‘Disdain’ Turns into Life-long Acting Career

Roles in “Cocoon,” “The Final Countdown,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Miami Vice” among highlights

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Harold “Hal” Bergman is living proof the friends with whom you associate can change your life. When he entered the University of Illinois his focus was solely on earning a degree in psychometrics—the combining of psychology and statistics to measure peoples’ skills, knowledge and personality traits.

“It was the right and responsible type of profession to explore,” said the nine-year Cassels Tower resident. But once in school, Hal began gravitating towards college chums who were in the theatre department.

“Until college, I disdained actors—the lot of them—guys dressed likes girls trying to get laughs,” he said. “All that changed when I started hanging out with the acting crowd at school. The first olive was let out of the bottle, and I never looked back.”

Hal was realistic enough to realize he had to keep his day job, though. After stints in WWII and the Korean War, (utilizing his psychometrics degree in testing and measuring thousands of soldiers) Hal earned a law degree from University of Florida and worked jobs as an attorney, investment banker, stock broker and “other boring jobs,” as a means to allow him to continue performing.

Having moved to Coconut Grove in 1964 to raise his four daughters, “I worked during the day to support my nights and weekend passion of acting.”

With a thin, 6-foot-1 frame and dashing good looks, Hal found that many stage plays and certainly most movies and television shows “needed a banker, lawyer, judge, man of the cloth or authority-type figure, and I fit that need.”

Hal’s first movie role came 1980 in the WWII film “The Final Countdown,” starring Kirk Douglas, in which a modern-day aircraft carrier was thrown back in time to a day before the Pearl Harbor attack. ”You see me hitting the deck, getting shot by a Zero (Japanese airplane) and dying in Chuck (Charles) Durning’s arms,” Hal recalled.

Other offers soon followed including his role as a reverend in the 1985 science fiction film “Cocoon” (see below).

After his movie debut, Hal remained busy for the following 30 years with work in all genres and with many household names including James Garner in the James A. Michener mini-series “Space,” Andy Griffith in “Matlock,” Don Johnson in “Miami Vice” and Burt Reynolds in “B.L. Stryker” to name a few.

His acting work offered some wonderful travel opportunities, but Hal always returned to the South Florida arts scene and in 1977 won the area’s Second Annual Carbonell Award for his one-man play a monologue, titled “Darrow,” based on the writings of famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow.

But after 50 years of professional entertaining, Hal decided to retire after filming an episode of “Dawson’s Creek” in 2000. “I played the elderly reverend—of course,” he joked, “and I told (wife) Mary, who was with me for the filming in Wilmington, North Carolina, that I was done.”

His only regret from the decision? “I came home from the shoot and my granddaughter was so angry that I didn’t get autographs from the stars,” he laughed, referring to the wildly popular actors at the time Katie Holmes, James Van Der Beek and Michelle Williams, among others.

The well-liked resident has not completely abandoned his acting, routinely participating in Spring Scene and offering his expertise with other John Knox Village work.

“My aforementioned disdain has allowed me the wonderful opportunity to live at John Knox Village,” he said. “It has been a great run.”

Resident comes out of Cocoon, introduces favorite film

Prior to the Activities Department showing “Cocoon” in May as part of John Knox Village’s Older Americans Month celebration, resident Hal Bergman offered interesting back-stories to the filming of the movie and his involvement.

Hal described working with director Ron Howard (of Opie Taylor fame) and meeting members of the cast and crew.

The 96-year-young Bergman revealed the movie earned over $85 million, that he was paid “a delicious amount of money for two days’ work,” and that residual checks “still roll in, but they are more like a trickle these days.”

To see a history of Hal’s movie and television body of work check out his IMDb (Internet Movie Database) website at the link below: (www.imdb.com/name/nm0074784).