CineVegas Awards: Jon Voight Wins the Salad Bowl of Achievement
The CineVegas Film Festival concluded a raucous weekend of screenings and events Sunday evening, hosting an awards ceremony to honor Jon Voight, Willem Dafoe, the Kuchar Brothers and this year's jury prize winners. Voight seemed especially touched by his recognition as this year's Marquee Award honoree, a lifetime achievement prize accompanied by the shiniest Tiffany bowl you'll ever see and 10 minutes' worth of remarks about his late friend and peer, the director Hal Ashby.
Earlier in the day, Voight had appeared at a packed screening of Lookin' to Get Out, Ashby's lost 1982 buddy dramedy that Voight co-wrote and was recently exhumed (in a special director's cut) for DVD release this summer. That event ran almost three hours; the actor economized his memories a little more at the awards ceremony, where he recalled Ashby's unwavering faith in the actor on the set of Coming Home, the film for which Voight would eventually win an Oscar in 1978.
"Hal Ashby was an amazing guy," Voight said. "He was a maverick in Hollywood that everyone wanted to work with. I came from a film where I was doing 45 takes every time the camera rolled. And I was overwhelmed and kind of lost. And I was insecure! And I went into this film, Coming Home, with Hal Ashby, after having fought for it because I wanted to represent the vets. We were in a situation where the script wasn't finished in the beginning, and we were trying to find our way into it. We were all contributing to the script. So it felt like we were making a movie that was more independent, but it was a big studio film. Anyway, I started to do a scene... I wasn't able to express myself as to my control over this role and my mastery of this role. I felt like my job was in jeopardy every time I walked on the set. I just wasn't at the stage where I said, 'Yeah, you've got it. See what you can do with this thing?'
"So I'm doing this scene, and it wasn't something I was in love with. I didn't like the writing of this thing. I didn't feel enough comfort to tell Hal, 'Hey, can we just sit back and rewrite this thing?' I wasn't in high enough of a position in the hierarchy of filmmaking at that time. I did something like seven takes, and I was sweating because I knew I wasn't getting anything interesting across on camera. I was stumbling across the lines that I really didn't find comfortable. And the camera broke down. And I was sitting there -- we were shooting in a vet hospital -- on the bed, and there were all sort of problems, and people trying to fix the camera troubles. And Hal was even. He sat down next to me on the hospital bed, and I said, 'Hal, listen, I'm not getting this scene. I think I'll be able to do it, but I'm sorry. I'm going nuts.'
"And he said, 'Jon, what are we going to do today? We're shooting a film! We're having fun! We'll get this fixed. You'll get it.' That was the moment when I knew he was going to let me do it, and I felt comfortable because he made it work."
Did he ever. Among those who made it work over the weekend, meanwhile, was Kyle Patrick Alvarez (left), the writer-director whose film Easier With Practice claimed CineVegas's Grand Jury Prize (and a $10,000 cash award), while premieres Godspeed and Etienne! were recognized as well. The terrific doc All In: The Poker Movie won the festival's documentary section, and my Shorts Jury peers and I recognized the drama Short Term 12 as our own big winner. We also singled out filmmaker Justin Nowell for a special directing prize for his funny, disturbing short Acting for the Camera, while Markus Kirschner took home the Nevada Filmmaking Prize for his desert nightmare Communion. In between those honors, Willem Dafoe quietly collected this year's Vanguard Actor Award, while the tireless filmmaking tandem of George and Mike Kuchar shared the Vanguard Director Award.
Congrats to all! I'll catch up with you a little later from detox.