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« Love Letters Pt. 2: Kathy Najimy, Rosemarie DeWitt, Xander Berkeley | Main | A Love Letter to Noah Taylor »

Love Letters Pt. 1: Zachary Quinto, Ahna O'Reilly, Chris Messina

© Nick Stepowyj[Editor's Note: Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going) is guest blogging. We love her. And now there's a lotta love to go around. - Nathaniel R]

After my love letter to Noah Taylor I thought it might be kind of fun to write to some people for The Film Experience and ask THEM who they'd want to write a love letter to. Hopefully this is making some kind of sense. So I made a little dream list of people I respect and admire beyond all reason and I sent them a little e-mail saying:

I've seen you do work that has made me want to write you a love letter because it's moved me so deeply. Who or what would you like to write a love letter to? What piece of art or artist or feeling has moved you in this way?"

Here are a few amazing responses I got from these talented and passionate individuals!

To the magnificent & unique Zachary Quinto "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Angels In America!"

Zach's love letter:

I remember so vividly the first time i saw IL POSTINO. i was a freshman in college - completely ravenous for creative inspiration - and i found myself alone at one of the only art house movie theaters in pittsburgh at the time. i was so enraptured by the experience. the tenderness and intimacy of the story. the beauty of the landscape. the powerful exploration of love. and in particular the performance of massimo troisi. it stays with me to this day: his subtlety. his vulnerability. his openness. his humor. and as i learned more about the film and the tragedy of its star - my genuine love for the movie blossomed into something that still inspires me any time i think about it. troisi's commitment to this story ultimately cost him his life. he died just twelve hours after the film wrapped - and only days before he was meant to go to london for the heart transplant that likely would have saved him. but his connection to the project (which he also co-wrote) was so absolute and unwavering that - even in the face of his obviously weakened state - he would not back down until it was complete. and you can see it on screen. his passion and investment in the story is one of the most bittersweet manifestations i have encountered. i love that film and i love that performance. and i love the memory of the first time it all washed over me.

To the incredibly brave & brilliant actor and director Joe Swanberg "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Nights and Weekends..."

Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig in "Nights and Weekends"

Joe's love letter:

My love letter is to Elaine May. She's one of the coolest filmmakers alive and a constant source of inspiration. I watched THE HEARTBREAK KID and the first 20 minutes of ISHTAR about 5 times each this Summer when I was prepping my new film. She's a brave, adventurous filmmaker and it's a shame she didn't make more work, but what exists fills me with love and gets me excited about making my own stuff."

To the best actress I know, the incredible Tina Holmes "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Six Feet Under..."

Tina's love letter:

There's a scene in the beautiful movie Oslo, August 31st that i can't get out of my head. the movie takes place on the last day of summer. 24 hours in which the main character is struggling to decide whether or not he can bear to go on living. it's sounds so grim, but the movie is filled with life and beauty. anyway the scene that blew me away is where he is watching some friends go for a swim at dawn after a long night's bender. he sits alone and watches them, especially this young beautiful innocent girl he has met that night. the camera stays on his face and he watches in silence and i swear to god you watch him engage with life and hope and then despair and engage and despair and engage and despair and back and forth. all that and i don't think his expression even really changes much. it's haunting. that's when i love acting. when you can see inside someone. it's not even anything they do. i don't even know how it happens really. some people just let you see their soul."

To the versatile, handsome, showing his heart and constantly working Chris Messina "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Celeste & Jesse Forever..."

Chris's love letter:

I instantly thought of John Cazale and his performances in all 5 of his films. Each one of them so different and nuanced. Dog Day Afternoon was mind-blowing for me as a kid. To see New York in the 70's, the heat, the anti-establishment "Attica" chant, of course watching Pacino felt at the time like finding god. And John Cazale's silence and intensity is something that I will never forget. I was afraid at any moment that he would start shooting the Employees, and then Sonny, Pacino's character asks him what country he wants to go to when the robbery is over and Sal (Cazale) says "Wyoming" not played for laughs, you instantly see into Sal's heart all his vulnerability and desperation. A complex subtle performance that continues to amaze me each time I revisit it.

What Sidney Lumet did with that story and each and everyone of those actors brought to it... this was a defining moment for me in wanting to be a storyteller."

To the insanely funny, thoughtful director, writer, actor (and also a ridiculously gifted magician), David Wain "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Wet Hot American Summer (obv); Wanderlust... "

Dear NASHVILLE,  thank you for enveloping me in your glow when I discovered you fifteen years after your release! I left our first (nearly 3 hour) date feeling exhilarated, inspired and spent. You opened my eyes to new possibilities in filmmaking, storytelling, comedy, acting, sound. You resonated with me over the last twenty years, always reminding me to be bold and to trust my voice!"

To the hilarious and authentic and awesome Natasha Lyonne "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Slums Of Beverly Hills, you in Night At The Golden Eagle..."

[Natasha didn't get back to me with her finished thing but I thought I'd include the things she was thinking she'd write about because they're amazing choices: ' Think I'd choose susan tyrell in fat city or bob fosse & all that jazz ... or Terrence Stamp or Toby Dammit...]

To the super funny, super sweet, unlike any other person living, the genius Michael Showalter "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: "The Baxter"...

Michael Showalter's letter:

Call me sappy but if I'm gonna write a love letter it's gotta be for romantic comedies, so my love letter is for my favorite rom-com filmmaker Richard Curtis (writer/director of Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Love Actually.) His bittersweet world of laughter, loss and love is one that I really enjoy visiting - like your favorite bookstore or coffee shop. Everyone is smart, nice and funny. They are optimistic but not necessarily "happy." They like eating good food, talking at length about their neuroses and wear warm clothing. There's never anyone in a Richard Curtis story that feels "too cool." Nope, they are just people. Friends. Acquaintances. Trying to get by, trying to be good, to be better, fallible, trying to grab at some little piece of joy and sweetness.

To the brilliant and intense and funny and great actor Michael Weston I love everything you've ever done but my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: that amazing episode of Six Feet Under where you kidnap David..."

Michael Weston's letter:

You know, there are so many actors and movies and filmmakers who have inspired me... who continue to inspire me. I think I have been really blessed to have a group of friends who are so deeply creative and fun and funny and silly, and I find that they are always my greatest inspiration and what I dwell on in loving revery-time.

But, when I go back to the beginning... where I really felt the power of film and what still makes me laugh because I was so completely moved by it... was the movie "Flash Gordon". I know that's sort of like sitting in some crazy heavenly wine cellar and asking for a bottle of two buck Chuck. But, the truth is, the year was 1980, I was like 7, and that was the moment I wanted to be a part of film. In that finale scene where he's like driving the spaceship and he's about to skewer Ming The Merciless and that awesome music is playing "Flash! Ah-haaahhh! Duhn duhn duhn!". Man... I stood on my seat and f-ing cheered. Literally. I didn't give a hoot who was looking at me because I was so in it. I whooped. And was finally brought back to earth, pulled back into my seat by some kid I was friends with at the time. See, I don't remember who I was with, but, I still find myself, returning to that moment. And I still sing that theme song to myself... and others if they'll listen."

To the extraordinary, radiant, gorgeous and real Ahna O'Reilly "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: The Help..."

Ahna's letter:

I want to write Sissy Spacek a Love Letter for everything, especially "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Carrie". I want to be her.

-Tommy Lee Jones/Robert Duvall in "Lonesome Dove", I saw this when I was little and it has meant a lot to me ever since. I think it was the first time I understood chemistry between actors.

-On the topic of things from when I was little: Hitchcock (Almost all of them except "Frenzy" and "Marnie," those were the two sexy ones we weren't allowed to watch); Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers ("Barkley's of Broadway" and many others); "The Sound of Music"; Audrey Hepburn ("Roman Holiday", "Sabrina"), Judy Garland ("Meet Me in St Louis", "Easter Parade"). These people and their movies were pretty much all my parents let us watch...ahhh to be sheltered. 

-Timothy Scott, my heart breaks for him even if I only see his face for a fleeting second in a movie (just re-watched "Days of Heaven" and there he was for 3 seconds, and I loved him).

 -The author Tracy Kidder.

-Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose. I know this is an obvious one. But I could watch this on a loop, the thought of it makes me cry."

I'm so grateful to all these amazing people!


P.S. UPDATE: More love letters from Rosemarie DeWitt, Kathy Najimy, etcetera


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    Love Letters Pt. 1: Zachary Quinto, Ahna O'Reilly, Chris Messina - Blog - The Film Experience

Reader Comments (17)

Oh My God Fantastic.

I adore Quinto's and Messina's. I wish Oslo was on iTunes so I could catch it already.

Thank you for these. It's incredible to read through all of them.

Rosemarie DeWitt, Jesus. That's going to be exciting. I still think about her in Rachel all these years later. <3

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Melanie -- you went above and beyond here. Love these insights into the passions of creative types who give us all so much pleasure.

Particularly fun to read Chris Messina's DOG DAY AFTERNOON passion so hot on the heels of our big celebration of it. and Ahna O'Reilly. So cute that she adores co-star Sissy Spacek that much.

I've loved TINA HOLMES ever since her completley authentic work in "Edge of Seventeen" so it was exciting to see her name pop up here. I wish she'd get some high profile movie roles!

August 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love Tina's piece about "Oslo, August 31". God, that film is immaculate.

As for Dog Day Afternoon, I'm not sure about that Wyoming part. That definitely played for laughs with me (I actually had to pause the film and give myself a moment to contain my laughter).

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

What a brilliant idea, and such an embarrassment of riches! Reminds me of the American Theatre Wing's wonderful book "The Play That Changed My Life"; you should do a book of these love letters! It's always so inspiring to read about what inspires great artists.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I would write a love letter to Christopher Reeve. I should have done it while he was alive. He moved me in a way I cannot quite express. I've come to recognize, no, he wasn't the best actor in the world. But he shifted something in me, something like, "Oh THAT person exists in the world." The first Superman movie was a transformative moment in my life.

Bless you Christopher Reeve. I hope you're running your ASS off.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Melanie you have great taste in quality TV! Six Feet Under = magnificent then, now and forever

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChrisD

I would write a love letter to Tony Leung in Happy Together for the tape recorder scene alone, Jane Fonda in Klute for the one on one psychiatrist scenes, and Metropolis for being as amazing today as it must have been to the very first people who saw it.

You've gone so above and beyond, Melanie. Love this entry so much. Love seeing what inspired all of these wonderful creative people.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill H

I want to first write a love letter to Melanie Lynskey for this magical post-really extraordinary (especially like the one for the talented and handsome Zachary Quinto-can't wait for AHS: Asylum!)

As for my love letters, they would go to Steven Soderbergh for his continued excellence in bringing every aspect of life to screen beautifully, Joan Crawford because I'm recently obsessed with her on-screen presence, Meryl in perpetuity, Netflix because they sent a wonderful slate of movies this week and they'll stop me from turning on the RNC and making me want to throw my television out the window, and again, to Melanie, for her beautiful work in Up in the Air.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I came back from a (well deserved) vacation a couple of days ago. Since then, I've been reading as much as I can to catch up. But this is so much beyond anyone's (or at least mine), expectations, I'm speechless. Literally, I've tried to write a comment a couple of times, but what can I say? Nothing. Thanks for these treats, really, really thank you. To you, to all those writing the love letters, to Nathaniel...

Love Chris Messina's because I share the love and admiration for that movie. A movie that gets better with time, and that I only discovered when I began reading movie blogs, not so lo long ago.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

These are amazing! So glad Chris Messina is having a moment...he's been underrated for so long.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbia

Michael Weston letter is so cute :D

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Monica -- I totally agree. I love when people are totally honest about influential things.

Bia -- i really like Chris Messina too. want him to get a challenging part though. enough of these supportive boyfriends ;)

Will - i may cosign some of those love letters.

August 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Fantastic! What a wonderfully generous and inspiring thing to do - and share. Thank you.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

I have burst. I loved this post so much that I am everywhere. I have to go read the second one.

Since Nathaniel cashed in his cool Film Bitch Awards points on HBC & Thivisol, I have to demand bragging rights for making Tina Holmes my site's Best Supporting Actress for 1999 in Edge of Seventeen, the second time I did an end-of-year feature, in bad, white-text-on-black-background html. Except the winners got to be in yellow-text-on-black-background.

You are like a thousand points of light, Melanie!

I love Quinto's Troisi memories. I was a freshman in college when that movie came out, too, and though it didn't resonate with me the same way, this story makes me want to re-watch it again right now.

In a lovely coincidence, Oslo 31 August opens here in Chicago tomorrow, so I'm going to go find out what Tina Holmes is talking about. Hooray!

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Nick- I knew I loved you for reals when I saw that you gave Tina Best Supporting Actress on your site. She is never anything short of astonishing to me, and actually the creative dreamwork that I do now is the direct result of me saying to her "tell me everything about how you do what you do."
I'm so happy that these people's letters have been received with such positivity by you amazing TFE readers. I was so nervous asking everyone but they really got into it and I'm so grateful. It feels lovely that it didn't just go out into an empty void, but was received with such love. Thank you thank you xo

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Lynskey

And now my Chris Messina crush has exploded to ridiculous proportions.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa

What a wonderful selection of why film means so much to people.

Tina Holmes deserves so many great parts - such a warm and welcoming face.

And her words regarding that scene in Oslo reasonate with me so much - that film really does linger. It's lovely when now and again, other people connect to art in exactly the same way you do.

September 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBurning Reels
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