WHEN Broadway star Larry Hagman arrived in Hollywood in the 1960s, he was sent five TV pilot scripts.
He chose to read for the part of astronaut Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie. Created by Sidney Sheldon, the show tapped into America’s obsession with space travel and was the perfect vehicle to challenge the hit Elizabeth Montgomery series Bewitched.
Barbara Eden scored the role of Jeannie, who complicated the life of uptight Nelson after he aborted a mission on a desert island and unleashed her — a magical and alluring genie — from a bottle.
Hagman was accused of throwing tantrums on set, but Eden loved working with him. Eden, 78, who is in Australia for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo, was deeply distressed when he passed away in November. What was the atmosphere like on the set of Jeannie? Wow, how can I answer that. We respected each other. We had a wonderful cast and got along very well and saw each other outside of work. When was the last time you spoke to Larry? Just before he started on Dallas (remake). I had no idea he was ill. I don’t think he knew he was. Larry had his problems before but had always come through. I was truly shocked when he passed away. There is talk of a bigscreen adaptation of Jeannie. What are your thoughts on it? I think they’ll do it eventually. I have been in talks with them. I don’t think they’ve found the right writer. They have written about eight scripts, you know. I wouldn’t be Jeannie, of course . . . maybe her mum. Howwell have you done out of Jeannie — did you negotiate a deal regarding its syndication? No. I sold my rights in the third year. I had no idea it would be so successful (laughs). It’s still on air; I get fan mail from all over. She (Jeannie) is easy to livewith, I like her. Do you think, ‘‘Damn, why did I sign awaymy residual rights?’’ I imagine it would have been financially very lucrative? I suppose so, but it doesn’t do me any good to cry over spilled milk. It was fine. Jeannie was considered quite risque, wasn’t it? I didn’t think so, but the network did. It was odd — we had girls on the show in bikinis with their navel showing, but Jeannie wasn’t allowed to show her navel. I didn’t understand their thinking, but I didn’t really care whether it could be shown or not. And the bottle couldn’t be in his bedroom in the show. And there couldn’t be smoke in his bedroom. You co-starredwith Elvis Presley in the movie Flaming Star. What was he like? Elvis was a gentleman, fun to talk to, much more intelligent than people think. And he could really ride a
horse, which I couldn’t. Supanova Pop Culture Expo Melbourne, April 13 and 14, Melbourne Showgrounds. Gold Coast, April 20 and 21, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre