On Friday January 18 Bill Pullman presented the ‘Teachers Making a Difference’ award to Paul Austin in a ceremony at the Sundance Film Festival. Pullman not only presented the award to Austin but had nominated him for the award presented by the Creative Coalition. Austin was Pullman’s teacher at the Image Theater and Studio in New York City. Pullman had left his teaching job at Montana State University, Bozeman and come to New York to break into professional acting in the 1980s.
Studying with Austin was a turning point/watershed for Pullman. When we spoke on the phone, I asked him how Austin’s teaching inspired him, he found it tough to distill Austin's teaching into words or a description of acting techniques. But Pullman’s classes and work with Austin had a profound and lasting effect on his acting. Pullman said that Austin stressed work with the text of a play. Actors are encouraged to find an image in the text of the play that is powerful and to conjure up that image while acting in a way that leads to taking a risk as an actor and moving toward something extraordinary. In Speech and Voice class, actors are often taught to envision and imagine a distinct, real shade of the color blue when they say the word ‘blue’. Paul Austin’s teaching seems directed toward an even more specific, powerful understanding of that concept. See Paul Austin's interview with Bill Pullman at the Sundance Film Festival.
A production of Sam Shepherd’s “Curse of the Starving Class” with Bill Pullman as Wesley, done at Paul Austin’s Image Theater Studio in New York led to the Off-Broadway revival of “Curse of the Starving Class” that gave Pullman his first serious critical notices as a professional actor.
Pullman has a lot going on at Sundance this year including the premiere of “May in the Summer”. He plays the estranged father of a bride-to-be finalizing the plans for her wedding in Jordan. Cherien Dabis, screenwriter/director of “May in the Summer” also plays May in her film. Pullman believes that while her duties as screenwriter/director/lead added a level of challenge for her, that challenge allowed her to bring an added dimension to her work.
When first offered his part in “May in the Summer”, Pullman thought the script was "good" and the location, although not Jordan, Montana as he originally thought, but the country Jordan, was also "good". While in Jordan, he had the chance to visit Petra, the city with its buildings cut out of rose-colored rock.
What's next for Pullman, after Sundance? He will head straight to Broadway to take over the role of Ian in “The Other Place” opposite Laurie Metcalf. The Manhattan Theatre Club production of “The Other Place”, a new play by Sharr White, has been extended through March 3 at the Samuel J.Friedman Theatre. Laurie Metcalf plays a brilliant neurologist dealing with a horrific mental and physical breakdown. Pullman will be playing her worried husband, also a physician. Pullman and Laurie Metcalf have worked together before, often doing staged readings of plays. Recent New York stage appearances by Pullman include his two Drama Desk nominated performances in Edward Albee’s “The Goat: or Who is Sylvia?” and “Peter and Jerry” (At Home at the Zoo). Pullman is considered one of the greatest living interpreters of Albee’s work. Pullman’s most recent Broadway appearance was in the revival of Mamet’s “Oleanna” directed by Doug Hughes. Pullman’s first performance in “The Other Place” will be February 5.
Later in January, Pullman will finish shooting a short film “Indianapolis” which is based on a story by Sam Shepherd.
The elusive sequel to “Independence Day” is now a distinct possibility. Pullman recently had dinner with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. There is, in fact, a script and Pullman likes what he is hearing about President Whitmore’s future path. Pullman and Jeff Goldblum are onboard for the sequel and it may go ahead even without some of the other stars.
For now, you know where Bill Pullman is, at Sundance,and where his projects are heading. On February 5, you’ll find him at “The Other Place”. Don’t miss a chance to see him on stage.
© 2013 Mary Cochrane-McIvor
To learn more about Bill Pullman and his stage, film and television work, visit: www.billpullman.org
For tickets and more information about "The Other Place", visit: www.theotherplacebroadway.com