Mary Stuary Masterson

Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too.
By: Lisa Quinn

 

Women excel at multitasking.  Equally handling a career, a family and a social life is what they do best.  Mary Stuart Masterson describes herself as a “natural female” and claims to be a great multi-tasker; yet her balancing act juggles acting, producing and directing.
Mary Stuart Masterson may best be known for her acting roles in the touching films Fried Green Tomatoes, Benny and Joon and the 80’s teenage favorite, Some Kind of Wonderful, but she seems to have metamorphosized into a director that is generating buzz.
At the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Masterson’s masterpiece, The Cake Eaters; premieres.  This is her directorial debut. The Cake Eaters is a drama revolving around two broken families in rural upstate New York.  A teen from one of the families has a physical debilitation,   Friedreich's Ataxia disease and the other, is timid and shy and reeling from his mother’s recent death. Yet together, they form a special relationship.
Masterson claims the most challenging part of the film was that there were no “read throughs” and completing the additional shooting that had to take place upon the film’s finish.  Yet, most rewarding was that she got to experience the “whole enchilada”, claiming that directing and producing give you the whole experience of a film, rather than a fairly one dimensional view if “only” acting in one. 
Is it no secret that her father, Peter Masterson is a talent himself. A producer and director and best known for acting in the 1975 cult classic The Stepford Wives and for writing the books The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas were based on, Masterson states that she and father are alike and have a lot in common. Although his experiences in the arts did not literally affect her, (she originally wanted to be a choreographer) indirectly, one can see that the nature/nurture theory may have had a role in her choices and paths.
Making the transition from actress to producer and director seemed not really a natural progression for her, but the opportunity to “play on a team” and making her at her best collaboratively; allowing her the chance to work with all involved on a film. Having been both in front of the camera and behind, she claims that being in front of the camera limits one to “play only one instrument in an orchestra”, yet being behind the camera, one “can become the conductor”, which is in turn, more of a challenge.
Nominated for a Tony Award in 2003 for her role on Broadway as Luisa Contini in Nine -The Musical, Masterson claims that although directing is a labor of love, she loves nothing more than the stage. “There is no escape.”  She states that an assembled audience will never be together in the same time and same place again. She claims that the energy of spectators is what stage performers feed off of and sharing the undaunted attention of an audience is very powerful.  Masterson states that all the focus is on that character one is playing on stage; no one on that stage is “bigger or smaller; everyone is out there and has the same vulnerability”.
Enjoying the input of her audience, regarding the stage or film, Masterson sees the film through “fresh eyes” when she speaks with spectators of her work, post-viewing.  In producing and directing a film, a scene that made her giggle while behind the camera during the film’s production, she worries may not have the same affect a year later when the film is ready to be seen by a vast audience. She can utilize her viewers as a way to test if her instincts to be right or wrong.
Choosing the FLIFF was easy; Masterson claims the entity was generous, supportive and gave her a wonderful invitation. Others she knew who were involved at Festival’s in the past were well received and Masterson was happy to be a part of this year’s events.
Masterson’s next project is producing the film, Tickling Leo, a film written and directed by her husband, Jeremy Davidson. Masterson’s brother, Peter Masterson, Jr. will be the film’s cinematographer and also, producing.  The film’s setting also happens to be in upstate New York.
Samuel Beckett once stated, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”  Masterson claims she is not one to “continually play it safe” and this citation describes her best. She claims she wants to be remembered by her own quote: “I’m still here”. 

The Cake Eaters can be viewed at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Thursday, November 8th at 7 pm and Friday, November 9th at 9 pm at the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center at Nova Southeastern University.  General admission tickets are $10.00 and FLIFF members are $5.00.  Following the Thursday screening, there will be a reception in honor of the film at The Huizenga Business School at Nova Southeastern University with special guest Mary Stuart Masterson. Contact jesse@the7thfloor.com or call 954-760-9898 for more information.