Saturday, January 14, 2006

Recalling Sundance: Dustin Hoffman

I’m not a stargazer at Sundance. But if you go to enough movies, you tend to run into folks occasionally. One such time happened a few years ago at the premier of Confidence at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City. I was going to skip the Q&A because I had another movie to get to, but instead I went back in the theatre to see what the director had to say. James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) was up front talking, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark recesses of the back of the theatre I realized that I was standing in the midst of the actors, who were waiting to be called down to the stage.

On my right shoulder was Dustin Hoffman, who asked me a few questions about the very distinctive Egyptian Theatre, which he liked. On my left was Andy Garcia, as well as Rachel Weisz and Paul Giamatti (Edward Burns wasn’t at Sundance). I think they thought I was an official volunteer, because they asked me what they were supposed to do. I was the only one who heard Foley invite the actors down to the stage, so I shooed them all down the aisle.

A little devil in me said to join them on the stage. The audience would assume I was with the movie, and the actors would think I was with the festival. Heck, I might have even answered a question or two. But maybe I lost my nerve, or perhaps just deferred to the good manners my momma taught me, but in any event I stayed put. George Plimpton would have gone, as would have Ali G.

As luck would have it, I ran into Hoffman again during that festival, where we were both attending the premiere of the New Zealand film, Whale Rider. I was almost overwhelmed by the movie, and afterwards joined a number of others in line to congratulate both director Niki Caro and 12-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes. I was again surprised to see Dustin Hoffman standing behind me in line, waiting patiently like all the rest of us schmucks. I told Castle-Hughes how completely impressed I was by her performance, which I still think was astonishing. Then I lingered a moment to see what Hoffman would do. I didn’t catch all of his words, but he leaned over to talk to Keisha eye to eye and very sincerely congratulated her on a remarkable movie debut.

I believe Dustin Hoffman is the greatest living actor and if I’m going to bump into anyone, I’m happy for it to be him, and I’m grateful that he impressed me as a pretty good guy.


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