Ed Harris to appear at FLIFF gala

Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP

Memories, Ed Harris has a few.

The year was 1984 and the actor, then 32, was working in New York City on stage in Fool For Love. One day, he got a call from a friend, late screenwriter Gill Dennis, telling him about a movie shooting down on the Gulf Coast by Florida filmmaker Victor Nunez, who had just one movie under his belt, 1979’s Gal Young ‘Un, which had received rave reviews. Soon, Nunez was pitching Harris about his second feature film, A Flash of Green, based on the novel by John D. MacDonald, about eco-corruption in a small town.

Harris was immediately interested in playing Jimmy Wing, a newspaper reporter covering the story about a greedy developer (The Mean Season’s Richard Jordan) trying to destroy a nature preserve.

“I really wanted to do the project,” Harris says by phone. “I had already made The Right Stuff and Under Fire, but this was a lead role. [Jimmy] was an interesting character. It was a long time ago but I remember it pretty clearly.”

When he arrived to the set in Casey Key in Sarasota County, Harris quickly realized he was a long way from Manhattan.

“I stayed in this little cottage,” he recalls. “It was a really simple and rural area.”

During breaks, he’d throw out a line to see what would bite.

“I remember this one time I went fishing and I must have caught 12 different kinds of species in a matter of 20 minutes. Pompano, ribbon fish,” Harris laughs. “Some bizarre looking animals.”

The living was easy, as was the work process.

“I loved Victor’s style, his sensibility and the simplicity of his camera work,” says Harris, who will be honoring the director (Ulee’s Gold, Ruby in Paradise) Saturday night at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 30th anniversary gala held at The Diplomat Resort & Spa. “He’s a special guy and I can’t wait to look him in the eye.”

The moviemaking experience was made all the more special by the fact that Ed’s father, Bob L. Harris who died last year, played his editor.

“He was a really good actor,” says Harris of his costar in two other films, Riders of the Purple Sage and Appaloosa. “He did a lot of community theater in Evanston, Illinois, where he lived, and had been a singer in the early days of TV. I’m glad we got to do this together.”

Harris, who has appeared in dozens of hits since (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Truman Show) and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000 for Pollock, says Jimmy Wing remains one of the Oscar nominee’s favorite characters to this day.

“This guy is an observer,” explains the married father of one (wife is actress Amy Madigan). “He’s not so much a participant in life until later in the film when he’s forced to make some heavy decisions.”