- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

In town recently to promote a new book, director Peter Bogdanovich selected one of his most obscure features, “They All Laughed,” as a book-signing supplement at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre.

One might be tempted to ascribe his fondness for the film to the presence of Dorothy Stratten, one of the newcomers in an ensemble fronted by Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara and John Ritter. At the time, Miss Stratten, a former Playboy model, was Mr. Bogdanovich’s consort. She was brutally murdered by her estranged husband before the movie’s release in 1981.

During a phone conversation, Mr. Bogdanovich corrected this misapprehension. “The link is Audrey Hepburn, not Dorothy,” he insists.

“Audrey is one of the subjects in the book, which also recalls Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Jerry Lewis, Boris Karloff,” he says, referring to “Who the Hell’s In It?” a collection of interviews and profiles of movie stars he has known or admired.

“The unique aspect about Audrey Hepburn as I knew her,” he explains, “was that all her fragility and delicacy confronted you right from the start and appeared to make it unlikely that she could function as a professional actress. Somehow, she … overwhelmed your doubts. There was a lot of stamina beneath the frailty. It astonished everyone who worked with her.”

Committed to three months of touring on behalf of the book, Mr. Bogdano-vich has a pair of romantic-comedy scripts that he has been hoping to direct for some time: “Squirrels to the Nuts,” which alludes to a quip in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1946 comedy “Cluny Brown,” and “Wait for Me,” which has been on the back burner long enough for the director to lament, “I keep waiting for it.”

The postponements on “Wait for Me” go back 20 years. “It’s a ghost story and definitely an odd one,” Mr. Bogdanovich says. “That always creates complications. But I also wrote it for John Cassavetes, and it’s very difficult to envision anyone who can replace him. So casting it has been an unsolved problem.”

Mr. Bogdanovich anticipates resuming his occasional role as Lorraine Bracco’s psychiatric mentor when “The Sopranos” resumes production in 2005. “It’s been a wonderful thing for me,” he says. “I’ve even directed an episode and would enjoy doing it again. But the primary benefit is that the show has re-established my credentials as an actor after all those years as a film director.

“Everyone forgot that I started as a stage actor and director. Very modestly, of course. Then, because I was writing monographs about directors for the Museum of Modern Art and doing magazine pieces about Hollywood, a misconception began to grow: Here’s an American counterpart of the French new wave people like Truffaut and Godard and Chabrol, who were movie critics aspiring to be movie directors.”

That description never suited Mr. Bogdanovich, whose apprenticeship began with acting and directing for the stage. His first coup was talking playwright Clifford Odets into approving an off-Broadway revival of “The Big Knife.”

Summoning the authority of his most famous mentor, Mr. Bogdanovich says: “Orson Welles thought that movies were all about performances, in the last analysis, and who can dispute it? I’ve always been fond of actors and regret the fact I haven’t acted more. ‘The Sopranos’ has given me a belated chance to balance the scale. It’s not as far-fetched to think of myself as an actor-director.”

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