Karen Allen tells students about films in general, 'Indiana Jones' in particular
Karen Allen speaks to a Port Townsend High School class. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant copyright © 2013, Peninsula Daily News
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“When I was growing up, I wasn't very interested in the types of movies that were being made,” she said Friday.
“In the late '60s, it became more interesting. These wonderful dark, edgy, intellectually stimulating films began to emerge.”
As examples, Allen cited “Easy Rider,” “The Graduate,” “Carnal Knowledge” and “Midnight Cowboy.”
Allen, the Port Townsend Film Festival's special guest, continued her role's tradition of visiting the high school and speaking to the students about filmmaking in general and her career in particular.
The festival's final day is today.
At 61, Allen is the second-youngest film festival guest and the only one who had appeared in a blockbuster movie of which high school students were familiar.
She played Harrison Ford's love interest in 1981's “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and 2008's “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
The two films were different experiences for Allen, both for her skill level and her interaction with Ford.
Prior to “Raiders,” Allen appeared in what she characterized as “small relationship-oriented films,” where the characters were more important than the action.
“I had a lot of relationship with objects in 'Raiders.' I would spend two weeks doing nothing but pushing corpses off of me,” she said.
“In a relationship-oriented film, you forget the camera is there and concentrate on the quality of the relationship with other actors in a world that the camera observes.”
“Raiders” created a very different world for her, one in which she spent hours moving a medallion in different ways and had to do it again if a shadow was cast.
“This is not why I became an actor. I didn't want to have 1,000 snakes thrown at me and have ambulances standing by to put me out in case I caught on fire,” she said.
During “Raiders,” Allen and Ford had different work styles.
Allen was trained on the stage, and Ford had not ever appeared in a play.
“Harrison was a very different kind of actor than anyone I had worked with,” she said.
“He did all of his preparation in his dressing room and his trailer. When we did a scene, he wouldn't even run lines with other actors.
“I was completely blind-sided by this because I was used to having very connected relationships with the actors I was working with.”
Allen said the two ended up doing very good work, and the on-screen relationship between the two characters “was something that everybody loved in that film.”
It wasn't an easy relationship, she said, because she was always fighting to get to know Ford and didn't feel that he was able to connect.
“When we did 'Crystal Skull' 25 years later, he was a completely different person,” she said.
“He'd grown and had a lot of other experiences, and from the very beginning, he was the one who was always coming over and asking if I wanted to run lines.
“I was smiling all the time because I said, 'Jesus, this is like a whole different man,' and I quite enjoyed working him a second time, and I was grateful we had a second time to work together, and it looks like we might get a third time to work together.”
Allen didn't elaborate during the class but later said the production of another “Indiana Jones” movie was under discussion, though “nothing has been decided.”
Allen said she has had both positive and negative experiences with colleagues.
“I've worked with some actors who are such a joy. They want nothing more than to connect with you and support what you are doing,” she said.
“I've also worked with some crazy nutbag actors who don't even want you on the set.
“They just want a script person to read your lines because they don't want the distraction of having to look at another person,” Allen added.
“The performance is in their head, and they want nothing to do with another actor.”
Even if Allen had identified the actors she didn't enjoy working with, the students most likely would not have recognized them, since many names Allen mentioned drew empty stares.
One student was interested in Allen's impression of Shia LeBeouf, the 27-year-old actor who played the son of the Allen and Ford characters in “Crystal Skull.”
“Shia is a gas,” Allen said of the young actor.
“I know he's had a lot of bad press, but he's a very bright, funny raconteur.
“This kid can tell a story and was doing stand-up comedy when he was 11 years old.
“I had a blast with him.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 21. 2013 7:27PM