Sundance pays tribute to indie actor

PARK CITY — If anything was made clear at Sundance’s Piper-Heidsieck Tribute to Independent Vision at the Egyptian Theater, it was that honoree Benicio Del Toro might be the most peculiar actor on the planet, and one of the most compelling.

Fellow thesp Kevin Pollak, who emcee’d the Jan. 13 ceremony, likened the Oscar-winning thesp to the kind of maverick directors the Sundance Film Festival embraces.

Pollak said when he was offered the role of Fred Fenster in “The Usual Suspects,” he turned it down, “because there was nothing to do.”

“Cut to: Benicio,” added the actor, “literally stealing every scene that he’s in.”

When the lights came up after highlights of his career unspooled, the notoriously shy Del Toro could only comment that it was “a weird and bizarre memory trip; I was quite uncomfortable (seeing myself) getting older.”

In a Q&A with “Suspects” scribe Christopher McQuarrie, Del Toro — who has played mostly supporting roles — said, “I always look at myself as a leading man, even when I play the small parts.”

When asked if he was ever afraid, Del Toro referred to his role in, appropriately, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as an experiment that could have gone awry, but assured the enthusiastic audience, “Fear is a good thing. It shouldn’t paralyze you, it should push you.”

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