A minute with Sidney Lumet

October 24th, 2008

Inside Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President, WNET.ORG

One might expect one of the greatest American filmmakers to be an egomaniacal, unapproachable, cigar-chomping maniac. If I had directed 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, I would probably be a terror. But Sidney Lumet, who stopped by for a Q&A with Reel 13 host Neal Gabler on Wednesday, could not have been a nicer guy.

A friendly crowd of Reel 13 fans and contributors turned out for the event, but I had the opportunity to talk to Sidney in the green room before he went on. Being a news guy at heart, Network has always been one of my favorites, and hearing stories and anecdotes about that production from the horse’s mouth was a rare opportunity. When I asked him who he thought the most underrated director was, he barely hesitated: “William Wyler.” When I asked him who the most overrated director was, he hesitated a little, then said that a good way to figure out if someone was overrated was to look at their reviews. If the critics begin by saying, “Not since Orson Welles…”, then you know that something’s fishy.

He may have worked with Brando, Pacino, Newman,
and Hepburn, but now Sidney can add two Neals
to that prestigious list.

During his discussion with Neal Gabler, topics ranged from his origins as a child actor to working with “Hank” (that’s Henry Fonda to you and me) to a touching remembrance of the late Paul Newman. Sidney was thoughtful, humble, and candid. What more could you ask for?

It’s not often that we show someone’s debut film as a part of Reel 13 Classics, but Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men airs this Saturday at 9:00. Not bad for a first-timer.