Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

Soap star Finola Hughes directs first film, ‘The Bet’


Soap opera fans know Finola Hughes for her long-running role on General Hospital, but the woman who has played ex spy Anna Devane on and off since 1985 is on a different side of the camera now.

The Brit’s directorial debut, the coming-of-age comedy The Bet, premieres Friday night as part of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Hughes will be in town to discuss her first stab at filmmaking. She doubts it’s her last.

“I loved the whole process,” she said while ferrying her daughter to a dental appointment in Los Angeles. “Just the feeling of showing up on set and seeing these great people at work. Wow.”

But giving up her daytime job doesn’t seem likely. She realizes how important soaps are to diehard watchers.

“When I first started doing GH back in the ’80s that sort of sealed the deal because soaps were at their peak, and we had this big old spy story going on. It gave me a huge connection to so many people who would rush home from school to watch it. I was part of their youth, and I get great enjoyment out of that. Soap fans are so loyal and patient.”

Amazing that the actress, who turns 54 Tuesday, doesn’t look as if she’s aged a bit since first running around with Luke Spencer and Robert Scorpio.

“My beauty secret is certainly not sleep because I have three children,” laughs Hughes, whose husband is photographer Russell Young. “I wish I could tell you I sit in a hyperbolic chamber, but the truth is I do a lot of yoga, eat well and do what I love. I always tell my kids, ‘Follow your passion.’ I think that helps.”

Any GH plot lines to divulge? “Well, if I tell you I’d have to kill you,” she jokes. “But I will say this mob storyline is going to get pretty gnarly.”

Hughes will admit she’s been blown away, even perplexed, by some of the more outlandish scripts — kidnappings, explosions, imposters — but the key to her success is going with the flow.

“The thing is to leap in with both feet and believe every damn second of it!” she explains. “We are all just having a blast, and it shows.”

Info: Hughes will be at Cinema Paradiso 7 p.m. Friday and will attend additional screenings 3:30 Saturday at the Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood and then 6 p.m. at Muvico Pompano;

Ed’s night out

Talk about having a blast. Ed Asner was at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday night yukking it up with attendees of FLIFF, which honored the man known to many as Mary Tyler Moore’s grumpy-boss-with-a-heart Lou Grant. Onlookers said that after receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award, the 83-year-old Up star posed with anyone who had a camera without complaint. Asner’s relaxed demeanor could be one reason why he stays so relevant. Look for the veteran actor (already with recent spots on The Glades, Law & Order: SVU and Hawaii Five-0) in an upcoming episode of the CBS comedy The Crazy Ones.

Madeleine Marr

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