Robert Altman, Remembered by Friends and Colleagues

A few words about Robert Altman from his friends and colleagues…

“I was friends with Bob for 20 years before we worked together on Gosford Park. It was then that I experienced the real magic of Robert Altman. When he was working he had a youthful joyfulness that was just amazing.” – Bob Balaban

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“I have always admired Robert Altman’s films and it was an honor to work with him on A Prairie Home Compasnion. We had so much fun working on that project over the past year and I know that he went out ‘with his boots on’.” – Bob Berney, President of Picturehouse

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“He was a great man of the cinema and a great man. Everybody who had the privilege to know him will miss him hugely.” – Kenneth Branagh

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“There’s no one I’m prouder to have worked with. He was an ecstatic…a magician…a conjurer…a mischievous boy. Perhaps unprecedented. He understood and could express that uniquely American shapeshifting goofiness more than anyone. He was the deepest ocean and the lightest feather at the same time…we all loved him so very much.” – Richard Gere

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“Mr. Altman loved making movies. He loved the chaos of shooting and the sociability of the crew and actors — he adored actors — and he loved the editing room and he especially loved sitting in a screening room and watching the thing over and over with other people. He didn’t care for the money end of things, he didn’t mind doing publicity, but when he was working he was in heaven.

He and I once talked about making a movie about a man coming back to Lake Wobegon to bury his father, and Mr. Altman said, “The death of an old man is not a tragedy.” I used that line in the movie we wound up making — the Angel of Death says it to the Lunch Lady, comforting her on the death of her lover Chuck Akers in his dressing room, “The death of an old man is not a tragedy.” Mr. Altman’s death seems so honorable and righteous — to go in full-flight, doing what you love — like his comrades in the Army Air Force in WWII who got shot out of the sky and simply vanished into blue air — and all of us who worked with him had the great privilege of seeing an 81-year-old guy doing what he loved to do. I’m sorry that our movie turned out to be his last, but I do know that he loved making it. It’s a great thing to be 81 and in love.” – Garrison Keillor

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“It was inspiring to know that Robert was in preproduction on his next film. Working with him was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am blessed to have worked with him and to have known him as Bob. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Kathryn and his children.” – Virginia Madsen

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“A great man has left this stage. If Bob had his way I’m sure he would want the speeches about him to be short and to the point. In my too brief time with him, his life seemed to be concerned with two things, telling it like it is and having fun. Every one of us has a lot of living to do if we are to follow his example. My thoughts and prayers are with Kathryn and his family, the immediate family and the gloriously extended one. I guess I’ll see him in the next reel as he used to say.” – John C. Reilly

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“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Robert Altman, a great friend and inspiration to me since I had the honor of meeting him in 1990. His unique vision and maverick sensibilities in filmmaking have inspired countless directors of my generation and will continue to inspire future filmmakers. He leaves behind a legacy of great American films and he will be deeply missed.” – Tim Robbins

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“Bob’s restless spirit has moved on — I have to say, when I spoke with him last week, he seemed impatient for the future. He still had the generous, optimistic appetite for the next thing, and we planned the next film laughing in anticipation of the laughs we’d have. What a gent, what a guy, what a great heart. There’s no one like him and we’ll miss him so.” – Meryl Streep

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Seth

    jeff, big fan of the site and I know it is a breath of fresh air for a lurker friend of mine in japan. Do you do guest lecturing stuff. I teach on Christianity and Culture in Abbotsford BC,at a bible college. or would recommend the local Peter Chataway? enjoy Bellingham I love it there.


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