A Conversation with Horton Foote
April 17, 2002
Lincoln Center Theater's Platform series presents conversations with artists working at LCT before an audience of interested theatergoers. Admission is free and open to all. Platforms are held in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The following is a transcript, edited for clarity, of the April 17, 2002 Platform with Horton Foote:
THOMAS COTT: Good evening, everyone. Iím Thomas Cott, Director of Special
Projects at Lincoln Center Theater, and I want to welcome you to the last in our
spring Platform series. For those of you who havenít been to one of these events
before, we began them four years ago as part of our efforts to let our audience
get to know the artists working here at the theater. If youíve missed some of
our past Platforms, we do transcribe them and they are available in printed form
at our lobby shop and online at our website, which is WWW.LCT.ORG. Iím going to
begin with some questions of my own and then turn it over to you, so start
thinking about what you want to ask. First, some background on tonightís guest.
As a teenager, he left his small hometown of Wharton, Texas and took a bus to
California, where he had enrolled at a theater school. It was the beginning of a
lifetimeís journey that would take him to New York, to Hollywood and all points
in between. Despite his worldly adventures, much of his writing has been
inspired by his rural Texas upbringing. When he was in his early 20s, his first
play was performed in New Yorkóa one-act called, appropriately enough,
Wharton Dance. In the six decades since, he has written more than sixty
plays and about twenty works for film and television, which have illuminated
America's last century. Many of his stories depict the lives in the
fictionalóbut easily recognizableótown of Harrison, Texas. His most recent play
set in Harrison is The Carpetbagger's Children, which is now running at
the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. It was just named Best New Play by the American
Theater Critics Association, but accolades are nothing new for this
distinguished artist, who has also received two Oscars, an Emmy and the Pulitzer
Prize for Drama. His other honors include the National Medal of Arts, a number
of Lifetime Achievement Awards including recent honors from his peers at the
Writers Guild of America and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and he
was also inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. We are so honored to have him
here tonight. Please welcome Horton Foote! [applause] Iíd like to begin where
you beganóin Wharton, Texas. You still have a house there and spend part of your
time there. Is this the house where you grew up?
HORTON FOOTE: Yes, I was taken there when I was a year old, and Iíve
lived there ever since.
TC: And that house is where you live now?
HF: Thatís right. Except when Iím in New York!
TC: For those of you who donít know, Horton has also written two
wonderful memoirs. The first is called Farewell and the second is called
Beginnings. In Farewell, you talk about how, somewhere around the
age of 10 or 11, you felt that you had a "calling" to get into this crazy show
business. How did that come about?
HF: Actually, I had gone on summer nights with my mother and father and
we would take walks and pass this house. A very distinguished man would be
sitting on the porch, and after we had passed, my father would always say with
great reverence, "Thatís Mr. So-and-So, and he was working in the cotton fields
in Mississippi and got a Ďcallí to come here and preach. Well, I was fascinated
by that, I didnít know what that meant, but I knew he was a Baptist. So I said,
"What does it mean to get a Ďcallí? Can only Baptists get Ďcalledí?" "No,
Methodists can, Episcopaleans can..." And I thought a long time about it and it
must have planted something inside me, because when I was about 11, I got a
Ďcall.í Not to preach, but to act. And Iíd never seen but three tent shows in my
life and some motion pictures, so where this Ďcallí came from, I donít know. But
it was not only there, but it was with a force that almost frightened me when
Iíd think about it. I would refuse to go to college. I said I was going to be in
the theater and thatís it. If I go to college, Iíll lose this impulse. Well, I
have four children and if they, at that ageó15, when I began this propagandaóIíd
tie them to the bed! [laughter] My parents were wiser than that and they said,
well, it was the Depression and weíll do all we can to help you. And at 17, they
said I was mature enough to go out into the world and out I went.
TC: Now, your family had been in Wharton, Texas since 1830. So people
didnít stray very far. It must have been a big deal for you to go away.
HF: They didnít burden me with that, and I had no feeling about
TC: You originally wanted to go to New York, but you compromised.
HF: Yes, because they thought New York was too big for a boy my
TC: You went to Pasadena, I believe.
HF: Yes. Which has some aspects of Sodom and Gomorrah. [laughter]
TC: While you were there, I read that you had the experience of seeing
one of the great actresses of that time, Eva LeGallienne in a series of plays,
one of which was Hedda Gabler.
HF: Three Ibsen plays. Hedda, Master Builder and Dollís House.
And she had just closed the Civic Rep and was on her first tour. Iíd never
seen a thing like that. Mind, too, I had only been in Pasadena at that time for
only six weeks or maybe two months. And we werenít exposed to a great many plays
in that brief time. So my grandmother took me for my birthday, and we saw Hedda
first. I had never seen anything like that. It just knocked me over. And so she
said, well, itís repertory. I didnít know what that meant. But it meant she
would be doing two other plays on this coming Saturday. "Would you like to go?"
So I went back, I saw Dollís House, I saw Master Builder. And I
thought, this is for me. Iím getting to New York some way.
TC: And you did! Within a couple of years, if I remember correctly. You
got involved, by chance, with a group of actors and formed a company...
HF: The American Actorsí Company. We didnít have any off-Broadway in
those days, certainlym no off-off-Broadway. In that sense, it was a relatively
unique situation. I learned the lesson that, if youíre starting out, get
attached to something like that. Because I didnít think much about that, who
were there at the time, but it was Mildred Dunnock, Agnes DeMille, Joseph
Anthony, who became a well-known director... Mary Hunter, Jerry Robbins...
Tennessee Williams came down for one... and it was a most marvelous place to
begin your theater life.
TC: Now, Iím assuming that you didnít make a living off the work that you
HF: Oh, we didnít think about that! That was beneath us! [laughter] We
were out to do artistic things.
TC: So how did you support yourself during this early time?
HF: By the hardest... when I was writingóI didnít start writing until
lateróI got jobs where I was running an elevator at night and after people had
gone to bed, I would spend the night writing. Or I ushered in movie houses and I
was happy to get $15 a week.
TC: And you were acting also?
HF: Yes, fortunately, I got some acting jobs that helped me along.
TC: At what point did you decide to make the transition to
HF: Well, it was DeMille that did it. We would improvise and she would
pull me aside and ask, "did you ever think about writing?" And Iíd say no. Sheíd
say, "well, I think you have interesting material and you should think about
it." I really wanted to be an actor badly, so I thought, Iíll write a play for
myself! [laughter] And I wrote a play called Wharton Dance and I had the
lead and they put it on and Robert Coleman, who was the critic for the New
York Mirror at the time, came down to see it. And he liked the play, but he
loved my acting. So I thought, well, this is it. Iím going to now write plays
for myself. And I saved some money and I went back to Texas and wrote a
full-length play called Texas Town. Meantime, the company had moved to a
larger theater, which was the Humphrey Weidman Studio. And we put on this new
play and I played the lead again. And it was all very exciting, because Brooks
Atkinson, who was the dean of the New York critics, announced he was coming down
to see the play. Indeed he did. In those days, you had to wait up until about 3
or 4 in the morning to get the Times; actors always did that. And my
brother went running down to Times Square and came running back with this notice
which he read aloud. It was a glowing notice for the playwright, and a terrible
notice for the actor! [laughter]
TC: Uh-oh. Well, I guess your fate was sealed.
HF: I went away that summer and did about eight parts, and then it just
left me. I donít know... and I became a writer.
TC: One of the interesting things about your early career is your
involvement, as you mentioned, with people like DeMille and Jerome Robbins. You
did a few pieces which were what we would today call Ďmultidisciplinary," mixing
dance, drama and music. What were they like?
HF: Well, I did a ballet for Valerie Dennis, called Daisy Lee,
which she toured with. The Neighborhood Playhouse, which Martha Graham
taught atóat the end of each year, they would commission work to use all the
disciplines, and they commissioned me and I wrote a play called The Lonely,
which Martha choreographed and I directed it. When I think of it now, to get
in the room as the director with Martha Graham, I donít think Iíd be able to do
it... but I did. Then, with Jerry Robbins, I did a ballet that Nora Kaye danced
TC: These all sound like early ancestors of Contact! Also, in that
time period, you were involved with the early days of television, writing for
Philco Playhouse and Playhouse 90 and Westinghouse Theatre... what was it like
HF: It was a remarkable time. It was much like theater, because we
couldnít edit. Once you were on the air, you couldnít stop it. If you went up on
your lines, there was nothing anybody could do about it. I know in one of my
plays, Dorothy Gishówho was a wonderful actress, but very nervousóshe went up on
her lines. It seemed like five hours, but it was probably like two seconds.
[laughter] But there she was. It frightened her so that she never did television
again, as long as it was live. After they began to manipulate and edit it, she
TC: The success you had in television inevitably led you to the movies.
Because if youíre good in writing for the cameras, people think you can do it
for film. Of course, you had a big hit early on with your film adaptation of
To Kill a Mockingbird. How did that come about?
HF: Lucked out! [laughter] Well, Iíd worked with the director, Bob
Mulligan, and the producer, Alan Pakula. And theyíd offered it to Harper [Lee,
the author of the novel on which the film is based] and she didnít want to do
it. So they asked me and I said yes and they said, well alright, you can meet
with Harper and if she likes you, then itís your job. I was living in Nyack, New
York at the time and they brought her out and it was just like we were cousins!
Same background, same kind of town. And I said, "well, I want to do it." And she
said, "Okay, do it, and go away and I donít want to see you again until itís
TC: Was that the first time you had adapted someone elseís work?
TC: Was that a difficult experience for you, because you felt a special
HF: Well, yes, you do feel a special burden. It wasnít the first time...
it was the first time in a film, and itís getting into somebody elseís psyche,
itís taking possession of their work and I canít do it unless I like the work,
and I did like this property.
TC: Youíre worked with adapting some okay writers... Steinbeck,
HF: That was after. Itís the same thing. With Faulkner, I never met him
and I was terrified. I donít usually like to do this, but I had a great success
with a novella of his called The Old Man, and all the TV networks, when
you have a great success, they think everythingís going to be a success. So they
got a hold of another Faulkner short story called Tomorrow, and I
agonized over this. I said, "you know, I donít know how to do this." In the
story, there are about three lines describing a black-complected woman, who has
a baby that the man who owns the little cabin sheís in finally takes after she
dies. Thatís all you know about her, but I got so fascinated with her that I
just began to think about her. And I thought, well, Faulkner may kill me, but
Iím going to give her half the show and I wrote the whole beginning about her
and her death. I never met him, but he sent word that he liked it and he did a
very extraordinary thing. He said "if you do that, you have to get his
permission and my permission." I shared the copyright with him, which I never
heard of before.
TC: That is interesting. Itís sort of parallel to the experience you must
have when people adapt things of your own. Is that hard for you to see people
take on your...
HF: Once in a while. Not often, because itís only been done once and it
just not so much the writer as the producer, who had a very different idea of
the material. And she wasnít bad, she was Lillian Hellman!
TC: Lillian Hellman, sheís okay! [laughter] Now, youíve had a number of
successes in Hollywood, but your personal take on that town was not so happy. If
I understand correctly, you never actually lived there...
HF: Itís not the town so much, itís the culture. I just didnít feel I
wanted to work there. I didnít want to raise my family out there. And I was
fortunate enough to come at a time when they didnít care. Mockingbird I
wrote in Nyack, New York. Everything else Iíve written outside of Hollywood.
Iíll go there for a conference and...
TC: ...and go off and do the work. For a long time, you lived in New
Hampshire, in the 70s, during which you wrote nine plays, the "Orphanís Home
Cycle," which is semi-autobiographical material. How did that come about? How
did you decide to do something on that scale?
HF: I had been commissioned to write a play and Stark Young, who was a
great critic, loved this play. And he thought I should expand it into a bigger
theater piece, but I didnít and then he died and I kind of forgot about it. And
then my parents died. And I went home and I was cleaning out their house and I
began to think about this little play. I decided I wanted to re-write the play
and then I began to think of other things to do and pretty soon I had eight
plays and I sent it to someone who said I think there should be a ninth play. He
sort of hinted at something and I wrote a ninth play. Interesting thing about
it, when I had finished the ninth play, the first playówhich had started itóI
couldnít use it anymore. I had to redo it.
TC: Because your thinking had evolved in the process of writing the other
TC: Interesting. Did you have a game plan for all nine at once?
HF: Well, I did, but how many theaters can do nine plays? But, as
independent films, Iíve done five of them and maybe Iíll do all nine as films.
And maybe then we can have somebody in the theater... weíve done readings of all
nine plays, but Iím a practical man. I realize thatís a very impractical thing
TC: One of the things that strikes me about these plays and some of your
more recent work is that, although nine plays sounds like an epic idea, theyíre
really notable for their small-scale economy. In the early days, you were
writing on a large canvasóyour very first play had 38 characters in it, and it
was a one-act play! [laughter]
HF: And you know, we had no trouble casting it... there were plenty of
actors in those days.
TC: Iím sure. But it strikes me that, over time, your writingís getting
more and more concentrated, that youíre distilling down what youíve learned. Is
that a fair assessment, do you think?
HF: I think so, although my last play that was just done, they complained
because it was so expensive. I donít consciously do that [write more modestly],
in order to get my plays produced. I guess itís the material and the way that
you think about it. Certainly, Carpetbaggerís Children I couldnít think
of any other way. It only has three people. Producers like that!
TC: Letís talk some about that play. It has an unusual structure of these
overlapping monologues. How did you fell upon that as the way to go to tell
HF: I was commissioned by the Alley Theatre to write a play, and I
casually said Iíve always loved The Three Sisters and Iíd like to do a
kind of homage to it. Well, there were difficulties with the contracts and
Signature Theatre called me and I had written a play [The Last of the
Thorntons] with three sistersótwo of them deadóand they said, "We need a
play." Since the Alley wasnít ready, I brought this play to the Signature. Then
the Alley settled my contract and wanted their play, and I didnít have a play.
So I began to think again about three sisters. It had nothing to do with
Chekhovís Three Sisters, as it turned out, but thatís why there are three
sisters in this play here.
TC: But in terms of the style of the play, to have these overlapping
monologues, was that a conscious idea that you started with...?
HF: It began, it began, and it just went further and further. I didnít
set out consciously to write this kind of play.
TC: Itís fascinating to me, becauseó[to audience:] I donít know how many
of you have seen this play yetóbut each of the characters recount the same
memories, but theyíre doing it from their own perspective. So it has a
cumulative emotional impact, I think, as the play goes on. It reveals the
characters as they talk to us. Itís a wonderful structure.
HF: You know, I have a theory that plays kind of take you over and lead
you. I mean, you start and you certainly have ideas, but Iím always amazed when
a play is finished, how unlike it is what I started out to do. Just like I think
what you write about chooses you.
TC: You mentioned Chekhov before and youíve often been referred to as
"the American Chekhov" or "the rural Chekhov". Do you feel comfortable with that
HF: Iím flattered, but in some ways, I think Iím closer to his short
stories than his plays.
TC: Interesting. Now, I donít want to hog the microphone the whole time.
Are there any questions out there for Mr. Foote?
AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: You spoke about your beginnings and how you had an
insight to be a writer. Was there a specific inspiration you can
HF: How many of you have seen a tent show? Itís the most primitive kind
of theater. In the South, I suppose mostly in small towns, once a year a company
of actors would come with a tent, and theyíd put it up in a cotton field or any
place that was vacant, and theyíd stay for a week and theyíd have a repertory of
seven plays. I donít know why that impressed me so much, but it impressed me
greatly. I suppose I really wasnít a movie fan in that sense. I always had this
fascination with live theater. I know I was about to go to Houston once and my
mother heard that one of the great Shakespearean touring companies was playing
there and she thought that it would be good for me to see Shakespeare. I had a
grandmother there and she sent me off to see the play on a streetcar, and I got
to the theater and across the street was another theater where Florence Reed was
playing in The Shanghai Gesture, which was hardly Shakespeare. [laughter]
And I decided to take in Shanghai Gesture and I got caught, because a
lady my mother knew had been to see the Shakespeare and had not seen me in the
audience. When I told them I had been to see Julius Caesar, she said they
had done Romeo and Juliet! [laughter]
TC: Uh-oh. Just goes to show, you will always get caught!
HF: I must say, I learned a wonderful lesson from Florence Reed. She was
in a show about a bawdy house in Shanghai...
TC: Must have been quite shocking. [to AM #2:] Sir...
AM #2: How did you feel about the popular success of To Kill A
Mockingbird? Was that very gratifying? And did it change your life
HF: It did, yes. They wanted me to stay in Hollywood and be a
screenwriter...which I didnít really want to do. But thereís been an enormous
amount of satisfaction; Harper Lee and I are very close. It seems remarkable to
me that the novel continues to grow in peopleís affections.
TC: We were talking before tonightís event about how, in Chicago and a
number of other cities, theyíre inviting the whole city to read one book and
they picked To Kill a Mockingbird. I think itís introduced the story to a
whole new generation of peopleóand the movie, as well.
AM #3: Who are your heroes and heroines in the theater? Especially when
you were starting out...
HF: Well, I go way back you know! Actors like Walter Huston...Pauline
Lord was my big favorite. I just loved her. Eve LaGalliene. Katherine Cornell.
Henry Hull. I thought he was marvelous in Tobacco Road. They make fun of
that play now, but he was an extraordinary actor. I could go on and on. If we
start talking about writers, I could be here all night.
AM #4: Did your contact with Louis Horst and Martha Graham, did that have
HF: Oh, it had enormous influence. Louis was so kind to me. He had a
magazine called Dance Observer, and he knew I was interested in dance. He
asked me if I would like to review and I said I would. And I reviewed for that
magazine for about a year and a half. Iíve often thought that critics can be too
tough. Someone is doing a work on me and they went to a library in California
and got hold of back issues of Dance Observer that Iíd reviewed for. This
is now 40 years ago and they sent them to me. And I was so shocked! I was the
meanest, nastiest....[laughter] I was so arrogant. Who was I to tell Merce
Cunningham or anybody how to dance or not to dance?
AM #5: I have a compliment, rather than a question. The theologian James
Jordan, in his monthly newsletter than I get, recently said that the four films
that best depict true Christianity are The Trip to Bountiful, Tender Mercies,
Chariots of Fire and Shadowlands. I think itís remarkable that you
have written two of them! Itís a tribute to you. Congratulations.
HF: Thank you very much.
TC: While weíre talking about Trip to Bountifulówhich is one of my
favorites of yours... that began as a play, is that right?
HF: No. It began on television. Lillian Gish did it, with Eva Marie Saint
and Eileen Heckart. And then the Theatre Guild asked if I would do it as a play.
And Lillian did it again. And Eva Marie. Interesting thing is the director Elia
Kazan had seen her and said he wanted to use her in the film of On The
Waterfront. And she said, all right, Iíll do Waterfront, but I want to be in
this play, too. So she played in Bountiful all the time they were
shooting Waterfront, except the matinees when we had to put somebody else
TC: And eventually, it became a film with Geraldine Page.
AM #6: You talked earlier about how your parents sent you to the theater
when you were a child, but where did your parents develop their interest in
TC: Well, your mother was a musician, as I recall. So she had probably
had some interest in other art forms.
HF: [laughs] Not really. I loved them dearly and they were very
TC: So what made them think it was a good idea to take you to
HF: Well... the tent shows. Everybody went to the tent shows. They
werenít very cultural. [laughter]
TC: They didnít take you to Houston or Dallas.
HF: Oh, no.
TC: You went to these cities by yourself?
HF: [laughs] Oh, yes.
AM #7: Your rural background figures largely in your plays. Are you plays
generated from memories or is just your imagination today? How does your
childhood figure into this?
HF: Thatís a curious kind of alchemy, that I donít really understand
myself. For instance, this playóThe Carpetbaggerís Childrenóthere are
some literal facts in this play. I mean, there were carpetbaggers in my home
town. There were three sisters. Some of the incidents in the play I touch
upon... and yet finally, it becomes a wholly different thing. Itís almost like a
collage. Take a little bit from here, a little bit from there, put it all
together and something else comes out. It isnít certainly documentary and it
certainly isnít reporting. But, to me, it has to start out somewhere as a source
of reality, and I donít really know what there is that makes one say "this is my
material", but thereís a point where do you feel that. Itís like when I was
working on Mockingbird. I had great respect for the novel, but there was
a point where I had to say, "well, itís now mine. Iím doing this and I have to
go ahead and not worry." There is this thing where youíre dealing with someoneís
life. Thereís some part of you saying, "be careful, donít hurt somebodyís
feelings." Finally, you say, "well, it really isnít about them anymore. Itís
something else now, so go ahead."
TC: Did you have a different feeling about this, when you were writing
HF: Itís different. Itís absolutely different. I just had to understand
that, in the book Beginnings, most people are gone. And with Farewell,
they certainly are.
TC: So are we to assume that you wonít be publishing further memoirs
until more people are gone?
HF: [laughs] Well, itís a very delicate thing to do, because Iím not
interested in scandals and exposing people. Iím trying to find some kind of
humanity in them.
TC: In the second book, you talk quite a bit about what your life was
like in New York. But you havenít written a lot about New York in your plays. Is
there a reason why youíve stayed away from that as a subject matter?
HF: I canít write about New York. Iíve tried, but I just canít do it.
Itís just not my material. I donít feel comfortable... I did one play called
People in the Show, which was about the Worldís Fair. Which I did in
Washington with Eli Wallach and Jean Stapleton, but thatís the only time. My
daughter, who is a playwright, was raised in New Hampshire, and she writes all
about New Hampshire.
AM #8: Have you ever written any poetry?
HF: No, I wish I could. Thatís my one regret. If I could have chosen, I
would have chosen to be a poet.
TC: Well, Iíd say thereís quite a lot of poetry in your plays!
HF: I hope so. Iím flattered by that, but Iím talking about the Real
AM #9: I just wanted to say that Carpetbaggerís Children is one of
the most beautiful experiences Iíve ever had in a theater, and so I wanted to
thank you so much. [audience applause] I have two quick questions. I was
wondering if you could speak a little about your process. Do you prefer to write
in the South? Do you type? Do you write long-hand?...
TC: Letís start with this first half... I think you do write in
HF: Now I do, because there are so many things going on in New
TC: And do you write long-hand or on a typewriter?
TC: And do you have certain hours when you prefer to write? Do you like
the morning or....?
HF: I wish I could say... in that sense, Iím not a professional
TC: I think, after 60 plays, we can say youíre a professional
HF: Well, Iím an obsessive writer. Once I get started, I donít stop. I
wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and write. It used to drive my wife
crazy. I remember, when we were living in New Hampshire, I had been writing all
night and I would still be in my pajamas. And my youngest daughter, when she was
still a young child, she took her mother aside and said, "I cannot bring my
friends over here..." [laughter] "...because they think Daddyís an alcoholic!"
That cured me of that!
TC: [to AM #9] I believe thereís a second part to your question?
AM #9: Yes, Iíve seen your daughter Hallie in, I think, three of your
plays. Sheís such a fantastic actress. Can you speak about your working
relationship with her?
TC: Some critics have called Hallie "the finest interpreter" of your
HF: Well, I think sheís very good. It is interesting that we get along
very well. We did a film together called Valentineís Day, which the
Venice Film Festival chose as its American film that year. When the film critics
met me, I thought they were going to ask me all sorts of esoteric questions, but
really what they wanted to know was how I could be working with my daughter and
still speaking to one another! [laughter]
AM #10: I want to ask you about my favorite film of yours called
Tomorrow. How did it come to be? The reason Iím asking this is I want
everybody to know that this is perhaps the quintessential great Horton Foote
film, and so few people have seen it.
HF: It was done on television first, with Kim Stanley, who was
extraordinary, and Richard Boone. And then Herbert Berghof has a theater
downtown called the HB Playhouse, and he always loved Tomorrow and he
said he wanted to do it as a play. And I said, well who are you going to get? He
said, well, what about Bob Duvall? And I said, well, heís pretty good.
[laughter] Anyway, Iím kidding. He was marvelous, of course. And Herbert did it.
It was an extraordinary experience.
TC: You actually got Duvall one of his first film jobs in To Kill a
HF: Yeah, I did. But then what happened was, Paul Roeblingówhose wife was
in itódecided to get the money together to do a film and we did it for $500,000
and Duvall thinks itís his best work ever. The film has never had a wide
release. Itís rather special, I must say. But the French actor Gerard Depardieu
saw it about four years ago, fell in love with it, and he took it over to Paris
and he released it over there. So it has its fans! If you get a chance to see
it... itís in some of the video stores.
TC: Robert Duvall has done a number of projects with you, including
Tender Mercies, for which he won the Oscar. But you didnít write that for
him necessarily in mind. Do you write with certain actors in your head?
TC: Even for your daughter? You donít hear Hallie saying these
AM #11: Youíve worked with some of the best actors over many past
decades. Whatís the relationship between an author and the actors? Have you
maintained a relationship after a project is over?
HF: I guess the best example I can give you is Iíve had Bountiful
done by three wonderful actressesóLillian Gish, Geraldine Page and Ellen
Burstyn. You couldnít ask for three more different actors, and yet they were all
quite wonderful and made my play terrific. My relationship is to get the best
actor I can and then move aside, because you want an actor to bring their gifts.
I donít think I consciously seek their friendship, but theyíve always become
friends. I think the theater is a deeply cooperative effort, and we all depend
on each other. I just believe that the best thing to do is enhance each other
and go on.
TC: Weíre almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you about a quote I
read by Alan Pakula, who produced To Kill a Mockingbird. He said that
"Horton has a specific voice, a specific style, and heís never abandoned it,
even though itís cost him." Iím wondering if you think thatís true and what the
cost has been to you.
HF: I guess itís been financial. For instance, Tomorrowówhich is a
film I love and Iíd do over againóbut it took a year out of my life. I think
thatís what he means. Iím not the richest playwright on the planet.
TC: He also said that, because you wrote your plays whether they were
going to be produced or not, you got what most playwrights donít get, which is a
HF: That was a big thing of his. That I have a second act. Yeah.
TC: Well, you clearly have not stopped. You are a most prolific man. you
have this play going now, a play in California, another play thatís about to
happen in England, another play thatís happening at Ensemble Studio Theatre, a
film in development... most people, when they get to your age, they might want
to slow down and not do so much. Are you going to slow down ever?
HF: I hope not! [extended applause]
TC: Well, we hope not, too! But we do have to stop here. Weíre so
grateful you could be with us tonight, Horton. Thanks so much! Good night,