By staff April 20, 2007

There’s good chemistry, off and onscreen, for Joe Pantoliano and Marcia Gay Harden.

By Kay Kipling

Joe Pantoliano and Marcia Gay Harden play a husband and wife in their Sarasota Film Festival film, Canvas, and judging by the pair’s interaction at the Luncheon under the Banyans at Selby Gardens (where they both received the Regal Entertainment Career Achievement Award) and in an interview at a Longboat Key Club suite, it wasn’t hard for them to create that sense of intimacy on screen.

The actors first met 15 years ago while making a film called Used People with Marcello Mastroianni, and they’ve been friends ever since, which helped in their portrayals of a Florida mom and dad dealing with schizophrenia. “People have complimented me on how they can see my character John’s undying love and devotion to Mary,” says Pantoliano, “and that was something I never had to work on; it was just there.” As for Oscar winner Harden, she says the trust the two have working together means “you know where the other is going in a scene; you can really hear each other. It’s subtle, but there.”

Harden also praises Pantoliano, best known to many for his role on HBO’s The Sopranos, as someone with good producer/director instincts. “When he sent me the script [for Canvas] I knew I wanted to be on this boat,” she says. Pantoliano says he’s toyed with the idea of directing, but feels “I’m too impatient; I have ADD. I think I’m better when it comes to being on the producing side.”

To that end, he’s working on what he calls a “basket” of 10 films of all genres he’ll be involved with finding funding for. Harden, on the other hand, is very busy working before the cameras on movies ranging from the upcoming Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn, to the creature feature The Mist to an adaptation of Thomas Kinkade’s The Christmas Cottage. “My films are all low-budget, so I have to work seven to Joey’s one,” she jokes.

Thursday’s luncheon at Selby Gardens was also a chance for festival attendees to meet the director of Canvas, Joe Greco, the Florida State University film school grad who based the character of the schizophrenic mother on his own personal experiences with his mother. His debut film was drawing “good buzz” throughout the festival here.

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