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‘Dancer’ takes the floor

Malkovich's directorial debut earns praise at Chinese bow

HOLLYWOOD — John Malkovich’s directorial debut, “The Dancer Upstairs,” drew praise in its first post-Sundance viewing Thursday at the Chinese Theater. Jeff Perry, co-founder of the Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theater Co., called the political drama “a beautiful film” and “a labor of love.”

The tyro helmer himself came in for some praise. “John Malkovich knows exactly what to say, how to approach an actor,” star Javier Bardem said. “I have done 17 movies now and this is the first time I have been directed by an actor. The difference is so huge because you feel he knows exactly what my problems are.”

Moving into the director’s chair was a logical step for him, Malkovich said.

“I have always been behind the camera,” he said. “I started out in theater as a director, really. So after one day on the film, it was pretty easy to see where the action is.”

The premiere and after-party at the Highland club benefited Chi’s 26-year-old Steppenwolf Theater Co. whose Michael Gennaro, Gary Sinise, Diana Goldberg, George Joseph, Gigi Pritzker, Donald Ratner, Merle Reskin, Beth Davis, Robert Berenson and Patti Hart attended along with guests Andy Garcia, Laurie Metcalf, Mark Ruffalo and David Schwimmer.

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