Born in South Bend in the late 1930s, Richard “Dick” Durock survived an early family tragedy to become a minor Hollywood player and fanboy idol for his role as Swamp Thing in the two feature films and television series of the same name.
Despite his success, he remained a humble Midwesterner at heart.
“He didn’t get a big head. He was down-to-earth, very natural,” Frank Varrichione, Durock’s brother-in-law, said.
Durock, a journeyman actor and stuntman who appeared in more than 700 films and television shows, died last week at his home in Oak Park, Calif., after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72.
Durock was born in South Bend on Jan. 18, 1937, the fourth of five children of David and Sadie Durock. The family lived on the city’s south side, in the 3100 block of South Michigan Street, Richard Durock’s older sister, Judy Schenk, said. David Durock worked for Studebaker and Sadie Durock was a homemaker.
When Dick Durock was 9, Schenk said, Sadie Durock suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died, leaving David Durock to care for the couple’s children on his own.
“Our childhood was not the best,” Schenk said.
Dick Durock remained in South Bend until the age of 13 or 14, his sister said, when he moved with his father and younger sister to New Jersey. There, he finished high school, she said, and then enrolled in the Marines. Later, he moved to Massachusetts, where he stayed for a time with his older sister, Mitzi Varrichione, and her husband, Frank Varrichione, a Notre Dame graduate and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team.
In the early 1960s, Frank Varrichione was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, Schenk said, and he and Mitzi Varrichione moved west. Dick Durock soon followed, she said, and before long began getting work as a Hollywood stuntman.
In a 2008 interview to promote the release of the “Swamp Thing” television series on DVD, Dick Durock talked about how he found work in the stunt business through old-fashioned networking.
“I came out to California,” he said, “met a guy that knew a guy that knew another guy that knew a stuntman, he introduced me to the stuntman, and he told me about a gym in Santa Monica where … a lot of the professional stuntmen worked out.”
Schenk said her brother never expressed an interest in acting or stunt work, but she was never surprised by his chosen profession. He was always handsome, she said, and at 6 feet 5 inches tall and about 225 pounds, he had the physique to withstand the physical abuses inflicted upon stunt professionals.
He also had an amazing drive, his brother-in-law said.
“He was single-minded,” Frank Varrichione said, “and when he went after and pursued something, he expected success.”
Dick Durock’s early work included stunts for “The Beverly Hillbillies” and a bit part as “Guard #1″ in an episode of “Star Trek.” He would go on to do stunt work in hundreds of films and television shows, including “The Poseidon Adventure” and “A-Team,” and act in hundreds more, including “The Rockford Files,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Married with Children” and “Stand by Me.”
But Dick Durock’s most memorable work was as the DC Comics character Swamp Thing, a plant-like humanoid charged with protecting the natural world from the abuses of man.
He played the character in two feature films, “Swamp Thing” (1982) and “The Return of Swamp Thing” (1989), and in a subsequent television series, also called “Swamp Thing,” that ran for 71 episodes in the early 1990s.
Dick Durock was practically unrecognizable in the physically taxing role, which required him to don a heavy body suit and endure hours of makeup.
“At the end of the day you’re wearing 80 pounds of wet latex,” Dick Durock said in a 2008 interview for the Web site Mania.com, “plus all the chemicals on your face. It sure isn’t sunglasses and autographs, I’ll tell ya.”
But he enjoyed the work, Schenk said.
“He loved it,” she said. “He loved doing those crazy things.”
Source: South Bend Tribune via Topless Robot