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George C. Wolfe: Director's Cut

George C. Wolfe, the groundbreaking writer/director/producer, who first gained attention in the 1980’s with the seminal production, “The Colored Museum,” makes his big-screen debut this weekend with the film adaption of author Nicholas Sparks’s “Nights in Rodanthe.”

The film reunites Hollywood heavyweights Richard Gere and Diane Lane for some love and soul-stirring. Over the years Wolfe has proven his versatility and enjoyed spectacular success. His Broadway hit, “Jelly’s Last Jam,”received 11 Tony nominations and the following year he won his first Tony for directing Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.” In 2005, he left his 12-year post as artistic director/producer of New York’s famed Public Theater,
where he helmed critically acclaimed productions including “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk” and Suzan-Lori Parks’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Topdog/Underdog,” to pursue a more creative life. His first feature film, HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues,” was well-received.

ESSENCE.COM: Why did you select this project as your first move to the big screen?
GEORGE C. WOLFE: My agent sent the script to me and didn’t know if I’d like it because it’s very different from anything else I’ve done. I read it, but I didn’t quite get what I got about it. I just responded to something inside of it; it ignited me.
ESSENCE.COM: What about the script appealed to you?
WOLFE: I was intrigued by the idea of an Act Two in your life. You can make choices in your twenties and thirties that sometimes don’t deliver the way you thought it would. You can find yourself trapped inside of it. But things can happen in your life where you can start again, not start clean. You can begin anew, in your forties and fifties, and the choices you make are now based on knowing yourself as opposed to who you think you are.

ESSENCE.COM: It’s also a very sweet love story.
WOLFE: Of course, love is one of the act twos that can happen. You know, nothing is permanent or absolute. What was important to me was dealing with the transformational power of loss. To lose someone you love is so intense and powerful, both devastating and transformational.

How do you react to people who may see this as your first “mainstream” project?
WOLFE: I don’t think of stuff that way. I mean, I did “Lackawanna Blues;” it was a movie, but on HBO…but it was on TV. I view my journey as much more fluid. People can assign sign posts, but I don’t think of it that way, not at all.

ESSENCE.COM: When I saw an early press screening of the film, I was in tears. What do you want people to walk away with after seeing this film?
WOLFE: Well, first I want them to walk in (laughs). Then, I want them to come out hopefully with some sense of relief. I want them to find themselves a piece of themselves in the story. I also want them to be seduced by the beauty of the movie and to be caught up by the wonderful performances of the incredible cast.

Would you call yourself a hopeless romantic?
WOLFE: I would call myself a guarded, closeted, hopeless romantic (laughs). I am; I just don’t like to blare it down the street.

ESSENCE.COM: How did the audience at the New York premiere on Tuesday respond? 
WOLFE: At one point during an incredible emotional scene, I hear these people start laughing and I’m thinking, What is going on. I later found out that it was five women who were sitting together and they all looked over and saw each other crying at the exact same time and they started laughing (chuckles).