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LAFF: Quincy Jones, Andy Garcia & More Honor Sidney Lumet (1924 - 2011)
By Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
That Sidney Lumet acted when he was a child is not surprising, but that his gut-driven hard-nose for stories included giving a first job in scoring to someone like Quincy Jones who given up on film music, is surprising. Lumet's off-camera gift was that he could recognize someone's talent often before they knew it themselves.
During LAFF's "Remembering Sidney Lumet" tribute hosted by Los Angeles Times' film guru Kenneth Turan, Quincy Jones, Andy Garcia, and DOG DAY AFTERNOON writer Frank Pierson all shared their first-of moments with the late director.
For a quick refresher on director Sidney Lumet, who died in April 2011, think titles: DOG DAY AFTERNOON, SERPICO, NETWORK, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, 12 ANGRY MEN, GARBO TALKS, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. And 2007's Oscar-rich Philip Seymour Hoffman-driven picture BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD.
Quincy Jones, who is no youngster himself, said "I gave up (the idea of doing movie music) until I was 30. I was at Lena Horne's house. Some guy who worked in movie music was there. Lena told him to listen to my record." Which led to Sidney Lumet, who said "I' want you to come down and look at my movie.' That movie was THE PAWNBROKER (1964)."
Jones was "so unaware of how to score a picture that I did the whole thing in two days, for a whole $8,000 ." Quincy Jones would go on to score 5 Lumet pictures for a whole lot more money, including THE WIZ (Michael Jackson, Diana Ross).
"What Sidney taught me is indelibly painted on my psyche and my soul," he said.
Writer Frank Pierson pointed out that Lumet "was always looking for the truth, what is the kernel of truth... I felt like I was in my Dad's hands. And we saved Columbia from bankruptcy at the time."
"You made SPIDER-MAN way back then?," Andy Garcia joked.
Garcia "connected with Sidney as a young actor," he said. "I got a call -- they were doing NIGHT FALLS IN MANHATTAN. I was truly honored to be in it. He was a personal hero."
Pierson said a Lumet hallmark was having his characters' kiss on screen, it was a motif of sorts. Andy Garcia had a different experience altogether with Lumet.
"In our film," he noted, "he gave me one specific piece of direction. He said 'I don't want you to kiss her, get close, but never kiss.' In the movie we never touch (lips). I wonder if he did that on purpose, to break his own (streak)?"
Kenneth Turan clearly loved Lumet as much as his panelists, so it is appropriate to close a recap of the Tribute with a quote from the director, that echoes his life.
"Whenever despair sets in, it takes me about 2 seconds to say 'Cut the nonsense! You're the luckiest man in the world."
Adieu to Sidney Lumet, and stay tuned for more from LAFF 2011 from LA Live.
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About Quendrith Johnson
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