“Vacation” fans, your chance to rub elbows with Beverly D’Angelo awaits.
The veteran actress — best known as long-suffering mom Ellen Griswold in the Chevy Chase-helmed family road trip disaster comedies — will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at Friday’s opening night of the 31st annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival at Hard Rock Live.
D’Angelo will also be there supporting her latest project, the ensemble dramedy, “Dreamland,” along with director Robert Schwartzman and costars Johnny Simmons (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), Robin Thomas (most recently of TV comedy series “Crazy Ex-Girl Friend”) and “Rocky” legend Talia Shire, who also happens to be Schwartzman’s mother.
We talked to D’Angelo, 64, before her trip, about the movie, which stars Simmons as Monty, a financially strapped piano teacher looking to open a jazz bar who embarks on an affair with an older wealthy woman (Amy Landecker, “Doctor Strange”) à la “The Graduate.” D’Angelo plays Mary, the cuckoo albeit still sexy mother of Monty’s girlfriend — and had a blast.
How did you first get involved with “Dreamland?”
I got the script and loved the story immediately. I started out as a singer and my brother is a musician, so I’ve always had a soft spot for musicians trying to find their way. Then I met Robert and loved him. It was a fantastic experience on every level. The spirit was truly independent and that united everybody. The word that keeps coming to mind is “free.” The style in which Robert shot was very intriguing and allowed for so much creative freedom.
How did you approach the role?
This character was just so insane, and that was fun! I remember at one point we decided she would just wear wigs all the time. She would have a different wig every day. So I always had my hair in these stocking caps. I don’t think there’s any woman in the world who could consider that a flattering look [laughs]. Robert said, ‘Maybe we should just use your real hair and stop this freakishness.’ But the wigs became an expression of the character. Some roles you do come alive with the physicality.
This is Schwartzman’s directorial debut. How did that alter the experience, if at all?
I’ve worked with a lot of first-time directors — Tony Kaye on “American History X.” Phil Alden Robinson on “In the Mood.” Michael Apted on “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” So it didn’t faze me at all. It was clear to me I was dealing with an actor, an artist and a musician who was also very visual. He knew exactly what he was doing and more importantly, the story he wanted to tell. He spoke like a filmmaker. It was a language that was very easy to follow. I actually felt his lack of experience wasn’t an obstacle, rather the opposite.
He does come from quite a Hollywood legacy. His brother is actor Jason Schwartzman, who has a cameo in “Dreamland.” His uncle is Francis Ford Coppola. His cousins are Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage. And his mother — Talia Shire. What was it like working with her?
I didn’t have any scenes with Talia, but we did shoot at her home in Bel-Air. We had some ties. She had known Al [Pacino, D’Angelo’s ex-partner and father of their 15-year-old twins] back from “The Godfather” days. She told me, ‘I remember him being so excited when you were pregnant.’ There was that link that made it so easy to just give her a hug when I met her.
Are you ready for your trip to South Florida?
I’ve had a lot going on this week so I haven’t really had time to think about stuff like, ‘What I am going to wear?’ But I got a look at the invite and it called for jeans and a glitzy top, so I thought, ‘FLIFF sounds like my kind of festival!’ It seems like people just want to go and enjoy movies.
The 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival opens Friday at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, near Hollywood, with a gala screening of “Dreamland.” $25 includes admission to the Q&A reception. 954-525-3456, FLIFF.com.