Film festival honors actor Griffin Dunne

Lili Taylor, Mariel Hemingway are also among honorees

mclear@bradenton.comApril 7, 2013 

Griffin Dunne's in his downtown Manhattan apartment, talking on the phone. From the clinking sounds in the background, it sounds as though he might be washing his dishes.

He's getting ready to leave New York and head down to Florida for the Sarasota Film Festival, where his 2012 film "The Discoverers" is screening. But before he can talk about that, he's asked about another movie he starred in more than a quarter-century ago, "After Hours."

"I'm looking out the window at the abandoned parking lot I ran through," he says, referring to a scene in the movie about a staid businessman's encounter without downtown denizens as he attempts to get back to his uptown apartment.

"After Hours" came out in 1985. It's the kind of film that a lot people have never heard of and a lot of other people rank among their all-time favorite films.

Griffin Dunne has done a lot since then. You have to scroll through dozens of film and television credits on IMDb to get to that film -- but it's still one of the roles he's best known for.

"Yeah, I'd say it's that and 'Werewolf'," he says, referring to the 1981 horror-comedy "American Werewolf in London."

He's also known for his famous family. His father is the late writer Dominick Dunne, and his sister was an actor who starred in "Poltergeist." His aunt is author Joan Didion.

After all these years does he mind being asked about "After Hours"?

"Oh, not at all," Dunne said. "It

was a life-changing experience for me. I learned so much about acting, and I learned so much about directing from Marty."

(That's Martin Scorsese, who was already a major force in film when he directed "After Hours.")

"After Hours" may be qualify as a cult classic, but Dunne said younger people sometimes don't get it.

In the film, his character loses his cash and has no way to get home on the subway or by cab.

"When young people, under the age of, say 20 talk to me about it, they ask why I don't just call someone on my cell phone," he said.

In the years since, Dunne has worked steadily as an actor and director in both film and television.

In "The Discoverers," he stars alongside John C. McGinley (from "Scrubs"), Tampa native Dreama Walker ("Compliance") and Stuart Margolin ("The Rockford Files"). He plays a harried college professor who forces his teenaged kids to join him on a cross-country trip that ends up being a bonding experience for the family.

"Despite all that, it's a comedy," Dunne said. "It's still on the festival circuit, but a distribution deal should be coming soon."

Besides attending the screening, Dunne will be one of five film personalities honored at this year's Tribute Luncheon, which begins at 11 a.m. April 12 at the Sarasota Yacht Club.

The others are Mariel Hemingway, Lili Taylor, Barbara Kopple and Suzanne Clement.

Hemingway is obviously the most familiar name in the group. Besides coming from a legendary family, she has starred in such major films as Woody Allen's "Manhattan."

She's the subject of a documentary that will be screened at the festival, "Running From Crazy," about her struggle with her family's history of depression and suicide. Kopple, a two-time Oscar-winning documentarian, directed.

Hemingway's also promoting her new book, "The Willing Way," about her personal discovery that the best way to overcome depression is by living a healthy, active life and enjoying each moment, rather than trying to blot out pain with alcohol or drugs as some members of her family did, with famously tragic results.

"It's about waking up in the morning and deciding to get up and look and the sunrise," Hemingway said.

Kopple also directed "Harlan County, U.S.A." and "Shut Up and Sing."

Taylor has acted steadily in films and television for more than 25 years. She's most associated with such independent films as "I Shot Andy Warhol," but she also had a recurring role on the TV series "Six Feet Under" and has starred in such major Hollywood films as "Ransom." Her new drama, "The Cold Lands," will screen at the festival. She's also in a new film called "Blood Ties" with Dunne, but that one is not part of the festival lineup.

Clement is a French actor whose acclaimed new film "Laurence Anyways," about the 10-year-love affair involving a transgender women, is also on this year's festival schedule.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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