tony goldwyn Interview

Actor Goldwyn side-stepped cliches for summer of '69 directorial debut

Actor Goldwyn side-stepped cliches for summer of '69 directorial debut


It can't be easy making a Summer of '69 drama and successfullydodging all the Moon walk and Woodstock cliches. But somehow, that's whatformer supporting actor turned director Tony Goldwyn (the bad yuppie in"Ghost"), manages to do in "AWalk On the Moon," his debut behind thecamera.

It is the story of a discontented Brooklyn housewife, playedby Diane Lane, who succumbs to the spirit of that summer while on vacationin the Catskills and has an affair with a enigmatic free spirit (ViggoMortensen) and while the picture actually embraces the rampant and inevitableMoon walk watching, Vietnam talking and Woodstock going, Goldwyn refusesto let them weigh down his picture.

"That was one of the challenges of the material,"Goldwyn said on a recent trip to San Francisco. "I read this scriptand it really moved me. It had so much going for it, and I thought, here'san opportunity to do the '60s in a real way. So that was the watchwordin every department -- the clothes, the props, the music, the acting --avoid cliches."

Not at all the yuppie-gone-bad type he's played in hishighest profile roles in "Ghost" and "Kiss the Girls," Goldwyn doesn't give off theair of movie star or auteur, despite his heritage as the grandson of aHollywood legend, Samuel Goldwyn (the G of MGM).

In fact, he even looks slightly out of place wearing jeansand a T-shirt in the stale board room of San Francisco's Prescott Hotel.And sure enough, he says he had a "pretty normal life" as a kid.

"My parents kept us sheltered from this world of Hollywood.I don't have any great memories of bouncing on Cary Grant's knee or somethinglike that." He never wanted to be a part of the movie business, hesaid, until the acting bug bit in high school.

His humble acting debut was in a "Friday the 13th"sequel -- "I got skewered through the chest after uttering about threewords" -- and his career as a supporting player is spotted with hitsand misses, but of his more regretful roles, the rookie director says "Idon't know that the chemistry of my career, if it hadn't gone the way itdid, if I'd be directing this film, which has been the greatest experienceof my life."

As a director, Goldwyn shows great promise. "A WalkOn the Moon" touches on, to some extent, all the trapping of the late'60s, but it never for a moment feels like a stereotypical train wreckof Boomer banality, even though key scenes revolve around Woodstock andother notable events.

"In recreating Woodstock, I wanted it to be a verysubjective experience. Not big or broad, not featuring Woodstock as we'veseen it 2,000 times. I wanted to find a way of portraying it where yousaw the reality of it -- you buy it, you're there -- then you get intothe character's experience."

Side-stepping cliches in the Woodstock scenes was difficult,Goldwyn admits. He deliberately avoided the more famous music from thatconcert festival ("We have Jefferson Airplane, but we didn't use 'WhiteRabbit.'") And he had backup wardrobes ready for extras who showedup in too much tie-dye.

"I had our wardrobe people ready with a ton of clothesso when people brought stuff that made us all go 'No, no, no!,' we couldsay 'wear this' so we didn't have the stereotypes peppered throughout thecrowd."

Making the summer of '69 largely a backdrop was aided considerablyby a cast that brings to the forefront a potent, underlying sense of familyhistory. Lane, as Pearl Kartrowitz, subtly reveals a dormant regrets abouther early marriage and starts to behave differently toward her husband(Liev Schreiber) and petulant teenage daughter (Anna Paquin).

Goldwyn had no actors in mind as he began pre-productionon the picture and said this was "a very trick movie to cast."

"My first assignment was to find Pearl, and Dianewasn't even on my radar screen." Goldwyn remembered. "But whenI met her, she just was possessed inside of all the qualities I wantedin Pearl. Even though she doesn't seem like a Jewish girl from Brooklyn,it didn't matter to me. I knew she could go there. I knew she was the one."

The rest of the leads also seemed to just click into placeduring the auditions. Getting Viggo Mortensen was Goldwyn's only "momentof panic," the director says, because he wanted a free spirit type,but definitely not a hippie, and he had his heart set on the actor from"A Perfect Murder," Gus Van Sant's "Psycho."

"When I saw some of Viggo's work, I though, that'salways who I've had in my head. I realized there is not one other actoranywhere who could play Viggo's part other than Viggo. He has this kindof complexity and mysteriousness to him. He doesn't have to say much andyou get a lot."

He got the same sensation watching Schreiber in "TheDaytrippers" and Paquin in "Fly Away Home."

"All the actors fell into place," he said witha residual breath of relief.

He also seems relieved to hear someone compliment him onhis successful use of that summer as a backdrop without being overwhelmedby its monumental events. He may have had to justify the setting more thanonce while trying to get it made, because he's still speaks like he's alittle bit on the defensive.

"Look, that summer did happen. Those things did happenalmost on top of each other. It was real, and it was a perfect metaphorfor me of this woman's experience."


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