Richard Jenkins '69 and his wife, Sharon (Friedrick) Jenkins '69, attended the premiere of The Visitor, in which Richard Jenkins stars with Danai Gurira (left), who is the daughter of 1967 IWU graduate Josephine (Chiza) Gurira.


Richard Jenkins '69 Stars in The Visitor

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- There was a little bit of Illinois Wesleyan amid the glitz and glamour of the April 1 premiere of The Visitor. The film’s leading man, Richard Jenkins, appeared on the red carpet at the New York City Museum of Modern Art alongside wife Sharon (Friedrick) Jenkins. Both are theatre arts graduates from Wesleyan’s Class of 1969.

But the Wesleyan connections don’t end there: Jenkins’ co-star Danai Gurira is the daughter of 1967 IWU graduate Josephine (Chiza) Gurira, who now lives in Zimbabwe. The Visitor is Danai Gurira’s first film, although she has guest-starred on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

Early reviews for The Visitor were positive, with Variety’s John Anderson calling the film “a perfect vehicle for Richard Jenkins” and predicting that it “could be this year’s humanistic indie hit,” adding “Jenkins has hooked us early and reels us in like fish.” Paul Brownfield of the Los Angeles Times praised Jenkins’ ability to portray characters whose “dry, even ordinary qualities” strike a “countervailing note in a larger, more hectic world.”

“Oddly for Hollywood, Jenkins seems — just now, at 60 — to be hitting his movie prime,” Brownfield concluded.

Director Tom McCarthy, whose first film was the critically-acclaimed The Station Agent, wrote the role of disconnected, discontented economics professor Walter Vale with the 60-year-old Jenkins in mind. The Visitor depicts Vale’s complex relationship with a young Syrian jazz drummer and his family, and the aftermath of his arrest by Homeland Security.

movie poster

Although calls him “one of cinema’s great scene-stealers,” this is Jenkins’ first major leading role. He has portrayed a wide array of colorful supporting characters during his 30-year career, including a gay FBI agent in Flirting With Disaster, a deceased father figure on the popular HBO series “Six Feet Under,” and several offbeat roles in films by Joel and Ethan Coen. He has also worked with well-known directors such as Woody Allen, Mike Nichols, and the Farelly brothers, and has appeared in over 70 films.

A native of DeKalb, Ill., he continued his studies at Indiana University after graduating from Illinois Wesleyan. Despite his Hollywood connections, Jenkins and his wife have lived outside Providence, R.I., for over 30 years. Before entering the world of film, Jenkins was a regular in regional stage productions, including 15 years at the Trinity Repertory Theater.

The Visitor opens in limited release on April 11. For more information, visit the movie Web site.

CONTACT: Amelia Benner '09, (309) 556-3181