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Christopher Walken, Hugh Hudson, Barry Levinson Look Back at Careers at R7al

R7al, a new film event in Lausanne, Switzerland, dedicated to classic films, wrapped Wednesday, with Christopher Walken receiving an honory award onstage, and one of his films, Abel Ferrara’s “The Funeral,” playing as the closing night movie.

Among the other guests were directors Darren Aronofsky, Barry Levinson, Thomas Vinterberg, Susanne Bier, Michel Hazanavicius, Hugh Hudson and Tim Pope, composer Alexandre Desplat, Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux, author Stephen Apkon, and actresses Lea Seydoux, Rossy De Palma and Fanny Ardant. The event was founded by actor Vincent Perez.

R7al screened 40 films as well as staging a multitude of discussions during which filmmakers could talk about their work.

At a screening of “The Deer Hunter,” Walken explained that two weeks before filming started director Michael Cimino brought together the principal actors at the film’s first location, Cleveland, Ohio, to get to know each other. “We spent at least 10 days together. We went to weddings, we ate together, we were always together, and we got to know each other pretty well, which was a great way to make a movie and I never did it again that way,” he said.

Hudson reflected on the hostile reception he received for “Revolution,” starring Al Pacino. “This film was crucified by the Americans. It should have come out in France first and then it would have been more successful in America,” he said. “They couldn’t understand a number of things. That an Englishman made the story. Because they think it is their story. In fact the story happens when America was an English colony, so it is an English story; it is my history too. They couldn’t understand why I shot it in England, not in America. Well, because in America there are no buildings that are protected, that are left as they were, or they are museums like Williamsburg.”

Other criticism were aimed at Donald Sutherland for having a “funny” accent. “They criticized Al Pacino for wearing a costume – for not being a policeman or a gangster,” Hudson said. “They couldn’t understand why he dressed like that. They absolutely attacked him to the extent he didn’t work for four years at all after the film, and he was at the height of his career. They attacked everything. They attacked why I shot an epic film hand-held.”

“It’s my best film,” Hudson said. “It’s my most unusual film, and it’s my most daring film. The critics in this case were very ignorant in America, and everybody else copied them.”

Levinson claimed that the reason MGM didn’t interfere with his breakout film “Diner” was that “they thought it was so bad that they couldn’t fix it.” It almost disappeared without a trace and it was only thanks to an intervention by The New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael that the studio was shamed into re-releasing the movie.

Talking about “Rain Man,” Levinson claimed, “You could never get anything like that made anymore.” While the script was being rewritten a writers’ strike started, so they had to start shooting without a finished script. “A lot of the script was improvised on location,” he said.

Levinson explained how he had started out training to be an actor before moving into writing and then directing, and this helped him when working with actors, such as Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise on “Rain Man.” “There is always a hesitancy with actors and inhibitions can get into the work, so you have to figure out how to make it feel so loose that you can do anything, and if it is not right that is okay because we’ll do it again. We’ll just play around and we’ll get to it, rather than saying I’ve got to do my scene. The more pressure that an actor puts on himself, the harder it is to deliver behavior that’s interesting and so I just try to find a way without talking too much. I just try to make it as easy as it can possibly be and not make it seem that it is going to be a big important moment.” He said that he likes to create moments when “the audience leans forward in the chair.”

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