Another Goldwyn Makes His Mark
PBS recently presented a superb program about the legendary movie producer Samuel Goldwyn. While watching it, I recalled my 1999 interview with Goldwyn’s grandson, who had just finished directing his first movie, A Walk on the Moon. Below is the full interview -- excerpted from Confessions of a Movie Addict.
Is it possible to talk with Tarzan, Neil Armstrong, and a member of a Hollywood dynasty all at once? Only if you catch up with Tony Goldwyn, grandson and son of movie moguls Samuel Goldwyn Sr. and Samuel Goldwyn Jr. This newest Goldwyn to make his mark in show business played astronaut Armstrong in HBO’s miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon and provided Tarzan’s voice for Disney’s animated feature about the famous ape man. In spite of these and other acting accomplishments, Goldwyn preferred discussing A Walk on the Moon, his first film as a director, during our telephone interview.
“I wanted to branch out as an actor, to produce something I could act in, but as we worked on the script for this romantic comedy, I got so involved I decided to direct and produce instead,” he said. Originally scheduled to play the sexy hippie who seduces a housewife during the summer of 1969, Goldwyn believed he was not right for the part. Admirers of his mesmerizing voice and leading man good looks will argue about that, but the minute Goldwyn saw Viggo Mortensen, he couldn’t imagine anyone else in this role.
Mortensen’s love scenes with Diane Lane scorch the screen. How did a new director get such impressive results? “Lane and Mortensen had great chemistry together to begin with,” Goldwyn admitted. “We shot the scenes in order. I wanted them to be organic and real. And our cinematographer, Anthony Richmond, knows how to shoot love scenes, so Lane and Mortensen felt safe with us.”
Goldwyn approached directing by fantasizing an actor’s perfect director. “As an actor, I sometimes felt the director was sitting on my head, limiting what I could do,” he confessed. “Characteristics I crave involve drawing people out, inspiring them, and respecting their expertise while collaborating with them and leading in a way that helps them take off.”
Co-producer Dustin Hoffman served as Goldwyn’s mentor for this project. “Dustin was an amazing teacher. But for him, nothing is ever finished. Even after the film was completed, he was still ready to shoot a new scene,” quipped the fledgling director.
Why did Goldwyn pick a film about the Sixties? After all, he was only 9 years old in 1969. “I’ve always been fascinated with the period and feel it’s been treated badly in films. I wanted to express that era in a more personal way. I chose A Walk on the Moon because it’s a movie truly from the heart. You feel you’ve been through something and faced issues everyone can relate to,” he explained.
Surprisingly, Goldwyn couldn’t remember hearing any of his grandfather’s legendary Goldwynisms (“Include me out,” etc.). Publicity surrounding these comments made the senior Goldwyn self-conscious about any misuse of the English language. Goldwyn also revealed that his grandfather and father influenced his choice of career only indirectly. “At first, I didn’t want anything to do with movies,” he recalled. “Of course, I absorbed so much from both of them. When I told my father I wanted to become an actor, he was worried. He thought it was a dangerous profession. But he was the first one who encouraged me to try directing.”
That was sound advice. Tony Goldwyn enjoyed helming A Walk on the Moon and has already agreed to direct two more films. Once again, father knows best.
(A Walk on the Moon is now a Miramax Home Entertainment VHS/DVD release. Confessions of a Movie Addict, published by Hats Off Books, can be ordered from Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com.)