Getting Their Due
Texas Film Hall of Fame 2003 inductees
In its third year, the Austin Film Society's Texas Film Hall of Fame has become the state's premier celebration of the best of Texas on screens large and small. Some past recipients include Sissy Spacek, Robert Benton, Willie Nelson, Terrence Malick, and the film Giant, and the event's presenters are often as stellar as the inductees; among recent presenters are Dan Rather, Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper, and Quentin Tarantino.
This year's ceremony sees the event comfortably settling into its home at Austin Studios, the remains of the former Robert Mueller airport where the spacious hangars and grounds have been transformed into a film production facility for projects that include The Rookie, Miss Congeniality, and The Life of David Gale.
New for 2003 is the notion of broadening the perception of Texas films. Founding Chair Evan Smith (also the editor of Texas Monthly) is adamant that the awards recognize "not just films made in Texas or about Texas, but non-Texans who have done significant film work in Texas. That's a perfectly legitimate expansion of the definition."
To that end, honorees this year include not only actress, actor, director, and writer categories but the Frontier Award to the film Easy Rider, the 1969 counterculture hit directed by Dennis Hopper and produced by Peter Fonda. Easy Rider wasn't the most obvious choice; its raw depiction of redneck Texas made many flinch, but its characters and script were memorable and compelling.
"True films buffs and devotees of the Texas film experience understand that what makes a great Texas film is not always on the surface but what lies underneath," explains Smith. "The Texas component of Easy Rider is some of the best filmmaking about the state ever."
The spring gala sees a colorful group of Texpatriates induct the 2003 honorees. Returning to the delight of audience and participants is beloved former Gov. Ann Richards, who many wish would march to Washington tout de suite and apply a big ole can o' whoop-ass to the frat party in the White House.
Presenters for the ceremony include Austin-born character actor Dabney Coleman (Tootsie, Nine to Five); Oscar-nominated actress Tess Harper (Tender Mercies, Crimes of the Heart); actor, writer, and director Peter Fonda (The Hired Hand, Easy Rider, Ulee's Gold); playwright, documentary writer, producer, and actress Anna Deavere Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, The West Wing); screen darling Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, Legally Blonde); actor, writer, and producer Kit Carson (Paris, Texas, Breathless, Perfume); and Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Rules of Engagement).
Texas native Horton Foote will be honored for his writing (see "The Quiet Man," left) as will the following in acting and directing categories:
Farrah Fawcett was to the Seventies what Marilyn Monroe was to the Fifties, the golden girl whose face and hair made her the most famous poster girl of the 20th century. The Corpus Christi native and UT graduate charmed bicentennial America in 1976's hit series Charlie's Angels. Fawcett accrued an impressive repertoire of biopic roles on television, notably The Burning Bed (1984), Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story (1986), Margaret Bourke-White (1989), and Small Sacrifices (1989). She's received outstanding notices throughout her career, most recently for her roles in Robert Duvall's The Apostle (1997) and Robert Altman's Dr. T & the Women (2000).
Tobe Hooper reinvented horror films in 1974 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The no-budget independent film made Austin-born Hooper a master of the genre. His next directorial efforts included a well-crafted TV-movie version of Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979) and The Funhouse (1981). In 1982, he directed Poltergeist, one of the greatest horror films of the last 25 years. Much of Hooper's later work has been in television, directing segments for edgy science fiction and adventure miniseries such as Nowhere Man, Dark Skies, Perversions of Science, The Others, Night Visions, and Taken, which garnered him an Emmy nomination.
Woody Harrelson parlayed a plum, Emmy-winning role on Emmy-winning Cheers into an Oscar-nominated big-screen career, staying in the cast until 1993. In that time, Harrelson built a respectable career in films such as Doc Hollywood (1991) and breaking out in the sleeper hit White Men Can't Jump (1992) with Wesley Snipes. Then came leading roles in Indecent Proposal (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), and The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), which earned the actor an Oscar nomination. Woody Harrelson is being honored as much for environmental and pro-hemp activism as his acting.
Eagle Pennell's death last year at the age of 49 left a gaping hole in the fabric of Texas independent filmmakers. The former UT student was a maverick in the Seventies, creating empathetic portraits of Texas' blue-collar underbelly by producing the short "Hell of a Note" (1977) and directing the full-length The Whole Shootin' Match (1978). He worked as cinematographer on 1980's Fast Money, returning to the director's chair for his acclaimed Last Night at the Alamo in 1984, also stepping in as editor and actor. At the time of his death, Pennell had a grant from the Independent Television Service to develop a script from My Dog Bit Elvis.
Owen Wilson's career is one for whom the word "meteoric" is an understatement. The former University of Texas bad boy, who is the recipient of the Rising Star Award, starred in and co-wrote (with friend and director Wes Anderson) 1996's quirky Bottle Rocket and moved up to associate producer for As Good as It Gets the following year. For 1998's Rushmore, the Dallas-born Wilson returned as co-writer and executive producer, roles also assumed for Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (in which Wilson acted as well). Wilson recently starred with Jackie Chan in Shanghai Knights, this year's sequel to Shanghai Noon.
Dooley Wilson, who will be posthumously recognized with the Legacy Award, is best remembered for his performance as Sam, Humphrey Bogart's piano-playing friend and confidante in Casablanca (1942). Such roles were rare for black actors in the Forties, but Wilson gamely accepted the parts of porters (My Favorite Blonde, 1942), chauffeurs (Higher and Higher, 1943), waiters (No Man of Her Own, 1950), and the occasional piano player (Knock on Any Door, 1949) to keep working. He starred in 1943's Stormy Weather with Lena Horne and Cab Calloway and on Broadway in Cabin in the Sky (1941) and Bloomer Girl (1944). His final role was as the boyfriend on television's Beulah, but, as time goes by, Dooley Wilson will be remembered as a man who brought dignity to every role he played.
The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards take place March 7 at Austin Studios. For more information, visit www.austinfilm.org.
Proceeds from the Texas Film Hall of Fame benefit the Austin Film Society's myriad programs, including the AFS Apprentice Program, a Summer Workshop series, the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund, the AFS Annual Exhibition series (which includes Visiting Filmmakers, the Texas Documentary Tour, and their popular Free Cinema series), and Artist Services.