TV spesh to feature heroes, villains

HOLLYWOOD — Heroes and villains have been tapped as the focus for the American Film Institute’s sixth installment of the org’s annual “100 Years” TV special.

Three-hour spec, dubbed “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Heroes and Villains,” is skedded to air on CBS in June. Show will count down America’s 50 greatest heroes and 50 greatest villains as chosen by experts in the motion picture community.

Previous programs in the AFI repertoire include “100 Passions” (2002), “100 Thrills” (2001) and “100 Laughs” (2000).

“America’s appetite for movie history is insatiable,” said AFI director and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg, adding that the org’s mission is twofold.

“On the one hand, it is to celebrate the first century of motion pictures and bring past films back in focus for older generations to revisit as well as to introduce (them) to younger audiences. But our objective reaches beyond this. It is our hope that through these specials, AFI can encourage national conversation of movies over water coolers everywhere.”

AFI distribbed ballots of 400 nommed characters Tuesday to a jury of 1,500 industry leaders including film artists (directors, actors, cinematographers), critics and historians. AFI’s national membership also will get one collective vote. All feature-length American pics released before Jan. 1, 2002, will be considered.

Aside from taking a character’s legacy and cultural impact into account, voters are being asked to consider certain criteria when picking out their fave heroes and villains. For instance, a hero can be a good person who’s ambiguous or flawed in some way, while a memorable villain is defined as a complex, moving and tragic character who can be evil, sleazy or tremendously funny.

According to producer Bob Gazzale, the jury has to work harder this year because when it comes to heroes and villains the choices aren’t always clear.

“Sure it sounds black and white, but if you examine films from the 1960s and beyond, you find that a film’s hero is actually an anti-hero,” Gazzale said, adding that the ballot will just present voters with “400 great American screen characters from Buddy Ackerman (‘Swimming With Sharks’) to Zorro and they must decide who is a hero and who is a villain.”

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