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The Goldwyn Standard

Tony Goldwyn talks about directing his new film Conviction and starring in the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises.

By New York City
Tony Goldwyn
(© Tristan Fuge)
Tony Goldwyn
(© Tristan Fuge)
Ever wonder what actors do backstage during their off-stage moments? Some play cards, knit, sleep or even write books, but when Tony Goldwyn was in his dressing room at the Broadway Theater, where he plays Sheldrake in the revival of the musical Promises, Promises, he was re-editing Conviction, his second feature film as director.

Conviction, which was released on October 15, dramatizes the story of Betty Anne Waters (played by two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank), a divorced high school drop-out and mother of two boys, who spent 18 years of her life getting a law degree so she could defend her brother Kenny (played by Sam Rockwell), who had been wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole.

Goldwyn's wife saw a 60 Minutes segment about the Waters, which inspired the actor to make this film. It was not an easy process. "I actually spent a total of nine years on the film and every time we'd encounter difficulties -- and there were lots of those times -- I'd think of how long Betty Anne had to fight to free Kenny and it just strengthened my commitment to her to finish the film. It was a real act of faith," he says.

The road to the multiplex wasn't altogether smooth, but ultimately, Goldwyn is grateful for the extra time. "I finished it exactly a year ago and then Fox Searchlight bought it, but decided to hold it for release this fall, which gave me the luxury of taking another look and doing some re-editing," he notes. One of the biggest changes was to remove a lot of the music I had used -- which allows the emotional impact of the story to speak for itself."

Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell in Conviction
(© Fox Searchlight)
Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell in Conviction
(© Fox Searchlight)
Goldwyn gives major kudos to his cast, which -- in addition to Swank and Rockwell -- also includes Peter Gallagher, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, and Juliette Lewis, who has a small but pivotal role as a lying witness. "A good actor never approaches a villainous character from a villainous perspective," says Goldwyn, who is no stranger to playing bad guys.

Indeed, Goldwyn -- the grandson of legendary film producer Sam Goldwyn -- thought he might be typecast as a leading man when he began his acting career, so he was only too happy to take on the role of the evil Carl Bruner in 1990's Ghost opposite Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze ."Of course, that got me typecast as a villain," he notes.

In reality, his career over the past 20 years has been wide and varied, ranging from stage work in The Dying Gaul, appearing in films such as Reckless, The Substance of Fire, and Bounce, doing the voice for the title role in the animated film Tarzan, and directing numerous TV shows such as The L Word, Law & Order, Private Practice, and Dexter(coincidentally produced by his brother John).

In 1999, Goldwyn made his feature directorial debut with A Walk on the Moon, which earned great reviews and accolades for his cast, notably Diane Lane, Liev Schreiber, Viggo Mortensen, and Anna Paquin. "I just became the director I always wanted to have. Being an actor myself helps me to understand what an actor needs to be his or her most creative," he says.

When the juicy role of the two-timing Sheldrake in Promises, Promises came along, he was surprised to get the offer. "I never thought I'd ever do a musical, and I just had to get my feet wet. Fortunately, I'm not carrying the show, Sean [Hayes] and Kristen [Chenoweth] do that and I have such respect for them. I leaned on Kristen a lot since I really had no technique for this and I just couldn't let myself get up there and do it badly," he says. "I really enjoy playing him. I think he really loves Fran [Chenoweth's character] and he also loves his wife. I have great compassion for him."


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