Time Magazine
July 4, 1977
(Article discovered by Ed Floden)

    It is noon, and Sam Peckinpah is in a good mood when he arrives on  the set. "I had half a can of beer for breakfast," he whispers, "and  it tasted great!" Why does the director of so many he-man shoot-'em- ups whisper? No one has ever dared to ask, but as a technique it has  its advantages. When Peckinpah whispers, people cup their ears and  listen—or they may not be around for whisper No. 2. The mortality  rate on the ordinary Peckinpah picture is about half that of lemmings  in leap year. But either Peckinpah is not whispering enough on this movie, which is  being shot in Cuba—Cuba, N. Mex.—or he is whispering too much. Or  perhaps it is a combination of boredom, dust and the New Mexico sun.  At any rate, Peckinpah should have had the rest of the beer because,  whatever the problem, the crew of his latest picture, Convoy, is  threatening to reverse the usual procedure and quit before being  fired. "Either Sam has gone mad or the rest of us have," says a  wardrobe man. Adds a cameraman: "This is a training ground for  idiots. We are all out to lunch."
    The stars of the film, a saga of CB truckers based on C.W. McCall's  1975 hit song, are more charitable. "Only Sam knows what he's doing,  but I trust him," says Ali MacGraw, who is trying to make a movie comeback as a chic photojournalist who falls in love with a trucker.  "Sam is like an old dog you sometimes have to apologize for," says  Kris Kristofferson, the trucker Ali falls for. A more direct comment comes from Burt Young, who played Talia Shire's crude, ugly brother  in Rocky and who goes by the CB monicker "Pigpen" in Convoy. "Sam's a  pain in the ass, but we all want to be part of his gang. He's a genius, the bastard."
    Out-to-Lunch. Meantime the trusty old dog, bastard, genius, otherwise known by his own CB handle "Iguana," is besieged by his staff every  time he walks out of the hotel or his air-conditioned trailer. The  picture is a logistics nightmare, with 28 giant, 18-wheel trucks and  38 other assorted vehicles that have to be maneuvered with military  precision, and only the director can say where they are to go. Most of the questions he simply ignores or shrugs off, however, his head shrinking toward his collar like a turtle putting out the OUT-TO-LUNCH sign. Short, hunched, with deep lines across his face,  Peckinpah looks older than his 52 years. He always gives the  impression that he is being stalked by some monster who is about to gobble up him and all his progeny. In a sense he is; the monster is half alimony and half child support. "I don't have the opportunity of turning down pictures," he whispers. "I have three ex-wives and five children."
    Convoy is a movie he wanted to do. But since shooting started May 2, there has been little but trouble, and the film is already three weeks behind schedule. A fire, perhaps set by an arsonist, has  destroyed a major set, and there has been a plague of thefts and  vandalism. Crew members walk around aimlessly, muttering mutiny, while everyone complains of the heat, which sends the temperature to  100 or above by midafternoon. A helicopter arrives for crucial aerial shots, but has no place to secure a camera, which then has to be held by hand. One of the extras  cannot figure out the complicated gears of a bus, and it takes him an  hour and a half to learn where reverse is. Camera trucks are carefully positioned along the side of the road to catch the drama of  the truck convoy—but the convoy takes a wrong turn and roars up  another road, leaving the cameramen with their mouths agape, as if  they were in a Mel Brooks comedy.The script has been all but discarded, and Peckinpah works largely by  intuition. "I get a call late at night from Sam," explains Madge Sinclair, who plays a trucker's widow, "and he says, 'Here's what I want you to do.' But he is not always articulate." Says Young: "Sam  comes to me and says, 'I need more,' and I say, 'What do you mean  more? The lousy part hasn't been written yet.' He says, 'What are you  here for?' So I sit down and write it."
    If he disdains conventional planning, Peckinpah does make use of the  accidents and mischances that have followed the shooting. When a  truck overturned on its way to the set, an alert cameraman caught the  action. Peckinpah once again rerouted the story."This is a million- dollar stunt that we could never afford," he said happily. Later a  stunt man, whose car was supposed to be sent flying into the air and  through the roof of a barn, went about a mile too high and landed in  a distant field instead."Great," said Peckinpah. "We'll use it." Down the Road. Many actors would no doubt go through the roof, too,  on Peckinpah's set, but the cast of Convoy, unlike the technical  crew, seems to enjoy his peculiar methods. "Perhaps it's a tribute to my monumental lack of training, but I like this way of working," says  Ali MacGraw. "It allows for spontaneity." Not having worked in five  years, since The Getaway—another Peckinpah epic—MacGraw admits to  being nervous about what the critics will say about this one. Says  she: "I had hardly acted when I acted. Now I really want to do a good  job. If I blow this one, I have only myself to blame." It may take a while for everyone, including Ali, to know how good or  bad she is, and the end of Convoy is still some place down the road.  Jokes Young: "I've been here only a month and a half, but it seems  like a year and a half." Those who have been on other Peckinpah sets,  however, know that chaos is the only certain part of the scenario.  The picture somehow is always finished.
    "See these medals?" says Property Master Bob Visciglia, a veteran of  ten years with Peckinpah, as he fingers a string of medallions around  his neck. "You know how we started, this? We were filming The Ballad  of Cable Hogue. People were quitting left and right, and Sam was  firing people even faster than they were quitting. I said to him,  'The people who make it with you deserve a medal.' Since then, he's  given out medals after every picture. A lot of people will get medals  after Convoy."