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Jurors Answer Life's Questions

The 2009 Jurors have been announced, and we will get to know them in the coming days. Today, Melissa Leo and Farragut North writer Beau Willimon answer questions about life, art, movies, and inspiration.

The 2009 Tribeca Film Festival is delighted to announce its juror slate. 32 jurors who are at the top of their field in acting, directing, writing, journalism, and art will decide the winning films in the World Narrative Feature Competition, the World Documentary Feature Competition, the Best New York Narrative Competition, the Best New York Documentary Competition, the Narrative Shorts, the Documentary and Student Shorts, and the Tribeca All Access Competition.

In an effort to get to know these artists a little better, we asked them to submit their answers to some questions about life, art, films, and inspiration. First up? Actress Melissa Leo and writer Beau Willimon, who are judging the Made in New York Narrative Competition.

Click here to explore the full range of fantastic people jurying the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.


Melissa Leo
Oscar-nominated and Independent Spirit Award-winning actress; films include Frozen River, the upcoming Everybody's Fine, and Welcome to the Rileys.

What piece of art (film/book/music/what-have-you) do you recommend to your friends?

Stanislavski's An Actor Prepares and Martha Frankel's Hats & Eyeglasses.

What would your biopic be called?

Last Minute Leo.

Are there any movies that you find yourself quoting all the time?


What's your earliest memory of seeing (and loving?) a movie in the theater?

Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther. The two before I recall are Barbarella (do the math on my age, this was first), then Jaws. But it was Pink Panther that I loved seeing. Even though it was long before, when I was 4, that I found the actor in me with puppet work.

What gets you up and going in the morning?

Coffee. Somedays I barely get up when there is not much to be done. Others, I get up to get done the work of that day.


Beau Willimon
Up-and-coming screenwriter for film, television, and theatre. Projects in development include Farragut North and The Jury.

Who are your heroes in real life? 

In alphabetical order, and to name just a few: Edward Albee, Jay Carson, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, Chris Durang, Sam Forman, William Goldman, Doug Hughes, Joe Kraemer, Marsha Norman, my brother Chas, and most of all my mom and pop.

What piece of art (film/book/music/what-have-you) do you recommend to your friends?

Long before it was made into a movie, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates has been by absolute favorite American novel. If you haven't read it, drop everything, go to the bookstore and buy it immediately. 

What would your biopic be called?

Name me a biopic that's ever been made about a screenwriter or playwright and I'll give you a title for mine. (Shakespeare in Love doesn't count).

Are there any movies that you find yourself quoting all the time?

The final line of The Lives of Others when Weisler buys Dreyman's book at the bookstore. The clerk asks if he wants it wrapped and Weisler replies "It's for me." That's the closest thing I've seen to a flawless last line in years. It's so simple, honest and moving.  And it sums up Weisler's journey perfectly. 
What's your earliest memory of seeing (and loving?) a movie in the theater?

Spielberg's E.T. when I was four years old. I saw it at a drive-in with my parents in Hawaii when my pop was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  It was half the movie and half the experience of watching it amid a sea of cars. 

With what movie character do you identify most?

Bleak as it may seem, I identify most with Dan Dunne from Half Nelson. I haven't touched a mind-altering substance in years, but I really connect to the Jekyll & Hyde double-life Dunne battles with throughout the movie - his deep need to do good and make a differece in the world tempered by a strong pull toward self-sabotage and self-destruction.

What gets you up and going in the morning?

A large cup of shitty coffee from the deli on the corner. And after that's in my belly, the absurd desire to make up stories that I hope other people will care about.

What's your life philosophy or motto?

My first professional writing gig was co-writing a pilot for AMC with my dear friend Sam Forman.  We felt like we'd get fired at any moment (we didn't get fired, although they didn't shoot the pilot - they shot Mad Men instead, much to their credit).  But every day, in fear of being fired, Sam and I felt we were fighting for our lives to keep the project going.  As hokey as it may seem, we always began our work day or walked into any notes session repeating these three words to ourselves: "Fight or Die."  It's not a motto I would recommend for international diplomacy, but it's helpful for writers navigating the treacherous waters of Hollywood.

What's your chief characteristic?

The day I have a chief characteristic is the day I become a cartoon.

Tell us about one of the best meals you've ever had.

When I was 18 I spent a week hiking the Dingle Peninsula in southwest Ireland.  About halfway through the trek I had to climb Mt. Brandon, a 3000 ft. mountain at the tip of the peninsula.  It's no Everest, but for me it might as well have been.  When I finally reached the top I was famished.  I pulled two PB&J sandwiches out of my backpack, sat on a rock and wolfed them down.  As I ate them I looked down at the stretch of coast I had hiked the previous three days, then turned and looked at the stretch of coast I would hike during the next three. There was something about being on that mountain alone, halfway through my journey, eating my sandwiches, absolutely content. Peanut butter and jelly had never tasted so good.

The full slate of 2009 Jurors was announced yesterday. It's a great list!

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