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Locarno Film Festival: A Conversation with Faye Dunaway

Photo of Susan Kouguell By Susan Kouguell | www.su-city-pictures.com August 16, 2013 at 2:59PM

A Conversation with Locarno Film Festival’s Leopard Club award winner Faye Dunaway was hosted by Festival director Carlo Chatrian
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Discussion Highlights

Dunaway: “My whole acting generation was influenced by Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan. It was based on organic acting; finding a way to feed your own experience.  If you were destroyed at some point in your life, you don’t necessarily use it, but you start from back story, so you have something, you know where your character has been.”

Dunaway talks about her three iconic film roles in Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown and Network

On Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde

“Bonnie was me. I was born in the south in a small modest community in north Florida and the language and dialogue I knew immediately.  Bonnie says: ‘You know, I thought we were going somewhere. This is it.  We’re just going.’ The end was inevitable of course. They were naïve. They were trying to get out to something finer, something better. In many ways, she was my favorite character. Troubled, mistaken in terms of her choices.” 

On Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown

“Evelyn has a secret.  She had a deep dark past that she was shameful about, always trying to hide that past. An elegant Los Angelian. She used that as a shield.  Like lighting two cigarettes at the same time, hiding her nervousness -- but Jack pointed that out. Of course the secret was incest.

“The character is on the page. And Robert Towne’s script was so wonderful, combined with my knowledge of her. I understand her secrets. As long as it’s a secret it’s harmful.  The script delineated that double duet: the Evelyn we don’t know and the Evelyn we see. I had to convince you that I wasn’t telling everything.”

On Diana Christensen in Network

“It was a mysterious film. I liked the pace. The script made the studios nervous. It was all dialogue. Sidney Lumet always joked that he directed on roller-skates.”  

Chatrian: “There is one scene, the love scene where you’re speaking while…”

Dunaway: “…I said, ‘Sidney, I can’t do it.’ He said, ‘Yes you can.’”

Chatrian: “How did you manage?”

Dunaway:  “That’s how Diana did everything. That’s who she was. She was a TV baby.  That’s how she grew up.  That’s how her kids are growing up now. In the end, Holden’s character was leaving me. That part of me was locked away. Never developed into a real human being. She was an automaton of TV.  Holden (Max Schumacher) said, ‘Because that’s who you are, Diana, you don’t know how to love. You just don’t know.’ I looked up at him, and I heard ‘CUT!’ Sidney Lumet said; 'The look said it all.'” 

Audience Questions

Question: “How do you feel about violence in movies?”

Dunaway: “What are studios making now if not violent movies? You can’t ignore violence.  Bonnie and Clyde was a true story.  It was the Depression. I think people sometimes forget how beautifully handled that violence in the film was. A mix of slow motion and fast motion. Arthur Penn handled it beautifully. The violence was so graphically photographed, and how the rhythms played, you remember it more than, ‘Bang, you’re dead.’  Drama is conflict. When there’s conflict, one person is going to lose.”

Question: “What special advice do you have for young actresses?”

Dunaway: “They have to learn their craft. Start on the stage rather than just studying. You learn from repetition. You tap into what’s inside. Something magical. It’s art, and that’s what gets you through.”

That night, in the Piazza Grande before a crowd of several thousand audience members, Faye Dunaway was honored with the Leopard Club award. 

This article is related to: International, International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Locarno International Film Festival

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