Posts Tagged ‘dracula


How I Met Frank Langella

Frank Langella at the Virginia Film Festival

Frank Langella (right) at the Virginia Film Festival

This November marked my eleventh year serving as a volunteer usher at the Virginia Film Festival. Although I’ve enjoyed my time working for the festival, meeting other volunteers, and seeing some extraordinary films that I wouldn’t had otherwise seen, I had never met one of the festival’s special celebrity guests. This year was different.

My volunteer shift included a screening of Frost/Nixon, which explores the making of the 1977 television interviews between British television host David Frost and President Richard Nixon. In the film, Nixon is played by actor Frank Langella in an Oscar-nominated performance. I had seen Frost/Nixon when it was first released in 2008 and really enjoyed it.

The festival screening of Frost/Nixon would be followed by a question-and-answer session with Frank Langella. My venue manager asked if I would welcome Langella when he arrived and make sure he was comfortable until the Q&A started.

You never know what a famous person will be like when you meet him or her in real life. I had seen many Frank Langella films, for which he’s primarily known for playing villains, and had even read his memoir, Dropped Names, which is fun and kind of catty. So, I didn’t know what to expect from Langella in person.

When he entered the lobby with his friend and a festival driver, he was a tall, imposing figure in very elegant, casual clothes and what I call a “newsy” cap. He immediately approached me and shook my hand. He face took on a concerned look, as he looked me in the eyes, and he began to apologize. He thought he was running late, but that actually wasn’t the case at all.

As he settled in to await the film’s conclusion, he revealed himself to be a kind and gracious person, asking about the audience, the moderator, and the organization sponsoring the film (where I work).

During the Q&A itself, Langella was passionate, funny, and gracious toward the audience’s questions, especially the those of students.

Frank Langella in the 1979 film, Dracula

Frank Langella in the 1979 film, Dracula

About a week later, I caught Dracula, the 1979 film in which Langella plays the title character. Amidst the dated presentation (but cool production design), he brought a certain elegance and humanness to the character and to the movie as a whole.


Winona Forever

I was happy to see Winona Ryder front-and-center at last Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild awards ceremony. She was nominated for Best Actress in a TV Movie for When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story and as part of the Black Swan ensemble.

The star of such films as Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, Dracula, The Age of Innocence, Little Women, Reality Bites, and Girl Interrupted, her beauty, talent, and unconventional spirit led her to become an icon of the late 80s and into the 90s. The late film critic Gene Siskel said that she would have made a great silent film star because of her large eyes and emotional but nuanced expressivity. James Mangold, her Girl Interrupted director, seconded that opinion in that DVD’s special features. At her peak, Ryder won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in The Age of Innocence. She was nominated for an Oscar for that part and for Best Actress in Little Women the following year.

In his review of Mermaids, critic Roger Ebert pointed out that Ryder often successfully played in “alienated outsider roles,” reaching out to anyone who has ever felt out of place. Ryder was a role model for me when I was younger because even though she was beautiful, she was still unconventional and relatable – Julia Roberts was from another world, Winona could be from mine. I’d like to think that us smart girls still want to date John Cusack and be friends with (if not actually be) Winona.

A shoplifting incident in 2001 sidetracked Ryder’s career for four years. During that time, she talked in the press about the depression and anxiety that led to her shoplifting. Although Lindsay and Britney have also had similar issues (and then some), I don’t feel the same sort of protectiveness or rooting for their comebacks that I feel with Winona.

In Black Swan, Ryder plays Beth, an older ballerina who has been pushed aside for the ingénues (Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis). I can’t help but see the real-life parallels. A similar scenario occurred upon the release of Girl Interrupted when the younger and flashier Angelina Jolie leapt off the screen and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Lisa.

In the past several years, Ryder has appeared in supporting roles in A Scanner Darkly, Star Trek, Black Swan, and The Dilemma; in press interviews, she has even talked about a possible Heathers sequel. I hope that some director can nuture Ryder in a lead role in a smaller film much like Sofia Coppola has recently done for Stephen Dorff in Somewhere.