And the winner is … Michael Douglas
With its Independent by Nature Award, Aspen Filmfest has leaned in the direction of honoring actors and filmmakers whose careers have been marked by the spirit of independence in their selection of projects. A consistent thread through the award-winners has been long, varied careers. If this has meant the honorees are less than full-fledged movie stars, so be it. And Filmfest, which prides itself as a community-focused organization, has always sought out film personalities with close ties to Aspen.In this year’s honoree, Filmfest gets an actor and producer, someone who has taken on roles dramatic, comedic, relevant and silly, and who has deep connections to Aspen. And he is, as much as anyone, the definition of a movie star.
Filmfest will pay tribute to Michael Douglas at its 26th annual festival, set for Sept. 29 through Oct. 3. The presentation of the Independent by Nature Award will be held opening night, at a location to be determined, and will be followed by a benefit dinner. Douglas joins such past honorees as Bob Rafelson, William H. Macy, Anjelica Huston and Sydney Pollock.”He’s someone we’ve wanted to tribute for a long time,” said Aspen Filmfest executive director Laura Thielen. “We’re happy he’s able to join us this year. He’s an actor and producer, which we like. And he’s been in a lot of films that are linked to contemporary moments – ‘The China Syndrome,’ ‘Traffic.’ He’s worked with great directors, many of them who have been at the beginning of their career. He’s leveraged his celebrity to bring young directors into the spotlight. “He’s made meaningful work; there’s a commitment to ideas.”
A New Jersey native and the son of actor Kirk Douglas, the 59-year-old Douglas first came to prominence on television, on the early-’70s cop show “The Streets of San Francisco.” He quit the show to produce 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” for which he and co-producer Saul Zaentz earned a Best Picture Academy Award.Douglas had his first major film role in the 1978 thriller “Coma.” That launched a screen career that has seen Douglas score hits in thrillers (“Fatal Attraction,” “Basic Instinct”) and comedies (“Romancing the Stone”).
Most prominently, Douglas has appeared in a string of films that dissected contemporary social issues. In “Wall Street,” Douglas earned an Academy Award for his role as corporate raider Gordon Gekko, who became the ultimate emblem of ’80s greed. In “Traffic,” Douglas played a judge who exposed the hypocrisy of the drug war. And “The China Syndrome,” about a near-meltdown at a nuclear power plant, eerily coincided with the near-disaster at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island.A full schedule for Aspen Filmfest 2004 will be released after Labor Day. For further information on Filmfest, go to http://www.aspenfilm.org.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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