Robert Altman Remembered

Veteran film director Robert Altman has died at the age of 81. A former Houstonian who now makes movies of his own says Altman gave him his first job in a film made in Houston in 1970, as Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Brewster McCloud wasn't one of Robert Altman's better films, but it gave Gary Chason his first job in movies. Altman hired Chason to hire Houston actors for his movie about a strange introverted boy who dreamed of flying inside the Astrodome, where much of the movie was filmed. Chason says Altman was not your typical Hollywood director.

"You didn't really need to worry about memorizing your lines because he expected you to make up your dialogue and to react according to whatever happened in the moment."

The result of that was Altman's trademark style of having actors talking over each other at the same time, which called for actors who could improvise. Chason says that's why Hollywood's finest actors practically stood in line to be in a Robert Altman film. He says Altman's stubborn refusal to do things the Hollywood way made him one of the most influential directors ever.

"He was hit or miss. His movies could be absolutely brilliant and absolutely terrible. But he did it on his own terms, in his own way, no matter what."

Gary Chason now writes and directs his own movies, and he says he owes it all to Robert Altman, who took a chance on him when he made an inexperienced kid the local casting director for a major Hollywood film. This willingness to take chances is what made Altman who he was. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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