Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France


So many great people have left us in the past few months. Sadly, too many to note comprehensively in this space. (Not if I’m going to get that novel finished.) So it’s short shrift to such wonders as Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher and Mary Tyler Moore, among others—at least for now. They have received plenty of attention and it’s well deserved. One quick shout-out, though, to to Ms. Fisher for providing at least a couple more performances for us to anticipate—not only as General/Princess Leia Organa but also as Mia, the wonderfully sardonic mother of Rob Delaney’s character on the Amazon series Catastrophe. The brainchild of stars Delaney and Sharon Horgan, it mines the one surefire/can’t-miss source of dark comedy in the universe: the marriage of an American man and an Irish woman.

With that out of the way, here are three mentions of recently lost actors, each of whom had a particular impact on me.

Albert Rosenfeld (1955-2016)

When anybody has ever asked me who my favorite Twin Peaks character is, I never have to hestitate, reflect or consider. I always answer immediately: Albert the FBI forensics guy! When he showed up in the third episode, he was like a breath of curdlingly fresh air. After the pilot movie and a follow-up episode concentrating on picket fence small-town manners and mores, brash big city Albert immediately started mouthing off about what hicks they all were. In other words, he was one of those great television characters (Jorge Garcia’s Hurley on Lost was another) who channel what the hip aware viewers are actually thinking. He was also something of a forerunner for subsequent police procedural characters who would come to dominate network primetime—the CSI experts who would unearth all kinds of information by careful and insightful examination. Everytime he made an appearance, my mood invariably brightened. Rather than be just a one-note jerk character, though, he continued to surprise by demonstrating an unexpectedly soft spiritual side, as when he gave the local sheriff a hug and told him he loved him and proceeded to explicate his personal pacifist philosophy.

Of course Ferrer played other characters besides Albert. He made the usual rounds in TV guest star roles and supporting movie parts. He was actually on the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. He appeared in the series Shannon’s Deal, Broken Badges, On the Air, LateLine, Crossing Jordan, the 2007 Bionic Woman revival, The Protector, Desperate Housewives and more lately as one of those aforementioned CSI guys in NCIS: Los Angeles. His breakout movie role was in Paul Verhoeven’s original Robocop. Other films included Point of No Return, Hot Shots! Part Deux, Blank Check, Mr. Magoo, Traffic, Sunshine State and Iron Man 3. He was also in the Stephen King miniseries The Stand and did a heck of a lot of animated voice work.

The son of José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, he was probably always destined to work in the entertainment business. (He was also a cousin of George Clooney.) He got his start as a drummer and singer in The Jenerators, a band founded by Bill Mumy of Twilight Zone, Lost in Space and Babylon 5 fame. Happily, we have not quite seen the last of Ferrer, as his work on the upcoming Twin Peaks revival was already in the can.

Kane, John Merrick and Quentin Crisp (1940-2017)

Where to begin with John Hurt? There’s just too much to recount. Let’s settle for a simple enumeration of things that made this consummate actor cool beyond cool:

  • He had the most memorable part in one of the coolest ever outer space/horror movies. In Ridley Scott’s Alien the titular extraterrestrial makes its appearance by bursting out of Hurt’s chest.
  • He worked with David Lynch before it was cool. His performance in the title role of Lynch’s The Elephant Man under a ton of prosthetics was a marvel. His voice and eyes made the character indisputably his and broke our hearts.
  • He was part of film history on the Galway/Mayo border. He wonderfully incarnated the role of “The Bird” in Jim Sheridan’s adaptation of John B. Keane’s Kerry-set The Field, filmed in picturesque Leenane.
  • He played Winston Smith in an adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, filmed in 1984.
  • He played Quentin Crisp. Twice. Thirty-four years apart. First in on TV in 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant. Then again in Richard Laxton’s An Englishman in New York.
  • He was in an Indiana Jones movie! He essentially replaced Denholm Elliott in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  • He played Caligula (or, as he was described by Quentin Crisp, “only me in a sheet”). It was in the great BBC miniseries I, Claudius.
  • He played Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings! No, of course it was not the Peter Jackson version. It was the 1978 animated Ralph Bakshi version.
  • He was in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. It was not exactly clear why he was there. But he was.
  • He played Jesus. In Mel Brooks’s History of the World: Part I. (We’re still waiting for Part II.)
  • He was in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound. No, really.
  • He worked with Peter O’Toole. Exactly once. It was in the John Goodman comedy King Ralph.
  • He played “The Countess” in Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.
  • He was in the Harry Potter movies. He played Mr. Ollivander, the wand shop guy.
  • He appeared in two lovely movies by Irish filmmaker Anthony Byrne: the short Meeting Che Guevara and the Man from Maybury Hill and the feature Short Order.
  • He actually played the Doctor in Doctor Who! When Christopher Eccleston balked at reprising his role as the ninth Doctor for the fifty-year anniversary special, Hurt was tapped to play the War Doctor, a previously unknown regeneration of the Time Lord retroactively inserted between Paul McGann’s one-off American-based version and Eccleston’s kick-off of the brilliant 21st century revival.
  • He is in a currently Oscar-nominated movie even as I type this. He plays a priest in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie.

    There is so much more to say about this man. For some of it, click here to read about the time I saw him interviewed.

    Elle (1927-2017)

    The first voice I ever heard in a movie on French soil was Emmanuelle Riva’s. Early during a six-week stage (training/preparation course) in the Pyrenees town of Pau, we American students were herded into an auditorium for a screening of Alain Resnais’s 1959 classic Hiroshima Mon Amour. The script was by Marguerite Duras. Riva’s unnamed character (listed in the credits as elle, or she) is a French actor who has come to Japan to film an antiwar movie. Her lover (Eiji Okada, lui or he) is a Japanese architect and survivor of the blast at Hiroshima. There was much talking and, in our print, no subtitles. It was a daunting immersion into French language, culture and cinema. Even if we missed half the lines, the themes of time, memory, doomed romance and the devastation of war were loud and clear.

    Riva’s performance was haunting, and it was her first credited big screen role. She went on to play scores of other screen roles in the course of six decades. She worked with Gillo Pontecorvo on Kapò, Jean-Pierre Melville on Léon Morin, Priest and Georges Franju on Thérèse Desqueyroux. Decades later she appeared in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue.

    Given her memorable part all those years ago in my formation as a fan of French cinema, I was delighted to see her turn up at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles five years ago, nominated for the Best Actress statuette. The nod was for her role as Anne, an eightysomthing retired music teacher who suffers a stroke, in Michael Haneke’s Amour. Her husband was played by fellow acting veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant and her daughter by Isabelle Huppert. At 85, Riva was—and still is—the oldest person ever to be nominated for Best Actress. She did not win, nor did fellow nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (for Beasts of the Southern Wild), who was—and still is—the youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Actress. (The award went to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook.) The Brits had more sense than the Americans, as Riva did win the BAFTA for her performance. Amour was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as well as winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

    Amour was not Riva’s final film. She made three more afterwards with apparently a couple more yet to be released.

    “Je me souviens. Je vois l’encre. Je vois le jour. Je vois ma vie. Ta mort. Ma vie qui continue. Ta mort qui continue.”

    -S.L., 10 February 2017

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