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Hamptons Life

Oct 13, 2009 2:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Stars light up 'Conversation' series at 17th Hamptons International Film Festival

Oct 13, 2009 2:58 PM

“It’s not that there is too much product out there, it’s that there is too much bad product,” Mr. Bregman said. “Most of the creative decisions being made today are by accountants and marketing people who are bent on dumbing down the audience. The taste level has changed. The Hollywood studios used to export good films to the rest of the world. Now they are making crap, and only the independents are making intelligent films.”

The interview series returned to Bay Street early Sunday afternoon, where Ms. Licht again was the interviewer, this time with Sharon Stone as the guest. Her highlight reel seemed a bit sparse in contrast to the others because she is still in mid-career and hasn’t made a lot of movies, virtually none since “Bobby” in 2006. She explained that she has turned down numerous roles to raise her three sons, mostly as a single woman.

“It’s me time now, though,” Ms. Stone said, announcing that with all three boys now in school she was returning to acting, with a film titled “Satisfaction” set to begin shooting in January.

She first gained notice in 1990 in “Total Recall” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it was “Basic Instinct” with Michael Douglas three years later that put her on the star map. She described how she had to practically trick the director to test her for the part of the sociopathic serial killer, and even then it was only eight months later and after 12 other actresses had turned the part down that she was hired.

Especially interesting was that she no idea that the notorious leg-crossing scene was in the final cut until she attended an advance screening in a theater. Back at home later, she called her lawyer, who told her she could file a lawsuit to halt the release of the movie. Though furious, she didn’t do that.

“I had to weigh my hatred of the director with what was probably right for the character and best for the movie,” Ms. Stone said. “To this day I know I made the right decision, but unfortunately there are people who think the movie was a hit because of that scene and not that it’s a well-acted, gripping story.”

Mr. Buscemi almost outdid Mr. Alda in being self-effacing. “I just bring myself to every role I play,” he told Tom Hall, the interviewer, and the audience. “I don’t think about it that much.”

The thread throughout his “Conversation With ...” is that Mr. Buscemi is not a cerebral actor who must be convinced about his characters’ motivations and deep thoughts. Instead, he said, “If it feels right” and he likes the script, he’ll do the role.

Like Mr. Alda, Mr. Buscemi has been surprisingly versatile. He has done big-budget blockbusters like “Armageddon” and “Con Air,” which, he said, allows him to take on such independent films as “John Rabe” and “The Messenger,” both part of the Film Festival, and the upcoming “Saint John of Las Vegas” and “Handsome Harry.”

He grew up in Valley Stream and he cited as early influences not French cinema or Hitchcock but the Three Stooges, Little Rascals, and “Gilligan’s Island.” “I was heartbroken every week when they weren’t rescued off that island,” he said.

After high school he was a member of the New York City Fire Department for four years, then quit to devote himself full-time to acting and stand-up comedy. At a recent retirement party, Mr. Buscemi reunited with four firefighters who had been his friends on the job. “You blew it,” they told him about resigning. “Now we’re retired, and you’re not.”

He repeatedly expressed gratitude for being able to work with filmmakers like the Coen brothers (his breakout role was in “Miller’s Crossing”), Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorcese—with whom he has just done “Boardwalk Empire” for HBO—and for getting the chance to direct three of his own films.

Mr. Buscemi seemed to speak for all of the interview subjects when he said of his very busy and varied career, “I really like to work. And I’m very fortunate that I can earn a living at it.”

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