The Official Peter Coyote Web Site

Coymoon Creations

WINTER 2007/2008

Update - 05/23/08:

After premiering at the Atlanta Film Festival last month, THE LENA BAKER STORY successfully nabbed American World Pictures as its domestic distributor. The filmmakers then headed to Cannes looking for an international distributor. It was screened on May 16th as part of  the Marché du Film (The Film Market), which seeks to encourage exchange between sellers and buyers from around the world. Peter, who plays Baker's abusive employer, says it was important to him that she was shown to be "a conflicted and messed-up woman" who drank, fell into prostitution and left her children. He says, "When white people make movies about black people, I call them 'good Negro movies. In a movie like The Green Mile, the protagonist is so good it's like Jesus. And in a way, the movie is saying: 'Do you know how bad the people have to be to kill Jesus, to kill this person?' It's a funny way of letting people off the hook, because if you're bigoted against this pure, noble, uncomplicated character, you've got to be outside the human community. To me, this film's lesson is that, messed-up or not, you have rights as a human being, you have civil rights under the law and you don't exclude yourself from the human community by mistakes."

Peter continues, "I’ve spent a lot of time in the South and, let me tell you, there were a lot of people that 25 years ago would never conceive of calling a black man ‘Mister’. Now they are calling Ralph ‘Mister Wilcox’ and they are getting on this train which he has started trying to pull out of the station. It’s generating employment and revenue for this little backward place which has lost it’s cotton and lost it’s tobacco. “It’s an element of the story I’m proud of and it certainly had a lot to do with my supporting the project.” It is apparent from the earnest, passionate way the filmmakers talk about the film that it was a project they held very close to their hearts.

As previously reported, Peter was the guest of the Greensboro Symphony in North Carolina last month. I recently came across an interview with Peter in the city's local paper, Yes! Weekly. Tim Lindeman of Classical Voice of North Carolina called "The Gift of the Magi" performance a "fun piece of theater" noting that Peter's narration provided dramatic sense and clear diction, which allowed the audience to hear every word."

Update - 04/29/08:

Today's edition of Henderson, NC's The Daily Dispatch featured an article on Peter's latest project. He was in town doing research at the H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library for a nonfiction book that will include Susie Nelson, an 80-year-old resident. The African-American woman came to Englewood in the spring of 1945 to help his family full-time while his mother was ill and ended up helping to raise Coyote for the next decade. He notes, "For all practical purposes, she was my mother." Before coming to the library, he spent several days interviewing Nelson, who had this to say about "her second son" - "He is a very gentle man and is very fair. I raised him that way."  Peter plans to write 12 chapters before finishing the book within the next year. Three of the titles will be - "If You Think There Is A War On Drugs, You Don't Understand The Situation.", "If You Think We Love Our Children As A Culture, You Don't Know The Facts" or  "If You Think Your Government Is There To Serve You, You've Got It Wrong." His book is intended to show "how things really work."

I haven't come across any official reviews of THE LENA BAKER STORY, which premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival earlier this month, but in a recent edition of the National Ledger, Peter spoke about his role. In order to play the brutal, depraved employer, he evidently had to demand carte blance with his protrayal. He admitted, "It's scary to find those places. It scared all of us and was scary to do. Before we went to work, I called Tichina and the director and said: 'You know. I'm going to be invoking stuff here from my unconscious, but I don't know what's going to come up and out of my mouth. Y'all have to give me a pass 'cause I can't do this guy if I have to censor myself or worry that I'm going to be hurting somebody's feelings...' At one point, we were working, and I called Tichina 'a cockroach.' It was just ugly, but it was right for the guy, and we both knew it. But if she were to get offended and say, 'Well, that wasn't on the page,' I'd have had to put a lid on my imagination, and you don't want to do that."  Peter recalls: that things got even more intense during shooting. "One night I had to kidnap Tichina. The whole scene was extremely frightening and violent and something came out of my mouth. … Two of the teamsters that drive the trucks, just big old white boys from south Georgia came up, and one of them stuck his hands in front of my face, and they were trembling. He said: 'Man, I ain't never seen nothin' like that. Look at my hands.' So you know when you get them like that, you must be piped into something good." He adds of his co-star: "Tichina is incredible. Wait till you see her in this thing."

Blast from the Past - Twenty five years ago CROSS CREEK made its screen debut and audiences were introduced to hotelier Norton Baskin, who befriended author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (played by Mary Steenburgen). I just came across these two photos that were taken as publicity shots of Peter in that role. The Washington Post described him as "smooth as Southern Comfort and just pouring on the charm." Yes, siree! If you haven't seen it, be sure to rent it. It's a classic.

The Waldo West Producton, ALL ROADS LEAD HOME, premiered back in January at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival and this month it was screened at the Palm Beach Int'l Film Festival. Present at the April 12th screening was director Dennis Fallon and cast members Vivien Cardone and Vanessa Branch. The film played to a packed house followed by a Q & A session. In March it received Best Feature Drama at the International Family Film Festival. Look for an August 2008 DVD release.

Update - 04/06/08:

The Atlanta Film Festival (April 10–19, 2008) will open on Thursday with the world premiere of THE LENA BAKER STORY, the debut film by producer, writer, and director Ralph Wilcox, Besides Peter, the film's cast includes Tichinia Arnold, Beverly Todd, and Michael Rooker. Shot in Colquitt, Georgia at the Southwest Film Commission's Jokara-Micheaux Film, Television, and Music Production Studio, the film recounts the tragic true story of the first and only woman sentenced to die in the electric chair in the state of Georgia. Against her will, African American housekeeper, Lena Baker (Arnold) engages in a complicated and controversial affair with her employer, Eliot Arthur (Coyote). Warned to stay away from the abusive drunkard by both her mother (Todd) and the town sheriff (Rooker), Baker gives into Arthur's advances in a misguided attempt to protect her family. When she finally has enough, Lena attempts to break away. Arthur threatens her with a gun and a shocking confrontation ensues leaving Baker facing a murder wrap in the Jim Crow era south, at the mercy of a jury of twelve white men. The cast and crew will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A followed by an opening night celebration at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. Follow this link to watch the trailer.

Last month Peter attended the International Film Festival of Las Palmas, which was held February 29th thru March 8th. Besides serving on the festival's jury, he also presented the film, RESURRECTING THE CHAMP. There are a couple of  interviews given to the Spanish press that you can read here, and below are a few photos from the festival.

Next month Peter will lend his rich voice to narrating the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra's premiere of a composition based on "The Gift of the Magi," written by Greensboro, NC native O. Henry. " The short story, published in the New York Sunday World newspaper on Dec. 10, 1905, is about a young couple short on money but desperate to buy each other Christmas gifts.Della secretly cuts and sells her beautiful hair to buy Jim a platinum chain for his prized pocket watch, only to discover that Jim has sold it - to buy jeweled combs for her hair. Orchestra conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky thought it would make perfect sense to honor O'Henry for the city's 2008 bicentennial celebration so the orchestra commissioned composer Jakov Jakoulov to write a work based on the Christmas classic. Then he called on his longtime friend for his help. Peter responded with, "Dmitry is one of my old, closest friends. I would read the Yellow Pages for him. The opportunity to spend a week with him at the cost of a little performing with a symphony orchestra (how grand is that?) seemed  like too good a deal to pass up." The performances will be held on May 1 at 7:30 pm and on May 3 at 8 pm. For more information, visit this link. Peter will also host an introduction and post-screening discussion of his 1992 film, BITTER MOON, at Greenboro's Weatherspoon Art Museum on April 30 at 7:00 pm.

On March 26th nearly 40 theaters across the country aired a national simulcast of "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Separation of Church and State... But Were Afraid to Ask." Tthe event was emceed by Peter with guests that included The Bacon Brothers (featuring actor Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael), actors Jack Klugman, Michael J. Fox, Dan Lauria and Catherine Dent, singer/songwriter Catie Curtis, comedian Marc Maron and satirist Roy Zimmerman. The high-definition program was hosted by First Freedom First, a joint project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and The Interfaith Alliance Foundation.

In a recent edition of Palm Springs Life, writer/director Charles Evered was interviewd about his latest film, ADOPT A SAILOR. When asked to describe his latest work, he responded, "'Adopt a Sailor' is just what it is. It's an art film, really - about three people who have dinner in a New York apartment over one evening. That's it, that's the movie. It's what they all go through during this evening that hopefully makes it meaningful. It's not 'Transformers' or 'Lawrence of Arabia'. We're just trying to tell the story of these three people, and hopefully, on some level, other people will find their own lives and experiences reflected in it." When questioned about his cast, he had some very flattering words for Peter. "When you have people like Bebe Neuwirth and Peter Coyote, who have won Tonys and Emmys and worked with directors like Polanski, Weir, Spielberg, etc. - what are you going to tell them? So I just had little private discussions with them. Peter and Bebe are brilliant in this movie. People will see both of them in an entirely new light. They think they know Bebe as that character in 'Cheers'? Well, that character disappears in this film, because Bebe shows a level of vulnerability on screen in 'Adopt a Sailor' that she's never shown before. And Peter is the same way - he's not just a handsome stud in this film, with this great raspy voice. He's edgy, hilariously funny and warm, all at the same time. The strength of 'Adopt a Sailor' are the performances, I can tell that already - and I'm proud of that. And as for Ethan, he's just a revelation, he really is. He has natural film acting skill. Maybe it is hereditary, who knows?"

The Coyote-narrated film "Alaska Far Away" screened at the Wisconsin Film Festival on Saturday and in a recent interview with filmmakers Joan Juster and Paul Hill, they commented on how Peter came to narrate their documentary.

Juster: The short answer: we sent him an email, and he said yes. The slightly longer answer is that we wanted an experienced narrator whose voice was rough around the edges, someone who sounded like he understood farmers and hard times. And we thought Peter would like the New Deal politics of the film. We were right on both counts, and he was wonderful for the film.

Hill: And working with him was a producer's dream. We were able to record him in less than two hours. We could say to him, "that was great, but it needs to be 1.5 seconds shorter" and he would do it again and it would be perfect. I'd heartily recommend him to any documentarian.