‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Max Baer Jr. Described Acting on Show Like ‘Pumping Gas’

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Actors have different approaches on how they prepare for a role. Christian Bale once lost 60 pounds for The Machinist, showing up to set weighing 120 pounds. Leonardo Dicaprio, a vegan, ate a raw buffalo liver and slept inside an animal carcass for The Revenant. Max Baer Jr. said working on The Beverly Hillbillies was “like pumping gas.” He just showed up and did his job. It’s no big deal.

Baer said he’d been a contract player with Warner Bros for a year before he landed on The Beverly Hillbillies gig. Back then, studios would use contract players like utility players, Baer explained to a Minnesota radio station. Producers would slot them in to anything because it was cheaper to use their in-house actors rather than farm the job out to an outsider player.

So, by the time the role of Jethro Bodine came along, Baer felt like a seasoned pro.

“It was easy,” he said of acting. “It was like, you know, it was like pumping gas, You just went to work and did your job. … I’ve always been kind of an introvert, but it was very easy for me to turn the other way I guess. It was like being a one-eyed Jack, you know. You have one eye on one side and one eye on the other side. You have two different personalities, I could just become the other one very easily. It was not that difficult for me.”

In fact, he said, it started out easy and somehow got easier for him to portray the dimwitted nephew on The Beverly Hillbillies.

“You know, you could almost phone it in,” he said. He added the only time he found the job tough was when he forgot to put on the fake Southern accent for a scene.

Max Baer Struggled to Find Work After ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Ended

Max Baer Jr. appeared in more than 270 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies. The show made him a star, but it didn’t give him much staying power in Hollywood. He said he struggled to find work after the series ended. Many producers couldn’t picture him as anyone but Jethro. Despite only being in his mid 30s, his career seemed over.

“What do you do at my age, not a heck of a lot,’ he said in 2015. “Plus, it was so hard for me to lose the Jethro character. That’s why I really couldn’t get any jobs after the series was over, not really.”

But Baer created him own opportunities. He raised the $120,000 to produce the 1974 movie Macon County Line. Baer plays a Georgia sheriff looking for revenge from the men who murdered his wife. The movie made a staggering $25 million at the box office. That was a record for most money made per dolllar spent on a film until The Blair Witch Project in 1999.

He produced several other movies and made some cameo appearances on shows such as Fantasy Island after that. But he largely still lives off the largess of The Beverly Hillbillies he said. He’s the last surviving member of the cast and he licenses his images for different products.