Hollywood tackled the 1963 kidnap and killing of Los Angeles police officer Ian James Campbell in the 1979 film "The Onion Field." But the film ended up playing a role in ensuring that one of the two convicted killers, Gregory Ulas Powell, stayed behind bars until his death Sunday at age 79.
In "The Onion Field," Powell was portrayed by actor
The film was based on the 1973 book “The Onion Field,” by Joseph Wambaugh, a former L.A. police detective. The movie was directed by
Inside the car was Powell, a mentally troubled ex-con who with his partner, petty-thief Smith (Franklyn Seales, in a strong debut), panicked when they were stopped. They disarmed and kidnapped the cops and took them to a deserted field near Bakersfield. Hettinger managed to escape, but Campbell was slain.
Wambaugh didn't want "The Onion Field" to go the way of the 1977 movie adaptation of his bestseller "The Choirboys," in which he was extremely disappointed. So he wrote the script and found a strong collaborator in Becker, who also would direct the 1980 adaptation of Wambaugh's "The Black Marble." Wambaugh financed the movie with Becker and others to avoid studio interference.
Wambaugh was a stickler for authenticity in the film, down to using the
actual cars from that fateful evening.
"The Onion Field" was a real breakthrough role for Woods as Powell. He had appeared in such movies as 1973's "The Way We Were," the ill-fated "The Choirboys" and the 1978 miniseries "Holocaust."
Powell, though, was his meatiest role to date. Woods earned a
You can check out a clip via Turner Classic Movies.