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‘Breaking Away’ actress Robyn Douglass appeared at Library Filmfare

By From page A1 | July 6, 2011

“No time is ever wasted that makes two people friends.”

The trailer for the bicycling classic movie “Breaking Away” states: “Somewhere between growing up and settling down, it happens to all of us.”

The “it” the movie refers to is the process of growing up, of trying something entirely new and discovering one’s identity in the process. The movie featured many actors who would go on to build remarkable careers: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley and Robyn Douglass. The movie follows a teenager in Indiana who has recently graduated from high school and is unsure what to do with his life.

“Breaking Away” draws fans from a number of venues: youth, sports, business — any group that looks to inspire the human spirit. In fact, the American Film Institute has listed “Breaking Away” in the Top 10 of AFI’s Top 100 Most Inspirational Movies. It is also in AFI’s Top 10 Sports Movies list. It won one Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Barrie), Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Picture. The Golden Globe for Best Film (Comedy or Musical) went to “Breaking Away” in 1979. It is currently listed at No. 7 in ESPN’s list of 100 Greatest Sports Movies.

“Breaking Away” was the featured film at the Filmfare at the Main Library in Placerville July 2. Usually, just seeing a film at Filmfare is a treat; but this night was to be special because one of the stars from the movie appeared.

A then-20-year-old Robyn Douglass got her break into film with this movie. In many ways, the theme of “Breaking Away” could parallel her life experience. She starred as Katherine, the love-interest of Christopher in the movie.

Now retired, Douglass is an experienced actress, producer, director and activist.

And she lives in Placerville, as the owner of a beautiful bed and breakfast inn, the Seasons.

“I am tremendously excited that she was at Filmfare,” said Lew Johnson, who produces the event. “She called me up when she saw that I was going to be showing the movie. I didn’t even know she lived here. This was a real treat for everyone who came.”

Douglass’ curriculum vitae includes “Romantic Comedy,” “The Lonely Guy” with Steve Martin, and television shows “Battlestar Galactica 1980,” “Stingray,” “Ten Speed and Brown Shoe” and numerous other television productions. She produced and directed documentaries, including “American Rodeo,” “The Bosnian War” and “Bucking the Rodeo” — a documentary about corrupt police in Chicago.

Her hair may be streaked with gray now, but the sparkle in her eyes shows that her passion for the craft remains undiminished.

“This will be a huge opportunity for film students, Amgen bikers, Amgen fans and anyone who enjoys this film,” Douglass said before the film was shown at Filmfare. “I will be speaking before and after the film and during the intermission. And I will reveal hidden secrets about the film.”

One of the topics Douglass addressed is the groundbreaking aspect of the film. Released in 1979, the movie did not have a huge budget because the studio, 20th Century Fox, didn’t believe that there would be an audience for a “coming-of-age” movie with bicycling.

“You have to realize that nothing like this film — a ‘coming of age’ story about four boys — had been done before. Film students need to know that this was a movie that the studio had little faith in, and so it planned a limited release,” she said. “What they didn’t realize was that people would pay to see it 10 times in the theaters.”

What advice does Douglass have for film students? A lot, actually, taken from the school of experience.

“The No. 1 hidden secret I have for students who don’t have experience is: Sometimes you’ve got to ‘fake it ’til you make it,’” she said. “If you have a good command of the English language, you can get your foot in the door anywhere. And the way you learn is through reading. That is why I am so pleased that this event will benefit the library.”

Douglass added that she wants to give back to the craft, to inspire future actors and actresses, as well as future film producers and directors. She said she is very pleased to be supporting the Placerville Library.

Susan Laird

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