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Locarno Film Festival: A Conversation with Faye Dunaway

Locarno Film Festival: A Conversation with Faye Dunaway


Dunaway: “My whole
acting generation was influenced by Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan. It was based
on organic acting; finding a way to feed your own experience.  If you were destroyed at some point in your
life, you don’t necessarily use it, but you start from back story, so you have
something, you know where your character has been.”

talks about her three iconic film roles in Bonnie
and Clyde
, Chinatown
and Network

On Bonnie
Parker in Bonnie and Clyde

“Bonnie was me. I was
born in the south in a small modest community in north Florida and the language
and dialogue I knew immediately.  Bonnie
says: ‘You know, I thought we were going somewhere. This is it.  We’re just going.’ The end was inevitable of
course. They were naïve. They were trying to get out to something finer,
something better. In many ways, she was my favorite character. Troubled,
mistaken in terms of her choices.” 

On Evelyn
Mulwray in Chinatown

“Evelyn has a secret.
 She had a deep dark past that she was
shameful about, always trying to hide that past. An elegant Los Angelian. She
used that as a shield.  Like lighting two
cigarettes at the same time, hiding her nervousness — but Jack pointed that out.
Of course the secret was incest.

“The character is on
the page. And Robert Towne’s script was so wonderful, combined with my
knowledge of her. I understand her secrets. As long as it’s a secret it’s
harmful.  The script delineated that
double duet: the Evelyn we don’t know and the Evelyn we see. I had to convince
you that I wasn’t telling everything.”

On Diana
Christensen in Network

“It was a mysterious
film. I liked the pace. The script made the studios nervous. It was all
dialogue. Sidney Lumet always joked that he directed on roller-skates.”  

Chatrian: “There is
one scene, the love scene where you’re speaking while…”

Dunaway: “…I said, ‘Sidney,
I can’t do it.’ He said, ‘Yes you can.’”

Chatrian: “How did
you manage?”

Dunaway:  “That’s how Diana did everything. That’s who
she was. She was a TV baby.  That’s how
she grew up.  That’s how her kids are
growing up now. In the end, Holden’s character was leaving me. That part of me
was locked away. Never developed into a real human being. She was an automaton
of TV.  Holden (Max Schumacher) said, ‘Because
that’s who you are, Diana, you don’t know how to love. You just don’t know.’ I
looked up at him, and I heard ‘CUT!’ Sidney Lumet said; ‘The look said it all.’” 


Question: “How do you
feel about violence in movies?”

Dunaway: “What are
studios making now if not violent movies? You can’t ignore violence.  Bonnie
and Clyde
was a true story.  It was
the Depression. I think people sometimes forget how beautifully handled that
violence in the film was. A mix of slow motion and fast motion. Arthur Penn
handled it beautifully. The violence was so graphically photographed, and how
the rhythms played, you remember it more than, ‘Bang, you’re dead.’  Drama is conflict. When there’s conflict, one
person is going to lose.”

Question: “What special
advice do you have for young actresses?”

Dunaway: “They have
to learn their craft. Start on the stage rather than just studying. You learn from
repetition. You tap into what’s inside. Something magical. It’s art, and that’s
what gets you through.”

That night, in the
Piazza Grande before a crowd of several thousand audience members, Faye Dunaway
was honored with the Leopard Club award. 

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