For this casting call the beefcake was so bountiful Mae West would have blushed. The producers were looking for someone strong (“but not an Arnold Schwarzenegger type”), intense and, above all, sexy. In short, brawn not brains. The prize was the role of Samson in Samson and Delilah, a torrid, two-hour ABC movie airing April 1. Most of the actors waited patiently, but one was nursing a muscular pique after cooling his heels for half an hour outside the producers’ office while those inside criticized the competitors. “I believe in good manners,” says Antony Hamilton, “and they were keeping me waiting while they gossiped.” When Hamilton announced loudly that he intended to leave, the door suddenly opened and he was ushered inside. His bravado paid off.
“Tony was the first actor who brought that glow with him,” recalls producer Frank Levy, who had auditioned 500 Samsons before he found Hamilton, an Australian ballet-dancer-turned-model who looks like a muscle-bound Richard Chamberlain. “Tony was angry, and this gave him an air of arrogance and excitement.”
The chemistry was right between Hamilton, 29, and Belinda (Flashdance) Bauer, 32, a sultry fellow Australian who was cast as Delilah over 250 potential temptresses following an especially humid screen test with Hamilton. The co-stars, who had not previously met, became soul mates during the $2.5-million production’s four-week shooting schedule in Mexico. “Tony was sensitive and caring during the love scenes,” says the coy Bauer. “Belinda taught me very well, and I’m a quick learner,” Tony adds, smiling. Cute, huh? But it’s all in the game of publicizing a show starring two relative unknowns.
The TV movie’s most daring moment occurs when Samson licks wine off Delilah’s breast. (The censor retained the scene but rejected footage in which Samson began heading south.) “My first reaction to the wine was, ‘That’s not a very good year,’ ” jokes Tony, who says he concentrated more on Belinda’s “vulnerability” than on her flesh. Tony says he wasn’t self-conscious, even when a technician periodically checked his loincloth for slippage. “It was just a little annoying,” he says, “like someone touching up my makeup.”
Belinda, sneezing from a cold caught during the December filming in a 17th-century fortress in Cuernavaca, says Tony even mother-henned on the set. Between takes “he just put his arms around me and held me, and we talked.”
As an adopted child growing up in Adelaide (he was born in Liverpool, England and moved with his family to Australia at age 3), Hamilton was a dreamy, athletic boy who felt stifled by life on his father’s farm. “Every day I’d walk around this 640-acre farm, finding the 100 sheep,” recalls Tony. He successfully competed in sports but turned to ballet with the encouragement of his father, a part-time writer. Tony left high school at 15 to attend the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne. “I had a girlfriend for a short time, but I wasn’t interested in sex in those days,” he says. “I was consumed with dance.”
Tony toured with the Australian Ballet Company for two years before resigning in 1973 to become a model in London and later New York. “Samson denied his faith with Delilah,” says Tony dramatically. “My Delilah came in the guise of modeling. For years I had denied the creativity inside me.” The talent for uttering such mock profundities with a straight face helped Tony find yet another field—acting. (Surprisingly, Samson was only his second audition.)
Growing up in a suburb of Sydney 700 miles from Tony, Belinda shared his ambitions. The daughter of a house-paint manufacturer and a physiotherapist, she says she knew early on that “I was going in a different direction.” She started by putting on shows for the neighbors, then graduated to ballet lessons and appearances on local TV. She landed a role as Ophelia in a Sydney stage production of Hamlet. “It was a great feeling to go crazy onstage,” she says. Like Tony, she moved to New York (in 1974) and became a model, with the Zoli agency. Her acting break came in 1979, when she was cast as the mysterious woman in Winter Kills. She became romantically involved with the director, William Richert, and made another film (Success) with him before leaving him and New York for L.A. last January. “It had been a very intense relationship,” she says. “I needed to grow by myself.”
Since Samson and Delilah, Hamilton and Bauer have remained close. Tony, who is staying in his manager’s house in Bel Air, frequently hangs out with Belinda in her one-bedroom Art Deco house a few miles away in Laurel Canyon. Says Belinda, “We like each other, and there’s a strong bond between us that’s precious.” But hardly a passionate one. Tony is mysteriously mute on the subject of women, including Belinda. “We go out,” he says, “but that’s not the same as dating.”
Considering what they’ve already been through in their biblical incarnations, dinner and a movie might just be a letdown.