Originally Published: July 23, 2014 6 a.m.
Batten down the hatches. Keep your life jackets handy.
Do whatever you must to protect yourself from drowning in laughter.
Hilarious actor Ed Asner and his buddy, filmmaker Mark Rydell, also a kick, are coming to town to take part in the Prescott Film Festival's screening spree next week.
Brian Connors, also a man of note in the entertainment industry, has the task of keeping this "incorrigible" pair in check while they are in town.
None of the three has been to Prescott before, but they are bound to leave a mark on their first visit.
The Prescott Film Festival, now in its fifth year, runs from today through Sunday, July 27, at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center.
Asner, Rydell and Connors are the stars of Thursday evening's events, beginning at 7:30 p.m. with a retrospective of Asner's and Rydell's careers. Following this will be a screening of "Good Men," starring Asner and Rydell and written and directed by Connors. The film is about allegations of conspiracy in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
After this serious subject, the audience will need to hook up seatbelts for "Oxymoron," also written by Connors and starring Asner and Rydell.
"Oxymoron," a live play and a first for the Prescott Film Festival, is a one-act comedy about two brothers and their sibling rivalry "over money, women and Lincoln Logs," Connors said. "It's a reading - two guys sitting on a bench, scripts in hand."
Rydell is an actor, film director and producer who has directed many Academy Award-nominated films over the course of his career. Notable among them are "The Reivers," "Cinderella Liberty," "The Rose," "The River," and "For the Boys." He won a best director nomination for the 1981 film "On Golden Pond."
Rydell's first training was in music because he initially wanted to be a conductor. But his career would take another path, beginning with roles in two popular soap operas, "The Edge of Night" and "As the World Turns."
Rydell drew accolades for his role, playing violent Jewish mob kingpin Marty Augustine in "The Long Goodbye." His most recent significant film role was in Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending" in 2002.
People will remember Asner for his roles in film and on television and stage. But, in reflecting on Asner's career, his character Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore show and its spin-off series, "Lou Grant," propelled him to new heights. These roles made Asner one of the few actors to play the same leading character in both a comedy and a drama.
Asner has also been a voice actor. Audiences have heard him as Carl Fredricksen in Pixar's award-winning animated film "Up." In 2011, Asner was back on television as butcher Hank Greziak in "Working Class," the first original sitcom on cable channel CMT.
Connors has had a long career as an actor, which eventually evolved into writing, directing and producing. After his graduation from Rutgers University, he moved to New York City and began working off-Broadway, in major regional theaters and in television commercials.
This fall, he will appear opposite Kevin Costner in the Disney film "McFarland." He has been featured on "Law and Order," "The Riches," "The Handler," and "Close to Home."
Connors has just directed and co-created a pilot for a reality TV show called "Good Health Hunting."
"Good Men" is now being developed and presented around the industry as a pilot for a TV series, Connors said.
Good fortune brings Asner, Rydell and Connors to town. Helen Stephenson, Prescott Film Festival director, said one of her volunteers met Connors at another film festival, and enticed the three to come to Prescott, she said. "They thought Prescott sounded fun."
In a phone interview, Rydell said he's known Asner "forever. We grew up as actors together."
Having directed a lot of Westerns, Rydell said he is looking forward to his first visit to Prescott. He directed the 1979 film "The Cowboys," and became very close friends with the movie's star, John Wayne. "The Cowboys" will show at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
That Asner and Rydell are good friends is obvious, judging by the barbs that heated up the phone lines in a conference call.
Likening Asner and Rydell to "The Odd Couple" isn't a perfect fit, but it did prompt Rydell to say, "Wherever Ed goes, he's an odd man."
Of the live play, "Oxymoron," one of them quipped, "Ed is the oxy and Mark is the moron." Said Asner, "Mark has all the laugh lines."
And, one of them explained further: "He is Lou Costello to my Bud Abbott."
Rydell is currently on a screenplay, a love story that he will direct, and Asner has a small role in a movie produced by Pat Boone that will come out in August.
The film is a Western, and Asner "plays a judge who sends them all to jail," he said.
Rydell shot back, "A punishing figure. That's Ed."
Tickets for Thursday evening are $20 and $35 and are available at the Performing Arts Center box office. Call 776-2000 or go online to www.ycpac.com. Tickets for other films in the festival are $10.
The film festival begins tonight with 3-D movies at Harkins theaters in Prescott Valley. For a complete schedule of films and ticket information, visit www.prescottfilmfestival.com.
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