This exclusive interview with Bob Wolterstorff, executive producer and creator, was conducted by Josh and took place via email between 8th – 11th February 2008. Big thanks go out to Wolterstorff for taking the time to answer many questions about the show that had gone unanswered for many years
Why do you think the show only managed to run for 13 episodes?
Were more episodes planned or filmed? Was the cast surprised when the show was cancelled?
ABC put us up against Dallas I believe on a Friday night. Considering the competition we did pretty well with around a 30 share but at the time it wasn’t good enough. We were a bit surprised because of the international popularity of the show. It syndicated in 42 countries
and was stolen by a few others. The merchandise was also a big hit, Universal fought for it but ABC let it go.
Was the building used for command center located on set or was it an actual location in LA? Any other interesting locations where Street Hawk was filmed?
The Command Center was built on a Universal sound stage. We shot downtown LA a lot and spent time in the LA river.
What was the general “feeling” on set? Fun? Tense? Were you aware the show would not last long?
The set was for the most part fun to be on. It was a difficult show to produce and we were constantly fighting cost over-runs. I think we had around 30 extra motorcycles because they keep getting destroyed.
Was the series originally to be called Falconer? I have seen that name on many of the original blueprints of the bike.
Yes. Everyone liked Falconer but the name was taken by another Universal pilot that never got on the air. I liked Street Hawk which was our second choice.
Do you know what happened to all of the sets/props?
Any chance of a remake?!?
Not that I’ve heard. But I see Knight Rider got one so who knows.
Do you know what happened to all of the music that was created for the show? I have heard that over 5 hours were recorded by Tangerine Dream for the show but most was never used or released.
My partner actually went to Germany to supervise the score recording with Tangerine Dream. I don’t know what happened to the music but it was memorable.
What can you tell us about the change from the pilot-style bike to the one used in the series? Who’s decision was it and what did you think of each design?
The change from the pilot bike to the series was as far as I can remember losing the laser and adding a machine gun per ABC. I think there were a few design refinements as well. One of the big problems was the battery life for the lights and other equipment on the bike — they had a very short life span and had to be replaced almost after each scene.
Why did the Canadian version of the pilot get the superimposed/blue-screen vertical lift effects and blue particle beam while the American version got scenes of actual jumps and a red particle beam?
They did? That’s news to me. We actually mixed real jumps with blue screen jumps throughout the pilot but relied more on real.
What direction did you provide Andrew Probert between his initial futuristic designs of the bike to get him where he was with his final sketch? Were you satisfied with the look of the bike all things considered?
As I mentioned before it was a huge undertaking to actually manufacture the bike and produce the series. We knew we wanted the look of a Cafe’ racer but also grabbed ideas out of a custom motorcycle magazine. We also wanted the side flaps for the pilot back-flip stunt and we liked the hidden headlight and the blue outline lights. I was satisfied with the look and I think the design was ahead of its time thanks to Mr. Probert. I also have great respect for our production designer/art director who designed the the HQ, the tunnel and the billboard that the bike flew out of — I can’t remember his name but he was great.
It appears as though the bike was painted an extremely dark shade of blue. Was the bike supposed to be black in “Street Hawk world” and the slightly bluish hue was only used to help in photographing the bike, or was the midnight blue the official color in the fictional universe as well?
It was a deep midnight blue with a light metal-flake — not positive on the metal-flake.
How long could the bike run without refueling? One fuel cell of approximately one quart size only lasts me about 8-10 miles, so did the bike have to be refueled constantly throughout the day of shooting?
Exactly. The re-fueling was going on constantly and caused some delays as I recall.
Were there ever any accidents on set? Any disasters?
A young stuntman broke his wrist in the pilot when the dirt bikes dropped out of the rear of the truck, prior to the armor car robbery. In one episode our EFX guys put too much explosive in a gag at a construction site and the blast blew out all the surrounding apartment windows. We changed EFX guys after that.
Did you screen test anyone else famous for the role of Jesse Mach? In retrospect, do you like the job Rex Smith did?
Rex was fine. Like I mentioned, we wanted George Clooney but the network nixed it. I read somewhere that Clooney mentioned in an interview that he got his SAG card on Street Hawk. I also met with Don Johnson but his pilot, Miami Vice was picked up. We changed the female lead from pilot to series as well.
How did you get Joe Regalbuto onboard and how was he to work with?
Joe was a consummate professional. A fine character actor who added a great deal to the series and nailed most of his scenes.
Who were the stunt riders?
I don’t remember their names.
Did you try other networks when ABC would not continue to run
No. Universal’s call. It was not a cheap show to produce.
Were any script ever written for future episodes?
Are there any unaired episodes??
What was Paul Belous like to work with, and how did you end up paired together?
Paul was my partner for around 10 years. We began on the Jeffersons and ended our partnership on Quantum Leap. I returned to Quantum Leap and stayed at Universal for the following five years. I’m not sure where Paul ended up.
What did the gibberish written on the Maxi Cola sign say?
Not sure I’d have to look. That was our Art Director.
Are there any inside jokes or other tricks you snuck into the show or script?
I’d have to think about that question for a while.
What are you doing now? Are you still involved in TV or film?
The last series I did was called Beyond Belief, Fact or Fiction for thingy Clark and FOX network. That was a few years ago. Since then I’ve been writing and producing virtual training and real training exercises for DHS and the military. I still have a few features I’m working on as well. The only one along the lines of Street Hawk is “Stinger” a comedy about a super hero who has trouble balancing his cover job, his private life and his hero duties.
How would you have ended the show if you had a chance to end it?
I’d probably have him disappear. Never kill off your hero, it tends to limit your chances for a revival.
Any other comments, thoughts, regrets … ?
No regrets — except if I had cast George Clooney in the lead I’d probably have a feature career right now. It was my first series and I under-estimated how difficult it was to produce what was then referred to as a hardware show. A couple of interesting asides. The pilot chase scene in the sewer was inspired by the Star Wars scooter chase. Honda sued us and Universal for two hundred and fifty million dollars for violation of their copyright on their Night-Hawk motorcycle. They dropped the suit when the show was canceled but they couldn’t have won it anyway. I also believe other bike manufactures based their designs on the SH prototype. I see bikes all the time now that look just like SH. Kerry Mcluggage was the Universal executive that got the show on ABC. He fought for it and made it happen.
In addition to the great interview Bob Wolterstorff also provided us with some behind the scene pictures of the filming of street hawk.
(Click on pictures for larger versions)