Feature: Celebrating heroes and villains

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  April 15, 2003 at 5:07 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 15 (UPI) -- The American Film Institute has announced that Arnold Schwarzenegger will host an AFI TV special honoring the greatest heroes and villains in American movies.

"AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Heroes & Villains," set to air June 3 on CBS, will feature interviews with such screen greats as Kirk Douglas, Sally Field, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, Peter O'Toole and Sylvester Stallone -- talking about some of the best of the good guys and worst of the bad guys in U.S. movie history.

The lineup also includes Oscar-winning actresses Kathy Bates, Geena Davis, Louise Fletcher and Susan Sarandon -- as well as Oscar-winning directors Milos Forman, William Friedkin and Oliver Stone. Two real-life figures whose exploits were adapted for the screen -- consumer crusader Erin Brockovich and Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein -- will also appear.

Others interviewed for the special are Hayden Christensen, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Celeste Holm, Dennis Hopper, Frank Langella, Elmore Leonard, Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Reeve, Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver.

AFI distributed a ballot last year to 1,500 people affiliated with film -- including directors, screenwriters, actors, editors and cinematographers, as well as critics and historians. The ballot listed the names of 400 characters, but the characters were not sorted out into "hero" and "villain" categories -- leaving it to the jury to decide which was which.

Jurors were instructed that a "hero" was defined as a character "who prevails in extreme circumstances and dramatizes a sense of morality, courage and purpose. Though they may be ambiguous or flawed, they often sacrifice themselves to show humanity at its best."

The definition of a "villain" was a character "whose wickedness of mind, selfishness of character and will to power are sometimes masked by beauty and nobility, while others may rage unmasked. They can be horribly evil or grandiosely funny, but are ultimately tragic."

Jurors were also asked to consider a character's "cultural impact" and "legacy" -- that is, whether a character has elicited "strong reactions across time, enriching America's film heritage while continuing to inspire contemporary artists and audiences."

The list of nominees reached back as far as 1915, for the character of The Vampire in "A Fool There Was." The most recent characters on the list appeared on U.S. theater screens in 2001 -- Gandolf in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"; Detective Alonzo Harris in "Training Day"; and "Shrek."

"AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Heroes & Villains" is the sixth annual TV special in the institute's centennial celebration of American cinema. Previous specials celebrated the top 100 movies, stars, comedians, thrills and love affairs.

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