During his final year at UCLA, Tom Skerritt was cast in his first film, 1962’s “War Hunt.” Since then, he has appeared in more than 35 feature films, including “Alien,” “Top Gun” and “Steel Magnolias.” He won a Best Actor Emmy for his role in the TV show “Picket Fences.” He also founded nonprofits TheFilmSchool, teaching filmmaking with an emphasis on story; and The Red Badge Project, which works with veterans to rediscover their voice through storytelling. Skerritt spoke with Where about storytelling, his favorite Seattle movie and what makes this city special.
Your list of movies and television is quite impressive. Do any roles stand out as favorites?
Sometimes it’s difficult to make distinction between favorite role or favorite experience. I loved portraying “the Rev” in “A River Runs Through It.” Four years of the “Picket Fences” CBS series and original “MASH” experiences were extraordinary learning experiences.
You do far more than acting: You co-founded and teach at TheFilmSchool and founded the Red Badge Project for veterans. Where did those two projects come from?
Initially I was an English major at Wayne State U; I had art classes at night. I wound up at UCLA to become a film director. How I wound up making a living as an actor is another story, but, I'm grateful for the good fortune to do so. But it all taught me that it's the storytelling one does in every creative discipline that directs a path to understand more about ourselves. Storytelling is the fabric of society. That fabric is somewhat frayed everywhere, except for Seattle, which, itself, is an emerging story.
Focused on storytelling, TheFilmSchool alumni assess the “learning about themselves program” as “life changing.” It is this life changing aspect that generated the Red Badge Project, designed for PTS vets, which teaches the why, how and do of storytelling through appreciating the uniqueness of personal experiences.
You recently wrapped up Don Quixote with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. What is it like, joining the ballet?
This was the second go around with Pacific Northwest Ballet as Don Quixote. It's a formidable experience, storytelling without words. Fortunately, I neither dance nor speak, only be myself, charging windmills of life. It's the challenge of the unknown.
Seattle’s film festival is one of the largest in the nation. What makes it significant?
SIFF is the largest and most significant independent film fest in North America. We have opportunities to view worldwide films that few others will see. The Fest has created the most sophisticated film audience in North America and encouraged more prospective filmmakers making digital visual product than anywhere else.
For visitors to the city, do you have any favorite theaters or theater groups they should check out?
Seattle Center has great venues: the Opera, PNB [Pacific Northwest Ballet], Seattle Rep, Intiman/Cornish summer program, SIFF, The Film School … and at the right time of year, Bumbershoot. It’s all centered there.
What is your favorite area restaurant?
There are too many great restaurants and talented chefs to favor. A few: Wild Ginger always pleases, any of Tom Douglas' places. In my neighborhood, Luc, Nishino for all things sushi, Voila, The Hunt Club at the Sorrento Hotel, Serafina. Almost any place at Pike Place Market … on and on.
Do you have a favorite bar?
Not a bar guy, but The Triple Door is recommended.
What is on your must-do or must-see list for tourists in the city?
All of it. And as much as possible.
Any favorite spots for shopping?
What is your favorite museum in the city?
What is your favorite Seattle memory?
Still living it.
What do you think makes this city special?
The creative energy here is palpable.
Do you have a favorite movie that was filmed here?
“Smoke Signals,” which is a Seattle original: produced, funded, shot in state. Beyond that, not really, but I do see Seattle as potential New Media content provider, combining video/digital, music and technology.
What is the No. 1 destination on your travel wish list?
What is your favorite way to explore a new location?
The countryside and its people
Window or aisle seat?