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Austin Pendleton finally gets top billing in short documentary about his unique career

Austin Pendleton finally gets top billing in short documentary about his unique career

STARRING AUSTIN PENDLETON (Gene Gallerano & David H. Holmes, 2016)
Thursday, April 21, SVA Theater 2 Beatrice, 2:30

Starring Austin Pendleton is a charming little tribute to director, teacher, and film, television, and theater character actor Austin Pendleton, who finally gets top billing. Directors Gene Gallerano and David H. Holmes — the latter an actor who has studied with and acted in plays directed by Pendleton — have assembled quite an all-star lineup to sing Pendleton’s praises, including Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Olympia Dukakis, Wallace Shawn, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and John Simon. “If this guy didn’t look the way he looks — he’s got a stutter, he’s five-whatever-he-is, he’s a funny-looking guy, and his hair’s all screwy — he’d be Marlon Brando,” Ethan Hawke points out. You might not know the name, but as the clips roll by, you will certainly recognize the face as Pendleton is shown in such movies and television series as The Front Page, Good Times, The Muppet Movie, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Seinfeld, Catch-22, and the film he will likely most be remembered for, My Cousin Vinny, in which he played stuttering lawyer John Gibbons, a role that showcased an affliction he has suffered from his entire life. Starring Austin Pendleton is worth seeing just for the clips of Pendleton and Hoffman in 1995’s The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, in which the former portrays the title character and the latter plays Bernardo, Horatio, and Laertes. It is supremely enjoyable watching Pendleton discuss his craft and share some very funny anecdotes; my only complaint is that the documentary is way too short at only nineteen minutes, but it is about a character actor, after all, who is used to getting limited screen time. And how could it fail to mention that Pendleton originated the role of the tailor Motel Komzoil in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof? On April 21, the film will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, followed by a conversation with Pendleton, directors Holmes and Gallerano, and Olympia Dukakis, Peter Sarsgaard, Denis O’Hare, and George Morfogen, moderated by Gordon Cox. You can also catch it as part of shorts programs at Tribeca on April 19, 21, and 23.

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