Treat’s new film is getting a debut at a local film festival.
Actor Treat Williams To Preview His New Film At Wadsworth
10:12 a.m. EDT, June 19, 2015
Robert Mrazek was a U.S. Congressman from New York for 10 years. A few years ago, he wrote a screenplay about a U.S. Congressman at a crossroads in his life. To embody the character, the Maine resident sought out another New Englander: veteran star Treat Williams.
“He wrote this lovely story about a man, a Vietnam vet and a Congressman, who has a very bad day. He turns it into a kind of life-changing event that takes place over the course of three days,” Williams said. “It’s in the spirit of films like Frank Capra’s films. There’s a very old-school feel to it.”
Williams, Mrazek and their collaborators are shopping the movie around to film festivals. Williams is hosting a sneak preview of “The Congressman” at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford on Friday, June 26. He will open the evening with an onstage Q&A with movie critic Rex Reed.
Williams lives in Manchester, Vt., with his wife, Pam, and daughter, Eleanor. Their son, Gill, is grown and working in the TV industry. In a phone interview from Manchester, Williams said that when he first read “The Congressman,” it reminded him of a film he tried to get made years earlier.
“I grew up in a lobster-fishing town in Connecticut, Rowayton, which at the time was on the other side of the tracks from Darien, real working-class,” he said. “A few years ago I … tried to make a film about a lobster fisherman who tries to make a life change. It never got made.
“Then I read this. Oddly, this script is nothing like the story I told, but it is set in Maine and it is about rediscovering your roots and what makes you happy in life,” he said. “It’s about coming home.”
Mrazek told the Boothbay (Maine) Register in 2013, when the movie was going into post-production, that the story was inspired by a fishing-zone dispute fought by a Monhegan Island lobster fisherman in the ’90s.
Internet Movie Database describes the movie: “Newly divorced, battered by the media, betrayed by friends, eight-term Congressman Charlie Winship is tired of Washington politics and the corruption of the special-interest lobbyists. Only upon meeting his constituents on [the fictional] Catatonk Island lying 20 miles off the Maine coast does Charlie find the strength once again to fight the good fight and find a love interest to fill his heart.”
The movie was shot in Maine, primarily on Monhegan Island, where Mrazek and director Jared Martin both own homes. Augusta fills in for Washington, D.C., and other scenes were shot in Rockland. It also stars “Pretty Little Liars” actor Ryan Merriman, “Person of Interest” star Elizabeth Marvel, as well as Josh Mostel, George Hamilton and Fritz Weaver.
A Life In Film
Williams, 62, got his colorful first name from distant relative Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He graduated from Kent School in Connecticut, then Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.
When he started in show-biz he did musicals and comedies on stage, including playing Danny Zuko in “Grease” on Broadway. His first lead role in a movie was in the 1979 musical “Hair,” in which he played the hippie Berger, who makes a crucial mistake in the name of friendship.
“[‘Hair’ director] Milos Forman came and saw me. He was with Baryshnikov. He said to me, ‘Treat, I have to tell you, you do something very few actors do, you go completely overboard,’” he said. “I still don’t know if that was a compliment or whether he was warning me. After 12 auditions, I won the role.”
He broke into film drama with the lead role in “Prince of the City,” the 1981 thriller about a conflicted cop in a corrupt city. That changed how people saw him. “I went from being a lightweight musical-comedy guy to a guy who shouldn’t do comedy now, the serious cop guy,” he said.
Over the years has worked steadily, including playing a union boss in Sergio Leone’s saga, “Once Upon a Time in America,” portraying a menacing stranger in the coming-of-age tale ‘Smooth Talk” and an unhinged ex-gangster in the off-kilter noir “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.” He also had the lead role, as a neurosurgeon who moves from New York to Colorado, in the TV series “Everwood,” from 2002 to 2006.
He is especially proud of “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.” “I played a psychopath,” he said. “I finally broke the mold. After that, I don’t think anyone said ‘I see what he does.’”
Deborah Gaudet, curator of film and theater at the Atheneum, praised Williams’ versatility. “He is equally as convincing playing a friendly neighbor, or a disciplined military man, or a sleazy creep. He is credible in serious roles, yet has great comedic timing,” Gaudet said. She said Williams and Reed have known each other for years. “I am sure the discussion will be very entertaining,” she said.
Williams said his next role has a lot in common with “The Congressman”: He’ll play another politician. He said he has been cast to play Ted Kennedy in “Confirmation,” an HBO movie directed by Rick Famuyiwa on the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Kerry Washington has been cast to play Anita Hill, Wendell Pierce to play Thomas and Greg Kinnear to play Joe Biden.
A SPECIAL NIGHT WITH TREAT WILLIAMS AND REX REED will be on Friday, June 26, at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St. in Hartford. A reception will be held starting at 5 p.m., Williams and Reed will hold an onstage conversation starting at 6 p.m. and a sneak preview of “The Congressman” will be shown at 7 p.m. Admission is $25, $22 members, film and conversation only $12, members $10, seniors and students $11, Insider Access $5. thewadsworth.org.