Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reel Thoughts Interview: Secrets and Lies

A secret is at the center of Handsome Harry, one of the high-profile films coming to the Sedona International Film Festival.

Jamey Sheridan plays the lead in the story about Harry and his fellow sailors who perpetrated a shocking act on another man that has haunted them for three decades. But secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Sheridan said he was attracted to the role because of Harry’s selective amnesia about events from the past. “The guy has a kind of black hole in his memory that he sticks in front of something he doesn’t want to remember, for 20 years, 25 years,” Sheridan said during a telephone interview. “I thought that was a fascinating kind of thing to authenticate. It’s shockingly common, we’re starting to find out.”

The drama, directed by Bette Gordon, also stars Steve Buscemi, Campbell Scott, John Savage, Titus Welliver and Aidan Quinn.

Harry Sweeney appears to have a pretty carefree life in upstate New York, but he seems to be hiding a lot from people. On his 52nd birthday, Harry gets a call from an old Navy buddy who is dying and wants forgiveness. This sends Harry on a cross-country trip that changes his life.


Harry’s not the only one with something to hide as he visits his former Navy friends en route to Miami to find David Kagan (Scott). One friend has found the Lord, while Quinn’s Porter has become a peacenik professor whose students have no idea of his violent past.

“There was something terrible that they did to Kagen, the group of them, and the most serious part of it, the crippling part is that no one can remember who did it,” Sheridan said. “It functions as a mystery, but as a friend of mine said, ‘Wow, a script with three engines.’ There are two or three mysteries that will be revealed as the movie goes along.

“There’s a whole world of denial by characters all over the place in every direction. Harry’s keeping secrets and the person he’s kept the secrets from most perfectly is himself,” Sheridan said. “Aidan Quinn’s character is masquerading as a true ’60’s liberal, when in fact, he was the most aggressive of the group of us.

“The other thing is, we never made it to Vietnam. The issue of Vietnam comes up because we all feel like cowards that we didn’t get there,” Sheridan said. “They all feel like they didn’t live the great war of their time. Aidan’s character still talks like we were there. His mind is really twisted up.”


Sheridan, who’s known for his work on Chicago Hope, The Ice Storm and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, began his career hoping to be a professional dancer. An old football injury resurfaced and ended that dream, but Sheridan came back to acting with a greater love of it than he had before.

He’s a Tony-nominated actor (1987’s All My Sons), who acted alongside Handsome Harry costar Campbell Scott in the celebrated production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night (starring Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst).

He’s pleased that audiences at the Boston Film Festival gave Handsome Harry Best Ensemble honors. The film was a nominee for Best Picture at the Santa Fe Film Festival.

Sheridan said he became co-producer of the movie “by default” to get the film made. He said the opportunity to work with director Gordon again after 1998’s Luminous Motion was another incentive.

The actor admitted that the success of Law & Order has pigeonholed him. “That’s another reason for Harry, the impulse to create something on my own. It’s been a really wonderful ride.”


Handsome Harry will be screened this weekend at the Sedona International Film Festival, where it joins several other films with GlBT storylines:

Patrik Age 1.5: Göran and Sven are a gay couple who are cleared to adopt a child, but they get more than they bargained for when a 15-year-old shows up.

Bob & Jack’s 52-Year Adventure: This documentary tells how an Army sergeant and his commanding officer forged a relationship that has lasted 52 years.

Misconceptions: Two couples — one gay, one straight — collide in a comedy about a surrogate pregnancy.

Hide: Two married men hide their relationship from their wives, and seek a way for their love to survive.

16 to Life: As she’s about to turn 16 years old, Kate discovers what she has in common with a Chinese girl half a world away.

You Can’t Curry Love: Vikas is sent to New Delhi on business, where he falls head over heels for Sunil, the gorgeous desk clerk at his hotel.

The Sedona International Film Festival continues through this Sunday. For more information, visit their website.

UPDATE: Handsome Harry is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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