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REMEMBERING ROBERT FORSTER

I’ve never met anyone quite like Robert Forster. He was uncommonly kind and generous to me and my family; I suspect there are scores of people who would tell you the same thing.

He had every right to be bitter, given the years he spent unemployed in Hollywood after such a promising start. Instead of licking his wounds he gave speeches—without pay—about the power of positive thinking. He was living proof of that conviction.

 

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A shot from Medium Cool (1969)

When Quentin Tarantino offered him a leading role in Jackie Brown, refusing to consider anyone else for the part of Max Cherry, he resuscitated Robert’s career and put him where he always belonged, in the spotlight. He never had to worry about work from that day on and enjoyed twenty years of nearly-nonstop activity. Filmmakers young and old came to rely on him and he never let them, or us in the audience, down.

He has only two scenes in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants but they absolutely enrich the film. The same could be said of his roles in such modest pictures as Small Town Crime, The Confirmation, and Too Late. David Lynch knew what he was doing when he cast Robert in his reboot of Twin Peaks; so did Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, who asked him to reprise his role from the final episode of that show in the new feature spinoff El Camino.

 

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Bob and his wonderful partner Denise Grayson joined us at MaltinFest in May. We were thrilled to have them both, as you can see from the smiles on Jessie and Alice’s faces

Some years ago I was given an award at a film festival way out of town and the people in charge asked who I would like to present it to me. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone driving that far on such a thankless errand, but I had to find a candidate. Robert said he’d be glad to do it. That show of friendship was typical of him, and just one reason my family and I are heartbroken.

As a side note, Robert was kind enough to appear on our podcast some time ago. The wisdom he shared knocked us off our feet. Jessie and I feel so lucky to have this beautiful memento. You can listen here: http://maltinonmovies.libsyn.com/robert-forster

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Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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