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Interview with Peter Coyote
By Marie Asner
All Roads Lead Home is the current film in release for actor Peter Coyote. It was filmed in the Kansas City area and tells the story of dealing with grief. This was not the first time that Peter Coyote had been in the Kansas City area. He knows members of painter Thomas Hart Benton's family and remembered the famed Peach Tree Restaurant with its sweet potato muffins.
Peter plays the part of Hock, the grandfather of young Bella (Vivien Cardone), and together, they have lost a daughter and mother in a car accident. Peter's character is that of a gruff man, who does not show emotion to humans or animals. Bella, on the other hand, gives everything a name, but gradually they form a truce. In the film, Peter's eyes start to give him away as Hock slowly begins to let people into his world. Whereas Bella is all eyes, Peter is cautious.
All Roads Lead Home is rated PG (Waldo West Productions 2008) and stays neatly within that rating with good images. This is what attracted Peter Coyote to the role of Hock, because he has a daughter and grand-daughter and liked the way Bella was portrayed, as a girl who gets by, using her wits. She is wholesome and age-appropriate.
Another theme that runs through All Roads Lead Home is that of animal rights and what is the time to put a sick animal down. Peter has four cats and the day before this phone interview, one of his cats, only two years old, died of heart failure. The late actor Peter Boyle is also in All Roads, and though his character and that of Hock did not have scenes together, Peter Boyle and Peter Coyote are friends from the 1980's when they worked together. In this movie, the local animal shelter secretly uses Boyle's motel as a home for excess animals.
Peter Coyote's film career began when he was in his late thirties. His filmography would stretch around a room, but the role people remember first is from E.T. One of Peter's favorite roles is that of Oscar from Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon (1994) with Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas. A film sponsored by the ELCA and titled Native Nations (2008) is hosted by Peter Coyote and will be shown on ABC television stations beginning October 12. 2008. (Check your area for time). After this interview, Peter is on his way to Canada to begin filming When Calls The Heart, that is set in the early 20th century.
Besides being an actor, Peter Coyote is also a writer and one of his books, Sleeping Where I Fall (Counterpoint Press) has gone through over four printings. He is currently working on two books, one being an untitled memoir and the other a political book called 12 Things We Are Afraid To Know. Peter Coyote is an ordained Buddhist priest.
I asked Peter what advice he would give to young filmmakers or actors who are just starting out in the entertainment business. He summed it up in two words, "Work hard." Peter Coyote has also taught acting with UC Extension using the idea of masks, and was such a popular teacher that he had to make the decision to stay in teaching or go back into acting. He decided to act, though someday he would like to do a film about a musician and be able to play the guitar in the film. He is a guitar player, especially acoustic. Peter wrote songs beginning in the 1960's, but nothing has been published.
Peter Coyote portrays confidence on the screen. It is no wonder he has a long list of work in the entertainment field. In the role of Hock, a man who is grieving the loss of a daughter and sees this daughter in his grand-daughter, Coyote gives us a person with pent-up emotion. You wonder if he will heal inside. It is the work of an actor with perception and the ability to communicate this to an audience.
Copyright 2008 Marie Asner
Marie Asner is secretary and past president
of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. She contributes to www. PhantomTollbooth.org.,
Metro Voice News, WQFL-FM and the NPR-affiliate KCUR-FM.