Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Holly Hunter

It was 1993.

The year that gave us Jurassic Park, Michael Jordan winning the NBA Championship again, and "I Will Always Love You" as the top song of the year. I was in France that May for the 46th Cannes Film Festival. Cannes was full of red carpets, film critics, movie stars, and topless beaches. I was familiar with most of those...but topless beaches were a first for me.

I was new to this whole entertainment thing. I knew music; I used to be a rock and roll deejay on the radio, but the world of Hollywood was unchartered territory, and I had to really do my homework to learn it. But I learned it.

I was in Cannes primarily as the weatherman for CBS This Morning and to interview a few stars. Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis were two of them but it was someone whom I had never talked to, never even met, who was the star of the show.

Holly Hunter, the Oscar winner Holly Hunter, was the person, but her Academy Award had yet to happen. I liked Raising Arizona ("I want that baby!")  but I loved Broadcast News. It's one of my favorite movies of all time. She was in both.

They were screening a brand new movie at 8 in the morning, in Cannes, and I went. The movie was The Piano and all I knew was it was set in the time of Abraham Lincoln. That's it.

Boy, was I in for a ride.

The place was packed and the movie began. Set in New Zealand, with a complicated love story, the movie was wonderful and Holly was great in it. Ten year old Anna Paquin played her daughter and you know how that turned out in real life for her, she won an Oscar. After it was shown, during the closing credits, the audience gave it a standing ovation. That's how good they thought it was.

On to the interview.

Our set was on a pier, with two cameras and two chairs. Holly arrived with one other person, the movie's publicist. I was taken by how shy she was and also by how smart she was. Very polite, very nice. During the course of the conversation I raved, on live television, about The Piano and said she would be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. She demurred but I knew I'd seen something great and America had yet to see it.

Cut ahead to March 21, 1994 and the 66th Academy Awards.

Holly was nominated for Best Actress. Let's go over some winners...Schindler's List for Best Picture, Steven Spielberg for Best Director, Tom Hanks, Best Actor for Philadelphia, and when they opened the envelope for Best Actress it was...Holly Hunter. I bet if you ask her now, THAT night was a blur.

We sat down to talk afterwards and I didn't think she remembered me. I was wrong. Before we began she said in that Southern drawl of hers, "From a pier in Cannes to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion."

Quite a ride indeed.

Holly Hunter overcame a lot to win her Oscar. I'll bet, also, that along the way somebody told her that her accent would hold her back. I'm guessing they tried to change her. People always try to put people in a familiar box. Well, sometimes people are right and sometimes they're wrong.

Holly stuck to her guns and proved them wrong.

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