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Faces of the Festival:<br>Jamey Sheridan

The star of Handsome Harry riffs on jazz, movies, New York and his film's Tribeca history.

Bette Gordon
’s Handsome Harry is a jazzy riff on reminiscence, regret, and coming to terms with one’s past. Star Jamey Sheridan is a familiar face from movies (The Ice Storm, Syriana) and TV (most notably, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) who takes center stage here as the ruggedly handsome title character in search of redemption.

Hype your film: What makes Handsome Harry a Tribeca Must-See?

Handsome Harry is a New York story (well, a wider New York story: it takes place nearby in the Hudson Valley) with terrific acting and music—the director [Bette Gordon] has lived in Tribeca for 30 years! Something people might not know is that the pulse and heart of Handsome Harry is jazz. The best jazz fans in the world are in New York—well, maybe in New Orleans too—this city has a great jazz audience, and fantastic jazz musicians. One of the most important characters is be-bop.

This movie was born in Tribeca at Edwards coffee shop on West Broadway. It started with Bette and me—we made a movie ten years ago called Luminous Motion, and we became friends. So she gave me the script in Tribeca about five years ago, almost to the day.

What’s the craziest thing that happened while making the film?

Something strange or funny happens pretty much every three minutes on a film shoot. It was a mad hatter’s existence for a month. We were running as hard as we could, catching things on the run. As everyone knows, independent films are like that—just sort of wild all the time. A person could have walked into the middle of it and shot a gun, and it probably wouldn’t have fazed me.

The first day of shooting we had to shoot about ten pages [which is a lot]. The new camera Arriflex D-21—a new German camera, it’s gotten very popular because it looks like film—and we were on a tight shooting schedule (17 days total). And the camera went down for four hours—I guess one of its chips was unhappy—which is a disaster... We’re only getting one take as it is, and there we were waiting for the camera doctor to show up from the city.

What are your hopes/fears/wishes regarding Tribeca?

My hope is that people will love the mystery and be moved by the film. I have no fears. We made the movie that I set out to make—one that I would want to see. I haven’t seen it with music or color correction or sound editing, so I am really looking forward to that. I heard some of the musicians, but I didn’t hear what they put down for the movie. I hope other people like it as much as I do, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead)—who would you want it to be?

Wow. Wow. Well, I’ll say Jean Renoir and Howard Hawks and Martin Scorsese. Renoir made a movie called The Grand Illusion, which has never left my imagination—it’s one of the greatest movies I’ve even seen about the vanity of war. It was a very elegant movie with a dark, dark, subject, and I loved it. I wish I could see it again—it needs sprucing up, so maybe Marty Scorsese could work on that!

I believe Hawks is another side of my personality. There is a French arty side and a very testosterone side. (It’s kind of like Harry.) Hawks is a very virile and exciting director, who always made movies with real pace.

Scorsese is the greatest director of my lifetime/generation. I am showing his movies to my son now one by one. He’s 13 years old, and he’s like, “When can we watch the next one? Can we watch Taxi Driver now?”

I would put Fellini and Bergman in there, but I think I’m scared of them.

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

War and Peace, by Tolstoy—probably the best book I ever read. Jazz—I’m a Thelonious Monk fan, Roy Hargrove, lots of people. I’ve become a lover of the trumpet over the past few years, and the human voice. There are a lot more trumpets than human voices in jazz. Most of the artists I would name would be be-bop—Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, that kind of stuff.

How much influence did you have on the music in the movie?

I think I had considerable influence. Bette and I talked about it every day, and she listened to me. We mostly agreed on stuff—the trumpet player whose music appeared in the movie, when we first heard it, we both smiled at each other so big. We worked together on the songs that we chose that Harry sings. We had to pick public domain songs; there are enough to pick from, but that’s an archaic list.

Speaking of Scorsese, I was watching Mean Streets the other day. It had three Rolling Stones songs, and I’m thinking, Didn’t they have to pay rights through the nose? Maybe it predates all this horror now trying to get music into our movies.

Are you coming to the Festival?

Yes, for four days. I wish I could stay longer and see more films.

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