The Seattle International Film Festival is holding a tribute to actress Anjelica Huston on June 7, hosting the world premiere of her new film, “Trouble,” and screening two of her best-known films, “The Grifters” and “The Witches.”
This year, it seems, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is trying to make things right.
Last year, the festival came under a bit of scrutiny after it chose Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” for its opening-night film. Just days before, Allen’s son, Ronan Farrow, published a column in The Hollywood Reporter recounting how, in 1992, his father had been accused of molesting his daughter (and Farrow’s sister), Dylan.
Farrow couldn’t understand how Allen’s actors were defending him, how he was being feted at the Cannes Film Festival and, well … here in Seattle.
When the lights went down at McCaw Hall, a group of women filmmakers walked out of the screening in protest.
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In the time since, SIFF has hired a new executive director, Sarah Wilke, who joined Interim Artistic Director Beth Barrett.
And on opening night this year, director and producer Lacey Levitt received the Mayor’s Award for Achievement in Film.
On June 7, SIFF will continue celebrating women with a tribute to actress Anjelica Huston by hosting the world premiere of her new film, “Trouble,” and screening two of her best-known films, “The Grifters” and “The Witches.”
“As two women leading the organization, we talked about the different aspects of what that meant,” Barrett told me, “and how important that was for us in leadership.”
She and Wilke chose to honor Huston because they believe she hasn’t gotten the recognition she deserves.
“She keeps reinventing herself as a woman of a certain age” — Huston is 65 — “who is still very busy and amazing,” Barrett said.
In “Trouble,” Huston is paired with Bill Pullman, playing a brother and sister feuding over land, with David Morse as an old friend caught in the middle.
“It’s one of the most viscerally stirring movies I’ve ever worked on,” Huston said during a phone interview the other day. “The kind of fury that comes up between people over land. They just go after each other. It’s the most basic of instincts, and it’s about war.
“I have a very bad temper in this movie, which is very Rebeck-ian,” she said, referring to “Trouble” director Theresa Rebeck.
It was Rebeck who created the television series “Smash,” an ode to musical theater in which she cast Huston as producer Eileen Rand, whose lines were often followed by a martini tossed in someone’s face.
“I know, it was really fun,” Huston said with a laugh. “That was actually a real wonderful break for me.”
And it was on “Smash” that Huston also got to sing “September Song,” made famous by her Oscar-winning grandfather, Walter Huston, who sang it in “Knickerbocker Holiday” in 1938.
“It’s not something I’m usually open to doing,” she said of singing, “but they were very encouraging.”
Huston was warm and easy, talking about her long career, which has included an Oscar for her performance in 1985’s “Prizzi’s Honor” and, more recently, a recurring role in the second season of the Amazon Studios series “Transparent.”
She found a great connection with “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor, who plays a transgender woman named Maura Pfefferman. Huston’s character, Vicky, was Maura’s first love interest since her transition.
“I liked the relationship,” Huston said. “I thought it was kind of evolved, and that’s what I’d like to see more of. I felt Maura and Vicky’s relationship had more to do with their hearts than their sexes. It was a completely honest union.”
The same can’t be said for the characters in the 1990 film “The Grifters,” in which she played a veteran con artist and the mother of a small-time grifter played by John Cusack. His girlfriend — another con artist — is played by Annette Bening. Both Huston and Bening were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.
“I just had lunch with Annette the other day and we talked about that time,” Huston said. “It’s always nice when those movies are reviewed and re-watched. You get to ponder them a bit and see how well they’ve held up.”
Huston moved to Pacific Palisades after the 2008 death of her husband, the sculptor Robert Graham. They lived in a massive Venice, California, home known as “The Fortress.” The house has since been torn down.
“I feel OK,” she said of the demolition. “It was meant for Bob and I. Bob built it for me, and he always said we would sell it and live in Spain and let it crumble like a Gabriel Garcia (Márquez) house. I just couldn’t live by myself on Winward Avenue anymore.”
As she heads to Seattle this week, she admits she knows little about the city, except that the seafood is spectacular.
“I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know Seattle at all,” she said. “My stepgrandmother had a boyfriend who lived there. I’m afraid I have no other ties that I’m aware of.
“But I’m open to suggestion.”