Reiner’s wide-ranging achievements land Filmfest’s independent award
August 18, 2005
Like Michael Douglas and Anjelica Huston, past recipients of Aspen Filmfest’s Independent By Nature Award, this year’s honoree, Rob Reiner, was born to a father prominent in the entertainment field.But the more significant quality that Reiner shares with Douglas and Huston is the diversity of his work. Like his predecessor honorees, Reiner has been an actor, director and producer, and his career has included films that span the widest field of styles.Reiner will be honored with the Independent By Nature Award Sept. 30 at the Wheeler Opera House. The event, featuring clips from Reiner’s films and an on-stage interview, will be followed by a benefit dinner with Reiner in attendance. Reiner was previously honored in Aspen a decade ago at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.The 27th annual Aspen Filmfest is set for Sept. 28 through Oct. 2, with programs in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The full program will be announced Sept. 9, and tickets will go on sale Sept. 21.
Reiner is the son of writer, director and actor Carl Reiner. (His mother, Estelle Reiner, uttered the line “I’ll have what she’s having” in response to Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in the famous scene from the Rob Reiner-directed “When Harry Met Sally.”) After writing for “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and taking small parts in such films as “Where’s Poppa?” and his father’s “Enter Laughing,” Reiner became well-known for his role as Mike “Meathead” Stivic in the groundbreaking TV series “All in the Family.”Reiner has consistently appeared on the big screen since the mid-’80s, but he has made a bigger impact as a director. From the director’s chair, Reiner has been responsible for the rock mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap!” the college road-trip romance “The Sure Thing,” the fantasy action film “The Princess Bride,” the military justice drama “A Few Good Men,” and the historical racial drama “Ghosts of Mississippi,” among others.Reiner has regularly produced the films he directs since 1987’s “The Princess Bride.” As a writer, he is credited for the script of “This Is Spinal Tap!” as well as the first episode of the TV sitcom “Happy Days.””He’s embraced so many kinds of media in different ways,” said Laura Thielen, executive director of Aspen Filmfest. “In terms of contemporary cinema, he’s made some of the most beloved films of the last 20 years. And they resonate with audiences of all ages, and that’s a rare thing.”Thielen praises Reiner for making films that are cut largely from real life. Even “The Princess Bride,” a fairy tale with kings, pirates, castles and ROUSs – rodents of unusual size – features few special effects and plenty of genuine emotion.
“He’s one of the people who changed cinema by making films that are really human-oriented stories,” she said. “That’s kind of unusual in American cinema, where it’s increasingly about genres and big stars. In some ways, he tells smaller stories.”Thielen is especially impressed by the films Reiner has directed from works by Stephen King: the warm coming-of-age tale “Stand By Me” and the chilling “Misery,” for which Kathy Bates earned a best actress Academy Award. The films contrast markedly with the schlock typically made from King’s writing. (The name of Reiner’s production company, Castle Rock, is taken from the fictional setting of several of King’s books.)Reiner has “taken really popular fiction and made something that speaks and breathes to people,” Thielen said. “They’re a cut above what people expect.”Filmfest featuresFeature films to be screened at Aspen Filmfest 2005 include “Capote” and “Transamerica.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Truman Capote in “Capote,” set during the time the writer was developing the script for his real-life crime film, “In Cold Blood.” The film is a first feature by director Bennett Miller.”Transamerica” stars Woody Creek product Felicity Huffman as a pre-operative transsexual whose life takes a turn when she learns that, as a man, she fathered a son. Huffman earned best actress honors at the Tribeca Film Festival for “Transamerica,” which is among the first acquisitions for former Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein’s new company. Executive producer for the film is William H. Macy, Huffman’s husband and the 2001 recipient of Filmfest’s Independent By Nature Award. Huffman and Macy are expected to be in attendance.Aspenite Bob Rafelson, director of “Mountains of the Moon” and “Five Easy Pieces” among others, will give a master class in filmmaking.And three documentary films are set to be screened: “The Black Road,” photojournalist William Neesen’s hour-long film about the Indonesian province of Aceh’s struggle for independence; “What Remains of Us,” a clandestinely shot portrait of China’s occupation and cultural genocide in Tibet; and “Ballets Russes,” about a company of dancers who gave birth to modern ballet.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org