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11/29/2004 - Interview - Tom Skerritt


Tom Skerritt is one of the most prolific and well known actors around. A star of television ("Picket Fences") and films ("Alien", "M*A*S*H", "A River Runs Through It") you can see his latest film, the Bruce Willis starring "Tears of the Sun" that opened on March 7th. For more information on Tom Skerritt's career and a list of his many film and television roles, search Tom Skerritt on www.imdb.com.

I got a hold of Tom Skerritt just before a trip to L.A. to start working on a Television Series. Due to his schedule - a short conversation with Tom Skerritt:

You've worked in Hollywood for many years, how many screenplays and teleplays do you think you've read over that time?

TS: I have no idea how many I've read over forty years.

How many would you say would fall into the "good quality" category?

TS: About a third of the material sent.

What gets your attention most when you first read a script, the story or your role?

TS: The story and who's directing.

When handed a screenplay do you know, off the bat, what your role is going to be - or do you go in blind sometimes with an opportunity to choose your role?

TS: Happens everyway you can imagine.

Do you still have to "read" for roles or do you get hired because people know who they're going to get?

TS: Haven't had to 'read' in years.

How closely do you work with the writer?

TS: Rarely ever see or meet the writer during shooting.

Does your interaction with the writer change if you're doing television as opposed to film?

TS: Same as above, except when you're doing a tv series, then
you have to interact with writers.

Have you found the television writer to be more involved in the process?

TS: TV writing is different than other mediums, involving the writer
everyday in the course of a TV season.

You have directed a couple films but have you ever written a screenplay?

TS: Yes, I've written several screenplays.

As a director, how did you choose the screenplay?

TS: I'm currently trying to direct my own material.

Have you ever read a screenplay you thought sure wasn't going to work well and it did, and vice-versa?

TS: Most screenplays depend primarily on the vision of a director.
Obviously, if a director doesn't communicative a clear, relevant
vision of the material, it will not succeed no matter how good the material. Same sense, 'just so' material with a director who has time and vision can turn out a better than expected film.

Do you find yourself changing your role much, or is this something between you and the director?

TS: Between myself and director.

In bringing this vision to the screen, do you feel an obligation towards the writer, the director or do you try to accommodate both - if that's possible?

TS: One has the responsibility to oneself, to the writer, director and the people who put up the money, to put out the best of what
one has experienced and understood about the human condition
as it relates to the role one has been hired to portray.

What is the best compliment you've ever received from a director?

TS: Just being hired by a great director is complimentary.

What is the best compliment you've ever received from a writer?

TS: Don't usually meet the writers.

Is there any advice you would be willing to give a struggling screenwriter?

TS: As a very experienced writer once told me, 'It's in the rewrites'.


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