Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

From a Long On-Camera Career, Insight

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

From a Long On-Camera Career, Insight

Article excerpt

To hear Richard Jenkins tell it, when it comes to acting in movies, less is more.

"The truth is, when you're doing it well, it's absolutely effortless," said Jenkins, 66, featured Friday night in the Sarasota Film Festival centerpiece film "God's Pocket" with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. "That's what all the great ones do, they just live it. Not to explain a character, but just to let it come out of you."

In a wide-ranging conversation with New York film critic David Edelstein, before a crowded room of unabashed fans, Jenkins exhibited just that kind of naturalistic ease -- not to mention a knack for deadpan comedy -- as he talked about the people, parts and pleasures of his 40-year television and film career.

Jenkins admitted that comfort level eluded him at the beginning of his acting career, when he joined the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island after graduating from a small college in Illinois with little formal training.

"After six or seven years, I was so bored with my own acting, I thought if this is what it is, I'd better find something more," he said. "If I was that bored, what must the audience be thinking?"

What he had really wanted to do all along -- ever since growing up in DeKalb and going to the local movie theater every week -- was to be in the movies. That had always seemed too far-fetched. But after 14 years in theater, he moved to Los Angeles to give it a try.

"It was the longest year of my life," he admitted. I not only didn't have an agent, I didn't have a friend. I would wait for my car to get low on gas so I could talk to the station attendant."

He returned to the East coast and the stage where, one night the actress Sandy Dennis saw him perform and told her agent to sign him. When the agent asked his new client what he wanted to do, Jenkins didn't hesitate: "I never want to step on the stage again."

From his initial moment on a movie set, "I loved it," said Jenkins. His first break, at age 37, came in 1987 in "The Witches of Eastwick," with Jack Nicholson, the first of a long line of memorable colleagues and directors. Among those who impressed him the most were Al Pacino ("I forgot to talk,"), Dianne Wiest ("If you do anything, she sees it,") and the Cohen brothers, who finally hired him for "The Man Who Wasn't There," after he'd lost out reading for "Fargo" (to Bill Murray) and "Miller's Crossing" (to Albert Finney). …

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