Patricia Clarkson among guests at 10-day festival

Bradenton Herald – With the Sarasota Film Festival kicking off today, the next several days will attract an assortment of filmmakers, actors and others of the same cinematic ilk.

They hope to promote the fruits of their labor. To get people to see their films.

When Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Clarkson comes to town, though, she won’t have a film in tow.

“The fact that I don’t have a film in Sarasota is a rare occurrence for me,” the actress said during a telephone interview from Manhattan. “I’m always at film festivals with a film. But it’s kind of nice coming without one just to be there as a celebrity guest and help my friends raise money for their movies — two of which I’m doing.”

Of course, just two years ago, a film showed up without her at the Sarasota Film Festival via celebrity guest Stanley Tucci. That film was “Blind Date,” in which both actors starred as an estranged married couple.

Tucci, who also directed the film, will return to the festival this year for the new Investor’s Lab to raise money for a film Clarkson will be in. Another film, called “The Goodbye People” by writer/director Ira Sachs, is another project at the lab that the actress is attached to.

Clarkson will also make an appearance at the festival’s “In Conversation With …” event April 17, chatting about her successful career.

It’s a career that took off with her first film, “The Untouchables,” directed by Brian De Palma, and she has kept the momentum with the recent release of Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island.”

Clarkson has had a passion for acting since the age of 14. In high school, she performed in several stage plays and later went on to study at Louisiana State University and Yale School of Drama’s graduate program.

Many films inspired the would-be actress during her youth. But it was the classic actors of that time that Clarkson remembers best, such as Lucille Ball, Peter Sellers and Ingrid Bergman.

When “The Untouchables” came along, Clarkson was performing on Broadway, not knowing what waited on the other side of her big break on the silver screen.

“Suddenly, I was kind of thrust into this film world,” she said. “A very big one with Brian De Palma, Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. So it was a whole new world from the beginning. I think I was too naive to be nervous. I didn’t really understand how large it was — how big the playground I was playing on was.”

It was a playground that led her to work with one of her idols, Woody Allen, along with a host of other A-list talent.

Her time in Hollywood has earned her awards, too. Several guest appearances on HBO’s “Six Feet Under” as Sarah O’Conner won her two Emmy Awards.

Clarkson’s latest film, “Cairo Time,” will be released in the United States soon, she said. She plays Juliette Grant, a married woman visiting Cairo who finds herself in an unexpected love affair with her husband’s friend. The film is written and directed by Ruba Nadda.

In choosing roles, Clarkson said she looks for scripts that challenge her, that take her in new directions in the ever-changing world of independent films. Like everything else, the industry has taken a hit with the shaky economy.

“It’s such a gamble to get a film made,” Clarkson said. “You have to have so many elements come together.”

Which is why she’s hoping to not only entertain, but make a few film deals in Sarasota.

“Come on, Sarasota,” she said, laughing. “I’m rolling the dice.”

published April 10, 2010

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