FEATURE ANJELICA HUSTON
Actress and daughter of the great director John Huston, Anjelica Huston is moving into the driver’s seat. She tells Alan Morrison about the challenges she faced directing the powerful child abuse drama, Bastard
Out Of Carolina.
el Gibson. Al Pacino. Anthony Hopkins. Steve Buscemi. They’re
of personal success and they want to be the next Orson Welles. taking control of their screen
image by stencilling their name on the back of
the director‘s chair. Now add to this list Anjelica Huston. daughter of one of the greatest directors of all time and an Academy Award winning actress in her own right.
With Huston. though. the situation is slightly different. instead of grabbing the juiciest on- screen role. she confines herself to working behind the camera. Jennifer Jason Leigh takes the lead role of Anney — a young widow obsessed with securing a steady family life for her children — in Bastard ()ut (1/'(.‘(tt'()lirtct.zt very hard-hitting adaptation of Dorothy Allison’s novel about child abuse in a poor white community during the l‘)5()s. When she remarries. Anney's elder daughter - nicknamed Bone — is immediately suspicious of her
‘I’ve been accused by The National Enquirer in America at having conversations with my dead father. He’s left quite a legacy.’
stepfather. and with good reason: Daddy (ilen‘s vision of family love is coloured by dark and dangerous twists. and soon the violent beatings he deals out become abuse of a more disturbingly sexual nature.
It was the film’s gruelling rape scene that caused a major problem in its production history. Made on a tough 28-day shoot for Turner Network Television in America. the final product was deemed too strong by the cable company’s owner Ted Turner. who was justifiably anxious over the time differences in the States that would mean the child abuse scenes would be broadcast in some areas in the early evening. Recognising the film’s quality. however. Turner decided not to censor the material and instead handed the film back to Huston and her producers. who are currently seeking international distribution for a cinema release.
It‘s a film that really does deserve to be seen in its full, unsettling form. Where other television problem movies have turned such contentious issues into wet-hanky entertainment, Bastard Out Of Carolina shocks us out of our complacency. The climax is brutally uncomfortable but necessary. the emotional pain all the greater because, throughout the ﬁlm. the audience has
16 The List 23 Aug-5 Sept l996 r
all doing it. Give an actor a whiff
been drawn to the child‘s point-of-view. The images hit hard on an emotional level. but we‘re forced to think and to realise — particularly when faced with Anney's self-deceiving devotion to Glen — that nothing here is black and white.
The most remarkable element in the film. however. is the devastating performance by newcomer. eleven-year-old Jena Malone. whose complex portrayal of Bone is the equal of any actress at the Festival. Working with such a young talent on this type of material was an initial worry for Huston.
‘More important than anything.‘ the director says. ‘l was concerned with the well-being and safety — both mental and physical —— of Jena. but it became evident to me in a matter of minutes with her that I could put my trepidations aside. She has a huge depth of character and great intelligence. Her mother was present at all times and. for the rape scene. I put her together with a stunt man and Ron Eldard [Daddy (ilenl. who was very protective of her. so that it was like a dance — it was fully choreographed. with the understanding that if she should ever feel uncomfortable. we would stop the action. She was aware of all that molestation entailed; someone she knew had been through this. There was very little Jena didn't understand.’
Born 45 years ago in Los Angeles. Anjelica
s Q C? ‘
Huston made her acting debut for her father John in l969's A Walk With Love And Death. Despite — or perhaps because of - her uneonventionally angular looks. she worked for a while as a Vogue model before her Hollywood career really took off when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for l’rizziis Honour in l985. Two years later. she joined her father for the last time on a film set to make his beautifully crafted adaptation of James Joyce's The Dead.
‘l‘m affected by him on a daily basis and l felt his presence when l was working with this iilm.‘ she admits. ‘In fact. I've actually been accused by The National lz'nquirer in America of having conversations with my dead father. He's left quite a legacy.
‘This film makes people think about how they treat others. about how children are raised. about the inequities that go on in homes all over the world. Another piece of my father's advice was “follow your instincts”. I followed my instincts. and I‘m a rather emotional person. so I generally think later. The emotional content is there. and it's up to the audience to think about it.‘ Bastard Out Of Carolina (Film Festival ). ()deon. 24 Aug. 10.30pm. ticketsﬂeefrom Film Festival hot ofﬁce. See ticket o/jer; page [5. Anje/ica Huston stars in The Pew; Family. GP]: G lasgon; from 23 Aug; and The ( 'rossing Guard. lidin/ntreh Film/rouse. from 20 Sept.
Family matters: Anleiica Huston with her iather John, director oi cinematic greats The Atrican Queen and Chinatown