I knew him well over the years, hanging with him in L.A. or at various film festivals from Sundance to Vail. Carson was an energetic, enthusiastic, generous, eager, curious man always in pursuit of the new. He embraced life, people, movies, and new technology–he was shooting films on smart phones before anyone else I knew. (Here’s Bruce Weber’s NYT obit
In these last few years he was enjoying accepting tribute kudos at various fests around the world, and was globe-trotting with his wife and producing partner Cynthia Hargrave to shoot Nokia flicks for his multi-platform 12-episode digital documentary series “Africa Diary” that aired on The Sundance Channel in 2011.
Carson made his name starring as a narcissistic filmmaker in the classic 1968 mockumentary “David Holzman’s Diary
,” which he co-wrote with his long-time collaborator, director Jim McBride (“Breathless
”), which producer Ted Hope recently wrote about here
. A recent Q & A with Carson is here
. McBride sent me this:
“I was shocked to hear of Kit’s passing. I had no idea that he was ill. Or what he was ill of. We hadn’t been in touch in recent years. I’m very sorry that he died, and I’m sorry that I didn’t know he was dying, so I could have told him how I feel about him. He was a smart, and inventive, and fastidious, and dedicated collaborator. He was a very important person in my life and many others’, and I hope – I’m sure – he knew that.
In recent years after living in Los Angeles and New York, Carson and Cynthia had returned to his home state of Texas to raise Hunter, his son with actress Karen Black, in Dallas, where Kit had attended the University. According to Dallas critic Robert Wilonsky’s obit. Carson also:
“co-founded the USA Film Festival in 1970, landed on the National Film Registry, co-wrote Wim Wenders’ beloved “Paris, Texas” (co-starring Kit’s son Hunter) and helped young comers named Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson turn a short film into the debut feature known as “Bottle Rocket.”
Carson invited me to meet Anderson and Wilson at Sundance, before anyone knew who they were. He saw the raw talent there.
“RIP dad. Your light was and always will brighten the pathways of our future. It will never be extinguished. You did everything the way you wanted and never let anyone else do less than they were capable of doing. You mentored, taught, learned, fought, excelled as both athlete and student. I loved and loved and will love every moment we spent together. Thanks for everything. See you in the movies.”
To call his career eclectic diminishes the word. The Irving-born Carson, a product of the University of Dallas, was an actor, his filmography ranging from Sidney Lumet’s “Running on Empty to an episode of Miami Vice in which he soared. He co-wrote Jim McBride’s 1983 remake of Breathless starring Richard Gere. He served as inspiration and mentor to Roman Coppola, son of Francis and maker of the movie CQ, which was partially cribbed from David Holzman, a black-and-white parody of cinema verite. He was an art-house-hold name.
“I met Kit on Paris, Texas, he was there as writer and father of the young co-star,” writes Allison Anders on Facebook this morning. She wrote and directed such films as Gas Food Lodging and Grace of My Heart, and went on to direct several episodes of Sex and the City. “He was later of one my advisors at the Sundance Lab and from there, a friend. I only discovered later all the incredible things he had done before Paris Texas, as a filmmaker and writer. He wrote some of the best pieces on pop culture in the late 60s for Eye Magazine and later Rolling Stone. So glad to have known him.”
Writes Anders, Kit’s was “a life truly lived on his own terms.”
Over the years Carson wrote several stories for me (like this appreciation of Richard Leacock
and an Aaron Sorkin talk at Harvard here
) in his inimitable, capped and punctuated percussive style. He often sent supportive praise of pieces of mine he liked. My last email from him was in response to my including a Dennis Hopper picture book he had mailed me in a Christmas Gift Guide:
WAY-THANKS FOR PUTTING THE KKKKUUUUULL HOPPER BOOK — on your Book-Top-List …!!!
I will miss getting the emails that he shared with his friends, like this:
…from JOAN DIDION… “We tell each other stories in order to live.”
…yeh luckily, she’s a key longtime Mentor to me…
Finally, he was a passionate storyteller.