Rudolph "Rudy" Clay and Fred Williamson once were "enemies" while growing up in Gary.
"I've known Rudy since I was 6 years old," Williamson said. "I lived at 2678 Polk, and he was three doors down. He and I were enemies at first. He had an older brother, Lonnie, who would throw rocks at me on the way to school, so I always had to find a new route."
Did Clay join in on the harassment?
"Rudy tried, but he had no arm. It was weak. He was never an athlete," Williamson said, chuckling. "Ducking and dodging those rocks is where I learned some of my moves."
In Gary's earlier years, its high schools included grades kindergarten through 12. Williamson graduated from Froebel, Clay from Roosevelt, and eventually they became best friends as their careers skyrocketed.
Clay ventured into politics, where he spent four decades serving his public and was Gary's mayor from 2006 through 2011.
"We stayed friends, and next thing you know, he's a politician," Williamson said.
Nicknamed "The Hammer," Williamson played defensive back for eight seasons in the NFL and then took off for Hollywood, where he has directed more than 30 action films and appeared in more than 60.
On Tuesday, Clay died at age 77.
Williamson got the news from Clay's wife, Christine, while he was in Vancouver filming "Billy Trigger."
"Every time there was an event, a function, I was there supporting him," Williamson said by phone. "Back then, that's what friends did. That was old-school."
Williamson lives among the stars in Beverly Hills but to this day remains a regular visitor to his hometown.
"Rudy and I had some great times. He was a politician, but he was honest, and that's why he won so much," said Williamson, 75.
"He really wanted to help Gary, and that's why I was with him all that time."