Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goodbye, J.R. Ewing

With word of the death of Larry Hagman--in Dallas with Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy reportedbly at his beside--here's a short piece I wrote for The Dallas Morning News in 2009 about Hagman's induction into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. Oh, and I took this horrible photo, too.

Hagman remembers ‘Dallas’ days

Special to the Dallas Morning News

       AUSTIN--In the winter of 1978, Larry Hagman drove the cast of the new television show “Dallas” around the city of Dallas in a converted bread truck showing them dive bars and much fancier restaurants. He was the only native Texan among them, and felt it his duty, his television wife Linda Gray said Thursday as Hagman was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame.
       “He’s’ the consummate actor,” she said of television’s J.R. Ewing. “He’s funny. He’s absolutely adorable. He’s the man you love to hate, and he’s my best friend.”
       He also apparently makes a great pitch man for efforts to expand Texas’ incentive program aimed at attracting more movies to film in Texas. As Hagman, told it, he parading around the Texas Capitol this week handing out $10,000 bills (with his own photo on them).
       “You have all these fans here and you’re going to get your money back a hundred time over,” Hagman said as he echoed the night’s clarion call. “You can’t miss.”
       Hagman, looking gaunt from a 1995 liver transplant, said younger fans today are more likely to remember him from “I Dream of Jeannie” than “Dallas,” but the latter surely left the larger cultural mark.
       Also inducted into the hall of fame were Powers Boothe, an MFA grad of SMU and Snyder native; “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke, a McAllen native; and Billy Bob Thornton, a native of Arkansas? No worries; his roles as Davy Crockett in “The Alamo” and as a high school football coach in the big-screen “Friday Night Lights” earned him the Tom Mix Honorary Texan Award, so named for the western star who actually hailed from Pennsylvania.
        They walked a roped-off red carpet in a tent on the tarmac of Austin’s former airport turned by the Austin Film Society into a film studio, while patrons who paid up to $500 to bask in the glow held up digital cameras trying to get a shot through the phalanx of television cameras. A bartender aptly named Estrella (star in Spanish) served up endless libations.
       The lesser-known ducked past the cameras with little notice. Among those was Don Stokes, the Dallas film pro and president of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, a film lobby group aiming to convince the Legislature to increase spending for its financial incentives program. The  legislation passed unanimously out of House committee this week.
       “There are a couple of television series pilots (at least one eyeing Dallas) that, if they bill passes in time, we have a significant shot at getting here,” Stokes said.
       Event emcee Thomas Haden Church termed the legislation a “call to arms,” noting that a West Texas-set film he is a part of is about to shoot in Australia. “I’m a Texan and I’d really like to see the Texas film industry flourish,” he said.
       Boothe spoke of growing up on a cotton farm in Snyder and, in a fit of teenage rebellion, telling his father, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but it’s sure not going to be this. So I chose the movie business.”
       The hall of fame ceremonies unofficially open the South By Southwest Film Festival, which begins today and runs through March 21 in Austin.

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