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Martin Sheen on Hal Holbrook

'That Evening Sun' star shines

I had the privilege of playing Hal Holbrook’s gay lover in the landmark TV film “That Certain Summer.” His character was a divorced father with a teenage son, and in one powerful climactic scene, the boy rejects him when he discovers he’s gay. Hal sat down and simply wept uncontrollably in the scene, as his son walked away. It was a stunning and deeply moving performance, which he repeated several more times with equal success for the coverage. Afterwards, I told him how moved I was and how impressive it was to watch him reach such emotional depth so quickly and with such ease. He thanked me and casually said, “The older you get, the easier it is.”

That was 37 years ago, and that remark was newly remembered as I watched his extraordinary performance in “That Evening Sun.” Acting is never that easy, no matter how young or old we who do it are. But the older Hal gets, the easier he makes it appear, and that is part of his genius. Like an extension of his character from “Into the Wild,” Abner, in “That Evening Sun,” brings Hal front and center and yields an unforgettable, subtle and deeply personal performance. If it gets easier the older he gets, I can’t wait to see Hal at age 90.

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