JEFF BRIDGES AND HIS STREETWISE YOUNG COSTARS NAVIGATE THE TENDERLOIN DISTRICTS OF 'AMERICAN HEART'
Photographed by Mary Ellen Mark
WHEN JON PETERS saw Streetwise, Martin Bell's 1984 Oscar-nominated documentary about Seattle street kids and how they live and love and survive prostituting themselves, eating out of trash cans, fighting, stealing, and getting high -he was moved. Peters, the ex-partner of Sony Pictures chairman Peter Guber, had been in reform school himself and wanted to develop a new, fictional story in the Streetwise milieu. He asked producer Rosilyn Heller to bring in Bell and photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Bell's wife, to discuss the idea. Before long, Mark's cousin Peter Silverman had written a script called American Heart. It follows the lives of an ex-con and his fourteen-year-old son as they try to make ends meet in Seattle’s underbelly. "They said it was too dark," says Jeff Bridges. "It was a little jewel." Now, nine years later, through the tireless efforts of Heller, Bell, and Mark, American Heart is finally going to be released, starring Bridges and Terminator 2's Edward Furlong. "I know you've heard it before," says Bell, "but it was such a wonderful experience with that group of people, and you see that spirit etched in the film."
Jeff Bridges was decent to everyone, even the guy who called him "Son of Sea Hunt."
EDWARD FURLONG AND TRACEY KAPISKY
"Eddie and Tracey work from their gut," says actor Christian Frizzell of his colleagues. "They're real ballsy actors. " Onscreen and off-, Furlong seemed quite taken with Kapisky. "He just wants someone to love, " says Frizzell.
SHAREEN MITCHELL AND "HEART"-LAND FOLK
"You may genuinely love the people you're working with," says Bridges, "but there's also a sham quality built into it. I don't mean it in a negative way, necessarily. It can have a kind of bluesy, bitter sort of taste. It's an act. That's why they call it acting, you know?"
REAL-LIFE "TINY" AND ACTRESS KAPISKY
"The thing I found so shocking about Streetwise," says Maggie Welsh of the film that inspired American Heart, "was that I'd listen and think: that could 've been the girl next to my eighth grade locker talking about clogs, the way they're talking about being raped."
MARCUS CHONG, MAGGIE WELSH, AND CHRISTIAN FRIZZELL
"Marcus, Maggie, and I are all trained actors, " says Frizzell. "We like it as an art. I feel so pleased I'm in a film that's trying to say something, not just some bullshit teen-beat thing. I'm putting more of myself in it than I would on one of those films."
JEFF BRIDGES, FAMILY MAN
"Jeff goes out of his way to come into your trailer and see that you're feeling okay about a scene," says Welsh. "He just seems like a regular person. He talks about his three little girls. It gives me hope that I can have a normal life and do this, too."
FURLONG AND DON HARVEY
"Eddie will do long pauses," says Bridges. "He has no sense of timing, which is a beautiful thing to work with, because in life, people don't have a sense of timing. " "It's hard to build up a character," says Furlong. "It's like making a huge art piece."