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Heston, Charlton 1

Heston, his son combine talents for ‘Lode'

From the Nov. 11, 1982, Deseret News

Charlton Heston. Even the name sounds distinguished.

Having played more historical characters and nationalities, more heroes and saints than perhaps any other film actor, the very name conjures up ready-made images: Moses, Michelangelo, Ben-Hur, John the Baptist, Andrew Jackson.

But in his latest film, Charlton Heston plays something of a villain — as well as a dual role. What's more, he directed the film, "Mother Lode," which opens Friday in Salt Lake theaters.

"I had accepted the acting assignment some two or three months before Fraser (his son, who wrote and produced ‘Mother Lode') suggested I direct it as well. ‘Mother Lode' is a modern story, a fictional part, so I had no research to do, though I did have to learn a Scotch accent, and this is about my 12th nationality. Fraser said, ‘This is a five-character story and you play two of them, so some of the complexity of directing will not be there.'

"Directing is, to a large degree, communicating, and he said, ‘You can be sure of communicating with the producer, and the writer, and two of the actors.' "

During a telephone interview from his Hollywood office, Heston discussed a wide range of subjects, ranging from his views on television and the movie rating system to celebrity politicking and critics.

Besides acting in films and on stage, Heston has been president of the Screen Actors Guild for six terms, is present chairman of the American Film Institute and has most recently been in the news debating Paul Newman on whether there should be a nuclear freeze and verbally battling current SAG president Edward Asner over political issues.

But should celebrities take advantage of their popularity to advance political thought? "I think it would be very hard to somehow deny an actor or an athlete his right as an American citizen to take a position on a public issue because he was a well-known person. It's no question that when we do, we have a greater leverage and a more effective forum than our neighbors. But if there is fault there, it's you guys (the press). You're the ones that are writing it all down and putting it on the 6 o'clock news."

Heston has always been independent. As an actor he was one of the first to have a studio contract that allowed him to work elsewhere. "Mother Lode," which cost $6 million, would have been $10 million at a studio, he said, but as an independent production he and his son made it the way they wanted. "It does give you control, and that is lovely." And many of the films he has made during the past decade were produced independently, then picked up by a studio for distribution. "My career, in a sense, parallels the emergence of the independent filmmaker."

Here are some of his views on other subjects:

Critics: "I don't think film criticism, Pauline Kael (of the New Yorker) to the contrary notwithstanding, is designed for the filmmaker. You read reviews, and if they like it, you think, ‘What a perceptive fellow that was,' and if they don't, you think, ‘What does that idiot know.' But you read them from an ego point of view."

The Movie Rating System: "It performs a useful function. The alternative inevitably would be what we have in almost every other filmmaking country in the world, and that is government censorship, which is unacceptable in this country. Some films are misrated but that's due to human error. That doesn't say that the undertaking is not worth trying. That's like saying that because most films are not good films, you shouldn't make films."

Television: "The technical quality of the picture is not good, nor is the sound. That'll change. They'll get it. They'll also improve the color. But there are a lot of good people in it. As proof of that, I think some of the best work being done in film, in terms of direction and photography, is in commercials."

Movies: "It's rewarding to make a film that an audience likes." Quoting veteran director Frank Capra's remarks during the American Film Institute's award dinner for Capra last year, Heston added, "It's a pleasure and a privilege, and something of which you must make yourself worthy, to be able to call people together to sit in the dark for two hours, and let you tell them a story."

Heston said he is never completely satisfied with a new film, but added that he is happy with the success "Mother Lode" has had in other parts of the country. And he noted that with his dual role and directing, and son Fraser's scripting and producing "Between us we held down five jobs."