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Mill Valley Film Festival: Eric Roth Tribute
The Mill Vallley Film Festival’s (MVFF) ‘Tribute to Eric Roth’ had every bit the star power that you’d expect to find at a Hollywood event but was done instead in a characteristically Northern California way: laid back.
No red carpet; no long line of limos; and no paparazzi. But there was director David Fincher (
Fight Club, Zodiac
) and actress Taraji P Henson (
Hustle & Flow
), both there to talk about Roth’s new vehicle,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
, in which they ply their respective trades.
And then there was director Phil Kaufman and Telluride Film Festival co-director Gary Meyer, and several other industry pros, all there in support of one of today’s most prolific writers for the screen.
It is Roth we can thank for such memorable films as the Oscar winning
, to name but three of about a dozen titles from which we watched clips at the program’s outset.
The ubiquitous Mark Fishkin, founder and director of MVFF, played yet another role as interviewer for the afternoon’s program and introduced Roth to a full house in the larger 300-plus theater at the Rafael Film Center.
Fishkin immediately launched into questions on Roth’s creative approach to writing which Roth, dressed appropriately for Mill Valley in blue jeans, black shirt, and black sports coat, referred to as a “Bastardized form: not a novel, nor a play, but something in between.”
Roth’s unassuming, soft-spoken manner and obvious unfamiliarity with the use of microphones often had the audience straining to hear him as the end of his sentences drifted off the mic, something that might be remedied with clip-on mics in the future.
With regards to his craft, Roth felt it was important to have a good memory of the past to draw from and be able to immerse oneself in writing; that scenes should speak to the theme. He said that he visualizes the scenes very well and often knows the first and last scene when he starts out, and then works to fill in the middle.
The discussion soon turned to Roth’s most recent effort in which Brad Pitt, as Benjamin Button, ages backwards – born an infant with characteristics of an 80 year old and then, over time as he grows up, he metabolizes backwards. Roth said he’d been working on the script since 2003.
Fishkin then invited the film’s director, Fincher, and co-star, Henson, up on stage for what was to be a very lively, and often funny discussion on the making of the film. Henson, looking the glamorous movie star that she is, dressed in sleek, black pants and jacket, and sporting fancy new shoes she had just bought, sat between a feisty Fincher and Roth and was caught in the crossfire between them when certain metaphorical references to sexual acts had her shouting, “See what I have to go through?” – setting off a ripple of laughter.
Then it was off the stage again so we could watch clips from
that showcased Pitt, Henson, and Cate Blanchet, the latter playing a married woman who develops a romance with Pitt over midnight meals in the hotel they’re both staying at.
The film is done in a manner reminiscent of
in that it takes Button’s point of view with first-person voice-over exposition that drives the story line forward. Coincidental? More likely a signature style, although Roth said that this was a more mature effort than
and that he hoped he wasn’t repeating himself.
Fincher said that the film, in post production, is nearing completion and should be done within a couple of weeks. For Gary Meyer, this was no news as Fincher and the film had been the subject of a tribute at this year’s Telluride Film Festival.
One wonders if Kaufman was at this event to talk ‘biz’ on a new project. If so, they had plenty of time to talk at the reception that followed the Tribute at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley, where food and drink were plentiful.
Gus Manos, November 27, 2008