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Stardust memories at Maui Film Fest
June 14, 2012 - Rick Chatenever
As I recall, the first award presented at the Maui Film Festival at Wailea was invisible. The year was 2000; the festival was making the big leap to Wailea from its weekly Wednesday showings at the MACC.
The Celestial Cinema was still untried; it had yet to become one of the most sublime outdoor venues for watching movies on the planet.
Festival director Barry Rivers had his hands full with the zillion little details of just getting the festival up and running. Celebrity honorees weren't high on his to-do list.
Luckily, director Tim Burton happened to be on Maui that week, scouting locations. He agreed to stop by the projection booth of the Celestial Cinema for the impromptu presentation. He was in shorts and T-shirt, which was just about right, since the festival didn't have an actual plaque to hand him.
But he good naturedly posed for photos with Barry handing him the nonexistent prize, like two guys doing a Marcel Marceau routine.
It was perfect. Both men would, over the years, hone their abilities to see things invisible to the rest of us, then make us see them, too. "Visionary" is the term for that sort of thing.
The festival had a real plaque to present to Clint Eastwood when it honored him a few years later.
Despite being at the pinnacle of his career, he still had a few things he wanted to do, he confided at the media reception. Little things that would become "Mystic River" "Million Dollar Baby" "Gran Torino" and all the Oscar contenders since.
He still had a few stories to tell, he said. He wanted to try some new ways of telling them.
Pondering his place in the industry, he said with a little smile, "Hey, what are they going to do to me?"
Actress Geena Davis was another great one in the festival's early days.
She was an Oscar winner, she was half of "Thelma & Louise," she was brilliant, tall, beautiful and she was an archer, training for the Olympics.
Funny, the things you talk about in encounters of the celebrity kind.
A subsequent festival taught me what a foolish mistake I had made, agreeing to share the stage with political observer Bill Maher for his tribute. Luckily, most of my stardust memories aren't nearly that painful.
Celebrity is a funny line, no matter which side of it you're standing on, but the festival has a tradition of picking its luminaries for their hearts, minds and souls - along with the way they look - and they have obliged awesomely.
Posters from previous festivals line my work room at home. For me, the little head shots of heroes like Pierce Brosnan or Dennis Quaid, or spellbinders like Patricia Clarkson or Felicity Huffman are souvenirs of memorable, too brief, micro-relationships.
Every picture tells a story.
William Hurt and I became buddies over the course of a half-hour interview. A King Kekaulike High School student who had picked that day to shadow a Maui News journalist, found herself sitting next to me across the table from Claire Danes, one-on-one.
Joan Allen was regal, Olivia Wilde was brilliant, Malin Ackerman was unexpectedly hilarious. How "Sideways" co-star Virginia Madsen got to Tedeschi Winery one afternoon was a movie all by itself.
I think of them all as my friends.
They - I can confidently predict - think of me as Who?
In recent years, as the festival honorees have shifted to a younger demographic with stars such as Zac Efron and Megan Fox, it has also moved the tribute presentations out to the Celestial Cinema. In that live, up-close if not-too-personal format, audience members can get a little taste of that star power for themselves.
Versatile James Marsden is being honored Saturday, followed by a screening of his new "Bachelorette." On Sunday, it's the terrific Elizabeth Banks, who will bring along her new "People Like Us."
In reality, movie stars tend not to be people like us although the scores who have been honored at the Maui Film Festival have, for the most part, been generous, unassuming and even humble. Lovable, too - that's part of the job description.
The Celestial tributes offer a chance for your own brush with stardust.
The stars may not remember it, but my bet is that you will.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com.
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