Fishburne and the ‘Bee’

Thesp to receive CineVegas' Half-Life Award

If CineVegas is the “world’s most dangerous film festival,” then Laurence Fishburne may well be the world’s most dangerous actor. Onscreen, anyway.

The fest is feting Fishburne with a Half-Life Award, which celebrates an actor’s work at the midpoint of his career, and director of programming Trevor Groth says there’s no missing the “element of danger” he brings to his roles, while helmer John Singleton, who directed Fishburne in “Boyz N the Hood,” calls him the “perfect embodiment” of the fest’s “dangerous” tagline.

But Singleton also sees a different side of Fishburne. “He’s a real funny guy with a great sense of humor,” says the director.

Fishburne even displays a soft side in the recent “Akeelah and the Bee,” but as is so often the case with “Fish,” it was that dangerous screen presence that made him irresistible for helmer Doug Atchison.

“He has this imposing quality and seems as bit unreachable — stern, a little scary — but in this movie he gets to open up and be vulnerable to a child. I thought it would be very powerful to see, and it was,” Atchison says.

Thesp’s career already spans more than three decades. He started as a 12-year-old on “One Life to Live,” died on the Mekong in “Apocalypse Now,” mentored humanity’s savior in the “Matrix” trilogy and was the menacing spymaster in “Mission: Impossible III.”

For “MI3,” for example, helmer J.J. Abrams says: “I knew I needed an actor (who) would more than hold his own onscreen with Tom Cruise — someone you just immediately respect. Fish brings the gravitas. He’s a powerhouse — compelling as hell, and talented beyond belief.”

Dangerous, funny, compelling and soft when he needs to be: That combo leaves Fishburne always in demand. And in Hollywood, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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