One of my favorite parts of a film festival is getting to see and hear from the actors, writers or directors who turn up and agree to sit down for an onstage interview in front of the audience. I took advantage of that opportunity during this year’s Sarasota Film Festival with attendees Rosanna Arquette, Diane Lane and Stanley Tucci; here’s a report back on just a few of the insights or memories they shared during “In Conversation with…” at Florida Studio Theatre’s Keating Theatre.
With Rosanna Arquette, star of such films as After Hours, Desperately Seeking Susan, The Executioner’s Song, Baby, It’s You and the new festival film, Born Guilty.
On growing up in an acting family: “I don’t know if I even had a choice” when it came to acting as a career. “My father was an actor and a musician; my mother was an activist. I was in a play at 17 and then went to an audition for Leo Penn. I ended up being in The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, with Bette Davis. And I just recently worked with Hopper Penn, Sean’s son, playing his mother. I’m the mother now, a lot. I was an ingénue for a long time. I’m embracing playing middle-aged women now.”
On her role as killer Gary Gilmore’s real-life girlfriend Nicole in The Executioner’s Song: “I felt it was important to get to know each other, so we spent some time together. She gave me Gary’s journal, actually, which even Norman Mailer didn’t have. Tommy Lee Jones took me shooting. It was the first time I’d ever fired a gun.”
On Baby, It’s You: “I loved doing that film, loved [director] John Sayles and his use of music, those Bruce Springsteen songs.”
On After Hours: [Martin] Scorsese was just the greatest director to work with. He loves actors; he trusts you. One of the most fun experiences I’ve had.”
With Diane Lane, star of such movies as Unfaithful, Under the Tuscan Sun, A Walk on the Moon, and the festival film, Paris Can Wait.
“Eleanor Coppola first approached me about Paris Can Wait in 2013, and I couldn’t do it then. I’m so glad she asked me again when I could. And I was glad there was hardly any crying in it. Lots of gorgeous locations, yummy food, lots of wine…it checked every box for me. A nice, refreshing experience.”
On working with Eleanor’s husband, Francis Ford, on several films as a teenager: “He gets actors to take chances. That’s healthy. It feels like a team effort. And as an only child, I was so grateful to be taken in by the [Coppola] family energy.”
On A Little Romance and appearing so confident onscreen while only 13: “My character was confident, so I had to be. Actually, I’m playing the part of a confident actress right now.
“But I started acting so young, onstage, that by the time I started in film I had made every mistake you can make. Except for throwing up onstage. I didn’t do that.”
On the TV miniseries Western Lonesome Dove: “My father’s favorite thing that I was ever in. Everyone felt so lucky to be a part of that. We really did the cattle drive.”
On her role as an adulterous wife in Unfaithful: “It was perfect in that we did what we set out to do, gain sympathy for the villain. I mean, having an affair with Olivier Martinez…what can you do? That scene on the train, I had just hit emotional exhaustion by then, so crying and laughing was not hard to do.”
On life in general: “The less we try to boss God around, the more opportunities there are for stuff to show up.”
With Stanley Tucci, star of movies including Big Night, Road to Perdition, The Lovely Bones; currently playing Jack Warner on television’s Feud.
“If you have a great opening night of a show, the second night will be horrible. It’s inevitable. You can’t recreate what you did that first night.”
On his early role as a gangster in TV’s Wiseguy: “They had ideas on how I should play it, and I didn’t play it that way. I did a number of gangster roles back then, and then I didn’t want to do any until Road to Perdition [where he played Frank Nitti]. Everyone was bad in that one, not just the Italian guy.”
“I personally don’t like to do plays for more than five weeks or so. You start to recycle stuff.”
On working with Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia: “You start watching her and it’s like, ‘God, she’s so good.’ Then you realize, ‘Oh, f***, it’s my line!’ I’m very enamored of Meryl; my two-year-old son fell completely in love with her.”
On playing a psychotic serial killer and rapist in The Lovely Bones: “That was horrible to research and investigate. When I had the scene with Saoirse Ronan, where I had to actually start touching her, I was so anxious about it. She was just 13, and I kept asking her before and after the scene, ‘Are you OK?’ She’d say yes each time, and finally she asked, ‘Are you OK, Stanley?’ Then she’d go off to do her homework, and I’d go have a martini.”
Asked by an audience member to recount a memorable anecdote: “I was onstage in the play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, where in the opening scene the actors are naked and having sex. And the actor’s nightmare happened to me: I was naked, onstage in front of 1,200 people, and I couldn’t remember my lines. You’d think that would stop the dreams coming.”