The Austin Film Society, organizers of the Texas Film Awards, have more than a few milestones to celebrate this year. Not only the 30th anniversary of the Society and the 15th anniversary of the Awards themselves, it’s also the capper on a banner year for Texans in film, with Lone Star natives Wes Anderson and Society cofounder Richard Linklater both nominated for director at last month’s Oscars.
As part of the Texas Film Hall of Fame induction ceremony, hosted by Mike Judge, Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos will present a creative achievement award to Linklater’s “Boyhood,” along with posthumous honors to Christopher Evan Welch and L.M. Kit Carson.
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Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” certainly doesn’t lack for laurels, claiming the lion’s share of 2014 critics awards, as well as winning a supporting actress Oscar for Patricia Arquette. Yet it’s hard to think of a more intrinsically Texan film that has traveled so far, and its ambassadorial role for the state merits one more mention.
“The film never really leaves Texas, and I think people appreciated the specificity,” Linklater says. “Particularly at the end, people went ‘where is that?’ Big Bend is one of the least attended of our national parks, and it has such a different look — you wouldn’t believe East Texas and West Texas are part of the same state.”
Yet for Arquette, the highlight of her inaugural Texas shooting experience was its central hub.
“I would not throw back the keys to the city of Austin,” she says. “I wouldn’t mind to plant a cowboy boot there.”
Dallas native Luke Wilson has a long history with the Texas Film Awards, and just as long a history filming in the state. The first feature he was in — Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket” — was shot in Dallas, and he’s returned to Texas to shoot “Rushmore,” “Home Fries,” “Idiocracy” and others.
“In Austin, (Robert) Rodriguez has a great studio, Linklater’s there full time, and Judge splits his time there, so there is a great homegrown film community with studios,” he says. “But they’ve unfortunately never been able to get the tax break. You get the impression that (Gov.) Rick Perry thinks it’s kind of lefty BS.”
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Born in Dallas, Bonnie Curtis established a prolific production partnership with Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Minority Report”) before striking out on her own, with this year’s Sundance-fave “Last Days in the Desert” her most recent project.
Curtis admits she’s never managed to take one of her productions to Texas to shoot, but argues that she brings the state with her to sets, both with the financing she raises in the state, and with the attitude she brings to projects.
“I got so fatigued in L.A. going from meeting to meeting, when you could just tell that 5,000 people had been in that same room hearing the same thing,” she notes. “So we just sort of said, ‘let’s go to Texas.’ Part of (being a producer) is taking the risk and supporting the artist. That’s the Texas in me, the fact that I’m not gonna hear the word ‘no.’ ”
Tommy Lee Jones
“Tommy Lee Jones is what you would call ‘a ringer,’ ” says Austin Film Society executive director Rebecca Campbell of their decision to fete the vet actor and director. “We’ve wanted to honor him for a long time for reasons which should be very, very obvious.”
Indeed, in addition to being a longtime resident of San Saba and a walking personification of rugged Texan individualism, Jones has also been a fierce advocate for shooting in the state.
When cast in the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” Jones convinced them to shoot portions of the film in West Texas. His directorial debut, 2006’s “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” was shot entirely in-state.
Guillermo del Toro
Honoree (Honorary Texan)
As his self-crafted sobriquet “the Geek of Guadalajara” might indicate, Guillermo del Toro is not a Texas native. But the Mexican-born director nonetheless seems an obvious candidate for the Austin Film Society’s honorary Texan award.
A reliable presence at Austin fests and events, del Toro spent a large chunk of his career living in the city while developing “The Devil’s Backbone,” which presaged his mainstream breakout.
“It was a perfect place to return to the roots of why I made movies,” del Toro says of his time in the city. “It was very culturally conducive. It’s a city where the people who are there in the movie ‘business’ have a love for film that goes way beyond the idea of it being a business.”