24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Gregory Peck

George Clooney, Alexander Payne talk family drama, 'Descendants'

February 9, 2012 | 11:30 am

The other night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, George Clooney and Alexander Payne discussed their movie, "The Descendants," and its place among "classic family dramas from Oscars past and present." At least, that's how the American Cinematheque billed the event, and they went to the trouble to put together a five-minute reel featuring clips from "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Ordinary People," "Terms of Endearment," "On Golden Pond" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" that was shown before the film.

Since writer-director Payne had told me in an interview last month that he doesn't see many contemporary American films, as the moderator, I was curious just how much he'd have to say about the movies in question. Short answer: Not a whole lot. He did just see "Kramer vs. Kramer" last year, liked it and noticed some parallels between Dustin Hoffman's suddenly single father and Clooney's "backup parent" in "The Descendants."

Then Payne matter-of-factly mentioned that he'd never watched "Ordinary People," and you could hear a loud gasp from the sold-out audience. "We all have gaps," Payne said, shrugging his shoulders. Just in case you were wondering, he has never seen "Beaches," either. Don't look for these gaps to be closed any time soon. He'd much rather be rewatching an Ozu movie, thank you.

Clooney, the Merry Prankster to Payne's prickly pear, was, naturally, more forthcoming. He remembered being 19 years old and seeing Timothy Hutton in "Ordinary People" and thinking seriously for the first time about an acting career. He marveled at Hoffman's manic French-toast-making scene in "Kramer" and called "Mockingbird" a "profoundly important" film to him on a number of levels.

"Atticus Finch ... there was a reluctance to his heroism that I always loved," Clooney said. "And Gregory Peck was the quintessential leading man."

Clooney was at his Lake Como home in Italy with friends the night Peck died. He rounded up his friends and their kids, led them into his screening room and put on "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"And the minute it came on, all these kids were like, 'Oooow ... God! It's black-and-white!' And they immediately hated it. And I was like, 'Shut the ... up.' But it was great because it took them about 15 minutes to get into the rhythm of it, and by the end, they didn't want the movie to end. They were scared. They were scared of Boo Radley and they were caught up in that story. It's such a compliment to that idea of storytelling really does work. And it's something we can't lose sight of as we move into 3-D and everything else we do."


George Clooney on directing: 'Forward momentum' is important

Alexander Payne on directing: casting is 'first among equals'

Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

— Glenn Whipp

Gregory Peck commemorative stamp unveiled in ceremony at motion picture academy

April 28, 2011 |  3:06 pm

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

A full house was on hand at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Thursday to witness the unveiling of the Gregory Peck commemorative stamp -- the first "Forever" stamp in the United States Postal Service's Legends of Hollywood series. 

The first-class stamp features Peck in his Oscar-winning role as the benevolent widowed Southern attorney and father Atticus Finch in the 1962 classic "To Kill a Mockingbird."

A scene from the beloved drama based on the novel by Harper Lee was just one of the many from Peck's films shown during the ceremony, along with clips from 1947's "Gentleman's Agreement," 1950's "The Gunfighter" and 1953's "Roman Holiday."

Sharon Stone, who met Peck and his wife, Veronique, as a young actress when she became friends with their children Cecilia and Anthony, hosted the proceedings. The event began with the presentation of colors by the Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard from March Air Reserve Base and the national anthem sung by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks.

"He taught us in his films that men could be strong without being violent and mean," said Stone. She said she thought it was appropriate that Peck, who died in 2003 at 87, was being honored with a stamp because he always described acting as "carrying the mail," which was his way of saying delivering a performance. She then introduced the Peck family's mail carrier, who delivered mail to them for eight years.

Veronique Peck was joined onstage for the unveiling of the stamp by Cecilia, Anthony, Gregory Peck's son Carey from his first marriage and several grandchildren. "It's really a great day for all of us," said an emotional Veronique Peck, adding that she was married to the "most wonderful man in the world."

She introduced various friends and actors Peck had worked with in the audience, including Sidney Poitier, who garnered the most applause, Robert Forster, Piper Laurie and James Darren.

Carey Peck told the crowd that it was "payback" that his father be memorialized with his own stamp. "He was a fanatic about mail-order catalogs," he said. "It was like Christmas every day."

"He used the Postal Service a lot," said Anthony Peck, who recalled receiving long letters from his father throughout boarding school and college. "I still have his letters."

Morgan Freeman brought the house down recounting his first meeting with Peck at an academy event. "I made an absolute fool of myself," he said. "I leapt out in the aisle in front of him and knelt," he said, sheepishly. "He said, 'Get up.' "

For the record, 1:23 p.m., April 29: An earlier version of this post quoted Veronique Peck as saying, "It's really a great deal for all of us."  Peck actually said "It's really a great day for all of us."

-- Susan King

Photo: Gregory Peck commemorative stamp. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times


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