director of the US Ordinance Museum at Aberdeen, stop by. I have read most everything he has written, and he is someone whose knowledge of firearms I very much admire.
(You, of course, would not need a ticket, all you have to do is let me know when you want to stop by, and I will be happy to give you a tour).