IWU Emeritus Theatre Professor Pens Bio of Filmmaker Pakula
September 2, 2005
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.- Emeritus Professor of Theatre Arts Jared Brown, enjoying a not-quite-typical
retirement from Illinois Wesleyan University, came home one day to a phone message
from Harrison Ford.
Brown, who was writing a biography of director Alan J. Pakula, had contacted Ford’s
publicity manager a few days earlier, hoping to interview the blockbuster star for
the book. Ford not only gave the interview, but he eventually wrote the foreword to
“Alan J. Pakula: His Films and His Life.”
Released this month, the book gained a positive review from the Washington Post, which
is coincidentally the setting of one of Pakula’s most successful films, “All the President’s
Men.” Through an interview with the film’s star and producer Robert Redford, Brown
learned something Redford recalls telling no one before: that he and Pakula, though
uncredited, actually rewrote the script for which William Goldman won and accepted
an Academy Award.
The biography traces behind-the-scenes details about the late Pakula’s life and work,
compiled from dozens of interviews with people who knew and worked with Pakula before
his death in a freak car accident in 1998. In addition to Ford and Redford, Brown’s
sources included Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Kevin Kline, and former neighbor Peter
Jennings (who spoke with Brown before his recent death from lung cancer). The interviews
were surprisingly easy to secure, Brown said, largely because Pakula was so well-liked
– particularly by actors.
“He was not interested in flashy camera work or showing off his directorial technique.
He was interested in telling a story and developing the character,” Brown says.
Kline, who made his film debut opposite Streep in 1982’s “Sophie’s Choice,” found
working with Pakula to be unforgettable.
Brown said that Kline told him, “[With Pakula] it was all about the character, all
about finding further dimensions of the character. We’d talk endlessly.” According
to Brown, most directors don’t do that, they just say, “Learn the lines and let’s
shoot the scene.” Kline said the experience with Pakula was remarkable and he’s never
Brown himself was drawn to Pakula as a subject because so little has been written
about the self-effacing director.
“All the books I’ve written have been about either people or phenomena that I don’t
think have been covered very well. I thought that Alan Pakula had been very much underappreciated
as a filmmaker. (His best films) are pictures that almost everybody’s familiar with,
but very few people know the name of Alan Pakula and certainly don’t realize that
for four decades, he was making outstanding movies.”
Brown’s previous books include “Zero Mostel: A Biography,” “The Fabulous Lunts,” and
“The Theatre in America During the Revolution.”
Brown will introduce a showing of “All the President’s Men” and sign books following
the film at Normal Theater, 209 W. North St., on Sept. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. He also
will speak and sign books at Bloomington’s Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1701 E. Empire,
on Sept. 17 at 3 p.m.
To arrange to speak with Brown about Pakula, call Jeff Hanna or Ann Aubry at (309)