Feature: Hollywood celebrates 'The Method'

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  April 11, 2003 at 5:29 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 11 (UPI) -- Hollywood actors will celebrate movies that emphasize acting and story over spectacle and special effects over the next week, at the 5th annual Method Fest.

Peter Falk will receive a Career Achievement Award, Lainie Kazan will be honored for Performance of the Year (in an independent film, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and director Mark Rydell ("On Golden Pond") will receive the Industry Achievement Award. The festival will also honor veteran actor John Savage with the Indie Supporter Award and writer-director Henry Jaglom with the Indie Auteur Director Award.

"We're the only festival in the United States that celebrates the actor," said festival director Don Franken. "We feel the performances and the stories are what people remember for a lifetime."

The Method school produced such American acting greats as Marlon Brando, James Dean, John Garfield, Dustin Hoffman, Geraldine Page, Rod Steiger and Meryl Streep.

Falk, who has won six Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations, told United Press International he actually subscribes to the "Swoosie Kurtz school of acting" -- a reference to star of "Liar Liar" and "Tales of the City."

"The first day of any job, she always asks herself the same question -- how did I do it last time?" said Falk.

Falk often seems to take a "blue collar' approach to acting -- a notion reinforced by his classic performance as the rumpled Lieutenant Colombo in the long-running cop drama "Columbo." However, among actors Falk is equally known as the star of serious films such as Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" and the late John Cassavetes' "Husbands," "Big Trouble" and "A Woman Under the Influence."

The Method Fest will include a screening of "Three Days of Rain," in which Falk co-stars with Blythe Danner, Lyle Lovett and former "Monday Night Football" star Don Meredith. Written and directed by Meredith's son Michael Meredith, it's a retelling of six short stories by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

"That is the prototype of an art picture -- Chekhov stories on film," said Falk. "That's what the independent film world is about."

Kazan -- who played Maria Portokalos in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and starred in such movie hits as "Beaches" (1988), "Harry and the Hendersons" (1987) and "My Favorite Year" (1982) -- said she began studying The Method in 1973.

"It changed my life, as to how I approached acting," she said. "I worked with (Method pioneer) Lee Strasberg. I had always had a knowledge of what I was doing but I never really had a technique. It gave me a really grounded technique."

Kazan said most people misunderstand method acting, thinking it only applies to serious drama.

"For me, comedy has to be reality based," she said. "I can't do shtick comedy. I have to approach it as real feelings."

Rydell -- who was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for "On Golden Pond" -- is being honored for a 50-year career that has included work as head of the Actors Studio West Coast branch.

He joked that receiving lifetime achievement awards is "what happens when you get older." But he also said that he is not happy with Hollywood's tendency to worship youth and special effects.

"It's harder to make pictures of quality today," Rydell said. "Studios are not interested. You have to make them independently, unless there's a star who is passionate about a project. It's all star driven."

Rydell said, however, that even if filmmakers manage to get their vision onto the screen, it's still next to impossible to get distribution for those kinds of movies.

"You're doomed with a picture of quality," he said. "They can't compete in that weekend competition -- Friday night by 8 o'clock they know whether you're in or out."

A new feature at this year's festival is the Method Fest Acting Competition, led by Joanne Baron -- an actress who has also become a leading Hollywood acting coach. She said giving opportunities to a worthy newcomer "honors the spirit of the festival."

The panel of judges includes "Ally McBeal" star Peter MacNicol. The winner will receive prizes including $500, a gym membership and consultations with a talent agent, talent manager, casting director and established feature film director -- as well as free coaching with Baron.

The festival will also include panel discussions exploring various Method acting styles -- such as those taught by the late Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner and Strasberg. The screening schedule includes "Raising Victor Vargas, "Julie Walking Home" and "Leo."

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